Friday, December 31, 2010

Dear 2010,

You've been a good year - a very good year indeed.  I've seen lots of places, done lots of interesting things, indulged in my passions, and been treated like a princess. I'm a firm believer of the five spheres - family, friends, wealth, health and love.  Most everyone and everything in our lives fit on one of these spheres.  I think 2010 was the first year that I felt like my spheres actually clicked together, as opposed to smashing into each other.. 


Family: in a continuing upward trend, my family and I are beginning to enjoy each other's company.  I think my twice-a-week visit helped quite a bit with that.  We've actually chosen to hang out together, play games and just chat.  I know people tell you this will happen, but I didn't really believe them.

Friends: I've been able to actually get this under control - weed out the chaff, as it were. Monthly Book Club meetings are one of my highlights in life and I simply love those ladies.  Finding a new travel buddy that actually jives with Nish and my craziness has been a serious bonus - Ance, you're a gem.  Board games are back on, although with less frequency, and I'm finding that they keep my competitive edge sharp.  Work friends have become real friends (I can't tell you how lovely it is to walk into your office and have roses - or a scarf! - greet you). 


Wealth: it's the first year I didn't feel poor (although, my bank account still does) and I've been afforded the gift of time to enjoy books, movies and mini-crafts.  My job has been extremely satisfying and I feel like I've really made a difference.  My recent promotion, I think, testifies to that.  Speaking of which, in a month or so, I get to go back to a bipedal commute that's under fifteen minutes.  A new challenge and I'm a little excited (though still sad to be leaving where I am now).

Health: any year where I don't contract a fatal disease is a good one. *knock wood* Having gotten over my initial illness early this year, we've had a pretty good run.

Love: ahh, love.  Elusive little minx.  I'm lucky to say I've found someone who will put up with my special brand of crazy and who doesn't seem to mind that I travel without him, have a life outside of him and who loves me despite (because of?) my tendency to be incredibly demanding.  Who knew this was possible?

So!  As I think back to my 2010 resolutions this year, I realise I did almost none of the things I set out to - I think I drank less, read less and crafted almost nothing.  I did get Netflix and began bringing home library DVDs every week, so I guess there's that... but I still watched a LOT of movies this year.  Meh - I don't even feel guilty.  I clearly did something right this year, so why mess with a winning formula...if only I knew what that formula is...

Thanks, 2010, for being kinda awesome.  You've set a bar.

Sincerely,
-Me

[Happy New Years, everyone!  Best of luck for 2011 and, as Elle says, I hope you all make more money than a comatose pigeon!]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Blood, murder, rape, transgender issues and vampires... must be the Christmas Book Club pick!  Yes, this year, we decided to keep up our annual tradition of being non-traditional and chose Let The Right One In, an English  translation of the original Swedish novel, which has gone on to win lauds and praises as a movie, both in English and Swedish. 

What can I tell you that the back of the book won't?  Well, BOB says it's chilling, a classic tale of horror, a roaring good story it has vampires at their best.  All true.  What I liked about it though were the not-so-obvious shocks to the system.  Oskar and his hellish existence at school, the drunken wastrels of the Chinese restaurant, the drugs, the booze and the copious amounts of blood.  This was not an easy book to read, not by a long shot.  Much harder to read at night with nothing but the humidifier to keep me company.  I actually had to put it down forcibly, often feeling a little ill in the stomach.  Lindqvist's (and his translator's) gift for description was often a little too good.  Like a horribly bloody car wreck, I couldn't help but crane my neck for a closer view of the gore and then shudder when I caught a glimpse of it.

Should you read it?  Yes.  Will it make you uncomfortable?  Most definitely.  Will you regret it?  i don't think so.

Now Playing: The Fighter

Even though I've sworn off making an effort to watch the Golden Globes, I still checked out the 2010 nominations list in the effort to get a head start on the Oscars.  I was happy to see that I've already reviewed five of them and The Fighter made it number six.  Nominated in five major categories, I was ready for a tour de force.  I was disappointed.  Unlike The Wrestler (to which, of course, people are comparing ...unjustly so), this is based on a true story.  In case you doubted, we even see the real people at the end (don't you love when they do that?).

The acting was great - I mean REALLY great.  While Mark Wahlberg put some real effort into it, yes, he is distinctly overshadowed by Christian Bale (who is genius, really), Amy Adams (the princess goes badass) and Melissa Leo (damn, this lady can act).  Even the side characters were amazing - I believed every minute of it.  Th directing was tight, well-paced.  What can I say about the story - it's true!  I did like what they did with the documentary "twist" - when you see it, you'll know what I mean - and how it took us as viewers along for the ride.

Best movie of 2010?  Definitely a strong contender.  Perhaps I can make a more educated decision when I've watched the rest.  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Now Playing: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The third movie in the Narnia series, perhaps the last we'll see of the Pevensies, came out to little fanfare earlier this month.  I barely remember the other two movies (except for Tilda Swinton, whom I adore), so I'm glad they didn't decide to make it too memory dependent.  Anyway, on to the movie.

The visual feel of the movie is really the best part, very distinct and unique.  You can watch any clip from the series and know immediately that it's Narnia, as opposed to Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.  The acting is as solid as ever, with the kids holding up their own.  The other thing I really like is the seamless incorporation of animatronics, digital effects and puppetry: Toravon looked so real, so life-like, that I still can't decide if he was computer-generated or some sort of Hensonesque magic; Aslan, too, is just so Lion-like - when Lucy hugs him, you can see her fingers threading through his fur.  As Jadek says, the interaction between the "animals" and the humans is some of the best I've seen on screen.

The action is dramatic and the scenery is very well done. The 3D doesn't overwhelm or take over the movie as it tends to do in other post-production renderings.  Nor does it go by unnoticed.  Well-paced and well-choreographed, the sequences are pretty riveting (and because I haven't read the books in close to twenty years, nail-biting!).

So what is it about the movies that don't really have an impact on people (or the box office)?  I'm not sure. Perhaps it's the very British dialogue that's lost on North American audiences (Harry Potter had to change its Philosopher's Stone to a ridiculous Sorceror's Stone because of this).  Or the distinctly religious overtones (though, during the Holidays, one would think this would be a bonus).  Maybe it's just too removed from contemporary audiences, with its WWII frame and its lack of modern techno wizardry.  Whatever it is, I doubt we'll talk about this series the way we talk about LOTR, even seven years later.

Despite its lack of box office gold, I still think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is worth a trip to the local multiplex.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Now Playing: Tron

I tried watching the original Tron in anticipation of the slick sequel - I fell asleep halfway through.  This did not bode well.  However, with Jeff Bridges, I am inclined to reserve judgement.

Things I loved: it was a real sequel with no apologies and with every assumption you'd watched the first one.  It actually takes place twenty-eight years later.  A lot of the original characters are back, with one glaring exception (what the heck happened to Lora anyway?).  The special effects were beautifully slick and the 3D was so natural.  I really liked that the Tron world was in 3D but the real world was normal.  It's too bad the original came out in 1982 when, let's face it, movie technology was in its real infancy and couldn't possibly have kept up with artistic visions.

I didn't really hate much in the movie at all.  Aside from the obvious unanswered question: how the heck did she get out? (not when the heck is the next part due out...).  If you are going to see it, I suggest watching it in the theatre (unless you own a 3D TV) because it's a very pretty movie.  If you're not, don't bother.  3 out of 5 stars.

***

This movie led to an animated discussion as to which movies were real benchmarks for special effects.  Jadek thought Jurassic Park was a real show-stopper - the first time that fake characters (e.g. dinosaurs) were completely realistic.  I went back much further to Jaws, featuring a very realistic shark as an actual character in a film, the villain to boot!  Matrix, of course, changed the way we film fight scenes and do wire work.  I struggled with finding a place for Star Wars, which I think is fairly mediocre but I suppose the space scenes were pretty cutting edge and actually employed some interesting battle mechanics.  Makes for interesting pre-movie popcorn conversation.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Stage: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Do you know me? If you do, the you’ll know just how much I LOVE Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas book.

Background: I didn’t read this book until I was in my teens. I did, however, see the inimitable Boris Karloff-helmed version on CBC in 1987 and I just fell in love. It has been a tradition ever since to watch it on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t think of better way to spend a cold December night than singing along to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with hundreds of other kids (and kids-at heart)! Thanks to Jadek, that happened this past Monday and boy was it fun!

Of course, the classic songs are in the play; but they also have some originals that can really get stuck in your head. (“Who likes Christmas? Whos like Christmas!”). The kids are just great in it, without being saccharine. The costumery and sets are perfect, evoking all the images associated with the book, without looking cheap or cardboard-like. Honestly, it was a great time. If it’s still around, it, too, might become a tradition!

Now Playing: The Tourist

When I first saw The Tourist trailer, I totally hyperventilated. The pairing of the Perfect Man with my Dream Woman? Oh. My. God. December wouldn’t get here fast enough! Due to certain circumstances, I couldn’t watch the movie on its opening weekend and I was really disappointed to see all the terrible reviews. Could it be? The perfect pairing was a perfect flop? I decided to ignore the reviews and go in to enjoy the movie anyway.

Here’s the thing: when two people are that sexy and that cool, there comes a time when it’s all just too much. Like eating a UK-sized bar of Cadbury, about halfway through I’m thinking “I love you!”, three-quarters “I’m getting kinda full” and when I was done I couldn’t decide if it was all worth it, despite continuing to lick my fingers.

Everything about this movie was okay – which is disappointing. Sort of like Rumer Willis. I just expected fireworks! Chemistry! Sexiness out the wazoo! What I got was decent, but it didn’t blow my mind. Plot-wise it was pretty good – and no I didn’t completely guess the ending, which is a definite plus. The locales were spectacular. (I need to go to Venice). Acting was solid and the action was very believable. So? A good movie. But not great. I am fighting inner biases by dropping it down to a mere 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Now Playing: Red

I actually watched Red quite some time ago, but just plumb forgot to review it (thanks Jadek).   Here's what I remember, in stream of consciousness mode (which is all i can muster on three hours of sleep).

The actors were great, with the stellar Helen Mirren really standing out (who, I'm pretty sure, went without make-up for most of the movie and was simply divine!).  John Malkovich is his usual crazy self (can that man ever play normal) and, oh, Ernest Borgnine!  Surprise! Also, the charming Brian Cox - if I were forty years older, I'd be swooning.

The actions scenes were pretty good too, the best one you can see in the trailer, the dialogue is quippy and the plot has enough twists to actually keep you interested in between the blow-em-up scenes.  I liked it, but the reason it stands out is because of the premise, which is so much better executed than that other movie (which wasn't bad to begin with).  4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Now Playing: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part one

I know, I know... FINALLY.  Poppets, you cannot know how hard it was for me not to have watched the penultimate instalment of the Harry Potter series within 24 hours of its release.  A trip to Virginia and limited IMAX screenings really did their best to get in the way but I conquered all these obstacles Wednesday night!

What can I say?  After the almost-disastrous Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows was simply divine.  And while I won't go back on my long-ago promise to avoid book comparisons, I will say that the script writers went to great lengths (emphasis on length) to stay true to the feel, pace and gravitas of the seventh book.  Yes, there's  a lot of aimless wandering and yes there's some annoyingly rash decision-making but hello?  we're dealing with seventeen-year-olds, people, and that what makes it so believable. 

So we get a lot of Harry, Hermione and Ron - as we should.  The rest of the cast, though, are severely under-represented.  I couldn't believe that Rickman's Snape really only got one scene - even dead Professor Dumbledore seemed to get more minutes than he did.  No McGonagall, barely any Weasleys, three seconds of Lupin... I suppose it IS what the book was like, but still.

Clocking in at two and a half hours, I thought I'd be antsy about halfway through; I was grossly mistaken.  In fact, I was actually surprised when the credits came up!  I turn to Jadek and was all "that's it?" - so the pacing was incredible. 

I feel weird rating half a movie, because we can't really talk about plot, etc.  However, I'm a happy camper.  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

fruit cake recipe

Last week, I was in Virginia visiting family, most especially my Nana.  We have a special arrangement for our matriarch: she spends many months at a time at one of her kids' residences scattered across the globe (Canada, US, UK, Australia and her own home in Bangladesh).  She was supposed to have come to stay with us in September until January, but within five days of landing in VA, she suffered what doctors could only describe as a mild stress attack and was told she was not to travel for at least six months, meaning no excursions north.  Much disappointment ensued.  So, we packed up our car instead and headed down to be with her, even if for a few short days.

Nana is 77 years old.  She doesn't look or act it, but her body must sometimes feel it.  All this jet-setting around the world can't be good for her.  We would gladly have her come live with us, but alas, the Canadian government has a different concept of "family" that doesn't include adoptive grandmothers whom we love and miss dearly. In fact, we pretty much fight for custody.

Since I last saw Nana, things have changed.  I've completely taken over the Holiday baking from Mom and so I knew I'd have to cajole the Christmas Fruit Cake recipe from her.  It's no secret that Nana is the best cook in our family (and possibly the world) but the woman cooks from her head not from a recipe.  Challenge issued.  I asked if I could watch her bake one and then she could watch me bake one.  It was interesting to try and take notes about "pinches" "dashes" and "andaaz" (roughly translated as "know-how")... and I did it.  In all the revelry, however, I did not get to bake one for her approval. 

As I walked out the door to leave for home, Nana hugged me close and whispered to send her a piece.  I told her it wouldn't taste nearly as good as hers and she said that wasn't the point, that she didn't want the cake, she wanted something made by my hands.  At that moment, I was more than prepared to stow her away in our car and bring her away with us, for good.

Today, I began soaking the fruits and nuts in dark rum.

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

The full title of this book is Dreams from My Father: a Story of Race and Inheritance and was originally published in 1995 (who knew?) by Barack Obama, five years after he had foreshadowed greater things by becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law ReviewOthers have elucidated better than I the fascinating publishing history of this particular work so I won't go into it.

If you, like me, watched the President-Elect on the night of his victory, perhaps you too felt a ridiculous rush of emotion watching him do so.  I had picked up Dreams when I headed to Vegas in September and finished it on a porch in Virginia last week.  At first, I was merely curious to see how this guy came to be.  I mean, he's just so interesting, with his globe-trotting activist-Mom, his Kenyan Dad and his Indonesian stepdad and his many African "aunties" and his struggle to be a "black" man raised predominantly by his white grandparents.  I love that this guy wandered about his youth just like we all did: experimenting, failing, doing stupid things, being a jerk.  It still blows my mind that this guy made it to where he is today.

The writing style can sometimes be a bit formal; for the most part, though, it's accessible and easy to read.  I'm sure much has been glossed over but I can't say that it detracts from the book at all.  If anything, the book is less about Obama himself and more about the perceptions of things: his perceptions of himself, of others; others' perceptions of him; America's perceptions of itself and others, etc.

Yes, it was a bit of a slow read.  I still think it's a worthwhile endeavour, especially for us Canadians.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Stage: Wicked

As with the book, I expected a lot from this production.  I mean, it's just crying out for green glitz and glamour!  While the actors did a phenomenal job of singing - especially Glinda! - I found the staging rather boring (so many empty stage numbers) and the song lyrics a bit, well, underwhelming.  Andrew Lloyd Webber, this is not.  There are some songs I could sing again - okay, really only "Popular" - and I do think I may be reviving my very first Halloween costume.  Would I recommend this?  Not really - not when you can see Lion King or Chicago or something instead.

Regardless, it was a nice way to spend a Wednesday night with the ladies.  And I got a really neat sweatshirt out of it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

lucky punk

2010's local adventures found us at the gun range, with the usual suspects.

Aside: it is truly rare to find people that won't drive you crazy after a few hours, let alone a few days.  You know, people who will stop to let you take funny/beautiful pictures or who understand the need to eat something new and different when you are actually some place that is new and different or who indulge in stunts/stops so we can say that. yes, we did it and no, you probably never will.  People who have mental check-lists of things to see/do/eat and who agree that there's enough time to sleep when you're dead.  I have a renewed appreciation for AnCe and Nish.  Who better to shoot things with?

So: gun range in Gormley (where.  the fuck.  is that.).  FUN!  We shot three 9mm handguns (Sig Sauer, Smith  & Wesson, Glock), a 45mm Glock (my fave) and a Smith & Wesson .22 Rifle.  Of these, the Glock 45 is my favourite.  It's heavier, but I think because of that, it feels more solid.  Regardless, the Glocks were the better gun - a long first trigger squeeze, but smooth and consistent.  Leave it to the ...Austrians?  Huh.

I got ready for my introduction to the 12-gauge fabarm shotgun.  Understand a little of my trepidation: I knew someone who dislocated her shoulder from the recoil of a shotgun.  I had seen the bruising that had crept all the way up her neck.  As I waited my turn, the person in front of me actually lost her ear muffs from the barrel of the gun smashing into them.  Oh.  Dear.  God.  Ance and Nish had already gone and they were happy as clams.  I was last to shoot.

A new (very appropriate zombie) target is posted.  Here's how to stand: left foot in front, lean forward, ass sticking out, place the stock on the meaty part of your right shoulder, round your body around the barrel - hug it like you love it! - left hand on the barrel, right cheek on the cool, smooth stock.  Close my left eye, shuck the barrel back, adjust my shot, slow trigger squeeze and BLAM!  In the left cheek.  Recoil?  Who cares, it's still alive.  Shuck the barrel, the empty case comes flying out, adjust my sight and BLAM! Skims the right ear and jawbone.  Shuck the barrel, adjust my sight, one shot left, make it count.  Blam!  Through the throat.  The instructor laughs as he takes down the target.  "You took his head clean off!  Nice job!" And he's right.  If it wasn't for the white border, the actual zombie would be in two pieces.  God, that felt good.  And totally badass.

the valet kind of life

If you're going to turn 30, you may as well do it with style!  That's what AnCe decided, anyway.  That's how I found myself pulling up to King Edward's Hotel for brunch.  With Pollyanna in the passenger seat, I'm marvelling at the architecture.  And then, a valet pop ups and opens the door.  To my car.  My scratched-up, now-discontinued, plastic Saturn.  Bizarro!  Ignoring all my ghetto twinges of leaving my keys in the hands of some stranger, we walk into King Eddie's lobby with all its early twentieth-century charm.  We are, of course, last to arrive (Pollyanna + Brown Time = inevitable delays).

After the introductions (none of which I remember, really) we dig in.  Brunch is a seven-table affair with some of the most delicious food I've ever had!  Pre-peeled shrimp and made-in-house cocktail sauce, beef Wellington, Latin-style shrimp-and-scallop salad, lamb with mint sauce, four kinds of pate and seven kinds of cheese, cracked-for-convenience crab legs, ... I was in heaven.  And the desserts!  A display case of fudge, tiny muffins, cake, cake, cake, and that mousse-in-a-wineglass.  *faint*

So, yeah, it was expensive, but completely worth it.  If for nothing else but to get a glimpse of how the other half lives.  Happy birthday AnCe!

Now Playing: Social Network

I went to see Social Network last week, starring a very talented cast, headed up by Jesse Eisenberg.  Let's get it out there: I don't know Mark Zuckerberg personally (obviously) nor am I affiliated with him in any way; however, I do not like him.  Thank you for Facebook, Mark, but could you please stay out of my pictures?  So, yeah, I wasn't very interested in seeing the movie, but it was getting some very positive reviews, some Oscar buzz, and I thought "alright, fine". 

The movie was very good.  I mean, really good.  Every single cast member brought it to the set.  Jesse Eisenberg was amazing and Andrew Garfield hit it out of the park.  All other cast member, including usually banal JT, turned it up.  They were required to deliver quick, pithy script and to deliver it in a realistic and believable way.  That scene where Eduardo freaks out over an article about his pet cannibal chicken?  Priceless!  It's the little details that you find in these exchanges that make the whole film memorable.

I still don't know how I feel about a biopic based on a living person and on a story less than ten years old (can it be accurate? is it being influenced by people with vested interests?  how biographical is it really?).  Then again, how accurate is any story and don't all movies have the directors/producers influencing the subject matter?.

Anyway, it's worth checking it out.  I "like"d it.  4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the grandest canyon / O!

We took a two-day trip to the Grand Canyon National Park, going over the Hoover Dam to get there.  A word (or several) about Hoover: that Dam is pretty cool.  I mean, the engineering of it all!  That kind of labour could only happen during a depression when people are too desperate to say no to 14-hour days of pouring cement while a several-million tonnes of water was waiting to burst through.  It was worth the sidebar.

So, the Grand Canyon: it is not the widest, the deepest or the longest, but it is the grandest.  We arrived at around 1400 and it all seemed very pretty.  I mean, it was big, but mostly, it was the colour of the rocks and almost-painting like quality of the view that was so beautiful.  It wasn't until sunset that it became spectacular.  The shadows lengthened, the rocks took on a burnished-gold hue and the entire place just seemed to steep itself in awesome.  The sun took about three minutes to set and within five minutes of that it was dead dark.  I mean, DEAD dark.  Considering the serious lack of guardrails throughout most of the park, it's no wonder that the shuttle buses that spirit travellers through the vast area picked up anyone at any point on the roads.

The next day we took a leisurely three-hour rim walk.  It was just as amazing.  Being a little sensitive to perceived "dangerous" situations, I spent  the walk with tingly palms and soles.  I was sad to leave so quickly, but I hope to return one and make to the bottom as well as to the North Rim.

***

Back in Vegas, there was only one thing left to do: O!  Here is but a sampling of statements made:
- Did that guy just walk on water?
- Is that a pool on the stage?
- Oh my god, the entire stage is a pool!
- How are the mermaids breathing under there for like thirty minutes?
- Haha, audience participation...
- Wait, the audience guy just got pushed into the pool!
- Hey, that guy's on fire!
- I think my brain just went poof.
...Go see O.

Also: Batman with showgirl on his arm.  'nuff said.

A quick jaunt to M&M World, dinner at this tiny place called Nobu (which was freakishly good), a random movie and then home. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

viva las vegas (and related adventures)

Where had I left off?  Oh yes - Napa!  So much happened...

Napa: we toured in wine country for a bit, finding a Canadian winery (!!)  and, of course, drinking there.  During our wander about town, I declared a need for seafood and we tried A Fish Story, but was too smelly.  A few doors down, there was a sushi place so that's where we popped in.  When I actually looked at the menu, I realised that we were in a Morimoto restaurant!  Hai, indeed!  After that, we stumbled back to SanFran, with a little llama detour, and spent our night in the sketchtastic Americania.  Seriously, don't stay there.

Next: Yosemite.  Glacier-produced bouldery goodness.  It's such a different park than what I'm used to here in Canada.  I mean, seriously, wheelchair-accessible?  The trails are paved, not just mashed down grass that looks vaguely trodden-upon.  We did four trails before heading off to Vegas the next day.  Or at least tried to head off to Vegas.  The direct (seven-hour) route was closed - thanks a lot boulders! - and so we had to detour and do an eleven-hour trek through Fresno, of all places.

Anyway, we arrived (exhausted) in Vegas and checked into our swank PH Westgate suite with its King-sized bed and its padded headboard and soaker-tub-with-water-jets and I spent a delirious evening getting clean.  The next day, I wandered about the strip, taking pictures while consulting my Lonely Planet and being a total tourist.  I must have caught the Bellagio fountains at least seven times, but each time was amazing. Went to bed early that night in order to make it up for 6am the next morning.

Next stop: Grand Canyon!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Now Playing: The Town

So, I needed to kill four hours in Las Vegas on a Sunday afternoon.  Naturally, I went to see a movie.  Which movie?  The Town, starring and directed by Ben Affleck.

It was okay.  It did its job (i.e. waste time) and it was true to life in that it didn't have any real resolutions at the end.  I did think that most of the characters got off a bit easy, but whatevs.  I can't get super-excited about this review as the movie was a mere "meh".  It wasn't good, it wasn't bad, and it wasn't ugly (enough).  3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

The stars aligned for this month's Book Club pick: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  It's a Halloween-themed book (death) and is set in San Francisco (where I read most of it) - yay!

This is the third book by Moore that I've read after Lamb and Stupidest Angel.  I thoroughly enjoyed Lamb - it's on the left as one of my must-read books - and Stupidest Angel was pretty solid.  High expectations were had before I even cracked open the cover. 

In short:  expectations met. 

In long: despite the glaringly obvious conclusion, reading the book was really fun.  Maybe it was because I was actually on Powell Ave and in Ghirardelli Square as I was reading, but I got a real sense of the City by the Bay and all its eccentricities.  It's like the city became a character in an of itself - its sewers, bridges, hills and trolleys.  It was a really neat perspective.

Charlie has to be one of my favourite literary characters in recent reading.  Assuming his Beta Male mantle with ease, he does his best (and it is a very good best) to cope with wife's death, his daughter's "kitty" powers, his dogs and his employees' growing weirdness.  In many ways, Charlie is a great success in most everything he does, including his second job as a Death Merchant.  He makes a good case for the evolutionary necessity of embracing your Flight (over Fight) tendencies and the aphrodisiacal effect that a man who listens has on women.  Also: they make good dads, as he demonstrates with Sophie.

All in all, considering this was a Halloween-themed pick, I recommend it highly. In fact, i recommend Christopher Moore highly. He's always an intelligent read without being a intellectual exercise.  And he uses swear words in the most creative ways possible.  Heinous fuckery, indeed.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

shark-infested waters

5am: wakeup call.  Yuck.  Then I remember why I'm getting one: sharks!  Dress very quickly.  Still battling my cold means that I have to convince Divemaster (hai!) that I can breathe through a regulator.  At the marina, we board the Superfish and we're off.  It's still dead dark and it isn't until we're under the Golden Gate bridge that the sun finally makes an appearance (wrapped in fog, of course).  Divemaster catches me trying to surreptitiously blow my nose and asks if I'm sick:  yes.. but only a little!  I'm sure I'll be fine!  He asks me to take three deep breaths with my mouth closed.  That doesn't work.  Then he asks me to take three deep-ish breaths through a straw.  I start coughing halfway through the second one.  Sorry, grasshopper, no dive for you.  Come back, one year.  Half price.  Hai Divemaster.  My scopamine patch cannot stop this particular feeling of sickness on the belly.

Once we clear the Bay, it's nothing but open ocean until we hit the Farallon Islands.  And open ocean means three things around here: cold, rough and boring.  Didn't help that there was no sun and it was nearly two hours before we get to our destination.  Of the twelve of us on the boat, at least eight seek refuge in the cabin, eyes closed and hoping not to chum the waters ourselves.  And then we're there.  The Farallons: nothing but a hunk of rock with some seals, gulls and a few gazillion flies.  Why do they need a research station out here?  and why is this, of all places, a sanctuary?  Birds, apparently.  And the seals are the perfect bait for some hungry, hungry Great Whites.  I watch, in jealousy, as the first three people change into their wetsuits and lower themselves into the cage.  I am not, however, envious of them entirely.  The water is a frigid 10C.  And now we wait for our sharks.

Here's the thing, though: no chum in the water.  According to Divemaster (hai!), Great Whites are only interested in seal meat, so chumming with anything else is "useless" - okay, but why would a shark (a creature so lazy, it has decided that it will only eat in the most efficient way possible) come anywhere near a boat when it could just east seals?  And, though it may be a "visual hunter", why would it go our decoys when the water visibility was so crappy?  But, hey, these guys are the professionals.  It's now 0900 and we have seven hours to go.

By 1330, everyone has been in the cage and has seen absolutely nothing.  Topside, I've seen a few seals in the water, a couple of grey whales, but that's it.  Suddenly, my not being in 10C water isn't so bad.  At 1400, we call it quits.  The weather is dismal and cold, providing no visibility (my picture of the grey whale?  in grey water against a grey sky?  yeah.  useless.), and the water is really choppy.  Sometimes it was calms for many moments and then we'd get rocked for no reason, pitching us against railings and throwing all our gear all over the cabin.  Personally, I think a few Great Whites figured us out and decided to knock us about a bit.  I mean, it's not like we could see them even five feet under the water.  On our way back, we encountered Blue Whales (they were HUGE!!  40 feet at least).  But our extended visit with them was too much for even me and for the first time ever, I contributed my own biofluids to the ocean.  Ew.

As usual, what makes trips like this fun despite crushing disappointment are the people you share them with.  JS from Oklahoma kept me laughing even in the van ride back.  The Vannahs (from Vegas) we re great company on the boat, giving us a list of must-eats in SanFran and SinCity.  In turn, I promised to share my NFLD itinerary with them - yes, I did my part for Canadian Tourism.  Marshall (that crazy mofo who spent three HOURS in the cage) was also a good sport.  The LucasFilm sweethearts summed up my feeling exactly: "I'll take a dorsal fin, like, 300 feet away at this point!"

What I learned:
1) I am clearly a landlubber.  Even as I type this, I'm gently weaving side-to-side as if I'm still on that boat.
2) No shark-diving without chum.  Ever.
3) Beware of cold-water diving.

Next: drowning my sorrows in Napa!

Friday, October 01, 2010

SFO and the slammer

Day one of the trip is complete!  and what a very very long it was.  We landed in San Francisco at 10am local time, leaving us with plenty of time to explore our first day.  Lucky for us, when we arrived at our hotel, our room was ready, so we were able to dump our luggage right away.  Doesn't surprise me that our room was ready, though, tiny as it is.  The bed is actually smaller than mine at home!  and guess what - there's only one!  We weren't going to let that dampen our spirits.  Once we were done checking in / freshening up it was already 1300.  That gave us 5 hours until our Alcatraz "cruise" allowed us to board.  We thought we'd just meander and with that tripped out of the hotel.

First stop: lunch!  Maru Sushi?  sure.  it was okay - a bit salty.  This is when I first realised that I wasn't tasting things properly.  Ruh-roh.  You know what this means?  I be sick.  I trooped on.  We were going to walk straight down Powell until we hit the piers and then just take it from there.  We were waylaid not two blocks away from the restaurant by a seemingly friendly old man who saw me peeking at my map.  He says: where are you headed?  I say: to the piers; is this the right direction.  He says: yes, but why not hop a trolley?  Well, we're just going to walk it.  And then he starts telling us where he's going and what a great place it is and how we should just get on the trolley and go there.  JC and I begin nodding and smiling.  Ruh-roh, indeed.  Once we we able to shake him off we just walked until we hit water.

At the pier, we saw a breakdancing show (to which I donated $5) and a steel drum show (to which I donated nothing).  We walked over to Pier 39 and watched some seals, had some soft-serve and took in all the tourist-y goodness that is the double-level, boardwalk-and-shop extravaganza.  I bought some starfish that were guaranteed not to break for my bathroom.  I resisted the rest.  We were beginning to get tired by now, so we thought we'd kill an hour over crab cakes and chowder at Chowder's.  Chattted a bit. 

At 1730, we made tracks to get to Pier 33 for our Alcatraz Cruise - I find it funny that they call a 12-minute ferry ride a cruise, but if Americans do anything right, it is marketing.  By the time we arrived on the island, it's just about sunset in the foggy Bay, a nice eerie feeling.  The night tour at Alcatraz gives you all the historical stuff that the day tour does - the inmates, the cells, the history, the drama.  But what only the night tour can deliver is "ambiance" - and what an ambiance it is!  The hospital wing - still under restoration - is so creepy and weird with outmoded "medical" instruments, it's downright horrific.  The cells where the guards were gunned down during a botched escape attempt, the old Spanish fortifications, the gun gallery... all very picture-worthy.  We caught the last boat out and were back in SanFran by 2200.

After a late-night snack at Lori's (Bay Shrimp salad!) and a stop at Walgreen's (Nyquil!) it was time for us two tired cats to go to bed.  But, the bed... it was so small.  So JC opted for the floor - maybe to spare me his tossing and turning, maybe to quarantine himself from my ever-worsening illness, who knows? - and by 2330, it was lights-out in San Francisco.

Today: dive suit and leisurely wandering.  Maybe an early check-in and more sleeping for me before our 15-hour day tomorrow (shark dive!).  Did you know if you're sick they won't let you dive?  No wonder JC took the floor...

Later poppets!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

sharks, loan & great white

In a few hours, I check off a major point on my life's to-do list: diving with great white sharks.  I simply cannot wait.  While there, I thought I'd polish off a few more points as well: Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Alcatraz.  Why not?  I'll tell you all about it upon my return.  Gobble Gobble!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

full

Had a bit of a revealing thought this morning as I'm getting ready for work (and my big presentation, which turned out just fine, tyvm).  There I am, trying to figure out exactly how to tame my rain-inspired Chaka Khan hair (ponytail? barrettes? bun? footloose-and-fancy-free?), still dressed in only a skirt and bra and all of a sudden I get a flash - yes, indeed, for the moment, I am content.  Perhaps it's because I'd had my Special K this morning or because I knew exactly what I was going to wear.  Maybe it was because I was feeling confident about the presentation.  I don't know what it was, but it felt good.  And then, as I'm heading out the door (hair in barrettes), coat in one hand keys in the other, I get it again.  Most definitely: content.

It's been a while since I've felt this.  The last time I remember it happening was quite some time ago.  Sure I've been happy since - dozens of times! - but this sense of home has been fleeting.  I guess home is that feeling that everything is as it should be.  You know?  You feel a comfort in your skin, in your keys, in your knee-high boots.  And, today, it showed.  I got all sorts of compliments on my outfit (not a stitch of "new"), my wit, my assuredness.

Ahh, but all is fleeting.  Sure, I was content, but when will I be satisfied?  I suppose "never" is a viable answer.  I mean, imagine if I were always satisfied - I'd become an inert lump in my own life!  So, I suppose it's only natural that this, too, shall pass.  That, even after a fabulously delicious meal that leaves me full... well, I'm still going to be hungry at some point the next day.  I guess I just enjoy the moment as much as possible, relish each bite and savour each swallow, commit the sensations to memory so I can call on them when pickings get a little slim, as they sometimes do.

It felt good, today.  Really good.  Full-to-the-brim good.  Yum.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

6 a.m.

A.M, Six a.m.

Another Saturday night gone into the keys.

And this hole in my chest keeps growing.

A lasting embrace is all we need. A chance to be wrong. A chance to be right.
Acronyms and similes are poor protection. After a thousand years, it won't matter.

As the last haze whispers and floats into the morning, I stare.

Away from here, to such great heights.

But this is not home. Stop. Turn back your clock. Stop. Set your Alarm. Stop. Your ideas have suffered enough. Stop. Avenge your inner child. Stop. Exercise. Stop. Exorcise.

If I could marry this chord, I would, and have symphonies of children.

Pure Fuckin' Bass. Fragile, Stripped, and Bare Digital Sine Waves echo through my head. They are trapped in our hearts. A heart that shines and burns in our moments of being lost.

Outstretched limbs from the family tree create shelter and shade, but I need to shake my root, and soak in the sun.

Chase it wherever it goes. Cast a reflection back on the holy waters that filled my lungs.
And breathe slower. And slower. And slower.

Until the sun is gone. and there's no more light to chase. Asphyxiation writes me out.

And the void from my chest implodes. The curse has scratched and clawed out; tooth and nail.  The continuum draws in.

The rules and arithmetic are broken, the physics are battered and torn.

Its 6 a.m.

The Ethics have turned Into Dust.

~Jai Daniels.   2010-06-18 @ 0635

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This month's Book Club pick, in honour of Cyn's non-fiction fetish, we have chosen Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I did resist at first - my first exposure to the whole thing was Gilbert's appearance on Oprah after all.  And the idea of a woman finding herself after a bitter divorce, but only able to do so by running away from her life... well, that didn't sit right.  Anyway, like a trooper, I waded in.

Eat: It was the food that seduced me.  And while I can never embark on my own no-carb-left-behind mission without throwing out all my clothes and purchasing only muumuus, I can understand the passion Gilbert feels for food.  If only ... if only.

Pray: the ascetic road has never been my calling and I love that, after all that binging, Gilbert moves on the Great Purge.  The characters at the Ashram (and I have to believe they are characters, because do people like this really exist?) are what kept me going through the often intangible moments of God.  I like Gilbert's relationship with God - I think it merits some exploration - but I also find it intensely personal, and thereby completely, well, "indescribable" to the rest of us.

Love: it wasn't the romance that I found appealing about this third of the book - it was ability for Gilbert to finally love herself.  She could allow her mind to be quiet, because it wasn't full of berating sentiment.  If only we all had our own artist's residence in a far-off destination where we could permit ourselves to be open to pain and judgement and shame and when we do, let it all pour out of us so we can go ahead and start filling ourselves back up with air and light and good.

If there is one thing I am taking away from this book, it is the practice of sitting-still-and-smiling for a little while every day.  I started this morning.  It was... interesting.  If you've ever found yourself face down on a metaphorical bathroom floor with nothing but your muffled sobs and your inner demons ranting at you, I'm not saying you'll find salvation in the pages of this book...but you will find Gilbert's.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

(sun)day tripper

The next stop in our continuing series of "local adventures" is Petroglyph Provincial Park!  First a little background as to how we ended up here: on our way home from the Yukon, I had commented to Nish and AnCe that we should explore our backyard (i.e. Ontario) like we explore everywhere else.  With little convincing, Nish opened up her Lonely Planet Canada and began a list of places we should do day trips to see.  And so we found ourselves cruising up the 115 to get to the Peterborough area.


The Petroglyphs are the oldest in Canada and are some of the oldest in North America.  They depict various "spirits" and humans and are now protected from the eroding effects of the elements by a pretty cool glass enclosure.  It must have so exciting for the guy how found this site first, trying to figure out if it was sacred or just some 10th-century graffiti.  As it was stands, it was awesome.  There are, of course, no pictures of the glyphs themselves, as the Natives do consider it holy ground and therefore request that pictures are not taken.  As a mere visitor to their ancestral home, I dutifully abide.

But it was only 1330... what to do next?  So we found a hiking trail that looped around Minnow "Lake" and, after only one almost rolled ankle, we were off.  It took about two hours to finish and there was lots of roots, mushrooms and Canadian Shields rocks.  We left the Park in search of new adventures in Warsaw, ON.

Specifically, the Warsaw Caves.  Clearly, we were not dressed for spelunking, but we did walk on some neat cave roofs, crossing many a "hollow" rock and hearing underground streams that we couldn't see.  One family, about ten metres ahead of us just casually dropped into a hole in the ground (seriously , it was only about three square feet) and were it not for their echoing voices, I would not have believed any human beings could have slipped in through such a small crack.  On our way out of Warsaw, we had a great surreal moment where we has a horse-and-buggy pass us on the street while a Ford Mustang growled in our rear-view.  Our cameras just weren't fast enough.  Pity.

Finally: Peterborough and the National Historic Site of the Peterborough Lift Lock.  As I contemplated this structure, I had the following thoughts:
1) engineers are truly mad geniuses;

2) they just pay attention to details in architecture any more;
3) how is one of the largest lift locks in the world in Peterborough!?
Anyway, it was an amazing thing to behold.
Dinner in down-town Peterborough at Karma's Cafe, and it was delicious - if you're ever in the area, go there.

Drive home and park exactly 13 hours after I had left this morning, thinking that these weekend adventures are one of the best ideas I've ever had.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

lost boys

Nothing quite like a very long lunch with Elle to bring into focus things that are better left obscured.  We were chatting about a friend with her three-men-and-no-baby situation and it got me thinking.  A dangerous past-time, I know.

Situation:  Jane is juggling three men.  That's right, three.  She has a full social calendar and a good job but can't seem to find one man to satisfy all her needs.  And before we go judging Jane (which I like to do all the time), let's get some facts straight.  Jane is in three mediocre relationships, none of which are whole:

1) Friend-With-Benefits upon whom she can rely for company while shopping for shoes or dinner after work or the occasional hot-and-heavy sex.  He's pretty perfect for her, except she doesn't feel very 'safe' with him, as in, he cannot be depended upon in times of crises.  Her relationship with him is pretty much a physical thing, but can never grow to be more because he doesn't have any interest in growing to be more.

2) Rich-and-Successful certainly can provide for Jane.  He buys her dinner and takes her to the opera.  When he blows into town, he only stays in the nicest hotel rooms and rents the fanciest cars.  He's the kind of guy that found his own path in life early, forged ahead and never looked back.  In many ways, Jane and he are very much alike.  Successful, independent and self-made.  The problem is, of course, that both of them have built these lives without each other in them and neither is willing to make the sacrifices that would have to be made in order live in the same postal code.  They've done everything but have sex and then he leaves for a few months before coming back.  Rinse.  Repeat.

3) Mr. Unattainable is the one Jane emotionally fucks on a regular basis and he does the same back to her.  They spend hours alone over cups of tea, talking about life's problems, strategising over global domination and sleeping in each other's bed (but not at the same time).  They've never so much as held hands, but they get all the sparks with none of the fire.  He's the one who's perfect in theory but whom Jane never experiments with.  Here's the really messed up part: when Jane shows no interest, he's all into her; when she reciprocates, he turns cold; when she's cold in return, he calls to make a date; if she calls first, he won't answer.  See how the name fits?

Jane's pretty happy with her life, except that she's a self-confessed monogamist who is feeling the strain of being someone she's not.  I tell her to stop playing with fire, that it's not so much about all these other men that she may hurt, but that her own self-respect may slowly be eroding.  She insists she's not unfaithful - she only sleeps with one man, after all.  But I wonder, what would FWB think of Jane's 2am conversations with Mr. U?  Is R&S allowed to feel jealous that FWB gets something he wants from Jane, even though he's unwilling to commit?  Is Mr. U an emotional bully or is Jane just a masochist? Why won't FWB just man up?

(Sadly, this would be the perfect time to ask some boys for some answers.  There used to be a time in my life when I was surrounded by boys - and not in the way you're thinking.  Frankly, I get along with males better than I do females.  But somewhere in the transition from young adulthood to where I am today, I lost either my ability to make friends with men or my exposure to them.  This is what working in a female-dominated profession will do to you, ladies.  This is why so many librarians are single.  And the men that I do have are either too personally involved in the Jane situation or are gay.  I miss having straight male friends.  But I digress.)

Sometimes, I think Jane has the best of all worlds.  Most women would tell you it takes roughly 3 boys to equal one perfect man (sexy, rich and smart) and she has her bases covered.  But other times?  I just think she's nuts and is setting herself up for some serious heartache.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Now Playing: The American

A slow time at the box office resulted in a weekday viewing of The American, George Clooney's latest foray into serious cinema. Look, my feelings on George are widely known.  It's only because I had a dream one night - true story! - that I now don't despise him.  (In fact, Jadek has taken to calling him my ex.)  Two years ago, I witnessed him in a movie wherein which he didn't make me want to roll my eyes every two minutes, and thus we have grown past my immature hatred and have simply decided never to speak of his brush with the cowl again.

On to The American. It's short.  I mean, really short.  It had so much plot stuffed into less than two hours, I was really surprised.  It felt a lot like watching a short story: you begin in media res, no background to the characters, no last names, three minutes in -- DEATH! (wow, what a great trailer).  I'm still not really sure what Jack/Edward does (is he an engineer?  a spy?  an assassin?) or what his real name is or even if he ever meant a word of what he said to Clara.  Buh.  But a good buh.  And not an action flick either - only one chase I can remember and one (kinda) fight scene.  Yeah, there's guns, but mostly they're not important.  Mostly.

The other really notable thing was the suspense - holy Aunt Jemima!  I haven't  been this tense since The Ring and there was nothing horrific about this movie at all.  The scripting is really sparse, the scenery is really idyllic, the streets are deeply organic and the acting is done mostly with the body than with the lines.  All in all, a very lean movie.  And therein lies its surprising allure.  Who's the bad guy?  Who's the good guy?  Is that an innocent bystander that just got shot or a potential enemy?  All these questions and so few tantalising answers! 

It was really good.  If you're baulking at paying full price for a movie ticket for 105 minutes, I understand.  A rental will not diminish this movie's impact, but I feel like we need to support art-ish films more.  4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 06, 2010

if only all my Ex's were this much fun

Continuing our long-standing tradition of food, shopping and people-watching, Nish and I went to the Ex yesterday.  Normally, we would have taken a day off and gone on a nice, quiet Wednesday.  However, what with spending all our vacation on some other things, we were stuck with the weekend crowds.  And there were crowds.  Hoo boy.

Given my partying from the night before (see below), we got a tardy start to the day, with me arriving at 1500 and Nish (for once) arriving late!  No worries - we're pros at this so it was no problem getting all our shopping done before the buildings closed.  Tradition has it that I will buy at least one pair of earrings in the International Hall (I bought 3) and that we'd get our shopping on at the outlet section.  In years past, we had bought $2 sweaters, $1 belts and $5 coats.  This year I'm happy to report the purchase of two pairs of knee-high boots (in camel and chocolate suede) for $40 in addition to the above-mentioned staples.  Tradition also allows for one splurge item.  One year, I bought a marble chess set from Pakistan.  This year: a beautiful leather-bound journal with a brass clasp and filled with hand-pressed cedar paper.  I drooled.  Then, I plunked down $45 for it.  We also had all the bad-for-you food (corn dogs, butterfly chips) we could handle, reminisced at the Polar Express and took in a last-minute ground show before catching the 2249 GO train.   Seven hours of walking later, I limped home and crashed on the 'rentals couch while playing some late night Rock Band.  Happy Labour Day indeed!

So, partying. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Now Playing: The Takers

The Takers.  It has Idris Elba in it.  I love Idris Elba.  Do you think he'll ever play non-gun-toting role?  Can he actually act or is a real-life gangster who happens to be an actor?  Has anyone thought of casting him in Othello?  I would pay to see that experiment.  Truly.  In the meantime, he's said to be playing Heimdall in the upcoming Thor movie.  So, now a comic book bad-ass - that's sort of branching out, right?  Anyway, he's one of the reasons I went to see this movie and that other one.  
And what were they thinking with horribly photoshopped poster?  Especially Paul Walker - my Nana could tell you there's something not right there... geez.  Millions of dollars to make a movie and they can't get the actors to hang out for an afternoon and take pictures?  I find this ridiculous.  Just look at the heads of the three sitting in front.  Go on, look.  You see it, right?  Now, I can't unsee it.  All those floating heads.

Oh, the movie.  Right.  Predictable, and it didn't even want to be.  Good action.  Decent drama.  That running scene was adrenaline-worthy.  But all just average.  3 out of 5 stars.

archery

Yeah, I had no clever title for this post.  In my continuing weekend adventures, I went out to the wilds of Caledon for an archery lesson with the, aptly named, Archers of Caledon.  That was honestly a lot of fun.  I learned so many things (my left eye is the dominant eye! women can over-extend their elbows more than men! if you're shooting too high, adjust your sight even higher!) and am actually thinking of finding lessons - though, a little more locally.  Honestly, it was a lot of fun; also: gauntlets.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This month's Book Club pick: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  I picked this one for two reasons: it was a Rave & Fave, so I knew there'd be loads of copies at the Public Library; a non-reader friend had actually read, finished AND liked it.  Curiosity. 

So, the title tells you that Oscar is not destined to live for long.  For me, I spent the entire book thinking "...and how?"  Will it be the train tracks? an irritated girl? his unhealthy lifestyle? a freak accident?  How will it all happen.  And when it does... oooh, boy.

Things I liked:
- the prose (poetic and guttural at the same time);
- the footnotes (contentious, I know, as they could be very long, but awesome because I learned all sorts of neat history and they were written in an almost comedic fashion);
- the characters were deep (unlike The Mists of Avalon, which I didn't even bother reviewing) and had unique voices which you could tell apart distinctly.  When a new narrator began talking, you knew who was without talking any explicit mention
- the nerdiness: jebus, there were Sci-Fi references on almost every page, leaning heavily on Tolkien, Star Wars and Star Trek, with a good chunk of comic books thrown in.  This is the kind capital-L Literature that a fanboy would just eat up.  Honestly, it kinda made me want to read the LOTR trilogy, but then I snapped myself out of it.

Things I could have done without:
- the Spanish phrases which had no English translation.  I like the Spanish!  Why no English for us non-Latino types? perhaps in a footnote?
- Beli.  I know, I know, she's essential to the story, so you can't not have her.  She's awful though.  I guess the story needs her, but the world doesn't. 

Should you read it?  If you are at all into post-colonial or sci-fi or latino lit or magic realism or easy dialogue, I think you'd like it.  I'm recommending it for my Mom.  Do with that info what you will.

Monday, August 23, 2010

relativity

So, if you haven’t already heard Justin Bieber slowed down by 800%, then do that or none of this will make any sense. No, seriously. …okay? I hadn't heard it either until this past Saturday when LilBro exposed me to this new way of listening to the Stratford Sensation. Let me just say how much more I prefer it this way. So, he also has a theory. We call it the Bieber Corollary. No it's not clever, but it works.

Bieber Corollary: using a basic application of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, LilBro hypothesises that the reason JB is so popular with the ten-year-old set is because time, for them, is moving at a much slower rate than for adults. Given that this slowed down version of U smile is so appealing to a 30-year-old ears, he states what I'm hearing (800% slower) is what tweens hear, at its normal rate. A ten-year-old only has five years of cognitive memory, therefore every second (or minute) for them is like a minute (or hour) for us. The math ratios are off, but the fundamentals are the same. That’s why Sigur Ros does nothing for them and we (the focus group) think they’re awesome.

…if any of this holds true, this just may explain why Miley Cyrus is so amazing to the pre-teen crowd and completely horrific to the rest of the world. What they're hearing is a seriously slowed down version of the cacophony we hear! So, what they hear is something completely different from what we hear. Which may or may not be stating the obvious.

Also: everyone should be so lucky as to have a younger brother who invites them to parties and buys yummy-flavoured drink mixes and saves a bottle of Gatorade for the next day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now Playing: Scott Pilgrim vs the World

I was really surprised to see that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World didn't even crack the top three on its opening weekend. I had heard so much hype about it. Of course, I guess it helps that I live where I do, so I may be benefiting from a geographical hype. Anyway - I went to see it because I'd read (and liked) the graphic novels.

Poor Michael Cera - will he ever play anything but a slightly befuddled young man who hapless and loveable despite flouting social norms? So, he's good, but when is he not? There a tonnes of recognisable people in the movie too, who I'm not going to list because I'm too lazy to link to their IMDB page. Just check out the cast listing. And the style is just perfect for the geek-chic culture that is now one of the new cool kid cliques, from script to music to super-pixellated animation. (who'd have thunk it?) There may be some complaints about the number of exes poor Scott has to battle (seven!) and while I do agree that some of them are pretty lame in movie-form (the twins? boo.), I didn't think they were too over-the-top, relatively.

The real star of the movie, though, is a little city named Toronto. It was so nice to watch a movie that unabashedly Canadian and see the city without its many disguises (Tdot has probably stood in for every major city at some point, I'm sure). From Casa Loma to the red velvet TTC buses, from Lee's Palace to the Drake Hotel. I mean, I've walked up those stairs! And though it was filmed all summer and they had to fake the snow (why didn't they just film in the winter and save themselves the hassle), the movie perfectly captures the slushy goodness that is Toronto in winter.

This is a cult movie wiating to happen. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

borrowed

In a fashion that typifies the behaviour discussed in this blog post, I am NOT writing one myself.  But this is SO FUNNY, you just HAVE to read it.  Seriously.    I mean, who hasn't eaten nachos for dinner?

Now Playing: The Expendables

The key to enjoying The Expendables is to watch it with a theatre full of guys.  Honestly, they totally sell it.  Also, leave your expectations at the door because you're only setting yourself up.  Finally, star-watch.  I found so many non-postered celebs in there (who would normally at least get third billing), it was kinda crazy.

The plot is what you'd expect, so I won't waste your time rehashing it.   The action is hella fun.  And Terry Crews' guns?  Gold.

Favourite exchange:

SA: how many guys with you?
SS: only your mutha
*beat, beat, choke, choke*
SA: last chance!  who sent you?
SS: your hairdresser.

Hee!  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

barefoot 'tessa

So, the first in a series of Sunday Adventures had me out at The Ranch in Oakville for a horse-ride.  That's right, the city girl went a little country for this one.  When we were first choosing our adventures, I told Nish and AnCe that I could totally pass on the horses as that would only lead to comedy; they concurred, and so of course that meant we were going.  Thanks ladies.

Anyway, back at the ranch.  Most of our group filtered in, everyone getting to know each other a little.  For my introduction I stated the facts "I've never been on a horse so stay tuned for hilarity" - perhaps I write my future?  After seeing Nish straddle Pippin I was bolstered.  Her horse looked like it was ready for a nap.  I hoped for much the same.

My horse's name was Contessa, affectionately nicknamed Tessa.  I knew right away I was waaay in it because, as we waited for everyone to saddle up, she was getting antsy: walking toward the trail when I hadn't given her the go yet, fighting the reins when I wanted her to stop eating grass and generally being an impatient horse.  When it was time to get in line, she was behind Shae and Tessa didn't like that one bit.  She kept nudging Shae's flank, trying to get in front of her on the narrow path; every time Shae wandered into the grass, so did Tessa.  And when I tried to rein her in before she got to the grass she didn't like that one bit.  Before we were even fifteen minutes in, she had already bucked my reins and almost threw me off sideways.  Nish, behind me on Pippin, came face-to-face with Tessa more than once.  At some point, Shae completely went off-trail into the grass and Tessa was all "finally!" and she trotted forward to get front.  Because Shae's rider had very little control over her horse, I think Tessa was taking bad notes; the minute we got behind Nova, she behaved very well (save for that one brush with the tree).  But Shae bit her way back in front and we were back to shenanigans.  Finally, not five minutes from the end, Shae decided to eat flowers and when I clicked Tessa to not follow, she got really upset, turned a full 360 degrees and I went totally off-saddle, feet out of stirrups, hanging on to the pommel for dear life.  I yelled at her a little, drew her reins in and she got back under control.  That was a very long hour.

Lesson?  I do not belong on horses.

AnCe and Nish said it was likely my fault, that Contessa sensed my nerves and tried to dominate me.  I totally agree.  Have you seen how big a horse is?  I can't dominate a puppy, forget a horse!  It just figures that of all the horses in the stable, I had to get the primadonna of the bunch.  What's that saying about owners and pets again?  ...Yeah.  Yeah.

Monday, August 02, 2010

staycation

Ahh, the long weekend... what should I do: cottage? take a train to Montreal?  attend a music festival?  Nah.  This weekend, I staycationed.

I started the weekend off right, with a Book Club meeting and then an impromptu re-watching of Inception (which, may I say, is just as good the second time around).  That was fun!

Saturday, I had a shopping date.  I had all these "birthday" coupons that were expiring at the end of month.  I went to Yves Rocher where I bought over $400 worth of stuff but only paid $140 (yes!).  Picked up my yearly allotment White Musk.  Capitulated to a certain sale.  Had a yummy lunch at earl's.  Came home and hung up my last two pieces of art, played some Starccraft campaign, took a short nap, and then played some multiplayer.

Sunday dawned and I decided to treat myself to a Spa Day using all my new purchases.  So I put on Batman Begins and gave myself a long, luxurious foot soak, facial and hair soak in coconut oil.  Then I turned on my favourite white noise, lit some candles, turned off all the lights, drew all the curtains and had the longest bubble bath known to man (followed by a full body scrub).  Straightened my newly moisturised hair.  Spent the next 4 hours in my Chinese silk robe, playing WoW.  When I I got the call for dinner, I was sufficiently rested and pampered to say "okay!" and  off we went for Prince Sushi.  (mmmm....).  Came back and logged on for some mulitplayer Starcraft action.  Rolled into my newly changed bed around 3am. 

Monday: what to do?  Impromptu lunch plans with DK and then a re-watching of The Wire before getting ready for work tomorrow.  I feel like I've had a week off!  Loverly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Now Playing: Knight and Day

I only went to watch this movie because I had these coupons that HAD to be used in a certain theatre during a certain month.  Time ran out.  My back was to the wall.  It was either Knight and Day or The Sorcerer's Apprentice (it's sad when someone considers a crazy person the lesser evil when compared to Nic Cage).  So, there we were.

You know, I really wasn't looking for much: a little action, a little suspense, some humour and dash of cheesy romance.  That's all they needed to live up to expectations.  And maybe the problem was that I just seen Inception and Salt; maybe those two flicks with their mind-fuckery and their serious plots left a lingering of... I don't know, expectation in my cinephilic brain. 

Sadly, K&D failed.  And not just like they came up something lame.  No, they plagiarised some of their best bits.  Cruise shooting up a warehouse full of bad guys?  See: Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  Cruise flattening himself to the top of a fast-moving truck in order to avoid being flattened by an overpass/overturned car?  See Wanted.  Running along a rooftop while cops chase you?  See Matrix.  I could go on and on. 

Really, what kinda dampened the Salt experience was watching Inception a few days before.  What ruined Knight & Day?  Every other action movie ever made!  Seriously.  There wasn't a single cool moment that didn't feel... stolen, somehow.  No wonder they replaced him with her.

The locations were nice.  Yawn.  2 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Now Playing: Salt

After last week's stellar Inception, I was kind of waiting to be disappointed by Angelina Jolie's Salt.  I'm still waiting.

Let's get the obvious criticisms out of the way: Jolie herself.  Say what you want about the woman, she is a bankable action star.  Save for Milla Jovovich and Tricia Helfer, is there another female action star who could actually carry a vehicle (or, dare I say franchise) like this?  Jovovich has Resident Evil, Helfer has BSG - but I don't think any of them can even come close to the earning of Jolie herself.  So, Jolie as Salt?  A character written with Tom Cruise in mind?  Wicked.  She has enough real acting chops (see Changeling and Girl, Interrupted) to cover the stuff that Cruise couldn't have and the no-fear attitude to sell the rest.  Too bad about Liev Schreiber though - will that guy ever catch a break?

This is a typical first-in-a-franchise kind of movie: lots of characters, back-story and things-that-go-boom.  And what an ending - jebus, could there BE more of a cliff-hanger?  The fights were well-choreographed (albeit, the cameras were a little shaky) and were fairly believable.  The disguises were really fun too!  also: no quarter given to Evelyn, just because she's a chick.  She's still tortured, beaten and gassed with the best of them.

So, Salt - a great summer action movie.  4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant


Come, Thou Tortoise will hook you with its punny goodness, its charming narrators (Oddly and Winnifred/Iris) and its obviously deceptive plot. But beyond the wordplay, which at times is so clever, I'm amazed I hadn't caught on earlier, there are these characters that really make you want to know more. Even the bit parts - the Antonios, if you will - are fascinating to read about. I won't write a long gushing review; I will say that this is definitely worth the read. And an amazing summer book to boot.

Now Playing: Inception

I have a new favourite director: Christopher Nolan. Wait, scratch that. He's not really a new director… I just hadn't realised how much I liked ALL his movies before. And there haven't been that many, either. Sure, I fell in love with him for taking the Batman franchise back to its dark psycho roots, but remember Memento? Yeah, he's awesome.

So when I heard he was all Batman'ed out and that he really wanted to make something else, I secretly prayed to any goddess who would listen that they gave him whatever he wanted, as long as he finished with the caped crusader. And they did. I picture the conversation going something like this:

WB: When can we begin filming the third Batman, Chris?
CN: Well, guys, I need a break from Batman. I'm not really feeling it right now.
WB: *panic* what? How can we make you feel it? money, hookers, drugs? Whatever you want, you got it!
CN: Uh, well, I'm actually thinking of this other movie--
WB: Sure! Here's a blank cheque! Cast whoever you want! Shoot whatever you want! Just make sure you come back for a third Batman!
CN: Ummm, okay…

aaaand, enter Inception.

This. Movie. Is. Awesome. No, seriously. I watch a lot of nonsense in the theatre, especially during the summer season. But this. This is good. Great. Epic. Remember how Matrix fucked with your mind and left you salivating and a little thunderstruck in your seat? yeah… like that. I loved it. Leonardo Dicaprio, who continues to impress me, is a great lead with Dom Cobb. He's flanked by equally great Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Cillian Murphy. Then there's the inimitable Marion Cotillard. Is there an actress out there that can embody gentleness, terror and pity in such quick succession with such conviction? Damn. She's amazing. (I also love that Nolan chose to use Edith Piaf so prominently in the film… clever).

The special effects are pretty amazing too. I love how they play with chemistry, physics, and the concept of time in ways that literally blew my mind without degenerating into something cheesy or convoluted. I could follow the "maze" that is the plot of this movie without getting unneccessarily lost. Oh, and the plot? It was one of the most original things I've seen on screen in a long time. Seriously, in a theatre full of sequels and reboots and bad 80's TV shows, it was refreshing to watch a movie that wasn't familiar at all. In any way.

Loved it. Will watch again. Will buy Blu-Ray. You should watch it too. 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Now Playing: Despicable Me

I normally don't do animated films, but Despicable Me really caught my attention. I love my villians, so when I was Steve Carell was going to play one, I thought "done!"

So, the story is about Gru, an aging super-villain who is being upstaged by someone younger (less talent, more connections) and who decides to use three orphan girls to get a jump on the nerd. The three orphans are pretty cute, but not in a saccharine way - they're funny and witty, sometimes naughty, sometimes scared, ... you know, like real little girls. My favourite moment? The theme park (this version is edited, so it's even better in the movie)!

I'm sure you're going to be able to figure out how it all ends, but who cares? This one is great. Go see it, especially if you have little ones you can enjoy it with. 4 out of 5 stars.