Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Girls Want to Be With the Metaphorically-Antlered Girls, or, My Second Shy Date with Modern Dance

After last month's soul-searching experience with Dancemakers, I was curious about tonight's performance by Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers. I was especially curious when Brent Lott -- WCD's artistic director -- candidly stated that it wouldn't be the sort of program that people make fun of when they think of contemporary dance.

As much as I enjoyed the show, I beg to differ. Honestly, realistically, it WAS the sort of program that people (me?) make fun of. I'm thinking mainly of the piece called "In Silence," which had all the sorts of thrashing, reaching, rolling, hair-in-the-face, shouting, and Standard Drag Queen acting-out of old timey poetry (including fingers-down-cheeks for "tears" and pointing-at-audience for "thee," and I really mean "thee"). Plus more reaching.

I'm not mocking "In Silence." Okay, I admit it, I AM mocking "In Silence," because it reminded me of a version of The Go! Team without the fun. Watch this video and imagine that, instead of saying "We came here to rock the microphone," they're saying "In secret we met / in silence I grieve / that thy heart could forget / thy spirit deceive."

Before I tell you what I LOVED about the Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers, let me tell you one reason why I think modern dance sometimes comes across as more-pretentious-even-than-Lord-bloody-Byron. Perhaps through no fault of its own, contemporary dance seems (to me, in my limited experience) to be best suited to extreme emotions: unrequited love unto death, crushing agony unto death, the joy of REQUITED love unto joyous eventual off-stage death.

Maybe a primarily nonverbal, physical representation of a theme must forsake the lesser, everyday experiences and simply dive into the furthest swings of the emotional pendulum. Maybe choreographers and dancers find it more suitable to tackle "the agony of the claw-rent soul" than "the long day at work followed by an unsatisfying meal and the broken water heater...again."

This, perhaps, is where contemporary dance tends to leave me cold...I prefer more emotional subtlety to my experiences. When I start to read a Lord Byron poem, my eyes start at the top line and then suddenly hit the last line, without anything between making any sort of impression. I don't like a strong diet of extreme emotion.

Tonight's show was a pretty strong diet: pure love, pure lust, pure joy, pure anguish. Eyes by turns enraptured-wide and agony-squinted. The slow, burning glance over the shoulder. The yearning, the yearning, the yearning.

I loved the premiere of "First Walk to Available Sky," which I would subtitle "Sex-Bombs of the Pantomime Horse." I was even more in love with "Between the Sycamore," which exuded such a palpable energy and simple joy that it transcended everything: the space, the audience, the dancers...it was absolutely, beautifully superb.

All four dancers were in unbelievable sync, seemingly without need of any cues or external stimulus. Grace and strength, clearly-telegraphed emotion, flawless in every way. If there had been a "Music From Sex-Bombs of the Pantomime Horse and Other Pieces" for sale in the lobby, I would have bought it in a second: the music, particularly in the first half of the show, was striking and perfectly suited to the performances.

But oh, the yearning, the reaching! "Reaching-out-but-not-grasping" does seem to be a ubiquitous element of modern dance, one akin to the villain-with-the-black-moustache in silent pictures: perhaps an effective (even essential) storytelling technique, but everytime I see it I go "Oh, yearning, villain, black moustache."

Remember, I'm the endless rationalizer, the constant analyzer. Other people can lose themselves in moments that I simply cannot. Maybe this is why I'm such a cold fish in relationships, because when I need to express "yearning" I simply do not, for fear of committing a fiendish cliche.

Even so, I DID enjoy the performance. I'm sure that it's expected, in a repertory selection, that you'll sometimes say "Huh," sometimes say "Bah," and sometimes scream "LOVE!" I said all three things during the show and I say now unto the world: tonight I saw some of the most wonderful dance I've ever seen.


The fourth piece -- "Mouvement" -- featured dancer Kristin Haight doing a great deal of running and thrashing. At first the point escaped me, but gradually I formed the image of a Doberman Pinscher being euthanized at the vet's office. I am not being facetious, this was actually a very powerful impression of a creature in pain...but somehow a dog. Being put down. By a veterinarian.

When the piece was over and the lights came up I felt a little guilty, thinking surely that was not the impression that the choreographer wanted to make.

Then the woman in front of me turned to her friends and said "Did you hear about that dog, that wild dog, that was running around?"

"Ooooh," said her friends.

"They caught it and they TAZED it," said the woman with some satisfaction, and they all stared intently at each other.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Imikimi Makes Me Slightly More Ill

I don't go LOOKING for online kitsch, it just comes along and hits me. Similar to the terrifying Dance Heads gimmick, I've just noticed an even more bizarre phenomenon: Imikimi.

The Imikimi idea seems to be that online artists create thematic images, and then leave a spot in the frame for you to place your picture. This is like those fairground "stick your face in the hole and look like the fat lady" displays, except it's instantly customizable and therefore totally disposable.

Most of what you see on Imikimi is unbearably cute in that "angels and hearts and babies" sort of way. Tellingly, in their "Editor Tips" FAQ, topic four of six is "How to make a heart" (or rather "Hot to make a heart," since the Imikimi instructions are rife with typos).

The great thing about Imikimi is that most of the content is user-generated, so you get all sorts of crazy stuff that you'd think nobody would ever want, and then you find out that those things are extremely popular and people really do want them. Here are some of my favourite discoveries:

The Cabanting family, pill-shaped...but something's wrong with Lebrado!

Sweet baby with horn in ear!

To appreciate this one you must understand that the kitten's eyes blink and its paw waggles up and down. And it sparkles.

There's lots of Twilight on Ikimimi.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

If you've got a minute or two and you feel a bit insecure about your sense of style and taste, check out Imikimi. You will learn SO MUCH MORE about the world.

"The Call of Cthulhu"

Because I'm reading a big chunk of H. P. Lovecraft at the moment, I've been breaking the monotony by watching some of the adaptations of his work.

There are two good reasons for why most Lovecraft movies miss the mark. Since his stories are effective mostly because of their tone and their gradual accumulation of facts, it must be difficult to make a straightforward movie out of them, so the script writers tend to fall back on spectacle and totally new sex-and-slimy-monster subplots, all of which make the resulting film decidedly NON-Lovecraftian.

Secondly, as a result of this reliance on spectacle, these invariably low-budget movies tend to fail because they can't live up to their special effects requirements.

When the special effects DO succeed, you get movies like "Re-Animator" which have only a tenuous plot connection (and absolutely no thematic connection) to the stories they're adapted from. And when the effects DON'T succeed, you get total flops like The Curse or Dagon, which are basically eighty minutes of boring Hollywood-style subplot and ten minutes of cheap schlock at the end.

I haven't seen many movies which manage to REALLY capture the "Lovecraft mood," but oddly enough the ones I HAVE seen are the ones I've most recently viewed. I mentioned the wonderful-but-flawed "Cthulhu" back in May...

...but today I saw the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's version of "The Call of Cthulhu," and thanks to devotion, smarts, and a whole lot of luck, it's the most faithful adaptation yet.

I'd assumed that anything produced by such a society would be a half-baked, crappy mess of fan-splooge, featuring a bunch of doughy part-time Little Theatre types doing their level best to upstage each other. What I saw, however, was a totally effective no-budget film that succeeded in almost every way.

By shooting it as a '20s-era silent picture they avoided many of the problems that cheapo home productions face: no need to worry about dialog or sound recording, an easier time integrating effects, and probably fewer problems with set design and lighting. But what REALLY worked was that it managed to capture that elusive Lovecraftian mood in a way that a "talkie" never could.

How the HECK did they pull this off? A model boat pulled across sparkle-covered fabric becomes the perfect image to complement the story, in a way that REAL location footage NEVER would. Lovecraft didn't write about realistic images, he wrote about impossible angles and indescribable landscapes; a REAL cliff-face representing the lost city of R'lyeh would have appeared pedestrian and narrow-minded, but a cardboard-and-scaffold set built in one of the crew member's backyard is FAR more "right."

The acting, too, is brilliant. Nobody is being funny, and everybody manages to walk the fine line between "silent movie overacting" and "just plain camp." Here again the movie benefited from its silent-film conceit: no bad accents, no awkward dialog, no Little Theatre emoting-stereotypes.

All these things -- fantasy-sets, terrific lighting, dedicated acting -- combine with an AMAZING music score to make the best 45 minutes of film I've seen in a long time. Really, it's that good. I don't just mean "a good independent film" or "a good silent movie," I mean a legitimate mini-masterpiece.

And you know what? I think H. P. Lovecraft would have loved it.

PS: During the newspaper clipping montage, guess which city shows up amongst all the bylines? You're right: Kitchener, Ontario. How did that slip in there?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Korg Nanos, Two Months Later

In September I bought the three "Korg Nano" MIDI controllers -- the NanoPAD, NanoKEY, and NanoKONTROL -- and I wrote about my attempts to integrate them with my Logic Studio software. Some of the annoying problems I was having -- in particular the loss of configured settings when changing the order of my MIDI devices -- I placed squarely on the shoulders of Logic's annoying Controller Assignments dialog.

How do I feel two months later?

First, I still love the Nanos. I use the NanoKEY the most; it's an extremely convenient way to work out a melody or a chord without messing around with a bulky synthesizer. The two-octave range IS limiting, and the lack of a true pitch bend IS annoying, but as an exploratory tool the NanoKEY is phenomenal.

To be honest I haven't used the NanoPAD much. The X-Y surface is great for glitching up your stuff (and your drums, which is what you're supposed to use it for), but as a replacement pitch bend/modulator for the NanoKEY it fails simply due to a lack of an identifiable "center position." It's a small quibble, though, because that's not what it's for.

Oddly, the controller I was most excited about -- the NanoKONTROL -- is the one I use the least. This is partly because I haven't gotten around to any real mastering lately, but mainly because of its obvious limitations: no shuttle/jog, no LCD information about control assignments, and no motorized controls. Even the transport controls remain unused these days; it's easier to just use the keyboard.

I'm sure I'll find more uses for both the NanoPAD and NanoKONTROL, but for now they're gathering a bit of dust.

That's my impression of the devices themselves. How about their integration with Logic Studio? Well, the real question is: how often do they actual WORK with Logic Studio?

The Nanos are totally unpredictable whenever you wake your computer up from sleep; sometimes they get recognized, sometimes they don't. Here's what happens:

I have the following devices attached to my iMac:
  • A PreSonus FIREBOX, attached via Firewire, which is always on.
  • A Lexicon MX300 effects processor, attached via USB, which I only turn on before I launch Logic Studio.
  • The three Korg Nanos, all attached to an unpowered USB hub that is dedicated only to them.
When I wake up my iMac, the Lexicon is never recognized (because it's off)...but neither are the Nanos, though their lights go on. When I turn on the Lexicon it is automatically recognized, but the Nanos stay unavailable.

When I then unplug the USB hub and plug it back in, two out of the three Nanos are suddenly recognized...but one random Nano never is. I need to unplug the stubborn Nano and plug it back in again, and USUALLY that works...I've never had to do it twice in one sitting.

Once all three Nanos are online they stay that way until I shut down my iMac or put it to sleep...then I have to go through the whole process again. I keep the Audio MIDI Setup application in my dock these days to make everything a little less painful.

Now, due to the way Logic Studio stores its controller assignments, ANY shuffling of MIDI devices is bound to invalidate your carefully-crafted assignments. This whole "unplug hub, unplug recalcitrant Nano" procedure turns the assignments into digital stew. So even if I were using my NanoKONTROLLER, I'd probably need to reconfigure it almost every time I wanted to use it.

Logic Studio deserves a bit of blame here, but as far as I can tell the REAL culprit is Korg's custom USB driver. The Lexicon switches on and off like a charm...why not the Nanos?

So with all that in mind, are they still worth it? Yes, absolutely, as long as you don't need rock-solid stability as soon as you turn on your computer, and as long as you don't need to retain your Logic Studio assignments. I don't need either of those things and the NanoKEY alone is a charmer.

If you have any Nano experiences, post a comment! Heck, maybe somebody knows a fix or a workaround. It would make my life a bit easier...

Talkies and Continuous Showings

In 1930 -- several years after the arrival of the talkies -- The New Yorker continued to make references to the phenomenon, indicating that talking pictures were still a bit of a novelty. Here's a cute story from the January 11, 1930 issue:
No doubt about it, the talkies do complicate life. A talkie-goer has made this complaint: The other day she arrived in a theatre just before the conclusion of the feature picture. In the old days, to remain in pleasant ignorance of the outcome, she would have had merely to lean back and shut her eyes. Now, in addition to doing this, she has to put her fingers in her ears.
To understand this you need to recognize that movie theatres at the time showed "continuous showings." Unlike today -- when your ticket only buys you admission to a single showing of a film -- the early theatres repeated the same program all day: for example a newsreel, then a cartoon, then a short subject, then the feature film...and then right back to the newsreel again. You could watch the film multiple times if you wanted, though I imagine the ushers -- another bygone aspect of movie theatre culture -- would kick out loiterers, snoozers, and groping flappers eventually.

I mention this because I don't know if many people are aware that the continuous showing method ever existed. What's more, I can't even find out when it ended...it was certainly happening in the '50s (I'm sure that Wally and Theodore alluded to it in "Leave It To Beaver," which is probably where I first heard about it), and it certainly ended before I was a child (in the early '70s).

So I wonder: when did theatres switch to the current method? And why?

Incidentally I AM old enough to remember when theatre seats had ashtrays build into their arms. I can also remember the playing of the national anthem before the feature began: after the coming attractions, the curtain would lower, and then as it rose the anthem would begin to play. We'd all stand up and sing. The curtain would come down at the end, then finally rise at the beginning of the feature.

Hard to imagine that today, somehow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Eldritch, Stygian, Cyclopean Horrors of H. P. Lovecraft

I have been slogging my way through a giant 1000-page collection of H.P. Lovecraft's better (or at least "more significant") stories. This is the first time I've read his work in many, many years.

I realize now that I actually didn't read as many Lovecraft stories as I thought I did, and that the ones I DID read I tended to skim. Patience, experience, context, and age are allowing me to better enjoy his strengths and tolerate his weaknesses...but I still have to restrain that skimming urge.

What have I learned so far? Lovecraft was far more creative than I ever gave him credit for. While he tended to use the same techniques over and over again, his actual IDEAS -- the "hooks" in the stories -- show a lot of variety.

I'm also surprised at how GRUESOME his work was. The stereotype of Lovecraft is that his protagonists always faint before they can fully describe the final horror (he even manages to turn Harry Houdini into a shrieking wimp in "Under the Pyramids"), but for the most part this isn't the case. Stories like "The Outsider," "The Shunned House," and "Cool Air" pull no punches when it comes to the climax, and "In the Vault" is one of the few stories I've ever read that has managed to shock me.

He was extremely creative, yes, and he doesn't entirely deserve the "tease" label he's been saddled with...so why is this compendium of stories so often infuriating?

A few reasons. Lovecraft's racism is well documented, and though his eugenic beliefs were more-or-less of his time, it's still maddening to read about the evolutionary and cultural "degeneracy" that his characters keep harping about.

Something else his characters harp about is the oh-so-scary "cyclopean masonry" in virtually every story. It comes up so often -- and is presented as so disturbing -- that I wonder if Lovecraft was confused as to what it actually WAS: big hunks of rough limestone built into a wall. Disregarding the fact that there is nothing intrinsically sanity-blasting about that sort of architecture, you really have to wonder how all his characters knew what the style was CALLED. Did YOU know what "cyclopean" meant? Did more people in the 1920s know what it meant? Somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, this ties into the prevalence of Lovecraft's lasting legacy: the ubiquitous Necronomicon, the supposedly-rare arcane book of evil and forgotten knowledge...which at least one character in each of his later stories has managed to read at some point. And we're not just talking about occultists and folklorists, we're talking about ORDINARY people. In "At the Mountains of Madness," both the geologist and the BIOLOGIST in the doomed Antarctic expedition have read the book cover-to-cover. Rather than provide atmosphere and depth, the constant citing of the Necronomicon just makes it seem increasingly pedestrian; who can be intrigued by a Book Of Forbidden Knowledge that everybody has read?

My final criticism only applies to two stories so far: "At the Mountains of Madness" and "The Shadow Out of Time." While most of Lovecraft's stories contain a fair amount of movement and action ("The Shadow Over Innsmouth" in particular), those two stories appear to be flimsy excuses for Lovecraft to say "Look at this detailed biological and cultural description of these monsters I made up!" They're dull expository sandwiches: two thin slices of plot surrounding thick, fifty-page examinations of the life and times of creepy pseudo-vegetables. Somebody should have just given Lovecraft a sketchbook for his birthday.

I started reading this collection with low expectations, so despite some extremely long and dry sections I am pleasantly surprised by Lovecraft's work. I am particularly in love with "The Colour Out of Space," which I think is the perfect collection of all of Lovecraft's strengths.

But for your own sake I recommend -- as always -- that you do NOT read all of his work in a row. You may find yourself turning into a fish-monster, losing your sanity, and screaming "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" in the night, which would be too much for even fearless Harry Houdini to bear.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yaaaaaaarrrr, Night Moves!

You're a student in southern Ontario during the early '90s, and you haven't yet learned moderation. After a crazy night out with friends, you come home at 3am, and you feel like you're going a bit insane: the room is spinning, you feel spectacularly ill, you're exhausted, but your brain is running laps around your spectacularly-abused body. There's nobody you can talk to, there's no way to distract yourself...where do you turn?

Global TV's "Night Moves."

Somewhere in Toronto, a cameraman with a steadycam walked slowly through streets, subways, and deserted buildings. Sometimes you'd be in a car driving through the main streets and back roads of the city. No narrative, no structure, just some smooth jazz and a vicarious trip through the deserted city.

WHAT A GREAT IDEA. I'm sure it was conceived primarily as a cheap way to fill the early hours with Canadian content, but I (and many, many others) viewed "Night Moves" as a life-saver.

It's still fabulous, and has the added bonus of being a time capsule for the ever-changing city. I'm thrilled that I've finally found it again. Thank you, Global!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roadbird (Metal Mix)

Awhile back I started working on a remix of one of the songs on Roade, but I got stuck halfway through. I lost my inspiration! I got sick of it!

Meanwhile I'd discovered that Chad Faragher, a fellow workmate, was interested in musical collaboration. I gave him an early mix-down of "Roadbird" and then we got back to work (you know the REAL jobs which allow us to afford these musical gadgets).

Eventually I finished my own version of "Roadbird" and put the audio up for download. I'd forgotten all about the collaboration when suddenly -- on September 7th -- Chad produced his version!

It was hard for him because he didn't have my original tracks to work with, just a messy mix-down that he was forced to record over. He added cello, guitar, additional keys, and even some voices...

...and the result had promise! But it desperately cried for a remix using both MY sources and HIS.

You know where this is going. I mixed and tweaked "Roadbird," and it was good, and I wanted people to hear it. But since people will rarely download audio files but they WILL view embedded videos, it seemed the only way for people to find out about the song was to make a video.

So I gathered together all the footage I haven't used anywhere else, and I tried to film some musically-representative things, and I finally came up with "Roadbird (Metal Mix)."

This is not my finest video moment. While I have no problems making ominous-sounding MUSIC, I find it's very difficult to make an ominous-looking FILM. So I tried a tongue-in-cheek approach. The "musical milk crate" is a lowpoint.

People ARE enjoying the song, but this might be a lesson in itself: a bare (but good) audio file could be better than one coupled with a busy (but not-so-good) video. The video might distract from the song and actually ruin the impression. I'm not saying that's the case, but it's been something that's been going through my mind.

In any case, my recommendation is to put an opaque sheet of black paper over your monitor, turn up the speakers, and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "An Optimist"

On January 4, 1930, Dr. Seuss gives us two tragically mutated Lovecraftian nightmares...AND a well-worn vaudeville joke!

This "What is an Optimist?" schtick was a big thing at one time, but it's hard to know whether it was passe by 1930.

I bring this up because throughout its first year of publication the fledgling New Yorker magazine peppered its pages with the same joke, over and over again:
Pa, what's an optimist?

A man who thinks he can do it in par.*
Sometimes, for variety, they'd reverse it.
A man who thinks he can do it in par.

Pa, what's an optimist?
This was obviously some New Yorker editor's 1925 idea of a joke, and the repetition was also supposed to be funny, but...well, I hereby admit that I didn't get it. Eventually it seemed like something they were doing just to fill the occasional half-inch of blank column.

* (I'm paraphrasing a bit because I haven't read those issues in several years, but the joke appeared so often that I think it's permanently engraved in my mind).

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My New Neighbourhood

Up a hill! Down a hill! I never realized there was such a big hill on the edge of Uptown Waterloo. All sides of it are fantastically steep, and there's even a bit of a valley nestled right in the middle, so I get lots of exercise to and from work.

While coming down the hill towards Weber street there's a BEAUTIFUL view to the north, overlooking Moses Springer park and then -- far off -- the student slums of University and Columbia. I'm intrigued by a huge microwave tower out there.

There is always a lone dove sitting on a powerline near Lincoln and Weber, which is also where the few pedestrians diverge to various buses. Even though there is a bus which goes very close to my house, its route is circuitous and seems to almost willfully avoid the main line. Transfers and waiting at University and King is the only way.

The most beautiful homes are up on the hill. Affluence, in this area, means being set so far away from the road that you are completely surrounded by forest. One house appears only accessible up a long, winding wooden staircase with a mailbox at the bottom. I want to live in that house!

All the homes were built in the '60s and look distinctly "Brady Bunch": A-Frame angles, tall narrow windows, ridiculously high ceilings. The people who live in those houses walk their children to work every day; one father piggybacks his daughter all the way down the hill.

My own neighbourhood is not affluent, it would probably be classified as lower-middle class. They're mostly new families and first-time homebuyers. Most of them seem capable of proper recycling and garbage disposal, but a few think that a bin marked "cardboard" is the place where you throw your old Javex bottles.

The supermarket nearby is exceptionally good. The Blockbuster store is badly in need of cleaning and renovation. The Canadian Pizza place makes great pizza, and it's cheap.

I live near a water treatment plant and I am surrounded on three sides by enormous parks. I have done very little exploring but I'm amazed to discover that I live at the very end of Margaret Street, a long city-spanning thoroughfare which runs through every type of possible neighbourhood. This week I walked from the one end -- near my house -- all the way to the other end, which terminates conveniently at the Registry Theatre. It took about 45 minutes.

On my way to work I pass the cheerful, elderly school crossing guard. On the way home I used to greet the cheerful, elderly golden retriever who ran loosely up and down the immaculately-manicured lawns. But a few weeks ago his owners tied him up in the driveway, put down a blue tarp for him, and left his food and water out. I don't believe he is abused but he's certainly sad, sitting there, unable to greet people on the sidewalk. It makes me sad too.

Two days ago I finally realized that I really do live here. It hasn't sunk in yet that I OWN the place, but it's a start at least.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Valuable Comédienne

From the January 4, 1930 issue of The New Yorker, I read this in Robert Benchley's theatre column regarding a new play called "Top Speed":
The chorus is smart; Irène Delroy dances nicely; Lester Allen has an imaginative sweater-tailor and puts the one new gag over with excellent effect, and a novitiate named, believe it or not, Ginger Rogers seems to be a valuable comédienne in the making.
Yeah, maybe that lady with the strange name will go on to better things?

Better than the play at least. According to Benchley the 1929/1930 season was crammed with mediocre plays about sports. "Top Speed" -- featuring a speedboat race -- was one of a long line, and released at the same time as "Woof Woof" (about whippet racing).

"Top Speed" remains obscure as a play. It's somewhat better known as a subsequent movie adaptation, partly because of Rogers' involvement, but mostly because a "musical backlash" caused First National Pictures to cut out all the film's musical numbers before its American release. Talk about extremes...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Newsreel Theatres

During late 1929, the Embassy Theatre in New York started a phenomenon: "The Newsreel Theatre." It was a massive hit, other theatres followed suit, and The New Yorker reporters -- though writing in their usual cynical way -- were obviously quite enchanted.

Whereas other theatres only played newsreels in between films, The Newsreel Theatre played them ALL DAY. They collected newsreels from all available sources and just kept playing them, morning and night, in ever-updated one-hour loops.

Radio had already been providing up-to-date news to listeners for several years, but this somehow struck a chord. Maybe it was the visual aspect, or the community feeling, or maybe it was the fact that it was the ONLY venue devoted entirely to news. The New Yorker, however, often mentions the simple joy of just dropping in at any time and never knowing what will come next: adventure stories, politics, opinion, debate, all put together without any logic whatsoever.

Interestingly, it wasn't long before smaller companies began shooting newsreels SPECIFICALLY for the theatres.

Anyway, in the December 28, 1929 issue of The New Yorker, here's a wonderful poem called "Recommendation" by Parke Cummings.
Shots of Mr. Hoover trouting,
Shots of weasels on an outing,
Speech by Czar of cruller-bakers,
Tricks employed by corset-makers,
Sounds of Bossy Gillis talking,
Sounds of albatrosses squawking,
Butterfly weighs sixty ounces,
Men in Denver take to flounces,
Crooning chants by Rudy Vallée,
Felines battle in an alley,
Clerk consumes, in South Dakota,
Twenty pies--his daily quota--
Kafir belles go in for blouses--
Here's to better newsreel houses.
If you're interested in learning more, Time Magazine wrote up The Newsreel Theatre here.