Friday, December 29, 2006

We're not going to take it

This is no longer timely but Joe enjoys this rendition of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" by Twisted Sister so I'm posting it for him. Merry Christmas, baby!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waiting with trepidation

A few months ago, the trailer for 300 was released and I was stunned. I had heard that a movie adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel would be made but I did not expect it to look like the most fantastic nightmare.

I realize that I should try to calm down since I ruined Borat for myself by overhyping it over several months. But, in this case, I can easily come up with reasons why I might not enjoy 300.

  • I was not a fan of Sin City. It looked great but Frank Miller's clich├ęd dialogue and cast of caricatures were too exasperating. I do not expect much progress in 300, since the source material was written before Sin City.
  • The story of the 300 Spartans battling the Persian army sounds like the kind of heroic underdog story that contemporary audiences love. However, upon closer inspection, the Spartans come across like a bunch of Aryan jocks. Here was a society that shunned the handicapped and the weak. It was their ruthless practice of weeding out so-called inferiors, like leaving babies in the wilderness to see which ones would survive, that eventually contributed to the decline of the population, and hence, their society.
  • Pitted against the racial homogeneity of the Spartans are a bunch of coloured people and the physically deformed. When Frank Miller transforms the Greek turncoat, Ephialtes, into a grotesque hunchback, he participates in the kind of vilification that is usually only found in childish fairy tales. As an adult, equating minorities and the ugly with evil is harder to swallow.

Having said all this, I will probably see 300 in March, unless it gets a 'Rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

PS, fanboys/girls, I am prepared to be told how wrong I am. I have not read Frank Miller's graphic novel so feel free to school me.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chit chat fodder with stuffing

A co-worker once told me that she dreaded meeting an old drunken uncle at Christmas gatherings because he was unpleasant and hostile. Upon noticing her nose ring, he once ask her, "Does your boyfriend grab that when you're doing it?" Fortunately for her, he no longer attends family gatherings.

If you are forced to converse with relatives and you would rather not explain your career or personal choices, here's more chit chat fodder, courtesy of my former customs broker.

Eat like an athlete
U.S. consumers are purchasing an unprecedented amount of sports nutrition products having spent nearly US$4-billion on this category last year with spending poised to grow to $4.8-billion by 2010. For many consumers, sports nutrition items represent a hoped-for short cut to better health. Sports bars, drinks and gels make up the largest share of the market with sales of over $3-billion in 2005.

Cats thank him, too
A Japanese scientist who invented environmentally friendly sources of light has been awarded the Millennium Technology Prize, worth over US$2-million. The award recognizes his inventions of blue, green and white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the blue laser diode. Blue LEDs are used in flat screen displays and blue lasers will be in the next generation of DVD players. White LEDs could provide a sustainable, low-cost alternative to lightbulbs, especially in developing countries.

Big pimping on the green
Across the U.S., an obscure new hobby is emerging, racing golf carts. People buy old carts for peanuts and bring them up to speed with lift kits, oversized tires, more powerful engines and roll bars. It is estimated that as many as four million Americans may own these vehicles, capable of speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. They are particularly popular in Arizona, California, Georgia and Florida.

More than one stiff
Five people in China have been detained for running striptease sendoffs at funerals. The once-common events are held to boost the number of mourners as large crowds are seen as a mark of honour.

Price check on religious artefact
Since the 10th century, travellers to Cornwall in the UK have been helped by hundreds of distinctive Celtic crosses carved from rough hewn granite which mark the route. But a recent wave of thefts, fuelled by Cornish nationalism, has prompted officials to adopt a 21st century solution to protect the ancient signposts. They are now being fitted with microchips about the size of a grain of rice which are glued to the crosses before being smeared with dirt to disguise them. If found, a scanner can reveal where the cross came from.

China: "We are filthy"
The government of China admitted recently that its water is unfit for drinking and has announced plans to spend US$150-billion over five years on sewage and water treatment facilities. By the end of last year, a total of 278 Chinese cities still had no waste water treatment facilities and pollutants in industrial discharges were often above permitted national standards.

Increasingly fat and jolly
The number of overweight people in the world has now overtaken the malnourished for the first time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

All I want for Christmas is...

I laughed pretty hard at this. Maybe Saturday Night Live doesn't blow as much as I thought. Or maybe SNL should just become the Andy Samberg Sing Song Hour.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Stay away in droves

Dear Geeks and Fanboys & Fangirls,

I'm begging you, please do not go support Eragon in the movie theatres. It looked like a piece of crap when it was featured at Comic Con this past summer and its 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes only confirms this.

First, why do you insist of reading the same material over and over again? I have never read the book by Christopher Paolini that the movie is based on but from the synopsis alone, I would say that the story has been done: ordinary peasant boy turns out to be destined for greatness and to become the saviour of his people against an evil leader. Didn't you already see Star Wars? Haven't you read David Eddings's Belgariad series? Perhaps you've heard of a small movie called Lord of the Rings? How about the New Testament of the Bible?

And speaking of LOTR, doesn't 'Eragon' sound suspiciously similar to 'Aragon'? Was Paolini incapable of coming up with a more original name for his protagonist? An online fantasy name generator could have helped mask the creative void.

Even if you do find comfort in the familiar, you must have some sort of pride left; 20th Century Fox is insulting your intelligence. The studio thinks that if it enlists the two biggest FX studios, Industrial Light & Magic and Weta, to essentially recreate LOTR, you will lap it up. The Eragon trailer could have simply cut and pasted battle and evil horde scenes from the LOTR and there would have been no discernable difference.

Please prove to the studios that fantasy enthusiasts are not undiscriminating drones who will pay to see anything with magic and dragons.

On Monday, when box office numbers come out, I will find out if I should be gnashing my teeth and tearing out my hair.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Top Ten Things I Remember from 2006

This was going to be a top ten list of world events in 2006 but then I realized that the only way I was going to remember news items before December was to look it up on Wikipedia. In which case, you might as well visit Wikipedia's 2006 entry and read it for yourself.

Instead, I present to you a sad testament to my shoddy memory: Top Ten Things I Remember from 2006.

1. Belinda Stronach is a wild party.
Belinda had already created a national soap opera in 2005 when she defected from the Conservative party and jilted Peter McKay in one fell swoop. Belinda did not disappoint in 2006 when her relationship with married hockey thug, Tie Domi, was revealed in court papers. Then there was the continuing sage with Peter McKay where he allegedly referred to Belinda as a dog in the House of Commons. Oh, Belinda! Will you ever stop?

2. Comic Con and California
One experience burned into my memory that I did not recall in my previous blog entries was an encounter with some shirtless hicks in the parking lot of Mission Beach. They were wedged in a tiny car with the windows open about two car spots down from where we were parked when they tried to make vaguely hostile small talk with us:
Hick: How are you doing?
(Unsure he is speaking to us or a guy passing by, we ignore him)
Hick: DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?
Me: Yes, we do.
Hick: Then why didn't you talk to us?
Me: I wasn't sure you were speaking to us or that guy that just passed.
Hick: How are you enjoying yourselves?
Me: We are enjoying ourselves, thanks.
Hick: Have a nice day.
Me: Thanks. You, too.
It should be noted that neither of the hicks smiled the whole time and that last exchange felt like a cop warning with the subliminal message of "God speed thee through Texas before the Klan finds you." Shortly thereafter, Joe and Alex made the wise suggestion of parking somewhere else, even though our original intention was simply to drop stuff off in the car.
For more of my California adventures, see here and here.

3. Tobogganing on New Year's Day
2006 became the year that many of my friends became more like the career-oriented, sleep deprived adults that Toronto culture encourages you to become. However, before all that, a group of us went tobogganing at High Park. I miss engaging in silly group activities.

4. Art and real life
2006 brought a number of art shows that I treated as party opportunities for my friends, but in the end, art and parties don't pay. While doing a craft show, I discussed this with a former teacher, a man who lives frugally in the bush of Northern Ontario.
Me: "I don't want to do art for profit. I'm thinking of doing it on the side so that I'm not compromised by the bottom line. You know, like a Sunday painter."
Him: "Never call yourself that! Don't ever use that term! No person or gallery will ever take you seriously."
So, as of Fall 2006, I have been on "sabbatical" and I'll be returning to art work "on the side" in 2007.

5. Part Time Work
I have worked part-time for all of 2006: intially to support an art career, later on, because I could not find a full time job. While the idea of being viewed as a slacker grates me, part-time work has not been all bad. I have been able to meet up with friends during their lunch hour, visit my cousin who is currently on maternity leave, do chores on weekdays thus leaving my weekends free, run and read. It's not a bad existence if you can afford the financial constraints and the snippy comments from envious friends.

6. Running a Marathon
Plenty of time to run meant a perfect reason to tackle a marathon. The long training schedule was frustrating but on one of my longest runs (32km), I felt like a machine. Everyone should experience what it feels like to be able run for hours, if only so they know what to aim for when exercising rather than an unrealistic body image.

7. UFC
Ultimate Fighting Championship became a source of entertainment for me and Joe in 2006. The real violence and accompanying commentary from the couch by our friend, Heny, who hails from the bars of Hamilton (enough said), made for a guilty pleasure. We are looking forward to the hot man-on-man action of Liddell vs Ortiz on December 30! Let's get it on!

8. Older = Hotter
I saw Depeche Mode in concert in 2006 and Dave Gahan has never looked better with his shirt off at 44 years of age! It became a year of noticing hot older men on display: George Clooney (45), Daniel Craig (38), Brad Pitt (43). As usual, hot older women were not as prominent but after watching Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Ritchie in action in 2006, women like Salma Hayek (40), Sophia Loren (72), Halle Berry (40), Gong Li (41), and Judi Dench (72) became the definition of sexy. Yes, Judi Dench - see her in Casino Royale and tell me there isn't sizzling sexual chemistry between her and Daniel Craig.

9. Borat
I first heard about Borat in the spring, saw snippets of the movie at Comic Con in the middle of summer, then finally saw the movie in the fall. Sadly, I overhyped it for myself but some things never grow old; like the video of Borat singing Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" surrounded by winsome, young girls, before a sudden segway into Color Me Badd's "I Want to Sex You Up" while the girls around him strip down and dance in front of a screen that flashes words like 'Sexy Time' and 'Prophylactic'. Sadly, this magical video has been removed from YouTube, which became a corporate whore in 2006.

10. Baby time
My peers have started procreating and this prompted introspective thought as to whether I, too, want to breed. I have decided to put off the decision for one more year and make 2007 the year I live dangerously! Then, in 2008, I will find out if I am barren.

Onwards and upwards!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Work until you die


As of Tuesday, December 12, mandatory retirement in Ontario will be abolished.

Apparently, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons applauds this change, saying that it will "benefit older workers who want to continue working". 'Want' is the operative word. Besides the choice that this move has granted to potential retirees, I see few benefits.

I come from a generation that still wanders in career purgatory thanks to the huge number of baby boomers wedged in many higher paying jobs. In contrast, when my parents came out of post-secondary education, they were actively recruited by companies offering salaried positions with benefits and a pension. Nowadays, individuals who obtain the few permanent positions with health plans and a pension are considered lucky.

However, my parents' generation are not immune to this new reality. Many of my mother's former co-workers found themselves accepting early retirement packages out of fear of being laid off in the 90s. These workers then found themselves new positions on contract or even part-time. Now, they do roughly the same job but without benefits and in a state of insecurity. One of my mom's friends has worked as a temp on contract for five years.

The fact is that many workers will take advantage of the abolishment of mandatory retirement not because they are respected academics who want to continue doing stimulating work at their university lab. Rather, they must work in order to survive.

The setting is ripe for a future that sees me desperately trying to show my boss that I am still viable at 65 so that I can afford to buy coal for the stove at home and maybe some matches from that matchstick girl. And when they line up the politicians and the rich at the guillotine, I'll learn how to knit if only to show myself viable for the revolution.

That reminds me: One of the best contemporary renditions of Charles Dickens that I have ever read is Jack Maggs by Peter Carey. Gone is the Victorian sentimentality, replaced with a more realistic ruthlessness, but Carey retains the intrigue and plot twists. Give it to someone for Christmas and watch their face blanch.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top Ten Online Procrastination Tools in 2006

Now that it is December, the media will soon review 2006 and rate different aspects of this past year. I present to you the first of my series of 2006 Top Ten: Online Procrastination Tools.

Speaking of procrastination, I recently bought myself a home wax kit and made use of it when I really should have been preparing for a crucial job interview. I really enjoy getting rid of unwanted hair but this kit took it to a whole new level. In fact, I might have taken it too far. My already skimpy eyebrow now look like they are in a state of moulting. I can only hope that they didn't distract my interviewer too much and that they will grow back in time for a wedding that I'll be emceeing in early January.

Top Ten Online Procrastination Tools

1. Perez Hilton - this guy blogs like Dymaxion World except about stuff that I care about like Britney's hairless crotch and which celebrity is secretly gay. I couldn't have gotten through my first month of work with my crazy boss without Perez.
Casualty from 2005: E Online - now that I have the uncensored smut from Perez Hilton, I don't need the weekly, cleaned up gloss of the E website.

2. The Star - I don't even understand why people buy The Toronto Star anymore when they offer everything they print for free online. Not like those cheap assholes at The Globe and Mail and The National Post -not that I would read The National Post, even if it was free.

3. Red Flag Deals - Actually, this is Joe's #1 online procrastination tool. He will even forsake quality time spent with me to search for a good deal so this must be one hell of a website. It must be.
Casualty from 2005: Save.ca - Basically a marketing tool for a corporation (possibly Procter & Gamble), it offers the same narrow selection of coupons repeatedly. But if you consume Gay Lea whip cream all the time, you'll love it.

4. Wikipedia - I tutor a teenager who relies on Wikipedia as a reference source for her essays. I tell her it is not considered a reliable source but when she asks why, I can only shrug and say, "Why be truthful when you can be entertaining?" (Note: That's not actually what I say. I am more responsible than that. Please hire me.)

5. Internet Movie Database - I enjoy finding out how old actors are, what movies they have done, finding out who their co-stars were, finding out how old their co-stars are, etc. It's like playing 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' without the competition or the companionship.

6. Style.com - Most other fashion websites are stingy on content and only selectively display parts of a runway show. Style.com, the online home of Vogue and W, offers photographs of the complete collection for major designer collections. You'll be able to judge for yourself whether the potato sack dress is here to stay.

7. Xiao Pangzi, Who pissed in your cornflakes?, Of No Import, etc. - I tend to visit my blog and blogs linked to mine because it is easy. It should be noted that visitors to my blog usually come through Cornflakes because it has an easy to type URL.

8, 9, 10. My email - I check my email like a fiend. I acknowledge that I have an addiction in that I usually do not feel whole if I do not check my email at least once a day. Joe and I even used Alex's PSP to check our email while in California, as slow and laborious as the process was. Even more sad than an email addiction is this: while at an internet cafe in California, Joe searched Red Flag Deals of Canada. Sad.

That's more of a Top Eight list, which does not sound as catchy as Top Ten. Can you suggest any online procrastination tools?