Friday, May 12, 2017

Seen in… April 

From War Games - NORAD wishes it were this cool

April was all about American crime stories. Traditionally, Hollywood likes showing bandits with guns as a sort of Robin Hood with a Smith & Wesson (try Smith & Wesson’s “Gun Finder” to find a weapon right for you and you will be shocked by the number of options). Yet these movies are more than that and run the gambit from serial killers, to fugitives in love, to a good man who makes a bad decision. To be honest, I’m surprised I saw anything at all. Several weekends I realized I hadn’t even turned on the television from Friday night to Sunday night. I wasn’t nobly reading poetry under an oak tree, or improving my 10-km run time but was more likely shackled to a computer working on one thing or another.
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Seen in… February and March 

You know you're busy when you're too busy to write one sentence reviews of every movie you watched in the last 30 days or so. What happened to my priorities? Never mind all that, I've finally got around to this post by putting off my taxes.

In this BBC documentary from Adam Curtis it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t, which I guess is the point. The film relates how at some point the citizens of the Soviet Union became so disillusioned by the deception and lies of their government that they stopped believing in anything but they played along with the lies anyway. Living in the artifice of society created by the government became normal, “The fakery was so real, it was hyper-normal.” The film traces a line between 1970s Syria and the debt crisis of New York City, the rise of Donald Trump and the obfuscation of Russian media manipulation. Released three weeks before the US election results makes this reasoning even more frightening especially given the suspicion of Trump’s administration and his campaign team’s connection to the Russian government. The mind-numbingly deceptive strategy of engagement known as “Hybrid War" invented by the Russians wherein you create control of a situation by essentially causing chaos and playing both sides while simultaneously acknowledging and denying your role has recently been identified as the former Soviet republic’s strategy in both the Ukraine and Syria (and has neighbouring Estonia worried it could soon happen to them). The crazier it seems, the more real it feels but isn’t that how every conspiracy theory begins?

The lovely Cléo from the film's title. Image via the Movie DB
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Sing Us a Song 

Someone ran Trump through Google's Deep Dream, then I ran it through Barbara Kruger

They say every war movie, is an anti-war movie. Can the same be said of a playlist? Is every political playlist, an anti-political playlist? Okay, that sounded better in my head. What isn’t obvious is when the “current political climate” (also known as the End of Days) makes you see songs you’re familiar with in a new light, with new meaning - or even to finally make sense of a meaning or tone you never realized. This was intended as an ode to spring but spring arrived with very little fanfare this year. Here in Toronto we’ve had unusually warm days only to be followed by wet snow and blizzard warnings that became rainstorms. The end of winter and beginning of spring has also marked the first months of a new American enterprise (it seems perverse to call the current president’s cadre of cohorts an administration) and that has left me seeing everything through that lens.

This playlist reflects both a political sensitivity and at times respite from worldly affairs. Basically, I let the stream of Spotify flow over me like a tepid shower and when something piqued my interest I bookmarked it into this list, and as is my wont, stopped at sixteen.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Lose Your Nerve 

After reading a brief article extolling the practice of reducing stress and increasing productivity by scheduling some quiet time, it occurred to me that I might benefit from some scheduled quiet time. I’m one of the millions of sad people who tend to eat their take-out lunch at their desks. Usually I click through a few videos or simply keep working. Lately, since the time change (end of daylight savings? Beginning of daylight savings?) I’ve found myself caught off guard by looking at my watch to find I’ve been in the office until the ugly hour of 7-7:30PM. Doing what? Endlessly chipping away at the rock that Sisyphus is pushing, presumably. Why? The excessive tricky daylight cunningly convinced me it wasn’t that late, but still… what’s the point? The sadness of my realization cannot be fathomed. I’m still here, no longer being paid, filling up the bucket of unearned labour for my employer because I do not have anywhere else to be.
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Keep Breathing 

Enter Bangalore's stream of unconscious traffic.

Upon arriving home from India after an epic 30 hour trip, I took a little nap. What felt like only a few hours later, I found myself standing in a new office space, unpacking a crate, looking for a power bar. That’s when someone asked me, "What was your impression of Bangalore?"

I meant it when I said Bangalore was like the 16th century smashing up against the 21st century. Imagine for a moment, London in the late 1500s. It’s good place to start because Tudor England around Shakespeare’s time has been pretty well represented in a lot of plays, movies and novels. We can kind of picture it in our minds. You can imagine London as a teeming city of around maybe 500,000 souls crammed into congested blocks of low rise buildings. Think of it, people lived or had shops on the bridges back then. Most people are dirt poor (picture really horrible teeth). There’s no sanitation so everyone throws swill buckets into open gutters. Beasts of burden and livestock are everywhere, and so is their waste. Homes or more accurately, hovels are heated by open fires, everything is cooked or boiled over wood or charcoal fires so the air is ripe with smoke, sewage and probably the rank odour of the nearby river and every one of the Queen’s subjects. Yet a wealthy aristocracy moves throughout the city. They've created a bubble of carriages, fine clothing, and perfumes to isolate themselves from the clatter and chaos of everyone else.
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