Monday, December 31, 2007

A Year in Review

I began 2007 at home, geeking out on Board Games (yes, that's right - Board Games), Wii and Wine. It was good times. This was also the first full year in which I did not attend an academic institution of some sort; as a result, I feel stupider. I worked at the library full-time, all year, in 3 different locales (Sciences, Children's and Courtneypark).

But the year was eventful in non-work ways:
- I went on several vacations and weekenders: visiting my cousins (and their not-so-new baby) in Virginia, 4 plays in Stratford, Joan in NOTL, the day reminsicing in Kingston, flying to San Francisco, driving down to San Luis Obispo and then back up to Big Sur via the famous Hwy 1.
- I attended many a performance: TSO, Evil Dead, Othello, King Lear, Merchant of Venice, Ideal husband, Chopin & Friends, Nuit-crappitty-Blanche, Philip Pullman's Particles of Narrative, ROM Ramses lecture, Saint Joan... gosh.
- Watched a LOT of movies, but that's normal. read a LOT of books (thank you Book Club!).

This also the year of the big purchases. In anticipation of the Condo-that-never-completes, I bought a KitchenAid mixer, my very first grownup Queen-sized bed, and about $5500 in marble and wood flooring. I would trade all this in to actually be IN my condo.

Favourite moments include:
- walking out of Othello, drunk on Shakespeare and having him on my arm,
- sitting on a beach in California, watching the sun set, flanked by Leanne and Nish,
- staring in horror at the Hell Mouth that appeared on Queen's campus, confirming all our not-so-secret suspicions that we really DID deal with demons for 4 years,
- playing (and winning) Knights of Catan. twice. retired undefeated champion.
- the entire 30 days spanning September 14 to Oct 14 (Stratford, Kingston, Nuit Blanche, Word on the Street, California).
- 4th-floor lunches with DK.
- discovering Imogen Heap (thanks Bro), Yuja Wang (thanks TSO) and Burial (thanks Mishu).
- dancing @ Zen on DJ Dwight's bday with my girls.
- closing down the restaurant with Elle.
- realising that being quirky and alone makes me quirkyalone, and thus... happy.

Wrapping up 2007, I will be home, again. There will be no games, just me and Nish in PJs. Hopefully, shrimp rings. Here's wishing you and yours all the best :)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Now Playing: Sweeney Todd

A digression from the GG quest leads me to another Globe nominee (albeit, different category): Sweeney Todd. I was pretty psyched to watch this movie - it has one of my favourite Hollywood pairings: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Also calling my attention: Snape, Bellatrix and Wormtongue. I was even curious about the singing. The movie however, if you'll pardon the pun, fell flat. Based on the fictional (...? debatable) Jonathan Barker, whose thirst for vengeance leads him to kill unsuspecting victims with this straight edge, this seems like an unlikely story for a musical. oh, but it is. While I can understand the philosophy that a good actor who can't sing is easier to market than a good singer who can't act, it was really quite difficult to get past JD's lack of vocal range. In terms of singing, this was no Moulin Rouge.

Okay, so let's get past that, shall we? Burton's unique style is perfect for the industrial-era London (grey, decaying and utterly depressing) where the story unfolds; his sense of macabre is in perfect harmony with the entire idea of a "demon barber" and his meat pie victims. The story is wonderful - with lovely bits of irony and pathos amid all the gore. The gore itself was not nearly realistic enough to inspire any stomach-churning - looking more like red Tempra paint than anything else. Casting: Depp and Carter embody their characters well (the seaside dream is a great scene); Rickman is so very good at being bad. Thank goodness for Jayne Wisener and Ed Sanders, who can actually sing. Finally, Sacha Baron Cohen was great in his appearance as Barker's would-be extorter.

While some say it was better than Chicago, I can't agree. And I really, really want to. On paper, this is the kind of movie I could really like: it has some of my favourite actors, one of my favourite directors, a wonderfully gruesome plot and enough goth to keep me happy. But I just didn't like it. The singing was terrible, the special effects outlandish and the talent underused. It was merely average, so it gets a mere 2.5 stars out of 5. sad.


Every year, around this time, I get reflective. The glitz and tinsel of Christmas fade, leaving this void of time that allows for too much wine to be drunk on too many pensive evenings alone. The last few years, I have dealt with this by filling the 26-31 with work and shopping. This year, confined to home, I cannot escape my flights into depressingly sober fantasies.

I was going to have a year in reflection post. I may still. Much has happened this year - vacations, festivals, family and friends. But in thinking about these things, I realise that there are many less friends than there once were - and I'm not unhappy about that. Used to be a time when I couldn't plan a party without inviting 65 people (not even an exaggeration); nowadays, my perfect guest list consists of 12 people (4 FISees, 3 gamer-boys, 2 Queen's alums, an MLSer, my Customs twin Elle and my sister Nish). Honourable mention to my brother, but he can't be a guest at my party - he lives here. I'm feeling especially good about that.

I have great amounts of affection for these people - affections that hardly ever manifests into anything good or honourable. I love them, yes. I do. I cannot imagine my life without them in it ...wait. Not true, I can. And it's empty: barren and cold. These people save me from boredom, intellectual stagnation, and myself over and over again. But I can't seem to express to them how I feel. I just hope they know.

I am better at writing about post-colonial dissertations on imagery in Paradise Lost.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

on diagnosing oneself... a word: don't.
In many more words: it's a seriously stupid thing to do. Here I thought I was suffering from a concussion (headache, nausea, dizzy spells) but no. What about the fever? Well, all the symptoms can't fit, can they? yes. yes they can. What has a high fever and very sore throat? Why Strep Throat of course! And thus caps my worst December to date. Now I'm home until Jan 1, contagious and in a considerable amount of pain. The upside is I get to eat as much ice cream as I want.

Now Playing: American Gangster

Movie #5 on the Golden Globe list: American Gangster. It's funny, because this is the kind of movie I would have watched within the first couple of weeks it was released but avoided due to Trailer Overload. For those of you who don't know, the official definition for Trailer Overload is:
"excessive exposure to a movie trailer causing the subject of the exposure to act in a way contrary to the purpose of the aforementioned movie trailer, which is to entice the subject into watching the movie in the first place." What put me over the edge? a badly editted shot of Denzel walking into a dark bar, firing a gun and having the resulting flash illuminate his face.

Anyway, American Gangster. Running a little long at 160 minutes, I felt there was a lot of buildup and no wrapup - 2/3 of the movie dwells on Frank Lucas' life from 1968 to 1971 and the other third on the rest of it. Some of the editting seemed a little choppy, especially near the end; and the wrapup felt all too rushed. **/spoiler** Finding out that Roberts becomes Lucas' attorney is almost a shock because you don't really see any camaraderie between the two. **/end spoiler** Directing aside, the cast was great - Crowe and Washington give us what we expect out of Academy award winners. Strong support casting comes in the form of Josh Brolin, Armand Assante and Lymari Nadal. My favourite casting choices came in the form of HBO alums Idris Elba and John Hawkes.

Best part: the scene that was played ad nauseum in trailer? Never made it to the final cut. Seems we are all in agreement there. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

on concussions...

Coming back from JC's house on Sunday night (Monday morning), I slipped on a patch of ice and went for a sixer. Or, as North Americans would say, fell on my ass. Much embarrassment aside, felt fine. My left index finger hurt a bit, but that was about it. Fast forward 9 hours later: I woke up and felt funny. Not exactly sick, but disoriented and slow. While taking a shower, I actually had to sit down a couple of times. I thought: "oh no, not the flu, not again." While drying my hair, I had my very first encounter of vertigo - that was really trippy. I lay down to feel better - I didn't wake up until 4 hours later. That's when I really felt like crap. There I was, Christmas eve, and not able to stand for more than 5 minutes at time. Sometime during my third sleep of the day, the rest of the family made dinner, ate it and went to church. I woke up around 1am, just in time to see them come home. We opened gifts and I went back to bed.

This morning, my mom asked if I hit my head when I fell... and I can honestly say I have no idea. Upon looking up the symptoms for a concussion, though, I am a little worried:
Headache - check
Dizziness - check
Feeling dazed - check
Ringing in the ears - check
Sleepiness - big check
Feeling "slow" - (this is normal, but) check
Nausea - check
Poor coordination or balance - (also normal for me, however) check
Vomiting - check
Slurred speech - check
Slow to answer questions or follow directions - check
Easily distracted, poor concentration - (again, normal, but) check there a cure for concussions? Because, I'll tell you, I feel like absolute crap. Now, back to sleep.

Now Playing: Atonement

Movie #4 on the Golden Globe list brings us to Atonement. You will notice from my previous reviews (and my Flixster account) that I rarely talk about plot details and such - there are better sources for such things. I'll assume, gentle reader, that you will know about these inanities.

On to Atonement. I will admit, when I saw that Keira Knightley was cast as Cecilia, I was troubled. I find her brand of acting hard to swallow - like Kate Winslet before Ms. Winslet grew up. Surrounded as she was by such stellar casting and acting, however, it was easier to ignore her. Saoirse Ronan was a mini-miracle as 13-year-old Briony with all the melodrama and fanciful notions of pre-pubescent control freak. (The opening scene has all the toy farm animals lined up facing in one direction - hers). And the cameo appearance of Vanessa Redgrave upped the class level of the entire production. The show stealer? James McAvoy. I loved him in The Last King of Scotland and he didn't fail to impress me again. He infused an amazing amount of passion and gravitas into his entire performance.

The directing and cinematography is also quite impressive. The tracking shot at Dunkirk was beautifully done, without feeling intrusive or contrived. It's hard to find fault with the plot itself - based on Ian McEwan's novel of the same name, it is quite a dissertation on penitence, forgiveness and, above all, love. Further discussion would only spoil the movie, so I'll leave it at that. 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Now Playing: Michael Clayton

New quest undertaken for the holidays: watch all 2007 Golden Globe best picture nominees (drama). To that end, today I watched Michael Clayton.

Full Disclosure: not a fan of George Clooney - I find his "trademark" swagger and smirk seem to bleed through every character he plays. I didn't like him on ER, but what really put me over the top was his horrible turn at Batman... Batman and Robin was a terrible movie, but he did nothing to alleviate that. I shall try to look past my own biases and judge the movie on its own merits.

Plot: storyline was okay, if lacking a little originality. There were some plot twists and turns, but nothing very memorable. It was the presentation of the story that made this movie stand out - the directing really made the script pop. It was an interesting setup. I did find the pacing a bit slow and there were several times i thought to myself "okay, get on with it."

The cast was superb. Tom Wilkinson makes playing crazy look easy: his portrayal of Eden's bipolar disorder was simply uncanny. But it was Tilda Swinton who stole the movie for me. She was fantastic: I found her portrayal of Crowder to be subtle and nuanced and full of layers, infusing the character with a depth that could have easily been overlooked (kudos to Gilroy for not letting it end up on the cutting room floor). From the practicing of interview questions to picking the right pair of stockings, Crowder's motivations for her actions become multi-faceted and, at times, almost sympathetic.

All in all: a well-earned 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Since the golden globe nominees were just announced I can't help but compare this movie to No Country for Old Men... pound for pound in the entertainment department? NC4OM wins hand down. My first reactions from Flixster:

No Country for Old Men: most. suspense. ever. Bardem has just raised the bar on badassery (how I hated and loved his character) and Brolin was the perfect foil. The Coens paced the film perfectly, relishing every frightened gasp and tense exchange; the choice to go without soundtrack was just brilliant (no ridiculous swells in music; no hokey harmonicas). As close to perfect as a movie is going to get this year. 5 out of 5 stars.

Eastern Promises: wow - that was good. that fight scene in the bath house was enough to .. well, if you've seen it, you know what it makes most people want to do. Very well done! so, why not 5 stars? Watts was a bit flat for me and I thought the end was a tad contrived. However, I can look past these minor annoyances and promise you a good time if you watch it! 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 21, 2007

babel fish and jesus chips

As the holidays approach, I spend more and more time reading random wikipedia articles and hitting the goggle random button. I like to call this "professional development". This is what I was lead to:
Google Random: Jesus appears in Samsung Flash memory chip
Wiki Random Article: Babel Fish

Loved this; thought I'd share.

From Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic..
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
Most leading theologians claim that this argument isn't worth a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys, but that didn't stop Oolon Colluphid from making a fortune with his book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.

random remembrances from a cold patio

Wikki-Wookie: (noun) the sensation of sockless toes in shoes. Must be accompanied by horizontal wiggling-finger motions. Origin: Elle.

A lesson on similes: “you are done like… done” is completely unacceptable. When in doubt, make something up. “you are done like… a pine cone on the grass.” If that doesn’t make any sense, qualify the simile by putting it into context: “I’m the tree, you’re the pine cone. Bitch, we’re done, so get on the grass.” To be used exclusively in breakup situations.

Drugs drugs drugs, which are good, which are bad:
“I don’t drink because it’s illegal internally.”
“But, smoking up isn’t?”
“No, that’s totally different.”

ChinaWreck: (noun) what Elle thinks one should term one’s first sexual encounter with someone of the Asian persuasion. Sadly, this is the result of eavesdropping on innocent conversations. See also: “khat arrest.”

Also: fuck the crust. This can be used in many contexts. Thanks to KT for bringing it to the masses.

…Students CIs should get together more often.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I finished reading McCarthy's The Road yesterday. Two things made me want to read this novel: a) I watched and loved No Country for Old Men; b) upon research, critics were calling it McCarthy's best work. I thought, better than NC4OM? How can it go wrong? I suggested it as the January pick for Book Club... turned out all the other suggestions were too popular or not popular enough, but The Road was juuust right.

The book itself is very quick read: minimalist and haunting. Descriptions of the post-apocalyptic world, covered in ash and burned raw, are so vivid I could almost smell the char and taste the grit. In direct contrast, there is very little dialogue; what little exists is kept free of adjectives and biases. There are no character descriptors, no sense of time passing and no explanation of how the man and boy got to where they are. The novel begins in media res and doesn't stop to explain much. Their journey south to the sea is dangerous and teeming with horror; in a memory, the man's wife sums it up chillingly: "Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They will rape me. They'll rape him. They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you wont face it" (p.48). But face it we do. McCarthy paints an unflinching portrait of humanity's capacity for extremism: love and depravity, hope and nihilism, innocence and blood-chilling reality. Like NC4OM, there are no neat-and-tidy Hollywood endings. There is however the journey and the road that gets us there.
...the whole time I was reading it I thought, this has to be a movie. I was right.

We almost didn't read this fabulous novel after someone realised it was also an "Oprah Pick" ... convincing the Club to read another off this list after the Corrections disaster was obviously worth the effort. Good to know we're not the only anti-Oprah people out there.


In my quest to have a blog to improve the writing skills, I forgot about one very important thing. Technology. Now, I know what you're thinking: duh. But seriously. I am a creature of habit - switching to Firefox was one of the hardest thing I've ever done - and all this is really quite adventurous. In an effort to make it easier to update the blog, I've wandered into yet more murky waters: My link list is still pretty pathetic, but I didn't have one at all an hour ago, so I'm amused. And adding the Flixster link was a minor victory as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

nothing comes of nothing

Damn, broke my own goal of writing everyday. Even if nothing happened. And in truth, nothing did happen. Yesterday or today. So, now I have to type about two full days of nothingness.

I went for a job interview this morning. I don’t think I did very well. It seems the minute I walked out, all my brilliant answers came back to me. Not helping is the fact that I have been suffering from hyper-spoonerism, so a lot of answers came out sounding really dumb (i.e. “I think mole-rodeling is a really important part of being in a leadership position”). It was also for a position in a location I had never visited, so answering any merchandising and demographic questions was a lesson in bullshitting 101. Since the interview itself was rescheduled at the last minute from tomorrow at 1pm to this morning at 11am, I really had no chance for reconnaissance. In strange twist of coincidence, I am typing this at the very location I have never had a chance to visit as I was called upon to provide relief staffing. Would have helped to know the layout of this place, which is tiny in comparison to my home location.

More exciting than this was the chance to wear a full suit to work. Sadly, a public librarian is rarely given the opportunity to dress like a professional - it’s a business casual world and my uniform generally consists of whatever’s clean and mostly wrinkle-free. And always sneakers (I have a pair of dress sneakers for work alone). But not today – today, there was a black-and-white pinstripe suit and dress shoes (complete with heel!). I felt about 10 years older… and the minute I was back at my desk, I put my sneakers back on. Hey, I only felt 10 years older; I didn’t actually mature at all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Adventures in Winter Wonderland

Yesterday, I came home from work early, in anticipation of the big snow storm. I changed into flannel PJs (yes, it was 3 in the afternoon; no, I am not ashamed), made a cup of green tea and sat down to kill a few hours with my favourite blood elf. I had made peace with missing out on annual merriment in Aurora.

Then the phone rang. JC, with an invitation to circumvent my quiet night by watching a bad movie, playing video games and eating pizza. I, like a sane person, said "are you kidding? I'm not driving in this craptacular weather!" to which he replied "I'll come get you." I know I should have said no, I know that - but I said yes. To add to it, my brother decided this was more fun than a night at home so he decided to tag along. We packed pillows and blankets because we fully expected to be snowed in and be coming home in the morning. The night passed by. Hardly any snow fell, we kept thinking "any minute now..." but by the time I passed out at 4am, it was still pretty clear.

This morning, however, was a very different story.

We packed up the car and headed home (again, me not driving); we made it to the house in one piece and with minimal drama. But the street had other ideas. It did not want to let JC go. I had to actually shovel him back out to the main street. Not fun. Then came the shoveling (and re-shoveling) of the driveway, after which I ran inside for more bonding with my flannel PJs.

Things I affirmed today:
- Buying house with no garage in Canada is the dumbest thing any car-owner can do.
- Having 2-wheel drive in a snowstorm makes me rethink of my position on SUVs.
- Snowplow drivers are a special kind of people, worthy of high praise.

I did have a good time though playing "refugee" in JC's basement. We watched the blu-ray edition of "Return to the House on Haunted Hill" - with its "choose your own adventure" extras. I don't really remember watching the first one; I doubt it deserved a sequel. But the concept was really interesting and a lot of fun at 1am. As with the books, we cheated if we didn't like our choices (honestly, go for the map), but for the most part, we played it straight. Many calls of "Harue?" were heard throughout the night.

I was supposed to go to work today as well but got a wonderful phone call saying it was a snow day. duh. I hope tomorrow is a snow day too; it just looks miserable outside. The snow also interfered with Survivor Finale night. This is traditionally celebrated with Survivor-themed foods of gummy worms, nuts and berries and pizza (we're not traditionalists) and held at one of our houses. Alas, we are separated tonight by about 3 feet of snow. I need to follow in Leanne's footsteps.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snow, with a chance of screwing you over

Thought I should try and be good. The idea, I guess, is to post everyday, whether something exciting has happened or not. So sorry.

Today, we’re supposed to be headed up to Aurora – Nish was going to drive up because a) my car isn’t what we like to call “reliable” and b) she likes to drive. I was really looking forward to it – it’s the annual (and creatively named) “xmas dinner with friends” and it’s a great time to catch up with people I haven’t really hung out with since high school. It’s weird, we never stopped being friends; we were just flung apart by school and work and life in general. With the dawning of facebook (I am still mixed whether love it or am just addicted to it), it’s been made much easier to keep tabs on people without physically contacting them. Again: is this good? I’m not sure. Long story short, we were supposed to meet up today.

But then the snow came. Now, I know that this is everyday business in Canada – to be hauled up short by the weather. If it isn’t snow, it’s torrential downpours that have flooded streets or 50+ degree (Celsius) weather that makes you want to crawl into cold dark corner of your house and go to sleep. Seriously though? This is annoying. Aurora is not that far a drive from where we are, but when it’s blowing snow and freezing rain and all that bullshit that’s equated with “winter” – it’s just, well, annoying! Understandably, Nish is gun-shy about revving up the 404 for the trip (and we can’t afford to be stuck overnight because I, masochistically, have work tomorrow).
…Don’t let the “light” part of the “light snow” forecast fool you – they’re always, always wrong. Meteorologists are like under-achievers everywhere – praised when they get it right, forgiven when they get it wrong.

Thus, I may be failing in my first duty to myself – to avoid boredom. It may be a night playing WoW, but that just sounds sad for a Saturday Night activity. I love this country – I really, really do – but damn me, if I don’t hate the weather with equal zeal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

An introduction

I feel like we’re meeting at an awkward cocktail reception I’m hosting for a bunch of strangers. Ignore the toilet paper attached to my heel.

This blog is here for only one reason: diversion. I need something to do when I’m bored. There are many side-benefits: I will hopefully understand this whole “blog” thing (which, sadly, is still so very foreign to me); my writing skills will be forced to improve; my keyboarding skills will be forced into existence. Right now, there is no plan. There is just me and a keyboard and all the things that distract me. Perhaps they will distract you too.

Come on in, have a seat.