tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Behind the Scenes at the 34th National Magazine Awards

Last night Canadian magaziners feted themselves with due and tasteful pomp at the annual National Magazine Awards.

For my multi-pronged role* as the NMA show stage manager, program editor, script composer and ticket-queue improv greeter, I was rewarded with backstage access which, coupled with the sobriety that outlasted most others in attendance, has yielded a few memorable impressions of the soiree.

Jacqueline Hennessy absolutely rocked the MC gig, employing the best kind of wit for this crowd (the succinct, self-deprecating kind; and all the funny bits were of her, not my, writing).

And she ran the tightest show on the NMA stage perhaps since Pierre Berton brandished a cane
and aimed it at anyone who got within 10 feet of the podium to attempt a thank-you speech.

(Indeed, on several occasions Jacqueline was faster than the speed of the stage lights, which might be related to the fact that she was on her feet for hours wearing impressive 3-inch stilettos while staring at 600 people who were enjoying a very comfy collective slouch.)

By her own admission Jacqueline was at least as hot an MC as the pantheonic Scott Feschuk, but judging by the manner in which a few of the male award-winners appeared punch-drunk at the podium after receiving a double cheek peck from Jacqueline, there's still plenty of room for Feschuk to improve.

I thought the food was excellent. I do love it when the hors d'oeuvre servers at The Carlu dish out considerate whispers to guests that "this is dinner"; alas, inhabiting a realm beyond the magazine industry they don't know that: 
A) Most guests fill their bellies before arrival so they can focus all their considerable instinctive faculties on hunting down complimenatry wine; and
B) The food, despite appearing diminutive on those wee plates, actually never runs out. (By midnight the servers may have been zonked and a few guests were seen delivering plates of tortilla rolls and sliders to the very slowly thinning horde of hangers on.)

And although magazines are often labelled as traditional media, the gala guests were rocking the social networks. Twitter hashtag #NMA11 was the most popular trending topic in the city of Toronto between 6pm and midnight, which is really a testament to how adept magaziners are at thumbing tweets while simultaneously carrying on three or four completely independent self-referential conversations.

In truth, far from being a total schmooze-fest, it was really a classy affair. And it always warms this ol' heart to witness the post-ceremony love-in that is all people without envelopes congratulating all the people with envelopes, not with a smarmy one-liner recycled from some copy-writers' pub crawl, but with genuine cover-worthy affection.

Sure, I wandered into one late-night conversation in which Freelancer X was drunkenly complimenting the pectoral fortitude of Editor Y, but this could easily be studied as a subtextual expression of the magaziner meta-narrative of "strength in collaboration", rather than as a steamy pitch for a future joint venture of a very different kind.

Oh, and there were winners too at the National Magazine Awards. Bunches of them. One of my favourite, day-after-NMA rituals is to check out the news sites and see how the various and sundry media plagiarized our press release. The Canadian Press went for the expurgated version. The Toronto Star put a bit of work into reordering the info. The Globe and Mail wrote most of their own copy, focusing principally on their own magazine. (As of this posting, Masthead and the Canadian Magazines
blog had not yet posted their insightful recaps of the gala.)

Finally, the comedown from the annual NMA
high is a good time to emphasize that in a media world where trends pass for news reporting, where the most common ways to grab an audience are by scooping everyone else or by being crasser than everyone else, magazines still put an emphasis on quality of content, which is what last night was all about.

Well, that and the still unknown whereabouts of the infamous chocolate fountain.

* This blog is in no way affiliated with the National Magazine Awards Foundation or any of its members.

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