Saturday, September 11, 2021

Kakistocracy 


Procession of the pope of fools. Édouard de Beaumont, 1844

Kakistocracy.

This is a word that was new to me. It appeared in an article about one of the many new books in the growing genre about the 45th president of the Disunited States, and was used to describe that administration. It means a form of government run by the least competent or least suitable citizens (from the Greek "Kakistos" for "worst" + "cracy).  I have to admit that I had assumed the proper word for this was Idiocracy from the title of Mike Judge's unfortunately prophetic 2006 film. Despite that, I immediately felt the word’s power and comedy. Look at all those “K's”. Words with "k" are the funniest words, so says comedy expert Krusty the Clown (along with Neil Simon and H. L. Mencken) . Pity poor Kazakhstan who will never be taken seriously, only because the country's name has too many k's in its name (Canada is only one k away from being a total laugh-riot).

Over the last sixteen months or so, when scientists and health professionals have been embattled by onslaughts of disinformation, conspiracy and outright lies, it occurred to me that we not only lack trusted figures in authority but that even if we did, who would listen? It should be noted that as countries like the US, Canada and the UK have had 70-75% of its citizens have been partially vaccinated against COVID-19 and one would assume that those same people would want to be fully vaccinated. Considering that some people can’t risk vaccination due to a medical condition or that many others don’t have the means to get to a vaccination centre or book a vaccination because they don’t have Internet access that means less than 20% doesn’t want to be vaccinated. Sure some are “vaccine hesitant” but they make a surprisingly small percentage while the significant rest are really “anti-vaxxers”. Thus they are making it harder to get over the 90% herd immunity marker (though we aren’t counting grade-school-aged kids not able to get the vaccine so that 90% vaccination number may not be accurate).

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Seen in July


No Sudden Move, image via The Movie Db

Here we are, the second summer of our troubles, with theatres nearly empty and mostly void of summer movies. The streaming services, or "streamers" to some, may seem like bottomless content wells but I've been finding the pickings slim or perhaps I'm finding comfort in rewatching old favourites rather than exploring something new. There have been some surprises and summer's end is still a month away. In the meantime, I spent July hiding in a cool air-conditioned home, enjoying the Olympics (despite my claim to do otherwise) so here is what I saw. A short list for the long, lazy days of summer.

No Sudden Move
Crave
I'm not sure if this film was intended to have a theatrical release or not but this Steven Soderbergh crime drama has a pretty amazing cast for a movie with such a low profile. Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser (almost unrecognizable after a huge weight gain for another role), Kieran Culkin, and a Matt Damon cameo make up the cast. The story is set in late 1950s Detroit and a hot piece of auto industry tech is the central mulligan of the plot. Bank and insurance workers are blackmailed or threatened by thugs and gangsters as auto intel, bags of money, and a bookie's code book are all in play as some of the players look for a bargaining chip to pay a debt or escape retribution. It's a story of the moral versus the immoral but in the end it's the amoral that wins out.

An Almost Ordinary Summer
Kanopy
An odd Italian comedy finds two very different families brought together under the premise of a shared vacation property. The vacation turns out to be a ruse by two lovers planning to marry and introduce their families to each other. The twist? The couple in love are two mature, previously heterosexual, dads. One is an art dealer while the other is fisherman who owns his own fishmonger shop. Two of their adult children agree on a plan to scuttle the wedding plans but the idea only opens other divisions. The movie sort of feels like something from the late 90s rather than being current but gives a peek into the social mores of contemporary Italian society.


Another Round, image via The Movie Db.

Another Round
Crave
Four middle-aged men are friends who embark on an experiment to maintain a certain level of inebriation as an attempt to regain some youthful vitality. What begins as a bit of fun with comedic side effects grows increasingly serious. On the surface, what may appear as men and their hubris is, on closer inspection, really about how we should fight against our habits, our comforts or our everyday nuisances to remember why we love those we love, why we do the things we do and how to keep a passion for living and loving, no matter what our age. There's a terrific Danish cast, led by Mads Mikkelsen, who probably seems familiar if you've seen any film about Vikings in the last 10 years. This film also won the Oscar for foreign language film, if that interests you at all.

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Friday, August 06, 2021

The Rhythm is Going to Get You 


What's that lil' bird? I can almost hear you.

We'd had a few days of high heat which meant my windows were closed and the a/c was on, then the temperatures broke and it was quickly cooler outside than inside. This meant I could open the windows and that's when an odd thing happened. It got quiet. The roar of traffic sounded low and distant. I could hear a streetcar's air brakes breathing. The fan of a nearby building's a/c whirred. Birds were chirping and twittering busily. A slight shush of gentle rainfall was a background to it all. Then the blare of a car horn, the rise of a straining truck engine moaned, the whine of a car's brakes that needed changing and the clatter of someone moving a garbage bin all combined to end the relative quiet. Moments later the cacophony of the street quelled again. Then it returned. I soon realized the waves of sound alternating with peace was simply the traffic lights changing at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament.

The pandemic meant for a brief time that the city did seem quieter but in my neighbourhood where Parliament Street is an important access to the Gardiner Expressway and the Lakeshore and with Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") as a major route into the downtown core, traffic sounds returned to pretty much normal far earlier than other parts of the city. I've always known this is a busy and noisy area. Around midnight on Monday nights, there is commercial garbage pick-up that happens twice: once eastbound on Dundas and a second time southbound on Parliament. Both times, the noise is incredibly annoying and can last 10-15 minutes each time. I have gotten used to it in the sense that I turn the volume of my TV or music up to block it. The funny thing is that when there is a break in the general noise, it is always because for whatever reason, the traffic has subsided.

Several years ago, the TTC replaced the streetcar tracks at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament. The noise was relentless and due to its high priority went as late as 11:30 PM. An unexpected bonus however was when the construction shut down on Friday of the long weekend, the intersection was impassable thus blissfully quiet for three days. It's easy to see that most (and I do mean most, as in 90% or more) of the pollution I'm exposed to (air, noise, light) is a direct result of automobile traffic. The heavy particulate seen on my window sills? From cars and street traffic. The noise is obviously from cars, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles and motorbikes fitted with penis enlarging exhausts (dear motorcyclists, adding a noise maker to your crotch rocket really just broadcasts your feelings of inferiority and in no way enhances anything). Lastly, street lights and traffic lights mostly exist for cars. If these lights were really for pedestrians, they'd be much dimmer and lower.

All of this occurred to me recently when I was passed by an electric vehicle that rolled by making no more sound than its tires rolling over the asphalt. I wondered what would it be like if every vehicle on the street were that quiet and clean. I could breath easier and open my windows more often. I'd hear birds more often. I'd hear gentle rain more often. Electrification wouldn't eliminate all the air and noise pollution but it would eliminate a lot of it. Thinking of this makes me wish that the "electrification" of our world would be a huge benefit by not only diminishing carbon and petrochemicals pollution but also noise pollution. I'm sort of hoping that electric cars will also discourage people from cranking their car stereos because it uses too much juice but let's just tackle one problem at a time, then maybe we'll still have a society to electrify.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

De-finite 


Time can change you, but you can't change time… unless you're travelling but then you're really just changing your watch.

This year is unlike any other year I’ve ever experienced. Reading this now, it seems unnecessary to say but I feel the reminder is needed.

I recently got an e-mail about a training I’m obliged to complete, telling me that time was running out.

Is it? Isn’t time infinite? If 2020 taught us anything it’s that we have all the time in the world, and beyond. Of course, our time on this planet is finite and maybe the time the planet has left is finite. Yet if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that time has no master and despite time being infinite for the Universe, for you and me, it is most definitely finite.

A week has 168 hours:
  1. I might sleep about 49 hours (including naps).
  2. I work roughly  40 hours (ok maybe 45, or 50 on a busy week).
  3. I might spend 10-14 hours watching television (eek).
  4. Apparently, I spend almost 14 hours a week just looking at my phone (looking mostly at my browser and social media).
  5. I spent at least 11 hours eating or prepping food to eat.
  6. I probably spend 3-4 hours listening to radio, podcasts or reading.
  7. I might spend 7 hours sketching.
  8. Maybe I spend about 4-5 hours cleaning, brushing/flossing my teeth, gargling mouthwash, showering.
  9. I spend at least two hours cleaning the house.
  10. I might spend another hour on laundry.
  11. I probably spend another hour or so buying food to prep and eat.

All of this tally still leaves about a couple of hours a day unaccounted for, so why can't I find 30-45 minutes a day to exercise or an hour to read more? I think I spend a good deal of time day dreaming or just looking closely at lint to insure it isn't an alien insect. I might even spend a good deal of time dreaming up blog posts or making "To Do" lists or thinking of new ice cream flavours. I used to spend a lot more time looking at things to cook that I will never cook (who has the time to clarify butter? Just use olive oil for goodness sake). I'm increasingly aware of the time I spend looking at my bookshelf reading the spines of books I have read or plan to read. I definitely spend too much time fretting and feeling guilty for not doing projects I told someone would only take a few minutes. Now I'm spending time trying to imagine where all the my time goes?

Maybe I have the time, but I don't have the energy. Even if time is infinite, my energy is definitely finite.

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

I've Got a Gut Feeling 


"Does anyone feel a breeze on their colon?" asks man whose abdomen is wide open.

Apparently, a not well understood yet possibly critical measure and factor of your health is in your gut. To be more specific, your gut microbiome, your stomach’s collection of bacteria that not only works in your favour but sometimes against it, and some have speculated it might even be considered another organ. The key to your gut’s health is the diversity of the bacteria therein. Since we’ve all been going to town on what is sometimes called ultra processed food, our collective guts are less diverse than those of people who have not be exposed to a lifetime of Twinkies, frozen pizzas and American cheese. I say they’re missing out. Would you swap all the McDonald’s fries you’ve ever eaten for a better immune system? It’d be nice if you could just pop a pill or supplement full of a few billion bacteria your gut could use to diversify but as is often the case, it isn’t that simple. 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Seen in May & June


Spectacular lava flows in Werner Herzog's Into the Inferno. Image via The Movie Db.

I must really be enjoying the summer to have let this post slip two months late. Maybe I was too busy, or too sick as a dog, to spend more time in front of a computer than I needed to. Either way, it's here now and I think you'll find plenty to fill your summer nights.

The Gig’s Up
Hot Docs
The Gig Economy is the new reality. It has unlocked the economic potential for many people who may have been shut out of typical financial means. For some it has been a life saver but for others, it may take a life. This short film explores all those aspects and more with personal and intimate insight.

Cézanne
Hot Docs
Visit Cézanne's last studio virtually in this quiet, calming short documentary.



The Mitchells. To know them is to love them. Image via The Movie Db.
The Mitchells vs the Machines
Netflix
Never has a robot apocalypse been so much fun. This animated film is a sci-fi family road trip movie about coming closer through crisis and about maybe not trusting your smart phone quite so much.

Colette
The Guardian
As a young girl in France, Colette joined the Resistance and fought Nazis. Meet the now 90-year-old Colette and the young woman who wanted to share her harrowing and inspiring story as she visits the concentration where her brother was killed. This film won the Oscar for best documentary short and it's easy to see why.

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