Saturday, July 09, 2011

Attention span further shortened

When I think of my blog, I feel guilty, because if Xiao Pangzi were a child, or kitten, or even a house plant, I would have been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.

I think it is safe to say that I have abandoned Xiao Pangzi, even as I have picked up a new follower (hello to stickthatinyourjuicebox!).

Just as my failure to become fluent in Cantonese compelled me to become equally incompetent in French, I have decided to camouflage this social media atrophy with a Twitter account:

So, I invite you to follow along, and if that fails, too, I'll try something more groundbreaking (ie homing pigeon, dinner conversation, etc).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Latest obsession: BIXI Toronto

As a bike owner who lives about seven kilometers from Yonge and Dundas, there does not appear to be a reason for me to buy a BIXI Toronto membership. Why pay to use a communal bike in a service area of 2 km by 4 km in the downtown core when I can use my own bike at will? Luckily, I won a BIXI membership, so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain when I received my key fob shortly after the BIXI Toronto launch on May 3.

Since adding the BIXI fob to my key chain, the bike share program has crept into my daily life with ease. While walking to the Eaton Centre, I came across a BIXI station, and it suddenly occurred to me that there was one at Yonge and Dundas, too. So, I hopped on a BIXI bike and the commute to my destination became shorter and more enjoyable than I had anticipated.

Another day, two friends and I were going out to dinner; two of us had bikes, one of us did not. Normally, our choices would have been to walk our bikes, or bike ahead, leaving our friend to catch up on foot or by streetcar. A BIXI station at our starting point, and another right across the street from the restaurant meant that my bikeless friend could ride with us, and not have to worry about locking up the bike once we reached our destination.

A BIXI membership has brought me a level of convenience that I never dreamed of. However, the system is not without aggravation. More than once, I have wandered frantically with my Bixi bike in tow, searching for a station to park it with limited time. The paper map that came with my key fob lead me to a non-existent station once, and the smartphone application has failed to give me the exact location of stations.

The BIXI bikes are heavy as tanks. This makes the bikes durable, but it also makes me look slow and clumsy; with the slightest tilt, the bike succumbs to gravity. Using the "speedy" third gear, I frequently cringe at the annoyance of the cyclists who pass me. On the plus side, I do not fear riding a BIXI bike without a helmet, because the low speed and ramrod straight posture I assume while riding equal safety and vigilance.

At first, I had my doubts about bringing a bike share system to Toronto. Having seen them in action in Montreal and Paris, I did not think Toronto citizens or infrastructure would support it. Yet, as an unexpected BIXI member, I can vouch for its convenience and practicality, and hope for its rapid expansion.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Welcome to the lair, part 2

I have been a terrible blogger of late, and yet, I have managed to gain two more followers. Adhering to the promise of a welcome wagon, I salute Marlene and dilo3xpp.

Marlene is Brazilian, and enjoys Portuguese poetry. dilo3xpp appears to be into photography, electronic scraps, and Apple computers. I won't hold that last one against her.

It will be hard to cater to your interests, Marlene and dilo3xpp, especially since I have been such a lazy blogger. Poor NeroFiddled has not had his love of beer satisfied while following Xiao Pangzi.

I'm going to hope that you have a burgeoning interest in Toronto, and my latest obsession, biking in Toronto. I also watch a lot of TV and movies, and like to complain about public transit in Toronto.

If you have any requests, I welcome them. More blogging in the near future...hopefully.

Friday, February 11, 2011

You're dead to me, Robin Hobb

Previously, I relayed my obsession with some of Robin Hobb's earlier books. In spite of my searing disappointment with the ending of Hobb's Tawny Man Trilogy, I decided to give her Soldier Son Trilogy a try.

Shaman's Crossing - Book 1 of Soldier Son Trilogy
Reminiscent of Assassin's Apprentice, this is a beginnings book. We are introduced to Nevare Burvelle, who is also the narrator. Unfortunately, Nevare is stupidly obedient and dull, to boot. He stoically endures abuse from humans and supernatural forces, then manages to see the end of a series of painful trials due to dumb luck. The book ends with Nevare happily ensconced in the status quo, dreaming of marriage to a boring girl.

Forest Mage - Book 2 of Soldier Son Trilogy
Whereas Book 1 was dull and painful in turns, Forest Mage is like militant fat camp propaganda. Nevare spends the entire book being called a fatty and trying to prove that he has no control over his obesity. He bungles his way into being accused of murdering a prostitute and necrophilia, which the mob is eager to believe, because he is fat. Nevare is supposed to be a forest mage, but he really only commands his power in the climactic final scene, before severing ties with his few loyal friends. What a loser.

Renegade's Magic - Book 3 of Soldier Son Trilogy

Joe has been reading Hobb's latest, the Rain Wild Chronicles, and he says that there is a lot of whining in that one, too.

Robin Hobb, you had a good thing going with The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy, but you appeared to be in such a hurry to finish the latter that you tacked on a false happy ending and made me want to cry. Now, you spend your time and energy writing about long suffering, boring protagonists who can't seem to get out of trouble except by the mercy of dumb luck.

Until you choose the rewrite the ending of The Tawny Man Trilogy, I will not be reading your books, any more.

Friday Night Play List: hot docs

During my time away from Xiao Pangzi, not only did I watch a lot of TV, but I also viewed numerous documentaries on Netflix, because their movie selection leaves much to be desired. I can recommend two that continue to prey on my mind.

Dear Zachary (2008)
I won't include a hyperlink to the film's website, because it is best viewed without much prior knowledge. The documentary starts out as an ode to the filmmaker's late friend, Bagby, and a cinematic portrait for Zachary, the baby boy who will never know his father. Matters are complicated when the baby's mother is charged in the brutal murder of Bagby. The story takes dramatic turns that are shocking and heart wrenching, yet the most astonishing outcome is a testament to the power of love.

Cropsey (2009)
An investigation into a classic Staten Island urban legend that challenges the notion of monsters and community responsibility in their creation. A truly creepy film that only grows more frightening as the truth behind the fables become open to debate.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I like to watch

I'm back, and let me apologize in advance for the rusty prose to follow. For the past four months, I have been obsessed with weight loss and television. But, enough about my back fat. Here's some of what I've watched since October:
  • "Top Gear" - Who could have predicted that I would love a car show? I've never even owned a car. Yet, the tomfoolery of hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have made me very, very happy. I still chuckle when I reminisce about Jeremy and Richard propping up James's crippled baby grand with a stack of porno magazines, right before James unknowingly backs a truck onto his precious piano. I can't recommend this show enough, even with the current anti-Mexican controversy.
  • "Being Human" - I was prompted to watch the original BBC show, currently in its third season, after the American series premiere ended on a cliffhanger. Whereas the American version has felt forced, the UK series has been easy to watch, with great actors and a more charming approach to the exact same storyline as the US show. It just proves the adage that the difference is in the details.
  • "Mad Men" - After absorbing the hype for years, we finally gave in, and now, I know why busty women are back in vogue and everyone thinks Jon Hamm is hot. The complexity of the characters, and their varying moods and intentions, are what make the show so fascinating. The most recent fourth season was a gamble, and has cooled my enthusiasm for the show. Still, the first three seasons were very watchable.
  • "The Cape" - The production values are high, and the actors are decent (Summer Glau is working again!), but the show is hindered by a formulaic storyline, and the survival of the hero's family. While the hero is pining for his living wife and son, he is not inflicting violent vengeance, struggling with his morals, nor developing sexual tension with Summer Glau. The jerky circus midget character should get his own show. Such a waste of a good production budget.
  • "Damages" - This was the drama series that I felt the most ambivalent towards, despite tearing through the first season. Glenn Close's character veers too much into pure villainy, and it is hard to sympathize with a character as naive and bland as Rose Byrne's ingenue lawyer. The first season's dramatic plot twists kept me going, but the second season has failed to latch onto me, despite the hardening of Byrne's character, accompanied by a much improved wardrobe.
I've just started watching "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena", a mini-series created while Season 1 lead, Andy Whitfield was being treated for cancer. Since then, Whitfield has had to withdraw from the show to focus on his health, and I must admit that "Gods of the Arena" is missing a spark without him. All the sex and violence are present, but without a sad gladiator with tiny, leather shorts to anchor them. I can only hope that when Season 2 returns with Whitfield's replacement, the magic will return.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Steven Page: still self-destructing?

After watching the exclusive W5 interview with Steven Page, I came away with a hatred of Paula Todd's interviewing style and a hunch that Steven Page is suffering from a mid-life crisis and possibly a drug addiction.

The details of Page's personal life prior to the interview are sordid enough. The 40 year old father of three was caught with cocaine in the home of his 20-something year old girlfriend, Christine Benedicto. Post-arrest, Page posted bail for himself and his girlfriend's roommate, but not his girlfriend.

During the W5 interview, Page gave an awkward denial of drug use, and appeared detached in his responses and performance. Page then admitted that the girlfriend he left his wife for was a Barenaked Ladies fan he met through MySpace. However, Page saved the best for his former band mates, spewing resentful vitriol while Todd played the enabler.

Page complained that he felt left out as a songwriter of the Barenaked Ladies, though you could hardly tell by the number of Barenaked Ladies singles, penned by Page, that was played during the show. Page also revealed that he and bandmate, Ed Robertson, were not close friends, which Todd framed as a shocker. Page then whined that while he and Ed were a great song-writing team, it was no longer fun, thus losing the sympathy of anyone who works for a living.

Steven Page is a talented musician, and he should have communicated through his music, especially when the persona that he conveys is such an unsavoury one.