Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Play List: For the love of Flocons

Flocons was kind enough to take over Friday Night Play List during my internet rehab. I didn't even know that anyone reads my Lists so thanks, Flocons, for being the single follower of my media suggestions. So, this double bill is for Flocons; a targeted wag of the finger. Enjoy.

The Hurt Locker (2008) - This intense film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was released last year but has been a sleeper hit this past summer. It is an apolitical, ground level look at the chaos in Baghdad and the soldiers who either thrive or falter in those conditions. I figure that Flocons will enjoy this because he likes crazy situations and reckless individuals, as long as he is not the one being reckless.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) - On the off chance that Flocons has not seen this film, I'm going to recommend it because it has become one of my all-time favourites. It features the hilarious violence that Quentin Tarantino is known for and has stood up to repeat viewings. I think Flocons will enjoy this because he loves weddings (Uma Thurman stars as The Bride) and he enjoys time travel (the non-linear story line makes you feel like you're being ripped out of the time continuum). Of course, there are the crazy situations that are a staple in Flocons's movie diet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A weekend in Ottawa

Thanks to VIA Rail's 60% discount mea culpa at the end of their worker's strike, I was able to visit Ottawa over the weekend without having to resort to a Greyhound bus. The train trip was no faster than a bus but it definitely catered to a far classier crowd (read: no drunken dirtbags reading over the shoulder because everyone had a digital device to keep them occupied). The only book that I managed to finish during 10 hours of train travel was Slowness by Milan Kundera, which was, indeed, a slow read in spite of being a slim publication.

I was charmed by the extensive wild park lands throughout Ottawa and the widespread preservation of historical architecture - both of which Toronto tends to lack. I also had the pleasure of experiencing local businesses exclusive to the Ottawa area, which made the city seem a lot further than a five hour drive from Toronto.

Bridgehead - A coffee house along the same vein as Second Cup and Starbucks, except their coffee is all organic, fair trade, and shade grown.

The Works - A gourmet burger joint that offers endless options for both meat eaters and vegetarians; the menu must be seen to be believed. I had the Portobello Mushroom Cap topped with Curry Crunch on a whole wheat bun with a side of sweet potato strings. Delicious!

BeaverTails - These fried dough pastries can be accessed locally through the Canadian National Exhibition and at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, but I will always associate them with skating on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude. However, eating BeaverTails in the Byward Market on a hot summer night is still a great experience.

Lost Marbles and Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's - Lost Marbles is the grown-up kids branch of the Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's toy store. They carry a wide range of clever Fred products as well as KidRobot collectibles. I bought a mystery Futurama figurine for Joe at a Lost Marbles located in The Glebe, an interesting neighbourhood in Ottawa. (Joe got Fry.)

Victoire - A boutique at 246 Dalhousie St. that features the most amazing clothing and accessories. It hurt not to buy anything, but my personal budget has run into the red for months. Victoire's neighbours are also worth checking out: Workshop (242 1/2 Dalhousie), a crafty clothing store, and Young Jane (203 Dalhousie), featuring vintage clothing like its location predecessor, Attic.

My experience of Ottawa did not consist solely of eating and shopping. We enjoyed the free Sound and Light Show on Parliament Hill, which practically poured maple syrup, Mounties and Bryan Adams from the Peace Tower. The propaganda was so insulting that it became fascinating. This was not my first visit to Parliament Hill but it was on this latest trip that I discovered the tiny estate that houses the fat cats. To be clear, I refer to the feral cats that are maintained by volunteers and donations, and not the politicians.

Give in to the ongoing advertising onslaught and visit Ottawa this summer. Strangely enough, Ottawa residents are being encouraged to visit Kingston. One can only speculate where Kingston residents are being funneled to.

Sweet sweet internet

I'm back and not a moment too soon! Without the internet, my life felt a little emptier and a lot more inconvenient.

My first frustrating moment came on the first morning of my internet rehab when I realized that I did not know what to wear since I could not check the Weather Network's hourly forecast. So, I stood in my underwear in front of the radio until the weather report came up.

A trip to Ottawa over the weekend suddenly became less predictable since I could not correspond with my friends via email to confirm arrangements. In this case, I resorted to texting and using Joe as a proxy to check my email and Facebook accounts for any important messages.

Joe became my reaching stick as I frequently ordered him to take my place in front of the computer to do what I could not; for instance, look up the band behind "Me, Myself and I," because not knowing the answer to random trivia is no longer acceptable in the age of internet. (The answer is De La Soul.)

The worst part of not being able to access the internet was losing touch with friends. Some people claim that they don't email or have a Facebook account because they are too busy, and now I wonder if they are either too busy to have friends or if they are not really busy at all because they enjoy the luxury of regular face-to-face or phone contact with friends. With growing responsibilities and busy schedules, I find it hard to meet up with friends as often as I would like and telephoning people seems like a presumptuous infringement on their time. Email hearkens back to snail mail, when each correspondent could read and respond at their convenience. And social networking sites like Facebook allow you to keep up with the daily lives of numerous people; to bridge the awkward silence that would otherwise come up when you finally meet up face to face and realize that you have no clue about their lives.

With some new boundaries (i.e. do not check email once every 15 minutes), I hope to enjoy the internet in a healthy and productive manner from now on. I am a recovering internet addict.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Internet rehab

I laugh at people who are clearly addicted to caffeine; those who experience headaches and general feelings of unwellness when they skip their daily cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that I suffer the same way when I am deprived of regular access to the internet.

The usual scenario in which I experience internet deprivation tends to be while on vacation. Even in the midst of such rousing experiences, I feel the urge to type on a keyboard, check my email and read up on nothing important.

In the tradition of self-improvement through self-deprivation, I will be restricting my internet access to work related endeavors for the next week, starting at noon today. This may well be harder than my previous week-long foray into vegetarianism or even my kichadi diet. However, I feel that it is necessary to force myself to disconnect from the computer and reconnect with real life extracurricular activities.

Just as Renton prepared for his break from heroin in Trainspotting (bucket, beans, porno - check, check, check), I have bought some books from BMV to help me stay the course:
Slowness by Milan Kundera
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Naked by David Sedaris
I am a fan of both McEwan and Sedaris, and the Kundera book looks promising.

Here's hoping that the sweating and suffering can be kept to a minimum. Radio silence starts now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Latest obsession: Eric Northman

Eric Northman is the title obsession but, truly, my feelings extend to the second season of "True Blood", which has a mere three episodes left to air.

The show has only improved since Season 1, with quicker pacing, more focused story lines, and further development of secondary characters like Tara (Rutina Wesley), Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and especially Alexander Skarsgard's character, Eric Northman. When Eric was introduced in the first season, he was clearly a significant character but Skargard's depiction lacked the intimidation that is to be expected of a 1000 year old vampire. However, the character improved considerably with the premiere of Season 2 in which Eric ripped a man in half then worried that the shower of blood had ruined the highlighting foils in his hair.

My only complaint about Season 2 is that the relationship between the main characters, Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephen Moyer), is starting to become a parody of itself with repeats of Sookie acting sassy and Bill attempting to save her. No wonder fans are frothing at the prospect of Sookie hooking up with Eric, which was made into virtual reality with a dream sequence in last Sunday's Episode 9.

At the 2009 Comic Con "True Blood" panel discussion, Skarsgard was clearly the most popular panelist. If you're going to scream for a hot vampire, let it be for a morally ambivalent 6'4'' man and not some petulant, perpetual teenager with sparkly skin.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Doppleganger update: first contact

Emboldened by the happy ending of the two Kelly Hildebrandts, I finally sent a message to mein doppleganger through Facebook. I tantalized her with the fact that we might be related and she responded, pretty much right away.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that mein doppleganger recognized my grandfather's name because he was the only one of her father's siblings that she was acquainted with. She also claimed not to be weirded out by my extensive knowledge of her life, harvested by Google.

Turns out that previous to our Facebook chat, mein doppleganger was aware of my existence since she, too, often gets mistaken for me. The mistaken identity made sense since her husband attended the same obscure clown college program I did, so many assumed that she held the same hilarious occupation.

We made moves to meet up some time to talk over drinks but have yet to settle on concrete details. However, I am pretty satisfied with the progress of our interaction, and hesitant to take the next step of meeting face to face.

There is a crazy streak in my extended family that I fear is genetic. Already, mein doppleganger has not been fazed by my stalker tendencies, which speaks to a similar mindset. The last thing I need is to add another festering branch to the family tree. We shall see if the spirit of discovery overcomes irrational fear of familial ties that not only bind but choke.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The frustration of watching "SYTYCD? Canada"

Hopefully, this will be my last post about anything "So You Think You Can Dance?" related because any newcomer to this blog would suspect that I am a pubescent dance enthusiast by now. I just cannot hold back my disappointment over the Canadian version of the show, which started its second season this past week.

In short order, these are my complaints about "So You Think You Can Dance? Canada":
  • Leah Miller - I find host, Leah Miller disingenuous. When she is not beaming at the camera, she is either acting condescendingly or actively snubbing the dancers that she interviews. Every time Leah shows up on screen, I have to plug my ears, close my eyes and shout, "Lalalalala..." until she passes. That's a lot of effort for a passive pastime like television.
  • No HD wide screen - This is actually a complaint of Joe's. I understand that budgetary constraints may be behind this decision.
  • No playbacks - In the American version, when a judge makes reference to a particular move that was just performed, the audience is treated to a playback as the critique is given. The Canadian show just hopes that its audience possesses a photographic memory in addition to an extensive dance vocabulary. Can the absence of playbacks also be attributed to budgetary constraints? I really want to know.
  • Mediocrity unacknowledged - The quality of the dancers during audition week has been less than stellar. There is an embarrassing lack of polish in their transitions and little originality in their choreography. I suspect that the judges know this because while their words are encouraging, their energy levels barely register a pulse. Even the occasional excited yelp betrays relief that someone has finally shown some potential.
About the only thing I like about the show is judge, Jean-Marc Généreux, who is still a big perv. Unfortunately, the other judges choose to politely ignore this rather than play it up.

Thank goodness the American version of the show will return in September. In the case of this series, I may just have to 'Buy American'.

Friday, August 07, 2009

So I think I can dance

Just a quick recap of the Season 5 finale of "So You Think You Can Dance?": it catered to me perfectly! I screamed at every encore performance because every single one was a favourite of mine, including the one decent hip hop routine of the season performed by Jeanine and Philip, and the Mia Michaels butt dance. The crowning of Jeanine as 'America's favourite dancer' was more than agreeable to Joe and me, because she is not Evan. Now, we have less than a week to recover before "So You Think You Can Dance? Canada" starts, soon to be followed by Season 6 of the American version in September.

However, I refuse to sit on the sidelines this Fall. After watching four seasons of great dancing, I have decided to climb on the bandwagon and take a ballet class at the National Ballet School of Canada. This decision was also influenced in part by my recent Doors Open tour of the School. Reality will rear its ugly head as I struggle to keep time with the music or work my limbs in a pleasing manner. If anyone needs a clue as to what I might do next after crashing and burning on the dance floor, take note that I also watch "So You Think You Can Fight?"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bring your boombox and wedding dress

Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, Say Anything is screening for free at Harbourfront Centre this Wednesday, August 5. I can't wait to watch John Cusack lift that boombox, blaring "In Your Eyes", above his head while I (hopefully) catch a warm breeze coming off Lake Ontario. The 1989 film is a preferable example of celluloid teen romance to the cringe-inducing dialogue and shameless wish fulfillment that Twilight fans seem to enjoy. I would mutter, "Kids these days!" but I've seen grown women in the mob.

On Wednesday, August 12, the finale of the Free Flicks series will screen and the feature is Labyrinth. It was easy to convince friends to mark the event on their calendar but will they wear their wedding dresses as budget cosplay of Jennifer Connelly's character? See you there!