Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Simulacrum of Nature

We ate breakfast al fresco. Then we took to our bikes and rode over warm asphalt, under a bright sun, up a long rising hill. We navigated side streets and a dark, dank, urine soaked tunnel to emerge into a neighbourhood of wealth and leisure. We found a hidden trail and slipped beneath a canopy of trees down into the cool pocket of river valley air. Amongst some touristic ruins we abandoned two wheels to amble in chlorophyll green light. As the sun rose higher, we felt its heat press down upon us. We had striven to save ourselves from the sun’s power. We used creams to block the sun from our skin. We donned sunlight blocking glasses to protect our eyes and hats to shield our heads. Yet as the day wore on, the day wore us down. We sought nature and now we felt nature’s rebuke.

We retreated from our forest bath wearied and hot, sweaty and tired. Apparently we need nature more than it needs us. Our withdrawal from the out of doors meant that we found comfort from within doors. In a bright, sunny room, air conditioning breathed coastal breezes while we streamed a playlist of song birds. Our simulacrum of nature complete, we could finally lay our heads and dream our dreams.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

The Wrong Side

Little Nemo found all the sides of the bed to fall out of.


Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Which side is the wrong side of the bed, again?
Honestly, there are plenty of days when all the sides of the bed appear to be the wrong side and it would have been much safer to stay within all sides of the bed. The bed is a safe, warm space. At some point it becomes a warm, safe and smelly place so exiting from one of the sides is the only appropriate action. Then there are other days when my bed has no wrong sides. All the sides are the right sides. From a geometric point of view, I'm not sure this makes sense. If this matter of bed egress is simply a matter of having a bad day, then I'm guessing over the last year, a whole lot of people had beds with wrong sides.
You can definitely get in on the wrong side of the bed. For a long time I've known my natural go-to-bedtime is so late, it might be considered early. Likewise my natural get-out-of-bedtime is so late that, well, it can only be considered late. To make matters worse, I would find myself lying awake, waiting for sleep to come. It took sleeplessness to realize that all that exercise I used to do made sleep quite easy. I'm not saying it made me a morning person but at the very least it made me a socially acceptable mid-morning person. Than came all the reasons I stopped exercising and then came the pandemic.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Seen in April

The fact that it's the end of May and I'm just posting what I watched in April tells you that I've been busy. Not Chinese 996 busy (some claim the work culture in China is such that you work from 9 AM to 9 PM, 6 days a week), but too busy to finish a day of work in front of the computer, to log in to a different computer to relay my thoughts. In any event, this is what I watched.

Unlikely but endearing friends. Image via The Movie Db.
The Speed Cubers
A great documentary about the friendship between two of the best "speed cubers" in the world. Speed Cubers are those clever, lovable nerds who are devotees of solving Rubik's Cube puzzles as fast as possible. You will be amazed.

John Cleese takes a dip. Image via The Movie Db.
Romance with a Double Bass
A short film based on a Chekov story about a how a double bass player headed to the palace to play for a princess' wedding has his tuxedo stolen as he takes a cool dip on a hot summer day.  The very same princess also has her clothing stolen by the same thief when she wades into the same creek to untangle her fishing line. The two cross paths and despite both being naked, the class distinction between the two remains. The musician concocts a plan to get the princess back to the palace by smuggling her in his large double bass case, which means he has to get both the princess and his double bass back to the palace. The comedic duo is played by the brilliant John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth. Warning: humourous nudity and British accents.
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Sunday, April 11, 2021

You're doing everything wrong.

Nope. You are definitely not walking correctly

You’re doing everything wrong.

It’s actually a wonder you’re still alive. How are you even surviving? I’m surviving well, thanks for asking. I’m not sure how but I kind of feel like I’m doing something right. Of course, it’s easier for me. I’m a middle-aged, educated white guy. Although I self-identify as a “Newfoundlander” and 19-years-old, which is the age you can do almost anything to your body without consequences. Now there are consequences but I’m also at the age when I care very little about such things.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Seen in March

Still stuck in lockdown? Run out of stuff to watch? I got you. Here's some options.

Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex, image via The Movie DB

Schitt's Creek S01
Netflix, CBC Gem
I'm a little late for showing love for this successful Canadian comedy. I'd seen episodes here and there but didn't really follow it. Buckets of awards later I can see why it was the little show that could. While I think there are moments the show could slip into schmalzty sentimentality, it always quickly resurrects itself on the strength of the cast (if not always the writing). The show is a sort of Green Acres comedy about the affluent and metropolitan Rose family losing all of their wealth and being forced to retreat to their last holding of any financial value, the small rural town of Schitt's Creek which was purchased as a joke. In that town, the Roses find a better version of themselves and plenty of humour. If the writing or conceit ever flag, superior performances by all the Levy clan, Eugene, Sarah and Dan Levy, as well as Catherine O'Hara, Annie Murphy and Chris Elliott prop up the show.

On the Basis of Sex
How many supreme court justices have had two films made about them? Clarence Thomas doesn't count. The correct answer is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This biopic of Bader Ginsburg's life focuses on her time at Harvard, then teaching law (because no firm would hire a female lawyer) then working with the ACLU to bring a breakthrough case on sexual discrimination to the US Supreme Court. The filmmakers love showing how Bader Ginsburg was frustrated by being the smartest person in the room but never heard. Her abrasive, no back-pedalling approach is exactly what the legal profession expected of a lawyer, but not of a woman who was a lawyer. Despite her shortcomings as a mother (expecting more of her daughter than she did for anyone else) or as a cook (luckily, her husband excelled at and enjoyed cooking) her fierce intelligence led her to influencing legal decisions over her long and distinguished career. 

Masks galore in Contagion. Image via The MovieDb.

I am apparently the last person during the COVID19 era to watch this film. While some want to point out the flaws of the science of this movie, there is no doubt it got many more facts and speculations correct. While it is fascinating to watch, it does suffer from maybe too many stories in too short a time frame. Director Stephen Soderbergh takes the same approach here as his film Traffic (about the effect of the illegal drug trade in the US), which is to say, a handful of interconnected plot lines that attempt to give a wider view of the pandemic yet it can at times feel like a disconnected anthology without a real narrative other than a pandemic to join them. 

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Friday, March 12, 2021

A rock with your name on it 

I remember a place we went to on vacation when I was a kid. They sold souvenirs and one of the souvenirs you could buy was a rock with your name in it. There were many rocks with different names on them, arranged on a folding table, like a tiny pet cemetery. I wondered what would be the purpose of such a thing?

Was it meant to be a paperweight? Do I need a paperweight? To need a paperweight you need to have a desk, with papers on it, near an open window such that the papers needed holding down by a rock and just so no one will take that rock, you would need one with your name on it. Perhaps you needed a rock to throw through a loved one’s window to let her know that you were thinking of them? Yes, well, if I threw a rock through a girl’s window, "how’s she gonna know who the rock came from? What I really need is a rock with my name on it." Maybe it was a rock to throw at your enemies? Because don’t you want your enemies to know who threw this rock at them? I mean, did David write his name on any of the rocks he hurled at that Philistine? “Yeah, that’s right buddy, it’s David! They call me Dave and that’s my rock and now you’re dead! Boo-yah!”

Then it occurred to me, isn’t that what a headstone is: just a rock with your name on it? Is that how we’re remembered? Is that the only legacy  you leave behind on this planet? Is that all you ever achieved?  A piece of rock with your name carved in it? I think we either don’t think about it at all or we hope for more than that. Family? Kids? Work?

Can a legacy be simply the life you lead and the lives you touch? Seeing so many lives lost due to COVID-19 and hearing about those lives from friends and loved ones really makes you think. What would people say about me if I were to pass? I don't mean to be bleak - a claim hard to make after four paragraphs leading up to the question of death. I don't think I'll be remembered by a pile of books, or wonderful art works or even by these journal entries but maybe by some odd combination of all of it? This is just to say, if you want to be remembered for more than just a slab of granite with some type carved on one side, you'd better get started now. That's exactly the kind of glum thought a birthday can bring. I don't think of it as "glum" though. More like a motivator, like seeing a shockingly high number on the weigh scale or a pair of pants that don't fit anymore. Be the change you want to see and all that because before you know it, all you'll be left with is some dirt and a rock with your name on it.