media toronto events

the lord of the rings musical

The Lord of the Rings Musical LogoWhat better way to commemorate the end of the short run of shows The Lord of the Rings musical had here in Toronto than a review of the one I saw in August?

I went to a Sunday matinee viewing of the musical at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Even at the end of its run, or perhaps because of the end of its run, the place was still packed.

The show was incredible. I really don’t understand all the bad media it collected. The sound and light was stunning; the constantly evolving stage was fascinating. The songs were all catchy and well-written (only one or two were less engaging). My only qualms were that the travel scenes, where the hobbits wandered around moving scenery, were slightly confusing; and the digital moving images projected onto the main stage scenery was pixelated (a jarring experience when staring directly at it).

As for the acting, the only badly done lines were by some of the hobbits with minor roles. The rest of the actors did very good jobs of either staying true to the movie character, or creating their own interpretations. Gollum, for example, was nothing like Gollum in the movie – but he was still really well-acted, and had his own flare. I enjoyed how he kept flopping around onto his back and sides like a fish.

It’s definitely not a show for someone who doesn’t know the story; it assumes you have some knowledge of the events that pass, by either excluding them completely or alluding to them with a line or two. In some cases, there were even further explanations of situations that I had been unable to glean from the films.

I’d the say that The Lord of the Rings musical, as a standalone show completely disconnected from the rest of the recent LOTR culture, I don’t think it would have much to stand on. However, it is an excellent addition to the rest of the media surrounding the story, and fits in well within that context.

media toronto events

the dresden dolls concert

Saturday night was a Panic! At the Disco concert, with The Dresden Dolls as the opening act. I went and saw it with my friend Yevgeny, who runs the YListen radio show early Sunday mornings. He’s got a good review of the show up on his website, so I’ll just post these pics I managed to grab. They are the only two that were somewhat clear…

The Dresden Dolls Concert at the Molson Amphitheatre

The Dresden Dolls Concert at the Molson Amphitheatre

I will say though, as a venue, I really dislike the Molson Amphitheatre. It’s a little too commercial, a little too corporate, and as a result you feel like a criminal walking around in there no matter what. Security is on you in a second if they see a slightly higher than average grade camera, a purse that’s maybe a little too big, etc. It’s okay though – we beat the system. We snuck into the wristband-only area, without wristbands, to get a better view. Hah! We were only there for The Dresden Dolls anyway. In fact, neither of us had ever heard of Panic! At the Disco, and thought that was just the name of the show The Dresden Dolls were putting on. Ah well… again, read Yevgeny’s entry about it.

media toronto events

the birds in dundas square

Hitchcock's The BirdsTuesday evenings are movie night at Yonge & Dundas Square. Every week throughout the summer, a feature monster film is played for the public gathered in the square.

I had not yet had the chance to attend a screening, but I finally gathered a few friends and checked it out this week. They showed a colourised, re-touched version of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

I’d seen the original, greyscale version with my parents a year ago, but this was an almost entirely different experience. Because of the audience’s setting outdoors, with ambient street sounds cutting up the film’s audio, one had the sense that birds might begin flocking at any moment. Sirens interrupted a few parts of the film, too. I suppose that’s the whole point – I can hardly wait for the final screening in August: King Kong! Already I’m imagining some grand finale, a great stunt gorilla crashing through the building behind the erected screen as the audience stares in horror…

For anyone who’s seen The Birds, you know what I mean when I say the sounds the birds make are incredibly creepy. Now imagine that magnified, and echoing around outside in the square through the speaker system. The way they were set up, the echoes were enhanced significantly. The creep factor increased exponentially as the movie progressed.

Awesome! I’m definitely checking it out at least one more time.

design media the interweb

the importance of your website’s content

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately in many of the web pages that appear; get excited about creating a website, have it designed, and… leave it empty.

This is doing your business no good. Having a website is a great idea; leaving your page to then sit without content is not a great idea. In fact, on top of harming your company’s image, it’s probably making it more difficult for you to come up in search results.

What counts as content?

Content is not just pretty photographs or illustrations. It’s not the menu, or the three-line sentence that your index page (the first page people see on your website) displays, nor is it your contact info. Content is meaningful, searchable, well-written text – peppered with a few images – that describes what your company is about, how it began, its mission statement, the products or services you sell, provides news or other form of updates on your progress as a company and urges your visitors to contact you or buy from you.

What meaningful content can do for you

All of this is important when your site is being visited by new customers that do not know you personally, and are interested in what you offer. It is important because including fleshed-out text that outlines the above will:

  • create a directed vision of your company and the person/people behind it (ie: your brand);
  • engender trust and goodwill within the potential customer;
  • through the above, show visitors that your company knows what it is doing, is trustworthy and can, in fact, provide services and products to solve the problems they are seeking solutions for when they find your site.

You may be thinking, I have a targeted audience and usually know the people who visit my site – how can this apply to me? Remember that your brand on the web is now just as important as your brand in person. Showing a commitment to your website by adding new, relevant content on a regular basis will show that you are organised and dedicated to your business. This can do nothing but inspire confidence in potential customers.

Content every website should have

The typical content pages I would recommend setting up are:

  • The introduction to your site1: begin with a short overview that explains what solutions your company provides. The index page of your site is the one most frequently entered upon by visitors through search engines and other external links; I recommend that you put your news on this page as well. With news on the first page, Google is much more likely to be aware that your site is updated regularly. Another benefit is that it allows return visitors to see new content on the very first click.
  • About us: this is the opportunity for you to wax philosophical about your company. Go nuts! Explain where you came from, who’s behind your business, why you’re in the field you’re in, and where you want to go. Breaking down this information with subheadings such as “Our History”, “Mission Statement”, “Staff Bios” etc. is a great idea to help people scan to the information they want to read about you.
  • Products and/or Services: this page (or these pages) should expound what you know and love: the product and/or service your business offers. This is where you can show photographs of your product or service in action, with detailed captions. Try to hire a professional photographer2 to compose well-lit, interesting shots. Remember: everything you put on your website is building your brand.

Other content pages I would suggest including:

  • Photo albums: these don’t have to be only for personal use or to display professional photography. A number of my clients incorporate photo albums into their websites:
    • Dog Lounge has a photo album to show the environment in which the pets are taken care of.
    • Building Blocks Nursery School has photo albums that give a tour of the school and show special field trips or holidays celebrated.
    • Melissa Munroe has photo galleries not just for her professional photography shoots, but also to display her past modeling experiences.

It’s not hard to see why these photo albums work for these business owners. If you provide services for events or productions, a great idea is to include a photo gallery of successful past events.

  • Articles you’ve written: chances are you have a passion for the industry in which your business resides. If so, it’s a good idea to write about it: help your customers use your product better; tutor them on how to make the most of your services (kind of like what I’m doing in this article…); draw your competitors to your site by critiquing the latest industry happenings; write a report on that successful promotion you just wrapped up. Whatever you do with this section, make sure it is informed, well-written and relevant to your business. The same goes for all pages on your site – just remember not to stray too far from your industry if you decide to write articles.
  • Blogs: More companies are using blogs to keep in touch with their customer base these days. Blogs contain writing that is slightly less formal with a more human touch than articles or news sections would contain. They are a current trend and may be right for you to implement. It all depends on how you feel about them, whether you want to update more often than weekly, and how savvy you are at using rich-text editors such as Word.

Setting aside time to write

So, the number one reason you haven’t got any content on your website is that you have no time to write it. My advice? Begin to budget time for it, weekly. Your website copy is just as, if not more, important than your print collateral: it has the potential to reach a much wider audience than print flyers, and to project far more information about your company and its products or services than any flyer or brochure could provide.

If you’re beginning to embark on the task of content-creation for your entire site, consider these points:

  • Decide what information is most important – and tackle that first. This means writing up a list of all the information you want to provide on your website, and then prioritising it based on what you a) want your visitors to know about you, and b) know that your visitors are seeking. That way, you get your important information on your website faster, and can boost it with smaller, less essential items as you move along.
  • Keep the writing targeted towards your market. Depending on whom you are selling to, this could mean using industry-specific keywords, or distilling your phrases to laymen’s terms.
  • Use plenty of descriptive subheadings, and keep paragraphs short. This will allow users to scan the text quickly and find what they are looking for. It’s a fact – people read less these days. Instead, they scan, picking up key information from words and phrases that stand out. Subheadings help with this. Bullet points help with this (but don’t overkill this technique – a well-written paragraph is always pleasant to read too).
  • Develop a voice. Are you a mom-and-pop shop, trying to appeal to down-to-earth consumers? A medium-sized company doing business with smaller ones? Do you work directly with clients? Are you aiming for a market that appreciates crass humour? Make sure the voice reflects you and your business’s core values, but also maintains a level of professional detachment.

Keeping the content fresh

Once you have your core content, it’s time to think about how to keep your website up to date. If you have fee schedules, calendars of events, newsletters or anything that changes over time, it is essential to keep on top of them. Whenever you change that file on your computer, have your web designer change it on your website. Dated material on a website begins to cast a negative glow over your brand: the older the date, the less impactful and less credible your site will seem. Think about it: if you go to a website that lists something from 2004 and nothing newer, don’t you quickly move on?

If you go with a blog or a news section, be sure to update it at least weekly.

Content gets you everywhere

If you’ve got a website for your business, content is a necessity. Spend the time, or the money if you must hire someone else to do it for you, to have well-written, informed content that portrays your business in the appropriate light. Work on your voice and phrasing. Keep it relevant and up to date, and in the end you will gain the trust and confidence of your potential customers. The saying is true, as ever: the more effort you make, the more you get out of your endeavours.


1A note on splash pages: these are highly recommended against these days. It used to be very popular to put a sort of “curtain” page between your website and the page that it was entered from. However, this practice is now highly frowned upon in web design: and for good reason. These pages place a barrier between your visitors and the content you want them to access. People have less patience these days and will quickly leave your site if they have to click too many times to find the information they want. Related to this is search engine placement. You want to be placed higher in the results and therefore you need a meaningful, content-driven home page, that is updated often. Splash pages mask that access for the search engine.
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2I recommend the services of Melissa Munroe, a professional photographer based in Toronto, Ontario.
return to place

Other resources

If you want to learn more about writing for the web specifically, I recommend:

  • Writing for the web: [Geek’s Edition] or [Writer’s Edition]. I own the Writer’s Edition, and I’m not too sure why there are two versions or how they differ – or, for that matter, why I considered myself a writer more than a geek when I picked up this book. In any case, it’s been an excellent resource for me.
  • Writing for the Web: the blog of the author of the above book, found quite by accident and happily added to this list.
  • eClass: Writing and Editing for the Web, Circa 2006: MediaBistro offers writing courses over the web, and this one specifically targets how to write content for websites.

finally, a good book

Working in the book industry brings along with it some perks such as, once in a while, free books.

Not all the time do these books prove to be worthwhile reads. I might gripe about them collectively, but they barely seem to be worth writing bad reviews for. I think I have enough faith in my fellow readers for those books to eventually regress from radar enough so as not to pester us again.

But for ones I do enjoy reading… I think they are certainly worth talking about; recommending to people I know, at least. And just such a great read have I recently closed and passed along to a friend.

It’s called Mammals by Pierre Mérot.

Although the author fairly obviously draws upon himself at least for the basic details of the protagonist, this is not a shallow recounting of a person’s boring life. This is a novel that, page after page, delivers witty and bitter comments about life – as an alocholic, in our time, living along with too many other people on the planet. While some of it may seem like overbearing self-pity, for the most part it simply opens up the reader to make connections with the mostly anonymous main character, regardless of sex and gender. As a youthful female, I had very little in common with the aging male protagonist and yet this novel touched me on a very personal level. The writing had a certain momentum that kept me drinking up the words until I was finished reading in less than a week.

This is the kind of novel that, through its honest, sometimes grimy, depictions of this man’s life, can teach you lessons. Read it.

media the interweb’s online reader service is once again beginning to amaze (scoff!) me. I just recently started paying attention to the American giant again (I’ve been hanging out on for the past few years, which is sufficiently behind its parent as to be still stuck in the late 90s – or so it feels) and I cannot believe the amount of features it now boasts.

Not only does it have flashy interface thingamabobbers (yummy bubbly menu buttons and rolling-out-pop-ups of super-information over some links), but it’s gone truly wiki-like in style. Buyers and sellers can now edit every product page, submit their own images of products (or the way they use those products), search inside the text from all the books enrolled in that program on their site (can you imagine the amount of data they have to store for that? image files of every page really add up)… they are even launching a video program on their site this summer!

The latest feature is a further development of the Search Inside program – the Amazon Online Reader. It’s a more sophisticated version of what they had before – allowing you to now zoom in and out of the pages, highlight or bookmark sections of the book for later, copy text, print it… don’t just listen to me talk about it, take a look for yourself! [Warning: you may have to log in to get the gadget to work.]
I suppose it’s all part of the program that will soon allow readers to purchase online versions of books and also read them there.


books these days

Working in the book industry, I’m exposed to more than average amounts of book articles and opinions. We also get free books from publishers every once in a while, as gifts.

I don’t know whether my disappointment in the quality of books I’ve chosen to read lately is simply due to my having grown up and become more discerning; or if the quality of the writing publishers choose to put out to the world these days is actually declining. Whatever the case, the books I’ve been reading lately have just been bad: poorly written, badly plotted and severely lacking in character depth. So much so that I really don’t care what happens to the characters in them and I simply want to finish the book so I don’t have to put up with the childish writing and crappy editing anymore.

Nothing is driving this observation home more than the fact that I am now coming to the end of an actually really well-written novel: Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz. I’ve barely noticed two errors in the spelling and grammar of this book; the plot has been absolutely incredible, keeping my heart pumping adequately throughout (it is a thriller, after all); and I actually care what happens to the characters in the book – even the evil ones have somehow wormed their psychotic way into my thoughts, as I wonder at how their stories will end, desperately hoping they get their comeuppance while struggling not to identify too closely with them. An older book, I suppose, but still one that is able to touch its readers (this one, at least). I read a couple of Koontz’s novels when I was younger and remembered how gripping they were; thus why I picked this recently, amidst all the hopelessly bad books I’ve been reading.

Honestly, what are publishers thinking? I’ve read some blogs lately that suggest it’s not really editors finding a lot of books these days; no, now it’s “book packagers” producing books. You might be thinking, what on earth is a book packager? Well, remember all those Sweet Valley High books from when you were a kid? Or Nancy Drew? Apparently those are all examples of books that were “packaged” – and here I thought the authors were churning out books that fast!

In any case, when book packagers are involved, it’s not hard to see why many awful books would be published.

The recent scandal about Kaavya Viswanathan caused some of the exerpts of her book to be published in various articles, directly compared to the books from which she was said to have pulled those exerpts. Glimpsing the two together, it was clear whose writing was better, and it certainly was not Kaavya’s. As a lover of vocabulary and correct spelling and grammar, I knew from the first three sentences that I would never pick up her book; the copied author’s words were so much more compelling.

All of this makes me think back to the fantastical books of my childhood: the Ramona series (soon to be a movie) and Beverly Cleary’s books. Hours were spent in the worlds those authors created; magical and wondrous. Are they just fuzzed by my memory now? Were they bad, but I didn’t know back then? They can’t possibly have been… I want to go back and explore them again. I suspect Cleary’s books in particular helped shape my more adult love for the world of JRR Tolkien and all things RPG.

In any case, this is an open plea: please, publishers, be more discriminatory. Paper is more expensive these days; waste less on producing bad books and spend your time and energy on the gems. You are the ones who are supposed to weed out the crap from the good… though I suppose the biggest problem is that that is all subjective. However, that’s no excuse for simple, bad editing.

media toronto events

ladytron in toronto

The boy and I attempted to scalp tickets to see Ladytron. But at $60 bucks a pop, we decided we’d just walk around and see if anyone else had tickets available. It turned out they didn’t, but the experience of doing that was far greater than it would have been had we just gone in to see them perform.

The reason for this? Well, the boy is a rather determined one. When he likes a band, he loves the band. We waited around the back of the venue where we saw Ladytron’s tour bus (a similar setup to the Blonde Redhead concert we went to; they, too, had a tour bus around back), along with two of the members up on a fire exit platform being interviewed, a camera panning the sidestreet where the last of the line was wrapped around the building.

The boy stared lovingly up at them and we hung about, waiting for a closer glimpse, maybe even a handshake. Eventually, we saw two of depart in the direction of a restaurant. We waited outside at a nearby bar, the boy smoking cigarettes so it didn’t look like we were loitering.

And then, we were rewarded. We saw two of the members emerge, and we approached. When we got there it was a little embarassing; they must get fans following them all the time. In any case, I soon spoke up and asked if they were with Ladytron. Confirmative! The boy was then very expressive, and we were told they didn’t have any room on the guest list otherwise they’d make some for us, and then they shook hands with him (I’m not one for touching band members!). We said goodbye, and watched them walk off to their venue.

The boy pointed out on the way home that the great thing about slightly less popular, more indie bands, is that you can just walk up to them and meet them; they’re far more accessible to their fans.

A much more satisfying experience, I think, than spending $60 each on getting in, enduring a few hours of loud music (most of which was probably not played by Ladytron but their opening bands), and then probably not getting to meet them afterwards.



As mentioned previously, the boy has obtained his own weekly radio show over at CKMS 100.3 FM Radio Waterloo. As a way to help promote it, I’ve designed a website for him.

The content is still being written up, but the design itself is complete.

I chose a masculine colour pallette of brown, cream and blue, and I think it’s one of my more successful attempts at coming up with a colour combination. To express professionalism and taste, I used a pinstriped background because it reminded me of the type of suit I imagine Yevgeny wearing: something brown from the 70s, with flared pants. The type used in the title and menu of the page is elegant and tasteful, and the decorative elements used to denote the different sections of the page are evocative of those used in older books.

I chose that particular photograph as a way to slightly offset the ego that comes across in his show: he is smiling (a rare occurrence in photos of Yevgeny), it’s a great angle that emphasizes one of his best features (his strong jawline), and the softness makes him look approachable (which he really is). [Edit Apr 19th: At the urgence of Yevgeny and his best friend, I have since changed the photograph to something more of Yevgeny’s liking. I hate it.]

Overall, the idea was to create a tasteful, masculine design that expressed Yevgeny’s personality and approach to the music he showcases.


new radio show: Ylisten

My boyfriend is starting his own radio show at Waterloo University’s campus radio station today.

Listen online every Tuesday from 3:00 – 5:00 PM at

The format is two hours: the first, dedicated to electronic music; and the second, dedicated to indie rock bands. He’ll be bringing the very best of electronic and indie bands from Toronto, Canada and around the world to your ears.

He’s an excellent speaker with great intonation and a lovely voice, so be sure there won’t be any boring monotone!