Archive

June 2018

Browsing

“Permit Patty” resigns from job, gets death threats over viral video

Alison Ettel, also known as “Permit Patty” called the police on an 8-year-old girl for selling water bottles without a permit. After the altercation went viral she has spoken out and since resigned from her place of work.

On June 23 a video was uploaded to Twitter with the caption: “So my little cousin was selling water and didn’t have a permit so this lady decided to call the cops on an 8 year old. #PermitPatty.” The child was selling water bottles to passerby in an attempt to help her family raise money for a trip to Disneyland. The 0: 15-second clip showed Ettel on the phone and then crouching down out of view when she sees she’s being filmed.

“This woman don’t wanna let a little girl sell some water. She calling the police on an 8-year-old little girl. You can hide all you want. The whole world gon’ see you, boo,” the girl’s mom said as she followed Ettel. Ettel then rose from her position and can be heard telling someone on the phone, “Yeah, um, illegally selling water without a permit,” to which the mother replies, “On my property.” Ettel then says “It’s not your property” before the video cuts off.

To date, the video, filmed by the girl’s mom, Erin Austin, was viewed over nine million times and thousands of comments were left accusing Ettel of racism. The daughter, Jordan Rogers, was commended in the comments for her entrepreneurial skills and people inviting her to sell water in their neighbourhoods.

The video went viral and soon Ettel, initially unknown, was identified. She has since spoken out about the clip saying that she received death threats and race had nothing to do with her decision to phone the police. She has spoken to several news outlets including Huffington Post and ABC news, in which she reiterated that race had nothing to do with it and she only called the police because she was trying to work and her neighbours were making noise. In a statement reported by ABC, Ettel said “I have no problem with enterprising young women. I want to support that little girl. It was all the mother and just about being quiet. I had been putting up with this for hours, and I just snapped.”

Though Ettel said she asked Rogers and Austin to keep it down, Austin said no such request was ever made. “She never asked us to be quiet. She came out and directly demanded to see a permit to sell water from an 8-year-old,” Austin told NBC.

In an interview with NBC News, Ettel said that the video has sparked death threats against her. “All kinds of threats. Horrible, horrible images and death threats,” she said through tears.

Ettel worked for a cannabis company named TreatWell Health and since the incident went viral, the company announced that she would be stepping down from her post. In a statement to the Guardian Cynthia Gonzales said, “This decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interest of their patients. It is Ms. Ettel’s belief that TreatWell, its employees, and patients should not have to suffer because of a situation that occurred in an escalated moment. And she regrets her part and is remorseful.” Gonzales added that she is helping Ettel with PR and crisis management.

Since the video made its rounds on social media, Rogers was offered four tickets to Disneyland by a Twitter user.

Ettel also said that she would like to apologize to Rogers and Austin for her behaviour, to which Austin said she wouldn’t accept. “I know in her interview she said it was stress related, but that’s not an excuse,” Austin told ABC. “People lose it, but you don’t lose it on children. There’s no excuse for what she did.”

Woman of the week: Julia Barnes

When I ask Julia Barnes to tell me who she is, she says, “I am an animal on this planet that’s hoping to survive this century.”

Half expecting to hear a standard, “I’m a filmmaker,” or, “I’m an environmental activist,” her raw response instantly hooked my interest.

Julia’s journey as an eco-warrior began when she was just 16 years old while attending high school in Burlington, Ontario. With her post-secondary years looming, she was, at the time, weighing her options of pursuing a career in either biology or fine arts. Then, she watched Revolution, a documentary made by the late filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Stewart, about the dire state of the natural world. Always harvesting a deep connection to nature, the movie spun Julia off her feet with striking statistics and images that revealed the rapid deterioration of planet earth.

Within a week, she ditched the fork in her career path altogether, and instead, jumped head first into documentary filmmaking. She bought a camera, signed up for a scuba diving course and delved into research that would eventually become the backbone of her first feature film: Sea of Life.

With no prior experience in filmmaking, Julia set out to probe the greatest threats facing the world’s oceans today, including warming temperatures and overfishing. Although the learning curve was steep, she felt a duty to spread awareness and pay forward the same inspiration that initially sparked her own will to change the world.

“The ocean is so often out of sight, out of mind, especially for people living in Canada and landlocked places,” she says. “What I found was that all of the people around me in my everyday life really had no idea what was happening. I wanted to educate people about what was going on so that hopefully, if they knew what was happening, they would want to fight for the ocean too.”

Growing up in Southern Ontario, Julia herself had never visited the ocean prior to filming. Her first time setting foot on the sandy saltwater shores of the Atlantic was during one of her first dives for Sea of Life in the Florida Keys. “It was amazing. On that first trip, I had my first introduction the beauty of the ocean,” she says. “But I also had the realization that the ocean is in massive trouble and that things are changing incredibly quickly. If you even go back 50 years, you realize that the underwater world looked radically different.”

From Florida, Julia continued to capture these changes and their repercussions around the world, exploring marine ecosystems in the Galapagos, attending the COP21 Summit in Paris, and participating in the largest climate march in recorded history in New York City.

Swimming in a sea of discouraging information was perhaps the most challenging element, she tells me. But, with support from many leaders on the front lines of the fight against climate change, such as Sylvia EarleEmily Hunter and Rob Stewart himself, Julia’s message in Sea of Life, although urgent, is a hopeful one. Now, at the age of 22, she is content to say that she’s met all of her greatest heroes.

When I ask Julia if she’s currently enrolled in school, she flatly replies, “Nope. I’m full on changing the world,” ‒ an answer that’s unapologetically noble. Attending school would place her on a four to five-year plan, a timeline, she says, is much too long for the well-being of the planet. Her second feature film, which tackles potential solutions to the environmental crisis, is scheduled to be released by the end of this year.

Although she’s encountered plenty of trial and error on her journey, she says that her instantaneous plunge into the ocean, the world of documentary filmmaking, and the issues that plague the natural world was perhaps the best way to learn.

“Don’t wait. Go for it and know that you have so much more power than what you’re told or what you’re taught to believe,” she says as a word of advice to other young climate crusaders. “Let your passion guide you towards doing whatever you think will have the biggest impact, because no matter what we love, it’s in jeopardy right now.

How the weekend shift taught me to be alone

A few years ago, I had a gig at a magazine working the weekend shift. I was a recent journalism graduate living in Toronto and thrilled to be on the masthead of a publication I respected. My work week started on Friday and finished on Tuesday. On Saturdays and Sundays, I manned the website solo. For months, I kicked off the weekend by strolling to work on Saturday mornings with a medium roast in hand and no coworkers present. During those days, the office was silent apart from my typing. With no distractions, the weekend was my most productive time and I grew to really love it.

By the time Tuesday afternoon rolled around, I’d be ready for my weekend. The problem: in my mid-twenties, many of my friends lived the nine-to-five life from Mondays through to Friday. Oftentimes it wasn’t that hard to find a companion for a Tuesday evening post-work beer but when it came to planning a Wednesday afternoon beach day or a brunch on Thursday, I was often on my own. Similarly, when others wanted to head to the cottage for a weekend, I was a no. If a friend’s birthday party was going to run into the wee hours, I had to bounce before midnight.

During those months, I spent mid-week afternoons lounging in solitude at Ward’s Island. I went to movies alone at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I went for long runs through High Park down to the waterfront and I took books to the banks of the Humber River.

As the months wore on, I learned to appreciate being alone. After getting over the initial intimidation of showing up to places by myself wore off, I learned to appreciate my own company. During my workdays in silence, I did more. And on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons off, I didn’t have to wait on anyone nor did I have to compromise on restaurants or activities. During the spring and summer of that year, I dated someone but by fall it was over – mismatching schedules certainly didn’t help. As breakups go, I wallowed at first and then moved on.

With this relationship in the dust, I had even more time to myself. It was during that time that I learned not to feel constricted to my home just because I was without a companion during any given afternoon or evening. It was an important lesson and a blessing in disguise. From there, I started to plan my time differently and without necessarily needing others every single time, I afforded myself more freedom. I shopped alone, freelanced from cafes and cooked fancy dinners for one.

My schedule eventually changed to the standard Monday-to-Friday flow. But by then, my lifestyle and way of thinking was different because of that weekend shift. I continued to do things with just me, myself and I. Last summer, I spent a week on my own in Vancouver exploring Stanley Park, Wreck Beach and the restaurants of Commercial Drive. Then, soon after the calendar rolled over to 2018, I boarded a flight to Colombia. While I had a close friend to live with, the nature of having moved to a new city meant that again, I’d be branching out alone. I frequented neighbourhood patios, worked out at the track and hiked in the mountains. In the early days, I often didn’t have a choice but to do so on my lonesome. I guess my routine from a few years ago was good practice.

Being transgender removed as a mental condition in the ICD-11

The World Health Organization (WHO) no longer classifies transgender as a mental condition.

The United Nations health agency stated on June 18 that “gender incongruence” would be removed from the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) catalogue. In the catalogue, “gender incongruence” is defined as an adolescent or adult who experiences “a strong dislike or discomfort with the one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics […] a strong desire to be rid of some or all of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics […],” and “a strong desire to have the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the experienced gender.” The catalogue added that a diagnosis cannot be given before the onset of puberty and gender variant behaviour isn’t enough on its own to be diagnosed.

The WHO released a video on June 18 regarding the updates to their ICD-11 catalogue and why they made the change. Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of the Adolescents and at-Risk Populations Team at the WHO said, “Historically this concept was placed in the mental health chapter in ICD, but in the ICD-11 it is moved to a newly created chapter of sexual health.” She added that the new chapter is meant to accommodate conditions regarding sexual health that wouldn’t fit in other chapters of ICD-11.

“It was taken out from the mental health disorders because we had a better understanding that this wasn’t actually a mental health condition and leaving it there was causing stigma,” she added. “So, in order to reduce the stigma while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed in a different chapter.”

While the move is a giant step forward in eliminating stigma, spokespeople for various transgender groups had conflicting reactions regarding the decision. CNN reported that Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe said the removal of the term is “the result of tremendous effort by trans and gender diverse activists from around the world to insist on our humanity, and I am elated that the WHO agrees that gender identity is not a mental illness.”

On the other hand, Nua Fuentes, a spokesperson for the Trans Pride World platform told teleSUR that “it is positive, but it is nothing new. Trans organizations were expecting this, and we have been demanding the end of the pathologization of our identities since 2007.”

Dr. Say said that adding the term to a new chapter is meant to reduce the stigma and better social acceptance. However, she also said that there won’t be many changes in terms of healthcare provisions because the category will still have a place in the ICD. “In fact, it may even increase access because it will reduce stigma and it will help individuals to seek care more,” she said.

She concluded by saying the decision stemmed from concerned transgender and human rights communities as well as professionals and scientists in the field. After reviewing the evidence, they removed the term. She added that on the same basis, homosexuality was removed from the ICD completely because “there was no clear evidence to suggest that this issue needs to be medicalized.”

Melania Trump’s coat under fire

First Lady, Melania Trump wore a coat that read: “I really don’t care, do u?” on her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, a shelter housing dozens of children who were separated from their families.

Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy was under fire in recent weeks as photos of crying, confused children separated from their parents made it to mainstream media. Leaked audio footage of children crying and begging for their parents was also released to the public, which sparked further outcry from those keeping up with Trump’s cruelty.

Trump’s insensitivity and blatant disregard for the families was made abundantly clear as he let thousands of children get torn from their parents without batting an eye. Only under recent scrutiny did he sign an executive order to halt the separation of families. Even with this move, the Trump family unsurprisingly remained tone-deaf about how to approach the situation.

On her visit to New Hope Children’s Shelter in McAllen, Texas, Melania Trump wore a tasteless jacket that sported the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back in white letters. When news of the sighting first broke out, it was difficult to make out what her coat said specifically. Though, suspicions were confirmed when President Trump addressed his wife’s attire in a tweet. On June 21 he wrote: “‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”

Naturally, news sites from around the world picked up the story and published pieces on her attire. Twitter users then received the news and started immediately commenting. Many Twitter users called her move deliberate and some mentioned how, even if she didn’t know what she was doing, the move was tone-deaf.

The president’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, took to Twitter to criticize the media for focussing their attention on Melania’s wardrobe rather than on more pressing issues. “Today’s visit w the children in Texas impacted @flotus greatly. If media would spend their time & energy on her actions & efforts to help kids – rather than speculate & focus on her wardrobe – we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children. #SheCares #ItsJustAJacket,” Grisham wrote on June 21.

It isn’t just Melania who missed the mark. Their daughter, Ivanka published a tweet after her father signed the executive order. On June 20 she wrote: “Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border. Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families.”

As with Melania, Ivanka was berated on Twitter for her tweet by those on the social media platform. Users noted how Trump started the separation of families and only after extreme criticism did he do anything about it. One user asked how she feels knowing that her family’s name would be a blemish on US history. It’s a fair question.

Brampton assault suspect turns himself in

A Brampton man turned himself in to Peel Regional Police after video surveillance showed him assaulting a young woman in front of a building complex.

Peel Regional Police said that the assault happened on June 1 at approximately 7:45 p.m. A woman was approached by a man at a convenience store close to Kings Cross Road and Knightsbridge Road, which is near Central Park Drive and Queen Street East. The suspect attempted to make conversation with the woman but she left, which prompted the suspect to follow her to an apartment complex in a silver car.

Once he approached, the video shows the suspect running up to the woman and grabbing her hand away from the child. He then spins her around and an altercation takes place before she wriggles free. The suspect attempts to run off but swiftly returns, pulling her hair and slapping her. The woman threw a drink in his face before he grabbed her. The suspect then ran off back to his silver car.

Toward the end of the 0:50 second video, the woman pulls out her phone and stops a passerby in the complex to presumably tell them about the altercation.

Police released the video footage in an attempt to identify the suspect. They added that the suspect sexually assaulted the woman. The man was described as being a South Asian male in his early 20s to early 30s who was last seen in a grey t-shirt, dark pants, and glasses. He was also described as having a medium build.

Since the video footage was released, a 24-year-old man turned himself into police. CBC reported that the suspect has several charges against him including sexual assault and criminal harassment.

In an interview with CP24, Constable Sarah Patten called the altercation “disgraceful.”

“I’m just glad that there were no injuries or anything to the child,” she told CP24. “I believe at this time that she (the victim) is alright, there are no serious injuries at this point.” She added that there is no evidence the two people knew one another prior to the attack.

Female Eye Film Festival handles tough topics

In the city that holds the record for the highest number of film festivals per capita, the Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) is not a festival to be missed. Coming to the Carlton Theatre from June 26 to July 1, the FeFF marks its 16th edition this year. Since its quiet inception, the “little festival that could” to quote Angela Argento, Chair of the FeFF, has come a long way. What’s more, in light of the most recent events that hit the film industry and the subsequent viral spread of the #MeToo movement, this independent and thought-provoking festival is perhaps even more relevant.

In a recent interview with Lesley Ann Coles, Founder and Executive Director as well as an accomplished film director herself, she summarizes very well the rationale behind such lack of morality: “Regardless of gender, if you pursue a career that is a dream, the film industry is a killing field for perpetrators who will take advantage of people’s dreams.” As festival director, Leslie Ann sees many films, reads many scripts, and knows all too well that gender identity, gender imbalance, sexual abuse are constant themes in women’s films. The short Cross My Heart by Jamaican Director, Sontenish Myers, is just one of the films in the program which features this uncomfortable truth.

Leslie Ann is very proud of the Female Eye. Beyond the obvious fact that the festival is a window for independent female writers and directors to showcase their work, she says “it’s a relationship building festival, a networking opportunity for directors, writers, and producers coming together and creating friendships.” One of the films showcased this year, The Plural of Blood, is a testimonial of the sisterly spirit that forms at the Female Eye and generates work partnerships: Mary-Lyn Chambers, director, and Roxy Shih, executive producer of the film met at the FeFF two years ago.

The festival begins on June 26 at 6:30 p.m. with a film by Valerie Buhajar, It’s Hard To Be Human, followed by a Q&A with the director. Valerie is a frequent visitor of the festival; her previous feature film The Anniversary, was screened at the FeFF in 2014. She is a living example of how the FeFF is a space where filmmakers’ talent is nurtured and encouraged through the years. Particularly noteworthy is the script development program, a “creative incubator for screenwriters” where panels of experts and aspiring writers and directors meet and discuss the potential of future storytellers and film directors. The script development program is free and open to the public.

Unlike other film festivals, the Female Eye is very keen on ensuring that women are firmly seated in the director’s chair. The director has the “key creative control when it comes to films, especially independent films” says Leslie Ann. However, the script development program is also open to male writers whose screenplay’s protagonist is a female character, and that is to address the gender imbalance and inequity on screen and behind the camera across the board. That is not to say that the Female Eye excludes men; on the contrary, men are involved in the making of the festival, men go and see the films. Interestingly, the tag line of the festival used to be “Female Eye, Flicks Not Just for Chicks” to help dispel the myth that women make films just for women. The festival stands at the forefront in the fight against the stereotype that wants women only watching fluffy rom-coms; women’s films are accessible to everyone and for everyone. In more recent years, the tagline has changed to “Always Honest, Not Always Pretty,” just like the truth, and as such it resonates with the films that women make where characters are complex, as are their relationships.

Finally, every year, the Female Eye awards an Honourary Maverick and an Honorary Director to women who have excelled and given a significant contribution to the film industry. The 2018 recipients are respectively, Debra Zimmerman and Liz Marshall. Debra runs a distribution company out of New York, dedicated to women documentary makers. Liz is a Toronto-based documentarian with a focus on social justice and environmental themes. These events take shape of intimate conversations with the recipients. All industry programs which include panel discussions with leaders in Canada’s film and television industry, script readings and the much-celebrated Live Pitch are free and open to the public.

The Female Eye Film Festival opens on June 26 and runs until July 1 at the Carlton Theatre. Tickets ($8 two-hour film program) are available for purchase online. $10 at the door. Audience Q&A with the directors follow each screening.

Koko the gorilla passes away

Koko, the famous gorilla who knew sign language and brought people together with her demeanour, has passed away at the age of 46.

Even if you’re not a huge animal advocate chances are that you knew who Koko the gorilla was. This special animal knew sign language, snuggled with kittens, met dozens of famous figures, and was a beautiful soul overall. Though news of Koko started dying down over the years, millions knew who she was either through the media or viral videos of a giant gorilla cuddling with a tiny kitten.

She was a remarkable animal with a strong capacity for love and language. She learned over 1,000 words in sign language, knew approximately 2,000 words in English, quite literally took photos of herself (a picture that graced the cover of National Geographic), and was a fascinating case for scientists as she broke the barrier of language between animal and man. She was also featured on the cover of National Geographic for a second time as she held a kitten close to her chest.

Barbara King, a professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary told National Geographic that “because she was smart enough to comprehend and use aspects of our language, Koko could show us what all great apes are capable of: reasoning about their world, and loving and grieving the other beings to whom they become attached.”

Koko gained a significant amount of fame in what is perhaps her most famous encounter with the late Robin Williams in 2001. Video footage of their encounter is still available online, which shows Koko and Williams sharing a laugh and Koko even trying on Williams’ glasses. In a 2014 statement released by the Gorilla Foundation, they wrote: “Robin made Koko smile — something she hadn’t done for over 6 months, ever since her lifelong gorilla companion, Michael, passed away at the age of 27. But not only did Robin cheer up Koko, the effect was mutual, and Robin seemed transformed — from a high-energy entertainer, into a mellow, sensitive, empathetic guy, who also just happened to be really funny.”

The video of their encounter also shows an adorable moment where Williams tickles Koko until they both start laughing. The Gorilla Association stated that when Koko was told of Williams’ passing, she was noticeably distraught, bowed her head, and pushed her lower lip out.

The Gorilla Association released a statement on June 20 acknowledging Koko’s passing and reminded everyone that they “will continue to honor Koko’s legacy and advance our mission with ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children.”

People on social media, including public figures, expressed their condolences for Koko’s passing. Many users on Twitter shared videos of Koko’s greatest moments, which included her spending time with researchers, picking up and snuggling her kittens, and various moments with celebrities like Fred Rogers and Betty White.

Immigrant families remain under Trump’s heel

Yesterday, Donald Trump took the bold and decisive step of signing an executive order against himself.

Specifically, against the separation of migrant families at the southern border that was occasioned by his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

“Thank you @POTUS,” first daughter and White House advisor Ivanka Trump tweeted, “for taking critical action ending family separation at our border.” Yes. Thank you, daddy, for mopping up the humanitarian crisis you yourself created for political gain. I so love when you do that.

Still, it is noteworthy, even unprecedented, that President Trump has surrendered on an issue of such vital importance to his core supporters. Nor does it seem likely that it was First Lady Melania Trump or de facto First Lady Ivanka who talked him down.

More probably, the president could smell what was on the breeze; a CNN poll published on 18 June showed 67% of Americans disapproving of family separations. Senate Republicans, in a rare display of moral courage, unanimously denounced the practice. Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), an immigration hardliner and famously the most hated man in Washington, slithered out of his pit to register his disgust.

Viewed from any angle, this policy is a disaster. A disaster for its underage victims, chiefly, but also for the United States, its government, its ruling Republican party, and its president.

In the first place, if anyone expected a hard line stance to deter undocumented immigrants, that hope proved futile. Leaked Homeland Security documents show that the number of people caught illegally crossing the border actually rose by 5% in May — from what was already characterized as an historic high in preceding months.

Of course, family separations were never sincerely intended to hold back the tide. As President Trump himself made abundantly clear, he was using caged children as bargaining counters against Democrats (and Republicans) in the House of Representatives who have refused to fund the building of a border wall. With the November midterms looming, Trump is desperate to unite his base by making headway on this keynote campaign promise.

The president tried to play chicken with Congress with thousands of helpless migrant children in the back seat. He swerved, and in so doing, perhaps crashed into the limits of his power. If there’s one silver lining here, it’s the demonstration that even a recalcitrant, ineducable child-Tsar like Trump can be restrained by the preponderance of public opinion.

If there are two silver linings, the other is the shambolic, humiliatingly inept management of this policy by the administration. It really is a wonder these people found their way out of their mothers’ wombs.

As The Washington Post has observed, Trump and his minions offered a rainbow of contradictory explanations and excuses for their callous insistence on separating children from their parents.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, both described separations as a deterrent against undocumented immigration. When asked if that was the case on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen dismissed the very idea as offensive.

White House aide Marc Short characterized the separations as government policy; Nielsen said, before Congress, “We do not have a policy to separate children from their parents.”

Presidential advisor and surrogate Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t want anybody to “use these kids as leverage.” But when Sessions first announced the ‘zero tolerance’ prosecution of immigrants that started all this, he explained the rationale: “Congress has failed to pass effective legislation that serves the national interest—that closes dangerous loopholes and fully funds a wall along our southern border.” Sounds like a classic hostage situation to me.

Finally, and to no one’s surprise, the president has contradicted himself over and over and over again. He said he felt illegal immigrants must be prosecuted. Then he said he was forced into doing it by the Democrats. He was against a ‘moderate’ immigration reform bill. Then he was for it. And, of course, he couldn’t end the separations by executive order until he spontaneously did so yesterday afternoon.

Make no mistake: the executive order does not end the crisis. It may, in fact, be illegal. Trump wants to keep up the prosecution of as many migrants as possible without estranging parents from children. How you ‘keep families together’ when mom and dad are in prison is another question.

Besides, there is no plan to reunite the 2,000 children who were already removed from their parents’ care. The executive order will halt future separations for the time being, and two pieces of remedying legislation are being debated. But there’s every possibility we’ll be back to square one in a month.

Perhaps some small comfort can be taken in the knowledge that the chaos of the president’s mind, his obdurate lack of strategy, is contagious. It has spread throughout the administration, hamstringing all attempts to explain what the hell this policy was — other than repugnant.

As Eugene McCarthy observed, “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.”

I fear that will be cold comfort indeed for children who will go to sleep tonight without their parents to tuck them in.

Twitter: @WoobieRoods

Chicago’s 20th anniversary tour a hit

Last weekend I went to see Chicago with my boyfriend at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. I had never seen it onstage before, though I was familiar with the majority of the music. With so many Broadway stars, classic songs, and charismatic performances, I’m glad I saw the musical before the tour moved on.

Directed by Walter Bobbie (Bright Star, Footloose), this tour of Chicago brought many seasoned Broadway actors to the stage to reprise their roles including Dylis Croman (Oklahoma!, In Your Arms), Terra C. MacLeod (The Addams Family, Spamalot), and Paul Vogt (Hairspray, Oliver!).

Croman stars as Roxie Hart, who was easily one of the best performances of the evening. It’s not surprising that Croman crushed her role given that she starred as Roxie on Broadway. Croman shone as Roxie, nailing down Roxie’s narcissism and desperation for fame, even if she has to kill a man and fake a pregnancy to get it.

Another standout performance was that of MacLeod who starred as Velma Kelly. I’ve always loved Velma as a character more than Roxie; she’s just as hungry for fame, but her character oozes an initial confidence that is then shaken by Roxie’s arrival. To watch MacLeod take Velma to heights of vanity and bring her down to self-loathing and confusion was a treat to see.

Of course, Jennifer Fouche (Babes in Toyland, Hairspray) and Vogt were also standout additions to the cast. They played Matron Mama Morton and Amos Hart respectively and were delightful side characters that each had their moment in the spotlight to highlight their onstage personas.

I was particularly taken with Vogt since Amos is such an easily manipulated sap and needs to be won over by the crowd. Throughout his performance, particularly when he asks the orchestra for his background music and is met with silence, Vogt earned several sympathetic “awws.” Vogt has played Amos before on Broadway and he brought the same sympathetic charm, particularly during “Mr. Cellophane.”

The only one who stood out from the others was Eddie George, former NFL player who donned the role of Billy Flynn. He’s played parts in other plays as well such The Whipping Man and Othello, but Flynn was the sore thumb that stood out in a cast of Broadway stars or more charismatic cast members. His voice was drowned out by the music, which was a problem no one else faced, and lacked the confidence his character demands. This was most obvious during “Razzle Dazzle;” the song calls for a much stronger performance and is one of the defining pieces of the entire play. Though, George fell short in a role that was ill-suited for him. This was, in fact, the first thing that my boyfriend and I discussed during the intermission.

Photo Credit // 2015 Jeremy Daniel

The house was nearly packed, but a week or two after I ordered my tickets (in the back of the mezzanine) I was mailed an additional pair of tickets that moved me a few rows closer. Initially I thought they were meant for someone else, but when I brought them to the theatre I was told that my original seats were closed and I was now being moved forward. It was unfortunate to see that some of the seating was closed off, more than likely because of poor sales.

Given that this is Chicago’s 20th anniversary tour, people’s attention may have drawn more so to tough competition like Come From Away, a show that extended their run until February. However, I was surrounded by passionate theatre-goers at Ed Mirvish; the man beside me was quick to voice his disapproval of certain comedic elements to his partner while a woman behind me sang along to 85% of the music.

Regardless, I was glad that I saw Chicago before the tour ended.