Thursday, February 26, 2009

Still entertaining

When George W. Bush left office, I must admit that a little part of me was dejected at the prospect of a less ridiculous political climate in the U.S. Happily, I am wrong.

The new chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, recently spoke to The Washington Times and demonstrated that the Republican party is the gift that keeps giving.

In the article, Steele promised a public relations strategy that would be "off the hook".

"We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings. (W)e need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets,” said Steele.

Urban blacks and white liberals would both be offended if they weren't laughing so hard.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Climb every mountain

Canada Writes '09 released their short list of 20 finalists today and I am not amongst them. Pooh. I thought cannibalism as a topic would stand out but apparently not.

Coincidentally, today was the deadline for Nuit Blanche 2009, so while one opportunity burns to the ground, another lights up the drapes next door. I submitted my application early but still managed to stress out right up to the deadline, when I was reassured by organizers that they had received my application.

In an effort to keep my delusions of grandeur afloat, I am already looking forward to the next challenge:
  • Luminato - A call for exhibition proposals for the Luminato Box. I do not have high hopes for this one so I'm approaching it like a lottery: if I win an exhibition opportunity, I will be pleasantly shocked.
  • York Regional Police - A friend has decided to try out for the police force and so will I. I don't actually want to serve or protect so on the off chance that I pass the physical and written tests, I will proceed to ruin my chances by shaking my junk or advocating racial profiling.
  • Snowboarding - I bought my own snowboard, bindings, and boots from Boardsports - crazy, but true. So, I'll be hauling my new equipment to Earl Bales Park as much as possible over the next 30 days before my refund opportunity expires.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Night Play List: Prelude to the Oscars

The Oscars may be worth watching this Sunday, if only to see host, Hugh Jackman sing and dance as Wolverine (in my wildest dreams). During the never ending speeches and commercial breaks, feel free to switch over to the following double bill.

Gangs of New York (2002) - Martin Scorsese's historical drama about 1860s gang warfare is like a technical manual on film making. Yet, it failed to win any of the 10 Oscars that it was nominated for. Daniel Day-Lewis's chilling performance as Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting alone makes the movie worth seeing; it is a harbinger of his Oscar winning turn, five years later, as Daniel Plainview in the excellent There Will Be Blood.

Body of Lies (2008) - Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in Gangs of New York was overshadowed by Day-Lewis but he went on to perfect the look of tense frustration in the midst of chaos in Scorsese's The Departed and Blood Diamond in 2006. I imagine this ability served him well in Revolutionary Road, which I would still rather not see, but I believe DiCaprio's other 2008 film, Body of Lies, completes the 'frustration in action' trilogy. Watch DiCaprio battle terrorists and CIA red tape in Ridley Scott's condemnation of an American over-reliance on technology in war, executed from an armchair.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Romance Inc.

Seen above is Best Buy on Valentine's Day. A retail store that is normally filled with shoppers on a Saturday night was empty as a tomb because it is not considered a romantic setting. The same goes for pubs, where Joe and I usually dine on Valentine's Day.

As Joe and I walked around downtown Toronto, we could tell who had romance on their mind by the red or pink coloured items that accompanied them. How embarrassing for the women to carry the modern day equivalent of the scarlet letter, announcing to the world the shame of having a partner so utterly lacking in imagination.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Night Play List: Friday the 13th

It's a Friday the 13th and I need some escapism so I'm going to recommend the following double bill.

The Shining (1980) - One of my favourite movies of all time. Jack Nicholson develops a severe case of cabin fever while trapped in a haunted, empty hotel with his wife and psychic son. Stanley Kubrick's sterile treatment of the supernatural story results in a slow, creepy build to insanity. If you've only seen "The Simpsons" rendition, you will still enjoy it.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) - The last installment of director, Chan-wook Park's vengeance trilogy, which includes the excellent Oldboy, the movie follows the protagonist's single minded pursuit of revenge after she is falsely convicted and jailed for 13 years. Less brutal than Oldboy, the climax is twisted nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Inside outside: recent art experiences

Bringing the inside out - On February 9, someone was inspired by the movie, Juno, and set up a living room in front of U of T's McLennan Physical Laboratories. It was hilarious. There was a disposable camera sitting on the coffee table but the roll of film was used up. This tableau was photographed by pedestrians all day but all traces of it were gone the next morning. An explanation is not necessary but I am curious about the motives behind the setup nonetheless.

Bringing the outside in - We visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.) during their Free Wednesday Evenings event that takes place from 6 to 8:30pm. It was our first experience of the Frank Gehry redesign and we loved it. Joe noted that the galleries now flow better because there are less pokey dead ends. I really enjoyed the corkscrew staircase leading up to the contemporary art floors. The unpredictable winding of the stairs prompted oft-repeated comments from visitors to the effect of, "These stairs are making me dizzy."

The AGO now reflects Gehry's appreciation for the neighbourhood where he grew up. Whereas the original architecture shut out as much of the surrounding neighbourhood as possible, with only tall, narrow windows intermittently placed on the north wall of the second floor galleries, the redesign features Gallery Italia, the glass "skirt" that covers almost the entire expanse of the AGO overlooking Dundas St. The corkscrew staircases that pop out from the building also give visitors unprecedented views of the city; something to take your mind off the dizziness, I suppose.

I have yet to visit the new crystallized ROM but based simply on the quality of building materials, I would have to say that the AGO looks better. Gehry uses warm wood throughout though not so much as to distract from the art. Joe was a big fan of the Gehry designed benches that looked very Canadian in its hardy yet stylish use of wood and leather.

Two hours were hardly enough time to see everything so we plan to go back on a paid admission night in order to avoid the crowds. One superficial complaint: we wish the gift shop had a wider range of products for purchase. The AGO should take a cue from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, whose gift shop offered a cornucopia of cool design.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Latest obsession: Moustaches

In two recent blogs, I waxed on poetically about Michael Imperioli's amazing moustache in "Life on Mars", and recommended In the Cut, which features a creepily appealing moustached Mark Ruffalo (seen above). What I have yet to mention is my current obsession with the Bing Bong Brothers song, which features handle bar moustaches.

The moustache is synonymous with the 1970s dirtbag; the male cop who carries a loaded gun in his pants at all times. Perhaps, the mainstream is ready to embrace this brute as an antidote to actors like Orlando Bloom, whose delicate jaw could only be fertile ground for the downiest of facial hair. Or maybe, I just don't like Orlando Bloom.

Yesterday, while visiting the Drake Hotel General Store (1144 Queen St. W.), I came across some Plushtaches - knit moustaches handmade by Shannon Gerard because "A plush moustache is the next best thing". Clearly, Gerard is on to something because I bought two right away.

I plan to send one moustache across the pond to a friend in Glasgow who frequently wears false moustaches because she likes to look like a old timer. I am keeping the other moustache to act as a cozy for when Joe and I kiss, because Joe has grown a moustache and beard. I approve of the look but not the rug burn.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Night Play List: Seedy underworld

The double bill that I am recommending this week have only two things in common: I approached both of them with low expectations but found myself pleasantly surprised, and they both feature glimpses into a seedy, sexual underworld. Otherwise, they have almost nothing in common in terms of characterization, directorial style or plot twists.

Taken (2008) - Written but not directed by Luc Besson, Taken has been a surprise hit during the winter lull at the North American box office. I'm usually turned off by the sentimental premise of a father who must rescue his darling daughter from criminals, but Liam Neeson's ex-CIA operative is a ruthless SOB who savages France looking for his kidnapped daughter. And it is karma when the overpriviledged daughter and her slutty friend get kidnapped by human traffickers so the tension is still enjoyable. Joe complained that the car chases sequences lacked the viruosity of Hollywood ones but he enjoyed Neeson's rampant violence nonetheless.

In the Cut (2003) - Jane Campion's dreamy, erotic thriller is mostly infamous for Meg Ryan's uncharacteristic nudity and explicit sex scenes but it is truly a dirty Harlequin novel with good cinematography. Mark Ruffalo's police detective is a modern day brute who eagerly gives amazing oral sex to Ryan's repressed English teacher. The rest of the movie is about a series of murders that seemingly gravitate around Ryan. But really, it's all about the sex scenes.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fast approaching deadline

My 2009 resolution, in addition to killing more zombies, was to enter any reasonable call for entry in order to kick myself back into art or the semblance of creativity. One contest that I mentioned previously was Canada Writes '09, but I suddenly find myself facing the fast approaching deadline of February 7, midnight.

I'm undecided on which 200 words to hastily send in so maybe my loyal readers (brief cricket chirp) can suggest their favourites from Xiao Pangzi or whatever entry they can remember being particularly offended by.

My personal favourites include:
The Great Taste of Friends
Sayako vs Paris
Cold cuts - I reject!
Equality in my stomach
Hair for the ages the max!

When I look at the dates of these blog entries, I wonder if I should enter at all. Have I not written anything decent lately? As I cry, please feel free to suggest a blog entry by February 6.