Monday, October 27, 2008

time suckage

Ever since Sammy (my TV) moved in two weeks ago, I have been completely unproductive. Why clean when I can watch People's Court? Why sleep when I can watch Jon Stewart AFTER The Hour? Why blog when South Park is on (as it is right now)? I suppose that this is all a sign of settling in - now that there are no boxes to unpack or room to paint or even closets to organise, I have been giving over all my free time to the time suck known as TV. boo. BOO (that's a big boo).

I have 2 major projects on hold for no reason: picture frames that need to be populated and decorating some plain wine glasses. The photos require me to go back to my parents' place and steal some pics... as well as actually printing the digital ones I have now. But that means scouring through the thousands (literally) of pics that are sitting on my HD - yuck. Why do that when I can watch The Simpsons? And the wine glasses? well... that's just a commitment issue I'm having. I'll just get over it... after Dancing with the Stars.

Stupid TV. I need to cancel my cable.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Now Playing: Max Payne

After the disastrous movie last week, I was a little hesitant about watching another "blockbuster" tonight. But boredom and ridiculous proximity to the theatre really doesn't help the situation. Thus: the 2215 showing of Max Payne. It wasn't a bad choice, especially considering that these are the types of movies one should watch on a big screen. So, while the bullet time did bring back fond memories, it also looked very pretty.

It's kind of late, so here's a stream of consciousness review of the movie:

I liked it, it was entertaining enough. Mila Kunis was damn hot; I actually didn't recognise her at first, but then she spoke in English and all was well. Every time Mark Wahlberg interrogated someone, I kept thinking of the Andy Samberg SNL skit - which made me giggle at inappropriate moments. But what was up with those valkyries? Hardly based on the Norse legends in looks, they were nicely crafted, I thought. Having the bad guy holed up in a club called Ragnarok, though, was pretty evident, but not more so than the twist, which I called the minute I saw a certain actor hit enter stage left (if you hit the link, consider yourself spoiled). I kept seeing actors I recognised from their other lives: Marlo, Jackie, Camille, Nelly... it was a little distracting, but I soon got over it. This would look really good on Blu-Ray. In the end, was it worth it? I guess, to kill time. Will I remember it a year from now? Hellz no. 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

(on) The Road (again)

When I read The Road, it was because I was on such a high after seeing No Country for Old Men. I wrote a review on it, having read it in that most bleak of times (December). I couldn't quite capture how much I loved this book then, and I still cannot do so now. Then, I logged on to one of my favourite websites - - and lo! A review really worth sharing. Enjoy, poppets!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Now Playing: Quarantine

Don't go watch it. Rent it, if you must. It will probably decrease the amount of motion-sickness you will feel (Blair Witch anyone?). The acting was fairly believeable even if the premise completely was not. And don't even get me started on the many (many many many) plot holes and loose ends. Honestly, don't go watch it. I wish i could get my money/time back. 1.5 out of 5 stars (for the acting and the indestructible camera).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

mode not supported

Today, I welcomed a new member to the Chez DissolvedGirl family: Sammy. Sammy's brood have been living under my bed for two weeks, awaiting his arrival and their (hopefully) joyful reunion. When he arrived (in one of the biggest boxes I've ever seen), there was much smiling and crying. Geek Squad were on hand to get everyone hooked up, fill out the right paperwork and basically reunite me with the magical land of TV. Three hours later, here are all my disappointments:

1) Swedish people don't like electronic gadgets in their bookshelves. This is blatant segregationism, but what can I say? I have a lot of Swedish furniture and Japanese gadgets - apparently, never shall the twain meet.

2) The Wall of Terror is not a figment of my imagination - even Geek Squad commented on its ability to make men into boys again.

3) I HATE technology. I pay lots of money for pretty things - I simply want them to work. After Geek Squad left, everything stopped working. The screen kept saying "Mode not Supported" - what the hell does that mean?! After actually breaking down into tears - yes, I cried like a little boy in a sandbox, sue me - I simply left it all alone and went out for a burger. I came back and calmly tackled the problem again. Here I am - almost eleven hours after Sammy first rolled through my door and everything is FINALLY working.... right down to the PS3.

4) A good dongle fixes all. It's true.

5) I work best when no one is watching.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

he, robot


Ahh, yet another Minority Conservative government. I don't understand voters. First, hardly any of them show up. Then, the ones who do vote for a guy who claims to have an economic solution but, yet, has squandered through almost $12B in a surplus, a guy who calls an election (which costs millions of dollars) but gets almost nothing for it. I just don’t get the appeal, folks. I'm a pretty conservative person (yes to Capital Punishment, yes to tax incentives for big business) but I just cannot see how we can vote for a party that only has one province's interests at heart. All we have to do is look South of the border to realise how damaging a conservative/republican government can be to not only one's own economy/country but to that country's reputation globally.

I know that Stephane Dion does little to inspire voter confidence; however, Harper inspires far too little trust. I feel like this is a man who would sell our economy (and our resources) to the highest bidder with absolutely no thought to our sovereignty or long-term well-being. Oil sands can only yield so much and already the barrels are tumbling. Will we wake up one day and realise that we need to take greater steps to protect the things that will really matter in the coming years? Things like our forests, fisheries and fresh-water? I hope so - but I really hope it doesn't happen too late. I remember Mike Harris and his subsequent pillaging of the Ontario economy, his shortsighted promises of dismantling photo-radar (which he then sold to fellow conservative, Ralph Klein who went on to make BILLIONS of dollars in revenue for Alberta) and the devastation that he left in his wake.

Like the provincial (Ontario) Liberals who came in and cleaned up the mess, the federal liberals will be left with the aftermath again (remember Mulroney?). I wish that voters had longer memories than just the past few months. I wish they would remember that we haven't had a strong, vital conservative government since John A. Macdonald. I really wish they would remember that these Conservatives are primarily made up of those whack-job Reformers who hired the Heritage Front (you can Google them) as their security.

While the Liberals were in power, we enjoyed a healthy economy (for all, not just the rich) and we were working toward Kyoto. Now? I just don’t know. Sure, there were like $20 million dollars given to some advertising firm during the referendum… so? Even a $100 million spent to keep our country together doesn't seem that big a deal. We've spent billions of dollars keeping the oil barons rich since then. While the Conservatives are in power, I feel uneasy… something I'm not used to in this wonderful country of ours.

Here's hoping for a new Liberal leader that can get us away from these right-wing fat cats.

/end soapbox

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

giving of the thanks

Up here in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend. Sorry to my American readers... no, we do not mark Columbus Day with a ritual slaughter of game fowl. In my house, we only slaughter organic farm-fowl - and that too, it's a chicken. For the first time in a while, I actually had 2 days off in a row, so it really felt like a long weekend.

Saturday night, I was at my parents' place for quiet thanksgiving foursome. (Get your minds out of the gutter people - i mean, it was only my mom, dad, brother and I around the table... sheesh). That was pleasant. LilBro gave thanks first - after clarifying that no, we weren't "praying" and that, yes, he could just use this time to declare his gratefulness in general without attaching any religious significance... *sigh* ... he's so prickly, that one. Then I went, making sure to note that I was thankful that our dinner only consisted of the family members that I liked. Mom had to thank God first, thereby nullifying LilBro's atheistic vote. Dad was thankful for the food, which he had already sampled before we even sat down. I couldn't blame him - food was good.

During dinner is when LilBro drops his mini-bomb: he wants to join the Canadian Forces. I haven't heard such deafening silence in years. At first, I'm thrilled. Finally, the boy makes a decision that will provide some direction in his life. Of course, my parents are dead against it. "Why now?" asks my mother. "Why not when you were 16 and it could have moulded you into a proper man? Why now, when they're coming back in coffins from Afghanistan?" After giving us a spiel about how his life is not going anywhere, how he could actually serve his country, LilBro gets to the heart of his decision: "you and dad told me get a plan (e.g. a job, go back to school, etc.) or I'd have to find my own way in January. This is my plan." ...This is when I stop being supportive. I hate it when he does that. Whenever he's asked to actually do anything, he always picks some ridiculous extreme to guilt my parents into backing down. So, I did what any big sister would do - I called him on it. He really had nothing more to say after that. I told him if he was so gung-ho about serving his fellow citizens, there were plenty of local options: firefighting, police forces, customs. He didn't have to risk his head being blown up. Besides, he's not the army-type. This is a boy who votes Green Party, for God's sake. He's as much an army rat as I am. Needless to say, this Canadian Forces thing hung like a pall all through dinner.


Yesterday, I hosted my very first "dinner-party" - though, technically, it was Thanskgiving lunch. Anyway, 18 people in my tiny condo - but it was good times. I served an entire meal, from apps (Chat patti and shrimp rings and homemade pate) to entrees (lemon fish, tandoori chicken, pork vindaloo) to dessert (fruit cocktail and indian sweets). Judging by the lack of food left over, I think it went over quite well. I got some fairly useless housewarming gifts and two VERY useful ones. I know people's hearts are in the right place, but I always wonder how one chooses gifts for one's, say, god-daughter. Is it "hey this is useful and cheap" or "wow, 18 plain glasses, she'll love that!" or "what's on sale?" ...either way, I don't need 18 glasses. I already have 18 glasses PLUS 18 wineglasses. So all the glasses I've received in the last two weeks? Either being re-gifted or added to my pile of "someday" items in my parents' basement. Perhaps registries don't always work - but I sure do wish people would embrace the idea of the gift certificate so I could go out and buy the things I really need.

Gobble, gobble.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Now Playing: Blindness

Jose Saramago's Blindness has been on my to-read / to-buy list for years now. I have put it off and put it off and put it off.. and now, I am punished, because the only copy of the book I can find has that damned movie cover on it. Bastardes!

Alright, so I went to see the movie, despite knowing that a Nobel-novel would be better. But I can only find a few words to describe it.

Intense: at moments, it felt like I was watching a really good horror movie. I wouldn't have been remotely surprised if zombies started to make their way onto the screen for all the eye-covering, cringing moments I experienced. But no. No zombies or axe-wielding murderers (gun-toting, yes - but no axes) or a good demon or two. Just human beings at their very worst.

Disturbing: I'm a Hobbesian myself - I too believe that humans are inherently evil and that all our social trappings are a mere result of selfish survival instincts. Living with a pack is easier/safer than killing everyone and trying to go it alone. This movie is all about portraying humanity with all its brutality and nastiness on full display. And that pack mentality... *shiver* ... when the King of Ward Three simply says "Women for food. Have a good day", I think you could have heard a pin drop from one theatre over. The rape scene is much talked about, with debates over intentional blurring running amock. For me? It wasn't blurred enough. Watching one women getting punched to death because she didn't "move" was enough for me.

Empty: that's how I left the theatre. The characters just didn't seem to have enough time to grow. You kept wondering "why don't you take those scissors?" "why don't you just rush the guards?" "how do the 'bad' guys all end up in Ward Three?" among other things and there's just no answer. The biggest question: what the hell happened to that guy in the car? Again, no answers - just empty miracles.

It was visceral experience, from beginning to end. At the same time, I didn't feel eviscerated when I left. It's the kind of movie I should cry in, but I didn't shed a tear. It's almost like Meirelles brought us to the precipice, made us look into the horrific abyss and then pulled back before we fell in. Some would call this "taste" - I call it cowardice.

I'm torn. I wanted to give it 4.5 stars last night as I was watching it; now, I want to punish it for not being brave enough. So, I'll do this: I give the actors (especially Mr. Bernal) 4 out of 5 stars; I'll give the plot 5 out of 5 stars; but I'll its directing/editing decisions 3 out of 5 stars. Not a movie I would recommend for a fun night at the movies.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Now Playing: Appaloosa

I’m a self-confessed hater of westerns. I think it stems back to when my dad would watch them on WUTV Saturday afternoons in the 80’s and early 90’s. God, how they made the day drag by and I forever associated westerns with boredom. Then along came No Country for Old Men and all that changed. I know, I know – that’s not a traditional western... but it opened the door and in flooded The Assassination of Jesse James, 3:10 to Yuma and There Will Be Blood (in no particular order). So, this year, when a new sheriff rode into town, I thought “what the hell” and bought my ticket for Appaloosa.

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, Renee Zellweger, and (also sitting in the director’s chair) Ed Harris, this seemed a pretty typical plotline: local bad guy (Irons, with an accent reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood) terrorises the eponymous town; good guys (Harris and Mortensen) show up to lay down the law; purdy lady who may or may not be shady (Zellweger as Mrs. French (!!) ) is thrown into the mix and ... we’re off! Plot-wise, it did get a little long in the tooth, but the believable acting and neat editing made up for it. A few very minor twists kept it from being entirely predictable. I wish I could compare it to the old westerns, but I’ve forever repressed those memories. When compared to the “new” ones, it wasn’t anything special. Nothing much to really expand upon, but it was a solid movie that I probably should have just waited for on Blu-Ray. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

quintessence of tragedy

There was some doubt as to whether the annual Stratford pilgrimage would happen this year. So much had already been done in 2008 (moving into condo, cross-(western)-Canada trip, new entertainment system), it seemed a little ... shall we say, “irresponsible”, to spend even more on a weekend Stratford getaway. Then Hamlet called and, like some lovesick Ophelia, I answered. Am I ever glad I did. Thanks to Nish, who planned everything while I was in New York last month, we were able to catch both Hamlet and the final show of Euripides’ “The Trojan Women” while staying at the Ellerby B&B, with the lovely Olive as our host.

Ellerby’s was on the “other” side of the river where, in the last 10 years, we have not ventured once. At only $65/night (including a yummy breakfast, of course), it was quite the steal. We had a great room, intelligent breakfast conversation and a bathroom complete with a claw-footed bathtub. It was about a 10 minute walk from downtown and, at the other end, about 25 minutes from the Festival Theatre. The tickets were only $20/show (thank you, Play On!) and, thankfully, gas prices were low this weekend. At under $100 for the entire trip, I think it would have been irresponsible to not go.

But these are just the numbers.

What makes Stratford such a good time is, foremost, the company. Nish has been my Shakespeare wench for ten years now (with only one year missing in all of that) and I simply cannot imagine anyone else I would rather be with on these trips. When asked on Saturday by my colleagues what play I was seeing, I honestly replied, “I dunno.” Is there anyone else whom I would trust to not only choose the plays but also the seats so blindly? No. Not a single person. I know when Nish chooses a B&B, it’s both cheap and convenient; I know she’ll choose plays I too would see. (Music Man? I think not.) That’s why vacations with this girl are the most relaxing things I could possibly spend my time doing. Seriously. It’s so reassuring to know that if one were to, say, forget one’s pants, it’s not a big deal.

Secondly, I love the Stratford Festival. It’s in a great little town: not trying too hard to be “small town Ontario” (I’m looking at you NOTL); quaint enough to inspire dreams of semi-retirement and opening B&B’s of my own; full of amusing past-times, like dragon boat events and the Book Vault. The people are friendly but unobtrusive; the “locals” aren’t snotty. The plays are always of a quality I can be sure will be worth the price of admission (with few few exceptions). Plus, since we’ve been going so often, it’s a hassle-free trip, devoid of Mapquest directions and new-place anxieties. Amusing aside: during the Breast Cancer marathon, Nish says “isn’t it so different from Toronto where they close down the Gardiner? They don’t even block the street for the runners. Stratford drivers are so safe—” and then, about two metres in front of us, this pickup truck does a most illegal U-turn, right up past the grassy boulevard onto the sidewalk, almost running over a runner, who has to quickly run up onto the curb to avoid a collision. Almost in tears from laughing so hard, we decide that it’s a tourist.

Finally, let’s face it, it’s all about the plays. I’m a HUGE Willy Shakes fan to begin with and a whole festival just dedicated to him is my version of literary heaven. While there have been some letdowns (2004’s (?) Lady Macbeth had this quaver in her voice that was just terrible), my experience there has been full of memorable performances (2007’s eponymous King Lear and Othello’s Iago, are still fresh in my mind, though Richard III and Henry V were quite good as well; this year’s Hecuba is definitely up there as well). The venues are all pretty good, especially now that we know the sightlines so well in all of them. I’m always struck by the creativity of the set designers and the versatility of theses stages. This year was no disappointment: Hamlet was its usual quotable brilliance, with a notable Ophelia and Polonius; but it was the Greek tragedy that moved me to tears twice and, after ending, left me hanging for more.

I think I shall propose a Book Club by the Avon sometime in ’09. I think if we take all three rooms in Ellerby’s (comfortably 6 people), it would be a fun time had by all. And no one, I’m pretty sure, will lean over and ask, just as the play is starting: “So... what’s this all about?”