Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Book Launch 

It's that time of year and The Absurdly Quotidian Omnibus has landed. Has it "landed" or "launched"? "Book Launch" is an odd expression. Is it like a boat launch, struck by a bottle of champagne and pushed down a slip into the water? No. Is it like a rocket launch whereby a tin can packed with enough explosives to thrust it beyond the atmosphere? No. I guess the idea is that this thing, this collection of ideas illustrated in words and printed and bound is let loose upon the world. Will it take flight? Unlikely. Will it hold open doors? Definitely not heavy enough for that. Will it keep you company on the privy? Hopefully, if the author is lucky and if even luckier, it will sit comfortably on a shelf for years of posterity, a time capsule of sorts - though please refrain from burying it in the backyard for future generations to find.

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Sunday, December 02, 2018

I am an Office Worker and I am Human Too 

Typing Pool (MSA)
They are doomed or making a better life for their ungrateful brats who will grow up to sing about not working in an office.

As someone who spends a lot of time sitting, standing or in the proximity of desks in offices, I am personally offended by the narrative cliché of a protagonist who could imagine no worse fate than working in an office or at a desk. Songs sing the deathly fate of being chained a desk. Oh moan! Forsooth and gadzooks! A paying job that requires little more than sitting at a particular style of furniture should not cause you worry.

A recent fantasy film depicts young wizards summoning their greatest fears and of course our hero imagines working at a desk as his greatest fear. What? Popular music and films all at some point have an exasperated character whining that they wouldn't want to "waste their life behind a desk" or they'd just die if they had to become a "desk jockey". The British program and its American derivative, "The Office" both highlighted the slow requiem that is the mindless office job. Another comedic icon, Mike Judge, ruthlessly satirized American office employment with his classic, "Office Space" and now in his new series "Silicon Valley" has expanded his milieu to include office drones sitting behind dark screens typing endless lines of code. Yet I have to ask, what's so bad about being paid to sit and think?

You know who spent a lot of time at a desk and didn't waste their life? Einstein. Newton. Alice Munro, James Joyce, William Shakespeare and any other great writer you can think of, and not just scientists and authors but philosophers like John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes. Also artists like, Bill Watterson, the creator of the beloved comic series, "Calvin & Hobbes". Would you really say any of these people wasted their lives behind a desk?

The great sculptor Rodin demonstrated in his masterpiece "the Thinker" that sitting and thinking go hand in hand. Despite the health scare of "sitting", I can say I'm still alive and kicking (while sitting nonetheless), and I use a sit-stand desk, and yes I know, "standing" doesn't count as exercise. But do I complain about it ruining my life? No. Do you know why? Because this job pays for my home, it pays for food I eat, it paid for the grill on which I grilled the food that I eat, it pays for movies and shows, holidays abroad and memberships to galleries and museums. It provides a benefits plan that pays for my medical expenses and besides all that, it gives me something to do during the day.

Of course the old adage that “a desk job will kill” has actually found some (dubious) medical evidence that “sitting is the new smoking” which is codswallop. This the very definition of correlation vs causation (with a dash of deadline-driven journalism). There is definitely a correlation between someone who sits around a lot dying from heart disease but to attribute that to sitting would be like saying eating causes diabetes. Likewise don’t blame a chair for your decision to sit in it when the couch is equally to blame (as are any number of other evil upholstered perpetrators lurking in your home).

I say, don’t let the threat of an early death scare you from desk jockeying. Why just the other day, from my climate controlled office and ergonomically configured comfy chair, I spied two hearty gentlemen window cleaners ascending a 30-storey building in basically a basket, in minus temperatures no less and I thought to myself, “I’ll take the rather low possibility of desk related heart disease over a height related death fall any day, thank you.” That night I went home and kissed my university degree good night. I noticed my diploma and patent seemed jealous so I kissed them as well for good measure. Then I knocked my desk for luck and slept soundly.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Seen in… October 

Anthropocene image via The Movie DB

This is yet another retelling of the murderous twin Kray brothers who ran an organized crime organization in 1960s London. Tom Hardy, through some cinematic wizardry plays both brothers, one of whom was a clever if violent fellow while the other was not clever but very violent. I heard so much praise for Tom Hardy in these roles but was disappointed. The story is told through the eyes of the young wife of one of the brothers and in that sense is a fairly sympathetic view. That in itself is tiring. I mean, I’m just tired of the glamorization of criminal thugs. There’s nothing clever about being the crazier sociopathic criminal in the room and Hardy’s depiction of both brothers seemed cartoonish and heavy handed. It was too dull to be an action driven film and too violent to be thoughtful. It was also full of typical swinging 60s gang tropes and clichés to have anything new to say so why bother.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
This documentary traces the rationale made by a segment of the scientific community that due to humankind’s impact on the planet, we have entered an entirely new geological era. From how we have reshaped the earth, its climate, temperature and atmosphere we have pushed the planet to an irreversible and distinctly new phase. The photography is stunning and the argument convincing. Also, we are doomed.

Luke Cage is getting tired of getting shot at… via The Movie DB

Marvel's Luke Cage Season 2
This Marvel street level super hero set in Harlem has a lot going for it, but Alfrie Woodward is not one of them. In fact the non-Luke Cage storylines are halting, slow and uneven. However, when Luke Cage gets his “super” on by throwing around criminals and letting bullets fly off his brawny pecs that’s when the show is at its best. Each of these Marvel-Netflix shows like to have an underlying season long theme and one that lurks throughout this season is popular consensus through social media. Cameras are everywhere. A brother can’t catch a break. As the only Harlem based black superhero, Cage’s struggles also often take on the injustices black Americans face everyday and the limits of a hero to fight against a system titled against them. In the end however, it’s not a big surprise this show was cancelled as the 13 episode structure often felt like the storyline was being stretched to complete the season.

Big Mouth's, Andrew and his hormone monster, Morty. Image via The Movie DB

Big Mouth Season 2
This animated comedy of potty mouthed pre-teens in the throes of puberty is actually a lot better and more thoughtful than it sounds. The lead characters cover a lot of topics that people only talk about in hushed silence but should probably talk more openly about. If seeing cartoon kids cuss about trying to figure out their bodies as well as their classmates, then you won’t like this but if you’re already a fan of comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney then this just might be your thing.

Marvel's The Punisher
This is a well written, well acted series about a vengeful ex-special ops marine veteran, Frank Castle ploughing through his enemies with enough weaponry to make the NRA weep. This series could easily be renamed, “The NRA Presents, A Good Guy With a Gun.” Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, shouldn’t really be this compelling or complex a character but by combining themes of war vet support groups, post traumatic stress disorder, domestic terrorism, CIA conspiratorial power moves, privacy (or lack thereof) and most obviously gun rights, this show pushes a lot of buttons and does it well. The fact that he has no special abilities makes this show feel even more like an HBO like cable crime show than a typical “superhero” genre show. The shine became a bit of a patina for me however when I learned the Punisher is a beloved symbol for gun-loving alt-right bros and that the voice of the program definitely leans into that identity.

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Thursday, November 01, 2018

An Algorithm That Made Me See Myself For Who I Truly Am 

Koerner Hall, Toronto

“Welcome to Koerner Hall”, said a casually dressed man, who seemed so comfortable on the stage that the audience hardly noticed him.
“Welcome Welcome,” nudging the crowd to settle and focus, “Tonight we welcome you to the third concert in our current series and to enjoy returning Torontonian, Chilly Gonzales.” A shower of appreciative applause. “We remind you to please turn off your phones and mobile devices, to disconnect from the outside world for a few hours and lose yourself in the music.”

I almost cried.

This felt like the first vacation I’ve had in over eighteen months.

I don't want to bore you with a "woe is me" list of how busy I am because everyone is busy. Everyone has their own stuff.

I don't want to whine about how much time I spend looking at screens. I could just look away, couldn't I?

I don't want to "humble-brag" about how volunteering for non-profit advocacy organizations takes up all my free time (#humblebrag).
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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Seen in… September 

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King. Image via The Movie DB.

Between work, volunteering, house repair, dental visits, sketching and reading I’m not sure how I saw anything much in September. I completely missed the film festival and attempts to recreate one in my own home fell flat. In fact, two shows I'm writing about here are ones I saw ages ago and forgot to add (Battle of the Sexes and Mr. Robot) so clearly I’ve been not only too busy to watch stuff but also to busy to write about it. Lately it seems I start these posts with "I'm so busy I can't believe I watched anything" which sounds like some kind of woeful, pathetic brag, which it definitely is not. That said, I'm going to rededicate myself to watching some real quality stuff, right after I finish this Marvel series I want to catch up on.

Battle of the Sexes
A fictionalized account of the actual event of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King while Steve Carrell plays the ex-pro and aging hustling, self-promotional Bobby Riggs. This is a rare thing. A bio-pic set around a real event that doesn’t suck. The context of both King and Riggs is vital to the story. Billie Jean King, who was the number one female tennis player at the time was part of a women’s tour that was fighting both for survival and equal pay at a time when women were burning bras and protesting societal misogyny. Bobby Riggs was a retired tennis pro and serial promoter who also had a gambling addiction which had led to the demise of his marriage. Riggs saw a moment and proposed a match between himself and King to determine whether a female player in her athletic prime could defeat a male player, even one well past his prime (Riggs was 50-ish at the time). It should be noted that not too long ago former pro John McEnroe, 59, has claimed that he thought he could still beat Serena Williams. The difference is that McEnroe was probably serious whereas Riggs depicted himself as a lazy, vitamin swallowing, middle-aged chauvinist pig (going so far as to pose for photos with a young pig). That he wasn’t vilified for such showmanship, was a testament to the times and the charm of Bobby Riggs. What no one knew however was that Billie Jean King was struggling with her own marriage at the same time. The stress of life on the road had put distance between King and her husband while she was discovering her homosexuality with an affair with Marilyn Barnett, a local stylist she had met on the tour. Barnett is played by the amazing English actor Andrea Riseborough who by some unknown alchemy has the ability to portray women of immense sexiness or incredible dowdiness merely by how she wears her hair or by how she carries herself. The scene between Riseborough and Stone when they first meet is unbelievably erotic despite it being a simple moment in a barber’s chair at a salon.

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