Wednesday, April 21, 2010

of heroes and villains

This season of Survivor is subtitled Heroes versus Villains. At first, I kind of understood why – I mean, the Villains were populated by schemers, liars and connivers while the good guys had, like firemen and stuff. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It should come as no great surprise that I love me a good baddie – they usually have all the best lines. And while my heart bleeds with the best of them, I do find myself quite a bit more sympathetic to the plight of the anti-hero. It’s not usual for me to have deep thoughts about the fabric of society or the manifestations of the archetypes therein. It’s even more unusual that what precipitates these thoughts is Jeff Probst in a rain-drenched cotton shirt, but here it is.

What makes a villain a villain? And more importantly, who made up these rules anyway? As I watched Heroic (muscle god) James annihilate Villainous (old man) Randy, I thought, “oh, that’s not a fair match-up at all! James should have a hand tied behind his back or something!” And as the camera panned across first the Heroes and then the Villains, I could help but think that a more appropriate subtitle may have been Brawn versus Brains. Then it would have been completely acceptable to pit the ninety-pound Courtney against the (relatively) Amazonian Heroines. But alas, it is Hero and Villain being discussed here.

Why did I like the Villains so much more? Watching the Heroes begin to bite at each other is far more entertaining, after all. Besides, what makes these guys Villains anyway? Is it because they manipulate situations (Boston Rob), seduce people (Jerri), find idols without clues (Russell), lie (Sandra), cheat (Sandra) or steal (Sandra)? Is it because they’re mean (Courtney) or because we feel guilty for laughing when they are (Tyson)? Is it because, in some archaic society, these are the guys that would slip into your tent at night and slit your throat? Or is it because in modern-day survivor they totally would burn your socks and throw out all your fish? I know why I relate to them more: they’re smart. They use their cunning before their strength. But is that villainous?

I submit to you, poppets, that if you were David, staring down Goliath, that you should be allowed to even the playing field. There’s no way you’re going to win hand-to-hand combat, so sling those rocks as hard as you can and hope the great big lummox falls before he lays his hands on you – because if he does, you’re toast. That’s an easy one though – David’s always been a hero.

What about Delilah? She cut off Samson’s hair while he slept in her tent, taking with her the source of his great strength. Oh, yes, Samson sure did want him some Delilah, he loved her so much that he killed her husband to make it easier for her to come to him. Except: Delilah didn’t want Samson; some would even say that Delilah loathed Samson. But did that matter to him? Nope. He just kept tearing down the obstacles she erected, with brutal and bloodthirsty force. See Samson? He’s a hero – he’s battle-scarred and not too bright, but he’s a hero. Who’s Delilah to refuse him? Aside from a woman, she’s nobody. Do you think she could have taken Samson in one-on-one combat? Hellz no. So she did what she could to even the playing field – she waited until he was sleeping and cut off his stupid hair.

All the so-called dishonourable tactics of war are really nothing more than contrived rules to make the strong and stupid survive. Stealthy assassins that sneak about and stab you in the back of the neck? Villain. Rangers who use poison-tipped arrows? Villain. Women who seduce their enemies and strangle them in their sleep? Villain. Giants who wear thick plated-armour and who wield broadswords so they can hack men of lesser stature while riding destriers? Hero. ...does this make any sense? No wonder I relate to a good villain – I have no hope of winning a duel! Stabby stabby in the dead of night though? I may have a shot. Heroes always say lying is cheating; I think that they’re either mad that they fell for a trick or they’re jealous they didn’t come up with the plan themselves.

literacy endeavours

The last couple of days were eventful, bibliophilically (that`s not a real word at all) speaking.

On Saturday, I attended the Regional Spelling Bee. When I had originally signed up, it was to be a Name Announcer for ONE round. I'm unsure how the road wound from there to Word Pronouncer, but I'm sure it was littered with words like “opportunity” and “challenge”. Anyway, I accepted, albeit nervously. You know, poppets, that Canadian isn’t my first English; my first English was a strange mix of Irish, British and Indian, resulting a strong (and distinct) Anglo-Indian accent. This means V’s warp into W’s and R’s become Ah’s. It also means that for words I've never heard spoken and have only read – you would be surprised as to how many of these exist – I almost inevitably screw it up. “Epitome” was always “eh-pit-tome” until someone said “you mean, uh-pit-oh-me”. Then there are words that I’ve only ever heard my parents say and which I wouldn’t know the correct way of saying anyway: who can forget a Grade Nine lunch hour when I sat across from Natalia and lamented these “so”s in my mouth that really made eating hard; she looked at me and said “you mean, sores? Like canker sores?” ... like, totally, kill me now.

Anyway, a few nightmarish sleeps went by (one of which involved me forgetting how to read... *shudder*), I was there on Saturday morning, having woken up at 0530 to get dressed, fix my hair and do my “camera” make-up. Instead, I was told to wipe it all off and that my make-up had to be TV-proof. By the end of it, I looked like an extra on a Bollywood film set, caked in some of the heaviest foundation I’ve ever worn. Three categories awaited!

Primary: for six- to eight-year-olds. These kids were the cutest things ever! One little girl had two lopsided pigtails that would boppity-bop every time she said a letter. Your word is monkey: “m” boppity “o” boppity “n” boppity... it was so hard to stay neutral and not pinch her cheeks. Then there was the mini-Travolta in his Saturday Night Fever ensemble – adorabubble! The word that got over half kicked out? Bias. Such a simple word, but, I guess not a word (or concept, really) you come across as a six-, seven- or eight-year-old. So many of them spelled it “b-u-y-e-s-t”. Later, after the trophies, as I was giving out congratulations, I asked a few of them what they thought the word bias meant. This was the response: “you know, when you go to the store and there’s this one thing that a lot of people buy? That’s the buyest thing in the store.” Love. It.

Intermediate: for twelve- to fourteen-year-olds. This one had the word “benison” (of which, I’d never heard). It knocked fourteen competitors, prompting the MC to comment that he would be petitioning Oxford to allow an alternate definition of benison: “to obliterate or annihilate en masse”. This one ended with an epic twenty-six rounds (and 53 words in a row spelled correctly. You should also know that every spellchecker I've used has prompted me to spell it as "venison" instead; if only the kids had had that clue.

Junior: for nine- to eleven-year-olds. This one had it all: over 90 contestants, tears, protests from the audience, the threat of removal and a final, unabashed winner. It took three and a half hours. By the end of it, my word was definitely “exhausted”.

All-in-all, a great experience.


Last night, I went to see Christopher Moore at Chapter’s. Yes, he is as funny in person as you could imagine him to be. Another three and half hours, this time in line to get my book signed: he called me “brave” for book-talking Lamb to a bunch of niners; I thanked him for making me cool. Did you know Moore used to supervise a night crew at a grocery store in his youth? You hear that, LilBro? There’s hope yet.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

suffer little children

I’ve been vacillating writing about this; frankly, I don’t want to be the target of religious zealousness.

I went to Easter Sunday mass, one of my two concessions to my mother (the other? Christmas Eve). This year was especially martyr-esque, as I had crawled into bed at 4am and had to be back up for 10am. It was not easy. Anyway, showered and dressed in my Easter Sunday frippery, I went to church. Choir was boring, singing none of the songs that make the ceremony tolerable. I saw a few familiar faces, looking just as dejected as me; I wondered if they were C&E’s too or if they were now judging my conspicuous presence. This is what church has always done to me, made me paranoid without warrant. In reality, those people probably didn’t even notice me.

And then my least favourite part: the sermon. A few caveats:
1) I mostly like the priest in charge: he seems really laid back, he laid off the second pastor and his deacon is part-time in an effort to save money, he went green by replacing light bulbs and turning off the fountain at all times, except for the Blessing of the Water.
2) I find the sermons a real stretch when it comes to real-life application. I mean, what does a celibate old man have anything to do with me?
3) My mom used to be cool: she once told her marriage prep priest that if she wasn’t going to use birth control then he could take care of her dozens of children. I wonder what happened to that chick? Maybe you’re just inherently more rebellious when you’re in your twenties.

...So, the sermon is focussed on forgiveness. But not just forgiving your neighbour from pruning your prized gardenias or your little brother for putting a frog down your shirt in front of that cute boy. It’s not even about the more serious things in life, like rape and murder. No, this entire twelve-minute sermon was all about the specific forgiveness of those priests convicted of molestation under Ratzinger's turn at the helm. What. Maybe I’m a bad person, but I couldn't believe that I was being asked to forgive men of the cloth who had debased their oath to God (both the chastity and moral behaviour therein implied) by molesting young boys. Hello? If I’m a gay man and I participate in consensual sexual behaviour with another man, I’m going to hell; but, if I’m a priest that abuses my position of power to sexually assault children, that’s okay because I’m a priest? What bullshit is that about? The communion wafer stuck in my throat. I get that good Christians are all about turning the other cheek, but the Church has to realise that people will not stand for hypocrisy.

I looked over at my father: he was half asleep. I looked over at my mother and she had a curiously blank look on her face. A couple of years earlier, in a similar Easter sermon, the priest had asked the congregation to fill in protest letters for Dr. Morgentaler being honoured with the Order of Canada. In the parking lot, I blew up, crying foul, stating that Morgentaler did more for women’s rights than the Church ever did. This time, I swallowed my rage.

Is it wrong of me? By attending service, albeit silently and reluctantly, am I condoning the message? Is it worth fighting over, since I only attend twice a year for the appeasement of my parents (you know, honouring them)? And why is it that the intercession of a man is necessary for my communion with God? I just can’t believe that the big JC would have asked for forgiveness for these monsters-in-priests-clothing; I mean, He lost his cool when people sold doves on the steps of the synagogue! What would He have said about men taking innocence in a church rectory?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Originally: (in February) I was trying to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all of last month (recommended AND chosen for Book Club) and I didn't get past page 68 or so. I kept waiting for the eponymous character (who, let's face it, has a description that I want applied to myself) but she was a total no-show. So I exercised by third inalienable right and moved on.

I went to Book Club, all prepared to hate it and then everyone (who was there) loved it. wtf. I totally thought I wouldn't be alone in this. Long story short, I felt compelled to read on. I finally finished it (it took the better part of a month!) and I gotta say… still not all that impressed. Okay, maybe it was a bit better than I anticipated, but, uh, not really.

First of all, let's talk about the "framing" of the story - the Vanger mystery wrapped in the Wennerström enigma. I really really REALLY didn't care about the Wennerström thing. Not only because it was dry and uninteresting, but also because with was a wee bit inaccessible to non-Swedish readers. All those names and companies! Who could keep track? The Vangers themselves were also unlikeable (even more so as the story progresses) and there is only one impetus that makes the story go forward: what happened to Harriet Vanger. And once you find out (or, in my case, once your theory is somewhat corroborated), you're so dismayed to find out that you have yet another 100 or so pages to go, you almost want to cry.

But it wasn't the plot that finally broke me. Oh, no, poppets. It was the translation. And I say translation because, clearly, I haven't read the original Swedish so I cannot comment upon it. The translation, however was full of dangling modifiers, comma splices and pronoun/antecedent agreements (or disagreements, as the case may be)… it was very distracting. While I commit many of those errors (along with typos and missing words…) I am not an internationally-recognised author. I would hope that if someone took the time to translate me into Swedish, s/he would not butcher my work in the progress. Finally, the straw: I can't stand when "special" words (especially descriptors) are used too often and I really can't stand when they're used on the same page. Yes, I finished the novel but I was not happy about the reading of it. Not at all.

Anyway, I'm happy to see the movie is coming out soon. I think it may translate quite well in that medium, especially since it's subtitled and not dubbed. Should you read it? Who am I to say? I can only lament that I backed this Book Club pick.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Now Playing: Clash of the Titans

Oh, dear. There I was, looking forward to watching Sam Worthington redeem himself in a good old-fashioned Ancient Greek throwdown, but alas. Poor scripts seem to plague this man. Sadly, Clash of the Titans did not live up to my expectations. It was a barely-there plot, that had us wondering exactly where Olympus was and why these Gods even give a shit. Sorry, Hades, I don't buy your humans-feed-our-immortality-schtick. (Also, Ralphie boy, get another voice… I've heard this one before). Wooden acting and so-so special-effects aside, I had at least thought they would stick to the origins. I mean, if the Greco-Romans do anything right, they do a good tragedy.

Again: disappointed. As I leaned over to tell JC halfway through the film: "I don't think this movie mythologically accurate." He laughed at me. I was not impressed. First of all, Perseus doesn't need to have a jealous would-be stepfather… he had a psychotic grandfather and step-uncle already. He didn't need to be all tragic with a dead family and all that rage - his own mother was stupid and sold him out to her husband. Anyway, because of the tampering with the original* story, there's all sorts of dropped story arcs and random disposable characters.

Finally, no I didn't watch it in 3D, taking the advice of many a professional reviewer. Despite some lovely effects (Kraken! Medusa!), it still fell flat. In fact, the whole thing felt a bit blah. Rent it, if you must. 2 out of 5 stars.

*EDIT: I am referring to the original myths, not the 1981 Laurence Olivier vehicle.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

recollections at 4am

Mom: "Just get yourself a sixteen-year-old toy boy so you can train him from young. This way, when you're forty, he'll be a youthful twenty-six, and he can take care of you. He'll probably do whatever you like AND he won't take you for granted. It's perfect."... yes, my mother said "toy boy" not boy-toy; no, she wasn't drunk.

Elaine made a second appearance; yes, she was just as car-wreck-fascinating as NYE.

Many many cute shirtless boys at neu+ral. They were like a unit or something. They danced as one, drank as one and left as one. I've never seen that happen before. Also: Pantera huddle. Also, also: I learned the words to that song... and I always thought he said "breathe, spit, fuck." Man, i was way off.

Nish: (upon being told to go on and pick up the incredibly attractive, tattooed, single man who kept his shirt on) "But I don't know how."

Me: (upon hearing that Nish has forgotten how to pick up guys - see above) "Just say: Hi! Hot. Bed?"

LilBro: (later, upon hearing my response to Nish) "You can drop two of those words and get the same result."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Happy Bunny Day

From Lamb, the Gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal.

Talking about Kama Sutra...
Biff: "Josh are you sure it doesn't bother you talking about this stuff when you will never be allowed to do it?"
Josh: "No it's interesting. It doesn’t bother you when I talk about heaven does it?"
Biff: "Should it?"
Josh: "Look! A Seagull!"