Monday, August 30, 2010

Interviewing Dan Aykroyd - not what I expected

It looked like the one-on-one interview I was hoping to get with comedian Dan Aykroyd when he was in town for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s campaign launch wasn’t going to happen.

But on the day of the event – this past Tuesday – I received an e-mail from Sally Szuster, the federation’s director of public & media relations, letting me know that there would be a media scrum at 6 p.m. She noted that Aykroyd would be on a tight timeline and would have to finish by 6:15.

It didn’t exactly turn out the way I expected. I made it downtown to the Carlu, where the launch was being held, in plenty of time. A reception for top donors was under way, with servers offering wine and hors d’oeuvres in the foyer of the renovated 1930s event space.

Things were running late – that part wasn’t a shock – and we were told Aykroyd would be available closer to 6:30. “We” turned out to be a small group, just me and a CTV cameraman.

I thought the scrum would be in a separate room but, instead, we were asked to wait at the end of the foyer. Aykroyd was ushered past us with a promise that he’d be brought back, and we watched him meeting and greeting and posing for pictures until Camera Guy (who had parked at a meter and was on a tight timeline himself) decided to venture into the crowd and do some filming.

I stayed close behind, not wanting to miss out on the promised scrum.

Sure enough, one of the UJA people decided that it made sense for Aykroyd to talk to us on the spot instead of returning to the less crowded far end of the foyer.

After the CTV spot was filmed, I had a chance to ask a few questions while Aykroyd was on his way from the reception to a pre-event dinner. (For the record, he didn’t eat. “No fressing before the show,” he said.)

Fortunately, I can multi-task – walk, talk, take notes, and juggle notebook and tape recorder, all at the same time.

And fortunately, Aykroyd could pick up right where he left off after each photo op and introduction.

It was probably the most fragmented interview I had ever done.

But Aykroyd was quotable and on-topic, plus he had something to say. (You can read the interview here.)

I didn’t end up using any quotes from the talk he gave later that evening. But – no big surprise here – he was very funny.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Relationships to Love in the Digital Age

In the near three years now that JUMP (Jewish Urban Meeting Place) has been in operation, here in Toronto, there have been quite a few talks on the subject of love, dating and relationships. Now it might look strange that love, dating and relationships are written here separately. Often times they get combined into just one of these three terms. Clearly from the talk last week led by Jason ("JR") Renard on the top tips to online dating, they each in fact exist in their own orbit.

JR defined love as the proper name we give to the overwhelming affection we feel towards another person, favorite family pet and/or for some, to an inanimate object. We navigate through the few or many relationships we have with the same or opposite sex via the vehicle of dating. The intention in large part is to find our Beshert or "the one", whom we will ultimately marry and with whom we will intimately share our life.

Here he reflected on his two dealings with the types of users commonly found on all the popular and probably even on the not so popular online dating sites. The first experience ended horribly and was just about enough to turn him away for good. The second well...

To really understand relationships and love and find success in a world of online dating, JR's top tip was to be truthful and honest. When going beyond what we see in embellished profiles and cropped photo-shopped pictures, open yourself up to learning how to give, receive, maintain and cultivate love through the intimacy of face to face conversation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

See and hear the Toronto mayoral candidates debate for Jewish seniors

Last week, the Top 5 Toronto mayoral candidates took the stage at Shaarei Shomayim synagogue to answer questions of interest to the city's Jewish seniors. As at most debates, things got a little heated, a little off track but also very enlightening as to who the candidates are and what they represent.

The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and the Association of Jewish Seniors (AJS) co-hosted the event. CJPAC kindly offered The Shmooze the video of the debate. So click below to watch, hear and absorb what they all had to say and decide for yourselves who you like best or least. Below are the candidates' answers to the first question of the debate. For the rest of the debate videos, please click CJPAC's Youtube channel here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Top Tips for Online Dating...Coming Soon

Dating and finding your Beshert or "the one" is one of the most difficult tasks we encounter in life, a point many seem to agree on. This week JUMP the Jewish Urban Meeting Place ran a talk on how to make online dating work for you. Instead of explaining it all in written form here on the Shmooze. check back next week for the in-depth discussion. We recorded all the major points on video for you all to see.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paul McCartney puts on a one-of-a-kind show

Playfulness and energy. That sums up last night's Paul McCartney show at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

I've been to a ton of concerts, but I've never seen anything like this one.

Almost every seat was filled with cheering people. Sitting up in the 300s level, I was blown away by the sheer number of people there. It's crazy to know they were all there, with very, very expensive tickets, all to see one man. What a crazy world it is. But by the end, I completely understood the attraction.

Paul McCartney wows crowd at Toronto show [Grace Zweig photo]
I have to start by saying that I'm not a huge Beatles fan. I respect them and I appreciate them, but I've never felt the desire to go out of my way to listen to them. Therefore, my views come from someone who didn't know what to expect, and mostly has concert experiences from indie or rock club concerts.

Before the show, screens on each side of the stage showed 60s era photos and videos to the soundtrack of remixed Beatles and Paul McCartney songs.

When the lights went down and the former Beatle walked on stage, the crowd went wild.

The band played perfectly together, reciting the songs with precision and a real tightness.
They performed a wide range of songs ranging from the Beatles’ early material all the way to his most recent album.

He also played the Jim Hendrix song Foxy Lady in a tribute to the late guitarist, emanating the wild rock and roll sound for which Hendrix was known. McCartney told a story about seeing Hendrix perform the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album just days after its release.

In that performance Hendrix used excessive whammy bar movements causing the guitar to slide out of tune, so he asked if Eric Clapton was in the audience—which he was—and requested he tune his guitar for him.

McCartney bounced around while he played, looking like he was having a great time. He was playful and seemed thankful at the same time, combining a sense of ease, excitement and humility.

Real emotion came through as he sang. Even after performing the same songs thousands of times, they still came out fresh and full of feeling.

He joked around with the audience and was very energetic. He seemed at home on the stage and his voice was strong as ever. I could hardly believe the sound and power that came out of this man.

He had a moment of dedication for John Lennon as he introduced the song about the conversation they never had, Here Today. The soft guitar-vocal piece still sounded extremely honest and clearly resounded with many audience members.

A while later came a moment for George Harrison right before he performed Something on Harrison's old ukulele. When the guitar solo kicked in, McCartney switched to a guitar while a slideshow of old McCartney and Harrison photos played behind them.

He also dedicated his performance of My Love to his late wife, Linda McCartney, as well as the other lovers in the audience.

Throughout the show, the musicianship, needless to say, was phenomenal—but I wouldn't have expected anything less from such a legend.

It was a lot of fun watching drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. dancing behind the kit throughout Dance Tonight—and McCartney’s subsequent imitation of the dance. The drummer was amazing throughout the show, performing much of the backing vocals while he drummed, and even left the drum set to sing and dance during a couple of the songs.

McCartney led the crowd in making strange sounds as he began Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, for which he said was only the second time he ever performed it in Canada, with the first being the first night of the Toronto stop.

During Paperback Writer, McCartney played the guitar he used during the period in the 60s when he recorded that song. It seemed he switched guitars after every couple of songs, and he jokingly described these purpose of these changes as simply to show off.

"We've got all these guitars," he said, "we're going to show them off."

Shortly after, the atmosphere changed completely and got even better. It began at the start of what was easily the best set: Let It Be, Live and Let Die, and Hey Jude. Although I've heard the pyrotechnics are identical every time he performs Live and Let Die, it was easily the best performance of the night.

The encore included Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Get Back. The second encore had Yesterday, Mull of Kintyre, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The End.

During the second encore, he called up an audience member who held a sign asking McCartney to sign her arm, promising she wouldn't sell it on eBay, quite to his amusement. He signed it on the condition that she sticks to her promise.

He performed Mull of Kintyre with the kilted Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band, which was a great addition to the show.

The energy completely changed from the first two-thirds of the show—more of a concert-like performance—to the last portion, encompassing the final few songs of the main set and the encores, which become more of a party. Instead of sitting and listening, almost everyone was standing, dancing, and clapping along.

It almost could have been two separate shows—but I suppose that's what happens when the performer has such a huge catalogue of material.

It isn’t to say the beginning section was worse, but the second portion is where McCartney truly grabbed every person in the audience and pulled them into the show.

The spread of ages within the audience was huge, with little kids as well as older folks in attendance.

I didn't come into the show hoping to relive past music moments like many of the audience members clearly were. I’ll admit I only knew most of the songs from hearing them in my Dad's car as I grew up.

But it was a great show, and an incredible experience, and I never appreciated the Beatles and McCartney as much as I did that night.