Monday, December 29, 2008

Magical Midnight Cinema: The Silent Partner

Gizli Ortak = The Silent Partner (maybe)

I was dizzy from lack of sleep after waking up early for Boxing Day then fighting the crowds for five hours, but when The Silent Partner began with scenes of The Toronto Eaton Centre in 1978, I could not help watching. Initially, it was the time capsule aspect that fascinated me but the movie's plot soon drew me in.

Elliott Gould plays banker, Miles Cullen, a man so underestimated that his boss considers him a safe escort for his mistress, a co-worker of Miles and his secret crush. After accidentally coming across a bank robbery note, Miles deduces that the note is the product of a failed robbery attempt and belongs to the Mall Santa who has been loitering outside the bank. Miles correctly predicts another robbery attempt by the Mall Santa and takes advantage of the situation to transfer money into his own lunchbox, allowing the escaping robber to take the blame for the $50,000 stolen.

The Mall Santa, Harry (Christopher Plummer), is quick to realize that Miles has stolen the majority of the money when news reports fail to match up to his measly $1500 take. After witnessing Harry's brutal beating of a teenage prostitute, the audience knows what Miles soon learns: that Miles has made himself the target of a violent psychopath. What follows is a dangerous game of wits in which a seemingly mild-mannered banker is pitted against a murderous criminal with a vendetta.

Many aspects of The Silent Partner endeared the film to me. The fact that Toronto is featured so prominently when so many movies made in Canada at the time tried to pass off their generic settings as American; Miles works in the Bank of Toronto, doles out Canadian money, and makes reference to actual streets and neighbourhoods in Toronto.

More importantly, I appreciated that screenwriter, Curtis Hansen, who went on to direct L.A. Confidential, did not insult the viewer's intelligence with heist clichés or characters making groan-inducing decisions (writers of "Heroes" take note). Miles's decision to go on the offense rather than simply give up the money to Harry or the authorities is surprising and hence, exciting to watch.

It should also be noted that Christopher Plummer makes for a scary psychopath. Whereas he merely comes across as prickly in The Sound of Music, Plummer's depiction of murderous rage barely contained by an icy demeanor makes Miles's actions all the more thrilling since my own reaction would have been to run crying to the police and the relative safety of a prison cell. Even in drag, Plummer is frightening to behold.

It may be raising expectations too highly to ask readers of this blog to try and obtain a copy of an obscure film like The Silent Partner. However, if the movie ever shows up in the middle of the night, it is worth staying up for.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Getting paid and spending money

Christmas is finally over and it was not bad. Joe and I ate Chinese microwaveable dinners for brunch then we tripped around a skating rink riddled with plastic bags, bread and a winter coat peeking out from its surface. Afterwards, we saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, during which I pretty much cried non-stop when I was not stuffing my face with chips, sausage and chocolate soy milk. Finally, we ate our Christmas dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, lamenting the fact that Swiss Chalet does not actually offer their festive special on Christmas.

But enough with the holiday nostalgia - it is time for some Boxing Day madness! Spending money should be preceded by earning money, which ties this blog entry in with a tag from Dymaxion World regarding my history of paid employment.

Liberty Health - My first paid position and the one that established my anti-corporate work stance based mainly on extreme boredom. The prospect of working in that soulless environment for the next 25 years scared the socialism into me.

Kumon / Success Tutorial / Sylvan - It seems a cruel joke that I should become a tutor at the very tutorial schools that I once attended but this was indeed the case, thus providing a new spin on the adage 'Those who cannot do, teach'. I taught math up to the Grade 11 level before it became clear that some of the students were more qualified than I was.

The Varsity - Getting a masthead position at the student newspaper involved campaigning for votes. In my naivete, I promised more editorial coverage of Puff Daddy to a voting body who obviously preferred Spiritualized, for instance. Luckily, political infighting got me elected, but I continued to pull a Homer when I realized that it was a paid position with my first pay cheque.

Danier Leather / Crabtree & Evelyn - Holiday retail is amazing, no sarcasm intended. The highlight of my experience occurred on Christmas Eve when a male customer arrived in a panic because he needed a gift for his brother's new wife, who he was meeting for the first time. "Nothing says 'love' like a $100 gift basket," I suggested - advice that the customer took to the cash register.

Toronto Life / Eye Weekly - Technically, I was only paid an honorarium as a Toronto Life intern but Eye Weekly published my articles, which is priceless. As a tadpole in a pond of piranhas, it soon became clear that I was a fish out of water, and I gave up on metaphor and a career in journalism.

The Blue Book of Canadian Business - The worst boss that I have ever had to date was the owner of this publication. The man spent equal time on the golf course and in a court of law, which is to say that he was both irresponsible and vindictive. I complained previously about my experience, but to that, I would add that when I called in sick one day, he left a voice message in which he questioned the verity of my illness since I had not answered the phone. As well, he only agreed to pay me the listed annual salary of $23,000, as opposed to $22,000, due to a typo.

Living Arts Centre - In spite of the insane four hour daily commute and the stress-induced bout of bronchitis (blogged previously), I worked as a camp counsellor at LAC for two summers because I genuinely enjoyed the kids. However, after one child lost a tooth because I refused to enforce the camp's 'no running because we can't afford the insurance' policy, it became clear that I am not good for children.

High Level Wellness - The greatest stresses of the position were the customers, who either suffered from failing health or a high sense of entitlement, and my Ann Coulter-like co-worker. The big plus of the position was the close proximity to a gym, which brought about a permanent weight loss of 10 pounds, verified by the parcel scale that I sat on once a week. Still, I was pretty damn happy when I was finally laid off.

Ryerson University - After my last blog about this position, I enlisted my predecessor, who was only too happy to screw over her former boss, to be my referee and thus, successfully obtained my current position. Like a coward, I slipped my two week's notice into my boss's mailbox on a Friday, which I thought quite generous since, as a part-time contract worker, my boss could fire me without notice. To my surprise, my boss displayed a characteristic hybrid of diplomacy and rage when she emailed an offer of one week's pay to "maintain good relations" along with an order to turn in my keys to the department immediately. My replacement barely lasted a month.

University of Toronto - It should be noted that my decision to apply for my current position at U of T was inspired by an amicable summer stint, plus the promise of a free education for me and my family, and the 'Rolls Royce' of pensions. Nothing more to say, which is a good thing.

Some of my most rewarding and interesting jobs were voluntary: as a candy striper at St. Michael's, Women's College, and Scarborough General Hospitals, as an assistant to the world's expert on jungle fowl behaviour, and as an Ambassador for Kids Help Phone. What you are willing to do for free can reveal as much about you as what you are willing to do for money. On that last thought, I confess that I was willing to submit to psychological experiments for $12-20 per hour but I was not willing to submit fecal samples on demand.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Make it go away

I'm ready for the Christmas season to be over. Most of my relatives are out of town and, as a result, I expected greater enjoyment of the holiday but the pressure to do something worthwhile is stressing me out. Buying gifts, giving gifts, plotting out social activities - nothing has made this season satisfying or real. I guess that I will just have to grit my teeth and bear it. Next year's possible strategy: leave the country until Christmas passes.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Play List: Snowmageddon

As Torontonians hunker down in their igloos, determined not to call on the army lest the rest of Canada laugh at them again, I propose some music to keep everyone distracted.

"Hasn't Hit Me Yet" - Blue Rodeo
"Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)" - Grandaddy
"Almost" - Sarah Harmer
"Bobcaygeon" - The Tragically Hip
"Ice Ice Baby" - Vanilla Ice
"Informer" - Snow

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Retail therapy for the cold and flat

An artist's representation of Winnipeg's future IKEA store

Christmas has come early for Winnipeg residents who are beside themselves over news that Swedish home products retailer, IKEA will be coming to town. A dedicated website, an online petition and a Facebook group have brought about a promise from IKEA to bring their good design at low prices to the coldest capital city in the world by late 2011, at the earliest.

Winnipeg mayor, Sam Katz has revealed that emails he received about IKEA were second in volume (and possibly winsomeness) only to emails about the return of the NHL team, the Jets.

I understand the excitement to some extent. As a downtown resident, a visit to IKEA is a planned day trip involving a car rental from Autoshare; my mouth waters at the prospect of Swedish meatballs. And yet, I wonder if there nothing else to aspire towards if you live in Winnipeg.

In the interim three years before the arrival of IKEA, Winnipegers will have to find solace elsewhere. Might I suggest the following sources of retail therapy:

  • Mountain Equipment Co-Op - like IKEA, it promotes an environmentally responsible image except they sell products that will help residents survive the winter. In contrast, a Poang chair will do nothing to protect Winnipegers from the cold.
  • Exchange District - apparently, it's a very charming part of Winnipeg with historic buildings and cobblestones (good friction even in snow and ice). Boutiques are great sources for limited edition items because Winnipegers will soon learn that one downside of IKEA is seeing your dresser, chair, and dining set in your friend's house...and bed sheet, and sofa...
  • Up in Flames by Caribou (formerly Manitoba) - this is a retail purchase as opposed to a destination. The album is full of upbeat electronic music that will make any snowdrift look like a pile of fun. My personal favourite is "Crayon".

I have seen Guy Maddin's My Winnpeg, and living in the city did seem to require a lot of magic realism, or some dedicated plan of escape. It therefore seems fitting that Winnipeg should have a marriage of convenience with the most magical of Swedish retailers.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My latest obsession: Rihanna's "Rehab" video

I have always believed that Rihanna sounds like a robot and that a less attractive girl with the same voice would not have experienced her level of success. Justin Timberlake is admittedly a guilty pleasure whose music I tend to enjoy more in the absence of his face. And yet, combine Rihanna and Justin in a remote trailer park with a good base beat and you get hotness!

In Rihanna's "Rehab" video, Rihanna and Justin build resentful, sexual tension prowling around each other in the middle of a desert trailer park, art directed by some high fashion magazine. She struts around in every possible variation of the granny panty to show off her amazing thighs: a 1950s bikini, a graphical knit bodysuit, a power suit jacket with fishnets. He rides in on a motorcycle but only saunters over to Rihanna after hosing himself down under an open air shower. Her accessories, hair and makeup are better than they have any right to be considering that she is in the middle of nowhere. He barely contributes to the song yet makes like a good hip hop honey when skulking in the background. The song is all about heart break but it's a tease because the tone is definitely 'come hither'.

Watch the video and have the mistletoe ready.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Fed up with running in the dark, cold Toronto winter, I signed up for the Las Vegas Half-Marathon (December 7, 2008) in a bid to take advantage of my training for the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon (September 28, 2008). It turns out that I had overestimated my will to train over the two months that separate the events but the latter race was an excuse to go to Las Vegas so all was not lost.

Our trip to Las Vegas showed signs of being auspicious when we walked past George Stroumboulopoulos at Pearson Airport. The surreal sight of tiny George carrying his home on his back was matched only by the guy doing yoga in the waiting area of our departure gate. Yoga guy gave the exercise a bad name with his weak extensions and socks like swiss cheese. Eventually, he ceased embarrassing yogis everywhere by stopping to buy himself a hamburger.

After a plane ride during which passengers decided to start the party early by acting half their age, we arrived in Las Vegas to find ourselves surrounded by cowboys: the National Finals Rodeo was in town (December 4-13, 2008). One would think that participants in the upcoming marathon would be harder to identify than rodeo enthusiasts but it turns out that runners wear a uniform, too. Attendees of the Quality of Life Expo, where racers pick up their race packs, wore their running shoes, and even their technical t-shirts and shorts in order to, literally, run into the convention centre. It was as if runners were incapable of putting on any pedestrian outfit that would not allow them to exercise their cardio at a moment's notice.

Joe and I were not slaves to our running gear and we proceeded to punish our arches by walking in fashion shoes for eight hours a day during the first two days of our trip. As usual, we were driven by our slavish need to see everything, and on the second day, our need to exercise our rights as consumers at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. Among the amazing deals that we could not pass up:
Calvin Klein Merino Sweaters - originally $59.99, reduced to $26.99
Armani Exchange Shirt Dress - originally $120.00, reduced to $49.00
Theory Melinda Patent Leather Flat Shoes - originally $295.00, reduced to $59.00
Polo Ralph Lauren Cashmere Blend Peacoat - originally $425.00, reduced to $69.99

We arrived at Premium Outlets at 10am and expected to be finished by early afternoon. We left feeling a mix of delight and dismay at 5pm. As we watched the sun set from the outlet mall's taxi queue, Joe exclaimed, "I can't believe we spent the whole day here." The couple in front of us chimed in with their own disbelief and we soon discovered that we were flanked by Canadians, or more specifically, Albertans - two parties in front and one couple behind us. We ended up sharing a cab with the couple who were also in Las Vegas for the half-marathon, and not for the rodeo as one might assume of visitors from Canada's Lone Star province.

The Albertans were the ones to warn us to allot at least 30 minutes to arrive at the start line of the race, and not the 15 minutes that I had planned. It turned out to be good advice as the race corral was a mess. Runners were simply divided into two categories: elite and everyone else, which meant that marathon runners, half-marathon runners, walkers, wheel chair racers, and baby joggers all ran circles around each other in a bid for room. With a whopping 13,000 participants, there were bound to be people who were not familiar with running etiquette. Sure enough, some racers recreated their version of local attraction, the Hoover Dam by walking in the middle of the race course, companionably side by side, forcing runners to dash around them or wait patiently for a fissure in the wall to break through.

However, the frustration of dealing with race neophytes was easy to ignore in the first 10km with the spectacle of the start line fire works, Robin Leach, and the fully lit Vegas Strip to distract us. And by the time the race route wove through desolate downtown Las Vegas in the second half of the half-marathon course, slower racers had fallen away allowing runners an unobstructed view of the seedy motel apartments and their listless occupants.

During the race, the temperature was an ideal 5C with only a moderate breeze and an overcast sky. The only fly in the ointment was the dryness of the desert, which remained even in the absence of any heat. It amazed me to see the line up for the porto-potties along the route since it took a few hours after the end of the race before I even heard nature's call.
Before the run, Joe and I had already begun indulging ourselves with two McDonald's meals in a row and this continued with a crusade to In-N-Out Burger the day after the race. Although the In-N-Out Burger was located well within walking distance, it was a challenge to cross a passive aggressive freeway overpass that forced pedestrians down serpentine walkways under bridges or mislead them onto disappearing sidewalks, in order to reach the fast food outlet. In the end, it was worth it because In-N-Out Burger is simply amazing.

With the exception of shopping and fast food, Joe and I failed to take advantage of other Las Vegas past times like drinking alcohol in public places (in my case, not at all) or gambling (we lost $20). One Las Vegas staple that we managed to score cheap tickets for was Cirque de Soleil's KÀ. We had high hopes for the show but were ultimately disappointed by the overly convoluted production and the uncharitable show producers.

Robert LePage, the show's creator, is reknowned for his technically clever theatre productions but his stage mechanics overshadow the human performers of KÀ. In fact, the only moments during which KÀ succeeded in mesmerizing us were when the skill of the performers was the sole feature on stage: a pas de deux of hand shadow puppets, a solo performance using a pair of batons, and the circus classic, the Wheel of Death. Technical difficulties caused a whole act to loop for what seemed like an eternity before grinding to a halt when it became clear to the performers that they could not stall any longer. The audience were encouraged to go out for intermission while the crew attempted to fix the convoluted equipment and when the show reconvened, a new scene began without explanation. The audience had clapped in support of the performers before the intermission, but, by the end of the show, the applause was less enthusiastic. There was no offer by the management of a partial refund or a rain check for another showing.
On our last day, we were lucky enough to catch the re-launch of the Mirage Volcano. We arrived early enough to position ourselves behind a short couple and therefore, had a nearly unobstructed view of the new volcano, featuring more explosive 'lava', a frantic drum soundtrack, and unexplainable dancing flames shooting out from the water. When the volcano's encore performance came shortly afterwards, Joe and I were lucky enough to be standing on the road median and therefore had a long view of the fireworks (photo seen above).

Leaving Las Vegas meant traveling with a crowd similar to the yahoos that we traveled to Las Vegas with and, of course, another celebrity sighting. Mike "Pinball" Clemons arrived in Las Vegas just as we were departing, and was chased down by the most stereotypical team of Canadian football players: the non-stop talker, the strip club patron, the guy who just got engaged with his longtime girlfriend, who tagged along for the trip but was kept at arm's length by the other guys because she did not look like Tila Tequila. As luck would have it, Joe and I were seated directly in front of the motor mouth and some of his friends. We feared a red eye descent into hell when one stewardess engaged in the most psychotic safety demonstration I have ever seen, to the hoots and hollers of the football players. Fortunately for Joe and me, the immaturity of the football team encompassed a childlike predisposition to pass out once the lights are turned down. We returned to Toronto, grateful that the cold weather culls the local population of roaming, drunken frat boys and overly ripe women teetering on stiletto heels.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anyone out there?

I feel nothing. I'm a bag shaped like a robot.
Then I guess no one is going to mind if I take a break for the next week and a half. In the meantime, read this great article about craft.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Night Play List: Music to LARP to

Oh no! "So You Think You Can Dance? Canada" competitor, and recreational LARPer, Izaak Smith was kicked off. Of the two remaining male dancers, Nico Archambault looks more likely to win, unless Canadian viewers lose their mind and choose Miles Faber.

Hip hop has not been particularly strong on the Canadian show and Miles is the weakest popper finalist that I have seen on either the Canadian or American shows. Every time he does his solos, I am transported to talent night in high school. It is lucky for Miles that he actually improves in dance styles other than his supposed specialty.

In ode to the departed LARPer, I present a LARP soundtrack:

"California Love" - Tupac and Dr. Dre
"Da Rockwilder" - Method Man and Redman
"Rhythm Nation" - Janet Jackson
"Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" - Primus
"Champion" - Kanye West
"Wanted Dead or Alive" - Bon Jovi

Thursday, November 27, 2008

One of a Kind Show: 10 days left to go broke

As per tradition, I attended the first day of the One of a Kind Show (OOAK) and this year, I was not disappointed. The organizers featured a wider range of items than last year, an observation that was echoed by other attendees, and only fatigue and an empty wallet stayed my hand.

The OOAK has a reputation for selling pricier items - understandable since the majority of the featured products are not mass produced overseas. Yet, Kyla Francis manages to sell her hand printed glasses and mugs for less than $15 each. The dishwasher safe enamel images of sneakers (see above), cassette tapes and Wii controllers will appeal to the lazy, the immature and the nostalgic.

Amber Mills's ceramic wares are more traditionally styled but stood out from the crowd, none the less. The rich colours and Arabian influenced design first grabbed my attention on the OOAK website then, once I saw them in person, they preyed on my mind throughout my initial walk-thru of the show until I rushed back to Mills's booth. After thinking hard, I picked a variation on the mug seen above. Mills's designs are still on my mind, and if I return to the OOAK before December 7, I may find myself purchasing one of her vases.

Finally, I made my bi-annual trek to the Eve Gravel booth to buy something. This season, I bought the Mushi Mushi dress (seen below). Already, I can imagine wearing the dress at a holiday get-together, during a night out at the pub, lying on a bear skin rug in the middle of a many possibilities. This dress will pay for itself.
One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale 2008
Thursday, November 27–Sunday, December 7, 2008
Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto
Weekdays 11am-10pm, Saturdays 10am-9pm, Sundays 10am-6pm

Monday, November 24, 2008

Art = Money for some

Not Afraid of Love (2000) - Maurizio Cattelan
"Someone once told me that (art) was a very profitable profession, that you could travel a lot and meet a lot of girls. But this is all false; there is no money, no travel, no girls. Only work. I don't really mind it, however. In fact, I can't imagine any other option. There is, at least, a certain amount of respect. This is one profession in which I can be a little bit stupid, and people will say, 'Oh, you are so stupid; thank you, thank you for being so stupid.'"
- Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan was my patron saint during my brief foray into art for his ability to float where reality would usually sink in. This is a man who tried to organize a Caribbean Biennale simply for the sake of providing a vacation for invited artists. Cattelan also tried to raise funds for an art grant whose only requirement was that the recipient cease to exhibit his or her work for the duration of the grant. It was aimed at the group of successful artists who tended to monopolize the international exhibition circuit. When no one claimed the grant, it ended up funding Cattelan's move to New York, but not before Catellan installed a plaque with the donors' names on the wall of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, without permission. The plaque hung unnoticed by the Academy's administration for a whole year.

I was reminded of Cattelan during the recent splurge on art. It seems that a lot of money gets thrown around where fine art is concerned but only if the artist is dead or one of the usual contemporary art suspects like Damien Hirst. Rather than a philanthropic appreciation for art, it is probably a desperate banking of funds in a dependable source that will appreciate over time. Needless to say, I am against the commercialization of art because it usually benefits the wrong individuals.

During an economic downturn, frivolous spending is usually the first to get cut and if even Damien Hirst is suffering the effects of an ailing economy, then one can only imagine what will happen to lesser known artists.

If the idea of funding Catellan's anti-establishment shenanigans does not appeal to you, I would encourage you to visit the One of a Kind Show (in Toronto, November 27 - December 7, 2008). Pleasing yet practical items are guilt-free purchases especially when you know that the money goes directly to the maker and not to an auction house or an art speculator. During difficult times, it is said that people turn to sources of comfort. Comfort yourself and a local artist by buying some of their work because only the wealthy get rich off of art.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Friday night play list: Mack Daddy

It's only Thursday but what the hell! It's never too early to get ready for Friday night. Plus, no current affair is getting my goat at this time.

I present my play list for getting in the mood for love; that's over 15 minutes of foreplay accompaniment, which should be more than enough, especially if you have a bottle of champagne nearby. You're welcome.

"Astounded" - Bran Van 3000 featuring Curtis Mayfield
"Sensual Seduction" - Snoop Dogg
"Sex on Fire" - Kings of Leon
"I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" - White Stripes
"Make It Wit Chu" - Queens of the Stone Age
"All I Want is You" - U2

Monday, November 17, 2008

There will always be TV

My career is safe for now (sob).
A friend recently revealed his plans for a drastic career change because his job is sucking his will to live, and I instantly became enamoured with the idea of doing something crazy with my future, too. My last foray into career insanity lasted five years and could be equated to working in a foreign country even though I never left Toronto; it was fun and unusual but ultimately contributed very little to my hirability.

This latest yearning for professional suicide stems from an information blitz in the media promoting paramedics as a viable career choice for people in mid-career. Like Homer's Clown College, this idea has festered in my mind for months until I became convinced that becoming a paramedic was perfect for me. Poor Joe was supportive as usual, but fortunately for both of us, my more ruthless friend, Jessica convinced me to give up my paramedic dreams by the time Joe came back from a curling game. It turns out that the solution is to find myself an absorbing hobby since no sane person gives up a job with a healthy environment, good pay, and little stress simply for the sake of boredom.
However, I can continue to live my paramedic dreams through Davis Bloom (played by Sam Witwer), the paramedic who will soon become Doomsday on "Smallville". If Witwer's resemblance to Starkiller from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is uncanny, that is because the Sith apprentice was modelled after him and appropriated his voice. Add to this the fact that Witwer has appeared in "Battlestar Galactica" and was inspired to act by an encounter with Wil Wheaton and you have a good contender for biggest fanboy actor on TV.

Geeks are also being represented on TV by "So You Think You Can Dance Canada" competitor, Izaak Smith. The hip hop and ballet dancer is a LARPer who was first introduced to the viewing audience in full medieval armour, waving a padded sword. Izaak has repeatedly been on the verge of elimination and yet, he has outlasted his technically superior dance partner and is currently in the Top 8. Joe and I will continue to cheer for the LARPer in the hope that he will eventually break out the medieval armour for one of his solo routines.

In the absence of an unholy LARP dance union, the best part of "So You Think You Can Dance Canada" by far is judge, Jean-Marc Genereux. His pervy mannerisms and original outbursts, like labelling select competitors "V.I.D. - Very Insane Dancers" make the show.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday night play list

Do kids exchange 'mix tapes' with their boyfriends or girlfriends nowadays? I still have the mix tapes that my ex-boyfriend gave me in high school and I remember sitting alone in the dark on a Friday night, listening to music, and getting angst-ridden.

Sadly, music is no longer the soundtrack of my life. This growing detachment from music seems to be symptomatic of getting older, unless you are a music enthusiast who actively searches for the latest bands. I do try to keep up with new music, if only so I don't become one of those people who complains that "music ain't what it used to be." More importantly, I want to be able to get nostalgic about this time of my life when I listen to songs from 2008, 15 years later.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer up my Friday night mix tape; an ode to my lonely teenage self. You'll notice that the songs all come from a certain time frame though I would ask you to refrain from doing the math out of kindness.

"Fade Into You" - Mazzy Star
"All I Want" - Toad the Wet Sprocket
"Fell On Black Days" - Soundgarden
"Hurt" - Nine Inch Nails
"Last Goodbye" - Jeff Buckley
"Soma" - Smashing Pumpkins

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Insert Hollywood here

It has been reported that Hollywood is set to remake the 2003 Korean hit film, Old Boy. More specifically, Will Smith and Steven Spielberg are in talks to star and direct, respectively.

Many fans of the original film are reacting with horror, but I think only good things can come of this collaboration. Will Smith single-handedly carried the only parts of I Am Legend that were worth watching and his repeat preference for sci-fi and fantasy projects betrays a fanboy core. Now, with a remake of Old Boy, Smith will permanently commit to celluloid his association with violent self-mutilation and incest.

As for Spielberg, if the director chooses to have Smith eat a live octopus and saw off his own tongue, he will fulfil the promise that the heart transplant scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom only hinted at.

There is a chance that Smith and Spielberg will turn this movie into a straightforward revenge action film. If that does happen, it will be the perfect catalyst for Old Boy fans to attack both actor and director with hammers then make out with their siblings in the aisles of their local multiplex. Smith and Spielberg will, undoubtedly, appreciate the cinematic references.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Despite appearances, I care

Let me just state for the record that I support the Royal Canadian Legion's poppy campaign. I want to show ex-service people that I am grateful that they were "in the shit" so that I do not have to be. I also want to assist them financially in their old age.

The problem is: I cannot find a poppy vendor. Maybe all those WWI and WWII vets are no longer hardy enough to stand around for long periods of time in the cold, trying to get passerbys to contribute a few coins. Or maybe retailers are not cooperating or even supportive of the campaign. Whatever the reason, I now look like an apathetic jerk and I have contributed nothing.

My inability to purchase a poppy pin is a roadblock to the more consistent problem that I have encountered with the poppy pins over the years. In the past, when poppy pins were more plentiful in supply, I found myself buying 3-4 pins before November 11 had even arrived. The pins are designed to be lost; with its sleek, straight pin, the poppy attaches itself to your jacket until your bag strap hits it or you move your arms horizontally or a strong gust of wind hits you in the chest. I understand that this is a production cost issue and, frankly, easily lost poppy pins do increase donations, but seeing poppy pins litter the city streets seems wasteful.

Solutions that have been suggested to me in the past include securing the poppy with my own safety pin, or picking one up off the ground or reusing one purchased the previous year. However, none of these solutions address the financial contribution that is part of the motivation behind the poppy campaign.

The Royal Canadian Legion should team up with the Royal Canadian Mint, which already produces a Remembrance Day commemorative coin, to produce a more durable metal poppy pin. These metal pins can be sold for $5 or more thus guaranteeing that they cover the donations that would have been made over a 2-3 year span with the more flimsy poppy pins. A different design can be released each year so that the pins become something that can be purchased annually by collectors.

I'll continue searching around for poppy pin vendors but with less than 24 hours to go before November 11, the Royal Canadian Legion may have to settle for my good intentions.

Speaking of the Royal Canadian Mint reminds me of a few additional gripes. The Mint used to produce some elegant coins; for instance, the series celebrating Canada's 1967 Centennial. Nowadays, we get gaudily painted metal like the Remembrance Day coin, the Pink Ribbon Campaign coin, or convoluted messes like that 25 cent coin design with a child's drawing on it.

Their advertising campaign for the Remembrance Day coins is no smarter than the product. The ad is meant to remind viewers of the horrors of the battlefield but, instead, it comes across as a trailer for a first person shooter like Call of Duty. See for yourself below and just try to stop yourself from instant messaging "PWNED".

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Welcome back to Earth

There are undoubtedly far more passionate and eloquent writers about the significance of Barack Obama's win last night than me. Rather than try to wax poetic about this momentous event, I wonder, in point form:
  • Where will all those Republicans who did not want to live in Obama's socialist nightmare go? Surrounded by socialists and communists to the north and brown people eager to steal jobs to the south, where do they turn?
  • Will Americans be treated better when they travel abroad? With the popularity of Obama in Europe, Africa and Japan, will Americans be patted on the back for a good job instead of the usual demand for an apology?
  • Will this reconnection with the rest of the world be followed by a more cosmopolitan mindset in Washington?

Roughly four years ago, I referred to Obama as America's best chance for a Black president in the next 20 years. In recent months, my pessimism gave way to careless optimism as I took for granted that Obama would defeat McCain after he won the Democratic nomination since I considered Hillary Clinton a more challenging opponent. It does make me a little emotional to think of all the stars that had to align for this result to come about.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

World Wide Web of Men

The few unfortunate websurfers who stumble upon my blog may find themselves wondering if I am a man or woman in order to determine if their sexual attraction is warranted. Well, wonder no more! The GenderAnalyzer claims to be able to determine if a blog is written by a man or a woman. And the answer is: I'm all man. And all the blogs listed under my 'Links' sidebar are also written by men. Hooray for sausages.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Out of sight, out of touch

With mere days before the U.S. election, I finally decided to see Michael Moore's latest film, Slacker Uprising, which has been available as a free download since September in a purported bid to get Americans to vote on November 4, 2008.

Watching Slacker Uprising was a cringe worthy experience. For 90 relentless minutes, Moore presents himself as the saviour of the Democratic party in the run up to the 2004 election. While swatting annoyingly stereotypical right wing protesters, Moore and his self-congratulatory celebrity friends demonize George W. Bush without actually endorsing John Kerry. In the end, the 2004 American election proved that Democratic voters will not vote for a weak candidate simply because Michael Moore tells them that he is the lesser of two evils.

Moore's attempt to remain relevant made me wonder what was up with Ralph Nader in 2008. The independent candidate was once blamed for splitting the Democratic vote and causing Al Gore to lose the presidency. Now, his press conferences barely register in the media.

There has been much discussion in the mainstream media about how Barack Obama represents hope for African Americans but not so much about how he has transformed the attitude of the Democratic Party. It must be a refreshing feeling for American Democrats to support a mainstream candidate wholeheartedly and not just out of fear of the alternative.

Even if Obama loses his bid for the presidency on November 4, a changing of the guard has taken place within the Democratic party.

By the way, has John McCain given up already? His appearance on Saturday Night Live came across as the good natured joking of a man who has admitted defeat. He had no objection to the jabs made at his running mate's premature presidential ambitions, and his self-conscious reference to the "Sad Grandpa" strategy did not preclude his actual use of it during his appearance. This was about as unfortunate as Hillary Clinton's loss to Obama in the Democratic nomination; a sense of opportunity wasted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Look at what I read!

In my previous blog entry, I listed some of my easy reading favourites. These were books that took absolutely no effort but were completely engrossing and satisfying. Next, I will list books that were more challenging but still left an impression. Again, feel free to leave suggested read lists.

I am currently half way through Terry Pratchett's Nation. I got bogged down when characters started speaking with spirits instead of each other. For the sake of my newly revived reading exercise, I hope this changes.

The White Hotel - D.M. Thomas
I had recently finished Sigmund Freud's Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria before I picked this up so I was in no mood for more psychoanalysis. Yet, piecing together the incongruous bits of information about the main character's past kept me going until I reached the chapter that made the Holocaust real to me in a way that no movie nor novel ever has. The apt term for the book's depiction of the Holocaust is chilling, not depressing.

Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
This book was challenging only because it is as thick as a dictionary. I pride myself on being a speedy reader and yet, Our Mutual Friend took me seven days - after I had forsaken attending my classes in favour of holing myself up in my room. It was easy to get lost in Victorian London and the characters that occupy every facet of society. This was Dickens's last completed work and it seems that in his old age, Charles enjoyed aiming comedic barbs at the more pompous members of Victorian society. Admittedly, the ending is contrived but the overall experience was still enjoyable. Do not see the 1998 BBC production, which is overly dramatic and turns the male lead into a morose stalker.

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
Before McEwan's Atonement was published and turned into a big budget movie starring Keira Knightley, McEwan was known for nasty novels about sophisticated people drawn into violent situations. Amsterdam won McEwan the Booker Prize but it has none of the grandness and ambition of Atonement. Rather, its spare and ruthless treatment of its characters made it engrossing even as it filled me with dread. Atonement has a great ending that betrays the reader's previous peceptions but Amsterdam fulfills the pact that it makes with its readers from the very beginning.

Next up: books that I could not finish. It could be my longest reading list yet!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Look at me! I'm reading!

It has been a while since I have been caught up in a book. I read periodicals off the internet everyday and enjoyed some graphic novels quite recently, but my attention span has not allowed for the more leisurely pace that a good book requires.

Nicholas Carr was on "The Colbert Report" back in September to promote his book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. He posits that the internet is taking away our ability to concentrate. Carr perfectly encapsulated the frustration that I have felt in trying to control myself as I jump from web page to web page, and days turn into months. Sometimes, I am forced to think hard in order to remember what year it is.

I have been trying to read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies for the last several months but its textbook-like quality has only enabled my web surfing addiction. Then Joe got a book for his birthday: Terry Pratchett's Nation. I had a bad introduction to Pratchett's work through his Discworld books, which Joe is a fan of but I found too British in its humour (read: punny). Yet, I started Nation last night and I am almost half way through. Clearly, some easy reading is the solution to my book drought.

Eventually, I hope to finish Diamond's tome, which does get more interesting once war and disease become major players in human history. In the meantime, I am going to recommend some of my favourite fulfilling no-brainers, in the hope of receiving other people's easy reading lists. So, please recommend away.

Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
I recommend this book a lot but no one takes me seriously. I have never laughed so hard while reading as I did when I read about Sedaris's family and his ludicrous leaps of logic. His other books are great but not as close to comic perfection as his 2001 publication; a close contender is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

First three books of A Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin
There's talk of plans to bring this series to the screen but I do not see how the film medium can do Martin's expansive story and massive cast of fully developed characters justice. Martin has been suffering from writer's block and the fourth book, A Feast For Crows, was a disappointment due to the absence of a good editor. However, an uncertain future for the series should not deter readers from enjoying the first three books, which meld a fantasy story with the ruthlessness of a war epic. Less emotionally straining and almost as absorbing is the complete Belgariad series by David Eddings.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
It never ceases to amaze me how easy a read this novel is, even with a span of 200 years since its publication. Austen's story has been adapted repeatedly, directly and indirectly, but nothing beats the subtle wit of the original. I highlight this Austen novel over her others because of its mix of social satire with unsentimental romance. Another early feminist romance that goes down easy is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. And heterosexual men should not fear castration from reading either of these books - they are just good reading.

Next up: my list of more challenging yet equally rewarding reading favourites.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Smut debate: real or fake?

The only show that I have been scheduling my life around this season is True Blood, an HBO show that was a pleasant surprise from my initial impressions. However, only now have I been compelled to blog about a particular episode.

Amy (played by Lizzy Caplan, last seen in Cloverfield) was introduced this past Sunday as a new bed mate for town slut, Jason Stackhouse. It was no surprise that Amy gets topless like everyone else in this series. Apparently, the blogs are a tizzy over Lizzy's nude scene since bloggers are geeks, and perverts to boot.

However, on sight, my eyes told me that Lizzy Caplan has implants. I will not post photos nor links since HBO will probably rip down anything it finds and blog readers tend to be adept at web searches.

Admittedly, Lizzy's breasts seem too reasonably sized for implants. Yet, support for my implant intuition include:
  • breasts that are too round and solid - there is no natural curvature or sway
  • nipples located right in the middle instead of at the end of a taper
  • a very skinny body outside of the chest (even Lindsey Lohan lost her chest when she became briefly anorexic)

If it turns out that Lizzy is indeed blessed by mother nature, I don't know whether to envy or pity her.

Copy and paste "Lizzy Caplan" "True Blood" into your search engine now and give me your scientific analysis. Be sure to wear goggles and a lab coat in case your significant other catches you.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Cowbell!

Another birthday for Joe, another opportunity to have a very expensive dinner. As usual, I read online reviews and decided to take Joe to Cowbell (1564 Queen Street West, Toronto), a restaurant that specializes in meat (animals are slaughtered and cured on the premises) and locally sourced ingredients.

On arrival, we found the restaurant to be small and intimate. The ever-changing menu was featured on chalk boards hanging from the wall; the dishes available to diners did not just change from day to day but also from hour to hour. Joe ordered the Grass fed Angus Beef with diced sausage, arugula and butternut squash ($30) and was informed by the server that he would be getting sirloin since that was the part of the cow that the chef had currently reached. I ordered the Red Deer with sausage, pickled beets and sauerkraut ($36, seen on the left) in the nick of time as it was the last portion of the chops available that night.

Before the arrival of our main dishes, Joe and I each enjoyed the Potato and Leek Soup with Goat Ricotta ($9) and shared the Cowbell Chaucuterie ($16), a selection of meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables of the day.

The soup was deliciously smooth as was the goat ricotta, which complimented it perfectly. The pâtés proved to be the most exciting part of the Chaucuterie as the sausages tended to share a similar smoky flavour.

Joe seemed very happy with his sirloin steak (seen on the right) and I was impressed with the freshness of his squash. However, I was absolutely in love with my red deer; truly cooked medium rare and flavourful in spite of the leanness of the meat. Everything else on my plate, including the sausage, paled in comparison.

For dessert, I chose the Chocolate Tart ($9, seen on the left) while Joe selected the Poire Etienne with vanilla ice cream ($9), named after its maker. My Chocolate Tart was dense but not overly sweet nor rich. The berry sauce that accompanied it had me scraping my plate for its surprisingly complex flavour. Joe enjoyed his dessert pear though we disagreed on the correct method to eat the accompanying chocolate roll; I was in favour of using one's hands while Joe used both his fork and spoon to carry and push the roll, respectively, into his mouth. Sometimes, I wonder if I can take him anywhere.

The waitstaff were pleasant but one of them never smiled though he was polite enough. It seemed ludicrous for him to be so intensely serious when he wore a red, long sleeved cotton shirt that featured the word 'Cowbell' on the chest. In my mind, a crisp shirt would probably have contributed to a more appropriate uniform.

Joe and I will be on the lookout for the restaurant's Farmers Nights in 2009. The chance to eat locally grown produce is appealing to both the conscience and the appetite.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whine restraint update

My abstinence from whining in the past week did not go well. Turns out that it is easier to stop the flow of material into your mouth (i.e. meat) than it is to curb the crap that can come out.

On another note, Joe has pointed out that I usually resort to bitching more than whining. In my mind, I had lumped whining, bitching and complaining under one faux pas. Even after this clarification, Joe did not slap me though I am sure he was sorely tempted at times.

I will continue to be as stoic as possible. Next on my list of bettering myself:
  • stop swearing in front of children
  • dampen my hair-trigger temper
  • reduce the elevation of my back fat
  • get off the internet long enough to read a book

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good news for Canada

In keeping with my 'no whine' policy this week, I will refrain from a tirade against Stephen Harper for wasting taxpayer money in his bid for a majority government that ultimately came to nothing. Instead, I will point out that Canadians are showing common sense not only at the ballot box but also at the box office.

While Beverly Hills Chihuahua came out on top at the American box office this past weekend, Canadians chose Body of Lies, a Ridley Scott film. The family flick about dogs that look like rodents came in fourth in Canada whereas the espionage thriller came in third in the U.S.

Now, Barack Obama seems like the obvious choice over John McCain for President but, then again, I am a Canadian who would have chosen Body of Lies over Beverley Hills Chihuahua.

Friday, October 10, 2008

No whine, please

I've decided on a new personal resolution that will probably be harder than my brief foray into full-time vegetarianism: I'm going to try to give up whining.

noun –verb (used without object)
1. to utter a low, usually nasal, complaining cry or sound, as from uneasiness, discontent, peevishness, etc.: The puppies were whining from hunger.
2. to snivel or complain in a peevish, self-pitying way: He is always whining about his problems. –verb (used with object)
3. to utter with or as if with a whine: I whined my litany of complaints. –noun
4. a whining utterance, sound, or tone.
5. a feeble, peevish complaint.

This is going to be hard because I live in a city of whiners; people who bitch about the weather, their jobs, or just about anything that tickles their fancy. Wait! Is that statement a whine?

For the next week, I will aim for 'stoic' rather than 'bottle of sunshine'. I am also giving the people around me permission to slap me if they hear a nasally sound escape from my mouth. And I will probably thank them for the effort, though not if it is excessively hard. Hopefully, friends on whine patrol will also refrain from whining around me because peer pressure and enabling make recovery much harder.

Until next Friday, no whine with my cheese.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My latest obsession: Kings of Leon

I haven't heard such a great song of longing since U2's "All I Want Is You". Sacrilege, you say! Listen to "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon and comment at will.

PS: Kings of Leon were the opening band for U2 during their 2005 US tour. So, maybe this isn't so far fetched at all.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nuit Blanche 2008 recap

I had high hopes for Nuit Blanche 2008 when I read that organizers were going to tackle two of my biggest complaints: over-crowded venues and under-servicing by the TTC. The TTC service was slightly better though I ended up outpacing one Queen St. streetcar after being prevented from boarding due to its full load. However, the lessons learned from the two previous years made for an event that held its visitors out of arm's reach though, at times, for good reason.

The biggest disappointment about the 2008 edition of Nuit Blanche was the lack of interaction with the public. In their bid to accommodate as many visitors as possible, many art pieces were featured in large scale venues and barred viewers from participation. I Promise It Will Always Be This Way by Jon Sasaki featured costumed team mascots performing to crowd pumping music in Lamport Stadium. The audience was not allowed on the field but relegated to cheering from the stands. In spite of the fact that the mascots frequently ran by, giving high fives to audience members and tossing balls into the crowd, the overall effect was strained because of the barrier.
In contrast, the piece that Lamport Stadium housed last year, Locust by Noboru Tsubaki featured a giant inflated locust who sat silently as visitors jumped and crawled all over it when the lone security guard was not within shouting distance. The ability to interact with the giant locust caused an awe and giddiness in the visitors that all the loud music and fist pumping of Saski's work could not muster. Unfortunately, Tsubaki's locust did suffer from the love bumps of visitors and had become severely deflated by 2am, according to one first hand account. Hence, the barrier is understandable though regrettable.
The distance between art and audience was maintained throughout the 2008 exhibits. Overflow by Michel de Broin featured a waterfall flowing from a third floor building window onto the ground below. Even though a public park surrounded the building, a chain link fence relegated visitors to peering like unwanted protesters from the sidewalk. Security is an understandable concern, but it is doubtful that the artist intended for the fence to become such a distraction from his work.

Even in the absence of an actual barrier, I often found myself standing at a respectable distance from the work, within a crowd. I felt like I was at a busker's festival as I watched Toronto City Hall light up like a pixel board (Stereoscope by Project Blinkenlights), a giant, inflated cone spin (Into The Blue by Fujiwara Takahiro, seen on the left), people smashed stuff (SMASH! Droppin' Stuff by The Custodians of Destruction), and beat drums (Sound Forest by Tova Kardonne and Christine Duncan). Sound Forest was especially disappointing as I had expected a more free flowing experience with the promise of "trees full of voices" and encouragements to "wander through, listen to the ten ambulatory choirs". Instead, a ring of spectators boxed in the performers and prevented newcomers from seeing anything.

One could claim that this is the price Nuit Blanche pays for its growing popularity. To accommodate the crowds, a distance must be maintained. Yet, art pieces from previous years welcomed visitors en masse while removing physical and mental barriers. 2006's Fog in Toronto #71624 by Fujiko Nakaya covered Philosopher's Walk in an artificial mist. Large crowds wandered throughout the surreal environment without major issue. Similarly, large crowds of visitors explored Lower Bay TTC Station for 2007's The Ghost Station by Kristen Roos, and were engulfed in the sound installation.
The only 2008 piece that integrated its audience into the art was Horroridor by Kelly Mark. In the York Street Concourse under Union Station, visitors walked between 20 foot screens featuring non-stop clips from horror movies accompanied by a barrage of screaming on all sides. Mark's piece was not met with the laughter that one might expect from a late night crowd in an uncomfortable situation.

The tomfoolery of rowdy idiots coming from the bars and clubs to Nuit Blanche after 2am has been under reported in the media. Apparently, a leg was broken during 2006's Ballroom Dancing by Darren O'Donnell after drunken participants joined in on the large scale game of dodge ball. O'Donnell slyly made reference to the need for security with his 2007 entry, Dancing with Teacher, where a security guard presided over the velvet rope that separated actual teachers from prospective dance partners in the audience.

In the bid to make Nuit Blanche accessible to a wider audience, the organizers have sacrificed intimacy in favour of security, and catered to the lowest common denominator. Much of the work featured in 2008 lacked the depth of previous work, focusing instead on superficial entertainment. Throughout the night, loud and obnoxious parties infringed on the enjoyment of works that lacked any audio component to drown out their comments.

Perhaps it is too much to ask for more work like last year's ThunderEgg Alley: A Dumpster Diver's Paradise by Swintak. Swintak's conversion of an industrial dumpster into a luxury hotel room was intimate, thoughtful yet amusing, and we were lucky to arrive when it was highly accessible. However, the corporate sponsor probably was not thrilled by the obscure location that Swintak's work resided in since it does not allow for maximum exposure of the brand to the public.

Only 2009 will tell if Nuit Blanche organizers choose to continue catering to a wider, fickle audience who want easy access to cheap thrills or if the event will be returned to the city's art enthusiasts. On the plus side, the large volume of participants in Nuit Blanche proves that Stephen Harper's claim that art events do not resonate with "ordinary people" is moot.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nuit Blanche this Saturday!

I failed to recount my experience of Nuit Blanche 2007 in this blog because I was busy Facebooking at the time (photos of 2007 with captions way below). The short story is that I loved it and stayed out as late as I could (midnight) before retiring because I was slated to run the Waterfront Half-Marathon the next morning. My race performance suffered due to a forced pit stop brought about by the free egg salad sandwiches I had eaten the night before. And yet, it was worth it!

This year, with the Waterfront Half-Marathon behind me, I can enjoy Nuit Blanche on October 4 until Joe forces me to go home (probably, midnight).

Some highlights of the 2008 program (artist statements taken from the website) that I intend to see are:

Waterfall, 2008
Katharine Harvey - Toronto, Canada
Installation at Ontario Power Generation Building, 700 University Avenue
Katharine Harvey will suspend a "quilt" of recyclable plastic from the north side of the Ontario Power Generation Building, suggesting a suspended waterfall. The quilt will be made from recyclable plastic bottles and shaped into sheets of “falling water” by containing them in monofilament nylon netting and sewing the netting together into a quilt. Spotlights will light the installation from below so that from a distance, the audience will anticipate water but will instead find plastic trash, which has been magically transformed by theatrical coloured lighting to create the impression of falling water.

Stereoscope, 2008
Project Blinkenlights, Tim Pritlove, Thomas Fiedler - Berlin, Germany
Performance Art, Multimedia Installation at Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West
Stereoscope is an interactive light installation at Toronto City Hall. This installation by the German group Project Blinkenlights transforms the landmark towers into a huge display screen by arranging lamps behind each of the 960 windows of the building. From dusk till dawn, the façade will serve as an ever-changing and evolving kaleidoscope of graphic animations automatically generated and interactively orchestrated. The public can influence "Stereoscope" through a variety of interfaces including smartphones, the web and physical controllers located at Nathan Phillips Square. Everybody is invited to participate and get more information at

Domaine de l'angle #2, 2008
BGL, Sébastien Giguère, Nicolas Laverdière, Jasmin Bilodeau - Quebec City, Canada
Installation at Masey Hall, 178 Victoria Street (Alley beside Massey Hall off of Shuter Street)
The Quebec City-based art collective BGL is known for installations that take over architecture and wryly comment on institutional space. BGL will construct a 40 metre long drop ceiling in the alley of St. Enoch's Square beside Massey Hall, framing the dumpsters, recycling bins and other life of the alleyway in the cool fluorescent light of the modern office.

Horroridor, 2008
Kelly Mark - Toronto, Canada
Video Installation at Union Station, 65 Front Street West (Lower West entrance)

Viewers will be guided toward a long corridor where they will pass through the approximately 20-foot dual projections of visual and audio recordings of hundreds of people screaming on either side of them. "Horroridor" is a multi-channel dvd installation utilizing found footage from horror-thriller movies. The installation examines Hollywood’s construction of the reaction to the unknown. "Horroridor" strips away narrative to a non-articulated response of rage, pain and frustration, by isolating media recordings of men and women screaming to unknown forces that threaten existence. Ultimately the primal scream is showcased.

I have selfishly chosen not to highlight the smaller exhibitions to prevent a stampede of attendees. However, every single detail of my night out on October 4, 2008 will be recounted in never ending blog entries to come.

In the meantime, here are some of my photographs from Nuit Blanche 2007.
Attendees piling into Lower Bay Station for The Ghost Station by Kristen Roos, a sound installation. The TTC employee scheduled to be in Lower Bay Station all night was not afraid of the wall shaking noise. "That's what the ear plugs are for," he told me.
Slow Dance With Teacher by Darren O'Donnell. My dancing partner was a real teacher who was slated to dance until midnight, at which point she was off to assist another Nuit Blanche artist until 5am. Then she was going to man a booth at Word on the Street on Sunday. Then she was going to enrich her students on Monday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
Event Horizon by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins. An alien crash landing in the middle of King's College Circle at the University of Toronto. "Move along! Nothing to see here!" the officer said.
Play by Hear by Science and Sons. By inserting the ear buds of MP3 players into the small hole, your bad taste in music is projected for all to hear. "Everyone will know my love of Nickleback," said Joe.
Art...hopefully. Calling the number resulted in nothing.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Better luck next time, fatty

The weather conditions were ideal last Sunday during the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon and I set a personal course record. Yet, it was not one of my better race experiences. From the 3 kilometer mark onwards, I fought the desire to throw myself under a passing emergency vehicle. After grinding through the remaining 18km, Kenneth Mungara of Kenya (seen above) stole my thunder by finishing his marathon at the same time as me. All cheers and cameras were directed at him, as I pouted nearby.

However, I know that Kenneth Mungara understands how I feel because his win was probably overshadowed by Ethiopian elite marathoner, Haile Gebreselassie's smashing of his own world record that same day. Gebreselassie won the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:59, shaving 27 seconds from the previous record. Mungara's 2:11:00 finish seems like a snail's pace in comparison.

I'll be running the Las Vegas Half-Marathon in December and I now have a goal: I will beat the marathon winner. Hopefully, Mungara will be in the race; I would love to return the favour by stealing that jerk's thunder.

I'm kidding!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stop the mediocrity

Like diarrhea, crap seems to come in waves.

Having seen last night's season premiere of "Heroes", I have officially given up on the series. I am fed up of shouting questions at my television in exasperation. Questions like:

Did Mohinder get his doctoral degree through a correspondence university? What kind of shoddy scientist ignores experimental methodology then is surprised at the negative side effects of injecting oneself with a serum that is completely unpredictable?

Is Mohinder now the Fly or Spider-Man? Will David Cronenberg sue before Marvel does?

Is Maya's short term memory related to her mutation? She has seemingly forgotten the death of her twin brother and hours after running in fear from Mohinder's mad scientist ambitions, she has shirt-ripping sex with him on the lab bench.

Why did Claire choose to stop Sylar as he was leaving only to ask why he did not kill her? In the context of revealing the shocking fact that Claire may be incapable of dying, it makes sense. In the context of giving helpful suggestions to a murderous psycho, not so much.

While I agree that Peter's powers are hindered by a shocking lack of ingenuity, even Peter could imagine using Hiro's powers to slow down time in order to evade Claire's bullet. Yet, this never occurs to Claire. And it must not have occurred to Peter until the last micro-second because he was pleading for his life while staring down the barrel of the gun. Working in the writers' favour: this proves that the characters share genes.

What part of the bible says that angels need to work in secret? Tell me, Nathan Petrelli!

The questions never cease when I watch "Heroes", but I must turn my attention to other news in fandom mediocrity.

In the vaccumn left by the termination of the Harry Potter series, parents will let their kids read anything and kids will look for any excuse to work themselves up into a frenzy at their local Chapters.

The kids apparently really like home schooled wonder, Christopher Paolini's latest derivative fantasy novel and Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn. I'm going to assume that Paolini's book is as crappy as Eragon the movie. For Breaking Dawn, I'll take the word of Marlene Arpe, who I have trusted since her days as a columnist at Eye Weekly. Parents, having your daughters learn that they can find self-esteem through losing their virginity is not the message you want to encourage, no matter how literate they become in the process. I admit that judging material based on second hand testimony is weak but I am also receptive to defensive outrage written in my blog's comments section.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My body betraying me

My vacations are usually the kind of experience that leaves me exhausted and worse for wear. I have eased back since my trip to London, where my non-stop walking left my back so sore that coughing hurt.

Regardless of my increased kindness to myself, ever since my return from San Diego and San Francisco (anecdotes to come), I have had a steady stream of health problems. I have forgone a visit the doctor in every instance, choosing instead to refer to the internet and resort to bed rest. Chris Rock's father would be proud, if I did not live in the land of universal health care, in which case he would probably call me an idiot.

Common cold - roughly 2 weeks of recovery
Immediately after returning home, I took on the cold from hell. A sore throat quickly became a runny nose, congestion, and extreme fatigue. I amazed myself by sleeping all day, waking up to eat, then returning to bed to pass out for the rest of the night. It looked bad when I called in sick the first day back from vacation, after a civic long weekend, but it couldn't be helped. I was a wreck.

Midsummer's Night Run 15K - one week of recovery
Admittedly, this was self-inflicted; I ran 15 km after four weeks spent running 5 km at most or not running at all due to the cold. Luckily, I suffered nothing more than the usual stiff gait, reminiscent of M. Piedlourde, which amused my co-workers.

Diarrhea - roughly one week of recovery
It was hard to figure out what triggered my problems since I ate many delicious, special occasion foods the Sunday before my bout of diarrhea. I took the Monday off and my co-workers, without a doubt, rolled their eyes. For the next five days, I had the ass that would not quit. After suffering for four days, I referred to the internet, which told me that I should have checked in with a doctor two days earlier. I was also amazed to learn that large amounts of fibre and milk made diarrhea worse. I did not go to a doctor and only ate cheese once before my intestinal tract fully recovered.

Angular Cheilitis - two weeks and counting
What started out as a crack in the corner of my mouth, which I callously picked at, proved to be something more than a one time anomaly when it appeared on the other side of my mouth. I only checked the internet after suffering for a week and found out that I should be moisturizing instead of drying out the problem. The cause is usually a vitamin deficiency but only a blood test can confirm which one. I have accepted that there are mysteries in life that may never be resolved and caked on petroleum jelly.

Undiagnosed back problem - two days and counting
I walked without issue to work yesterday but, by noon, I was hunched over like a crone, unable to stand upright. Sneezing and laughing hurt, which meant that, technically, my co-workers were laughing at me and not with me, as I shuffled around the office. With a week to go before the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, I have finally decided to enlist the professional (and costly) help of a chiropractor, which I am scheduled to meet with tomorrow. In the meantime, I have taken another day off from work and thank the stars that I am unionized.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Worst Jedi Ever

Vader: Bow to your master.
Starkiller/Celestial Speedster: Will do! (Joy!)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is being released today. Oh happy day!

Set between Episode III and IV, this console game focuses on Darth Vader's apprentice, the flamboyantly named Starkiller, and his mission to rid the universe of Jedi.

Having played the demo on the XBox 360, I know that I have found my calling (in my dreams). While Joe enjoyed hacking and slashing with his evil red light sabre, I found it much more efficient to force push people off the edge of a precipice or simply throw something combustible at a milling crowd.

Lego Star Wars was fun but I found myself having to justify my preoccupation over lucre because it is not the "Jedi way". Well, screw the Jedi order; let's kill everyone in creative ways. If Hollywood movies have taught me anything, it is that evil kicks ass in a way good never can.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ready to front of the TV

Torontonians like to complain about six months of winter and how miserable it is. Another way to view winter is to see it as six months of guilt-free indoor activity. The weather is still mild outside but I can't wait for it to get frightful, especially with the TV line up this season.
True Blood
The series was heavily promoted at Comic Con 2008 with massive posters advertising a synthetic blood drink product, a free comic book tied into the main story, and tank tops with 'Fang Banger' printed across the chest. I was ready to write off True Blood thanks to the agressive marketing campaign and my prejudice against vampire stories. But a positive preview of the series in Vogue convinced me that it could appeal to audiences beyond the usual angsy suburban goth tween. Come to think of it, the show's association with HBO and Alan Ball should have clued me in on the hilarity and the nudity. The premiere episode confirmed both. Excellent.

The new J.J. Abrams series is promising because Abrams has decided to produce a show that will not cause its viewers to bleed from the ears while attempting to understand the storyline. I was impressed with the acting and characterizations shown in the pilot even if the plot borrowed too heavily from The X-Files conspiracy bag. Anna Torv was vulnerable yet respectable in her understated depiction of an FBI agent. John Noble played the crazy scientist convincingly while remaining sympathetic. And Joshua Jackson was believable as a grown man. Who knew?

Flashpoint started as a scab to the Writer's Guild of America strike but the show has won my respect for a number of reasons; a solid series that does not hide the fact that it is shot in Toronto (ie CN Tower and TTC are clearly shown, Toronto streets are referred to), with Canadian actors in lead roles (former Headstones frontman, Hugh Dillon and the martian boss from Galaxy Quest, Enrico Colantoni), and a preference for non-violent resolution to every crisis. Finally, a Canadian series with all the positives and none of the cheap lighting and hammy acting (jPod, Sophie, Heartland, fuck CBC Television).

So You Think You Can Dance Canada
Joe and I have been hooked on the American series, So You Think You Can Dance, for the past three seasons. Unfortunately, the premiere episode of the Canadian competition demonstrated the downsides of its location; the famous Canadian reserve means there is less crazy on display during the auditions but also fewer fiery performances. Plus, I hate the host, Leah Miller. She has none of the warmth and social acumen of the American version's host, Cat Deely. I'll keep watching but may well abandon ship if someone doesn't show some unbridled passion soon.

I know very little about Dollhouse since I was shut out from the panel discussion at Comic Con 2008. What got me excited about the show is simply the fact that it reunites Joss Whedon with Eliza Dushku, and features that hunky Canadian actor from Battlestar Galactica. The Whedon magic begins in January 2009, just in time to distract me after the Christmas lights and shopping are done.

And it goes without saying that I will be watching Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Chuck, Dexter and House. So many shows, so little time to build a nest, pack on some pounds and grow a warm coat.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Meanwhile, in Canada

The push towards an, as yet, uncalled federal election is on with the recent surge of Conservative ads. While America gets to enjoy the soap opera of Sarah Palin, we get the comedy of Stephen Harper.

The most recent Conservative strategy is to turn Stephen Harper into a Mother's Day card. Sentimental music plays in the background while Harper prattles on to a mysterious senior citizen couple in a Canadiana living room.

My personal favourite is "Family is everything." Harper tries to make us forget about the robotic handshake he gave his kids a few years back by mustering as much enthusiasm as he is capable of regarding being a parent. Apparently, Harper is out to destroy the outdoorsy stereotype of Canadians by spending recreational time indoors with his kids; they play cards, watch movies and pretend to be the Partridge family.

The kicker is the sense of contented defeatism that ends the ad. Harper's folksy end quote is, "You know, the time is precious but, uh, but it's, uh, being a father is the best experience of my life." Then, "Canada. We're better off with Stephen Harper" flashes on the screen. While Harper tries to convince us (and himself?) how worthwhile fatherhood has been for him, his party touts him as the lesser of two evils. Like if you were given the choice between two STDs, you secretly hope for herpes because you would be better off with it.

Normally, I would look forward to the political satires but can you parody something that is already so clearly a comedy?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Who's the baby daddy?

John McCain's vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin has confirmed that her 17 year old unmarried daughter, Bristol is pregnant.

Palin has indicated that Bristol plans to keep the baby and will also marry the father of the baby. Otherwise, Palin has asked the media to respect the family's privacy on this matter.

Speculation about the identity of the baby daddy has been met with protests that it is "none of our business". On the contrary, I think it is the public's business since Palin decided to make the personal, political - when it benefited her.

Palin was proud to hold up her five children, including a Down Syndrome baby, to the spotlight as proof of her pro-life stance. Now, with Bristol's unexpected pregnancy, Palin reveals that Bristol is ready to follow her mother's political beliefs then retreats to the safety of 'family privacy' before questions become too uncomfortable.

If Palin is going to make a play for one of the most powerful positions in U.S. politics, she should stop acting like a Hollywood star and take the heat. Answer some questions like:
  • Who is Bristol's baby daddy?
  • Was Palin too busy shooting animals to teach Bristol about abstinence?
  • Will Bristol have to stay married for at least one term if Palin becomes Vice President?
Answers to these questions are as important as Palin's Down syndrome baby, family values and rifle collection. The unwashed masses want to know more!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another comic book for the masses

Apparently, a trilogy of movies based on the adventures of Tintin is planned, and Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are expected to direct a movie each. This is much more promising than that unfortunate union of Avatar and M. Night Shyamalan that was reported by self-described Avatard and eternal optimist, Vicki.

Tintin was the comic book that I grew up with. Whereas my parents discouraged reading Archie Comics, typical girl comic content at the time, claiming that the small print was bad for my eyes, they happily built my complete library of Tintin comic books.

Even as a fan, I shudder to think what a live version of Tintin might look like but I trust that Spielberg and Jackson, who will also serve as producer, are wealthier and more celebrated than me for a reason.