Saturday, May 18, 2019

In Between Moons 

"What’s happening with you?" He asked.

Such a loaded question!

So much can happen in a month, in between new moons, waxing and waning, in between tides, like all that water sloshing and pulled between the Earth and the Moon that it can all be a bit overwhelming.
“In between moons
I was the spring, I was the spring

In between moons
I was the sea, I was the sea”
– Eleanor Friedberger’s In Between Stars
Here’s a rundown:
Last year’s tax refund literally got lost in the mail, and I was unable to register to file online this year’s taxes until very recently (they had my home address wrong due to a mistake my accountant made when filing last year. It has since been corrected).

Work is completely unfulfilling which I guess is why they call it “work” and not “happy fun playtime”.

I spent all my secret squirrel savings on new windows.

It continues to be the worst wet and cold spring in years.

I’m still overweight AF (sure Mom, that means “as fudge” what else would it mean?)

Yet, on the bright side:
Raps win by a buzzer beater and despite the strangely sexual tinge of that expression, it was a good thing… and with four bounces off the rim and a ball going straight in the hole, it actually was the best sex I’ve had in years. It was definitely the best sex Toronto has had since the famous “bat flip” (no bats were harmed in said flipping). Though now they find themselves back on the ropes.

Working from home a lot = restorative napping at work.

Due to last year’s tax filing mix-up, I will hopefully get a windfall of two years of tax refunds in the next month or so which may put a dent in “window debt ceiling” and restore the secret squirrel funds.

New windows are “fire*” as the kids say (*yes Mom, that’s a good thing!)

At least it’s not winter. It isn’t even raining this morning.

Enjoying Game of Thrones and Veep finales unlike others who started a petition to rewrite this season of Game of Thrones and think you can rewrite another person’s art if you get enough signatures.
This long weekend is as vital to my current health as any penicillin to a dying man.

Champions league final should be a cracker.

Writing it all down makes it seem less overwhelming. I wouldn’t go as far to say underwhelming but maybe an even whelmed. Yes. I’m back on an even whelm which is not the sort of thing they write songs about (ooo Baby, I’m back! Back on an even whelm!) but it’ll do.

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Auf Wiedersehen Fimbulwinter und Der Struwwelpeter 

Classic Shockheaded Pete. Image via Washington University Library

Last weekend, many a media concern heralded the arrival of the cherry blossoms, a sure sign that not only had spring arrived but that the shackles of a monstrous winter, Fimbulwinter in Old Norse, had been broken. I like to think of winter’s chains as a chastity belt repressing the natural world from doing its thang. Yet it was not to be. Despite a warm sunny Sunday the buds of cherry trees were still shuttered closed, pregnant with blossomy colour indeed but still closed in their husk. The excitement around the cherry blossoms has reached such a fever in recent years perhaps due to social media that the City worried that the crush of visitors would need to be curtailed. In a brief shining moment of the rarest form of bureaucratic wisdom the city took the measures of banning cars from High Park for the duration of the flowering trees (with 2000 cherry trees donated from Japan it has the highest concentration in Toronto) and publishing an online map of other significant locations of cherry trees in the city.

I, thinking myself a very clever boy, took it upon myself to visit what looked like the most unlikely spot to view nature of any kind. Apparently there is a stand of cheery cherry trees to be found at the junction of Cherry Street and Villiers Street, which is one of the few truly industrial areas left in the City of Toronto. There are film “studios” here (also known as faceless warehouses) along with a nearby large concrete facility that maintains silos of slurry to fill the thousands of concrete trucks feeding Toronto’s construction frenzy. There is a small mountain of surplus road salt covered with tarps weighed down by old truck tires which is kept by the Ministry of Transportation and Destruction of Water Tables. There is a canal where large tankers can turn around when delivering salt, sand and sugar, three of the four main ingredients of modernity (fat being the fourth of course). This is a place movie productions film dystopian futures, because it is a place of dirt, broken roads, garbage and the shadows provided by the falling Eastern Gardiner Expressway. The air is full of heavy metal particulate, dust, sewage, the sounds of wild dogs barking, the droning din of highway traffic, overhead helicopters and ascending and descending aircraft. It is not a place easily brightened by a few colour tree buds. It is even less brightened by naked branches of trees looking for all the world like they were dead.

Toronto's most uninspiring view.

The buds of these trees were still in hiding, and who could blame them, but my own blooming spring look had already taken place. For months I’ve adorned a beard best described as a bundle of twigs dusted with icing sugar (because I’m so sweet). With aplomb I trimmed, pruned and decimated the winter beard. So long Struwwelpeter. Sayonara Shock-headed Pete! It felt freeing and terrific to cast off my castaway look. Yet, I missed it. Or my face missed it. Suddenly my chin looked pale, small and doughy. How was my face so small? I hardly recognized myself without my cloak of hair. Bald faced and shivering, how could I go out into the world?

I immediately started growing it back like the darling buds of May. The beard is dead, long live the beard! Vivat barba!

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Seen in March & April 

Hawkeye is back in town and with a new haircut. Image via the Movie DB

Some months are actually two months, which is kind of the thing that happens when you get so busy you neglect writing about the stuff you watched and you just watch it instead. While it’s the low season for high brow cinema, it’s high time for highfalutin pop culture like Captain Marvel, Hellboy and Avengers: Endgame.

This is the least offensive image from The Birth of a Nation. Image via the Movie DB

The Birth of a Nation
This is considered a cinematic classic from 1915 that informs the history of cinema from the iconic American forefather of film, D.W. Griffith. It is simultaneously a despicable fiction of the South’s motivations in the American Civil War and a viciously racist depiction of the post-Antebellum South. I found it very difficult to see the historical cinematic value of this film even as it wrote the playbook for technical and storytelling techniques of film making such as establishing shots, cross fade cuts, or fade to black transitions. It’s hard to take this film seriously partly due to the unmitigated horror show of racism on display but also because of the insanely melodramatic acting that was the norm at the time. I’m someone so use to film and television acting which aims to be as natural as possible that even seeing a live theatrical production can sometimes be off-putting (it’s something you have to get used to - the way a stage actor has to project and play to the “back of the house”). Even knowing this context it's hard to not roll your eyes at the contorted features the actors bear as they try to portray emotions such as “bemusement”, “anger” or “love”. The two stand-outs are Lillian Gish and Henry Walthall who appear to be in a parallel universe as their performances are far more nuanced than the ridiculous convulsions of their co-stars. All this being said, this is a difficult film to watch (it’s infuriatingly and unnecessarily long) but at least I can say I saw it so the next time someone mentions it as “important” I can shoot it down effectively. For context I’m also a believer that no one “genius” changes history. Not D.W. Griffith, not Edison, nor even Elon Musk, make a difference. Take for example Newton or Darwin who changed history with their work yet both were really just the first to publish (Calculus in Newton’s case and the theory of evolution in Darwin’s). Over 90% of Edison’s patents were improvements on someone else’s work. I’m not sure if Einstein hadn’t proposed relativity that someone else wouldn’t have come along later with the same idea. So that’s why I can’t really think that Griffith’s importance as an innovator was so important that we have to put up with his run of the mill racism.

Blackhawk Down
This movie depicted a failed American mission in war torn Somali when the country was in a state of anarchy due to a multi-faceted civil war. Two Blackhawk helicopters were downed by anti-aircraft guns after trying to extract individuals alleged of war crimes, which left dozens of American marines and rangers stranded and surrounded by hostile locals. The film has an incredible cast of actors who have all gone on to significant careers such that you could never assemble them again. Actors like Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Piven, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell… you may not recognize the names but their faces have appeared as leads in everything from Pearl Harbor, Penny Dreadful, Star Wars, Kill Bill, the Hulk, Batman, the Right Stuff, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and even sit-coms like Modern Family. The casting aside this film captures the madness and fog of war that becomes even worse when mixed with bad decisions, American bravado, and international politics. It also should illustrate that no matter how well armed or big your military is, it is meaningless in urban warfare or without a coherent strategy and strategic partnerships.

Great News Seasons 1 & 2
Where was this funny little show hiding all my life? If you like comedies like Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock then you’d like this show set in the office of a nightly cable news broadcast. If you never liked those shows, then take a pass on this one which follows the formula respectfully. On the other hand if you’re looking for a 30-minute comedy to lighten your mood, you could do worse.
Read more »

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Types of Horrible People 

Da Vinci knew a horrible person when he saw one.

Not long ago in Toronto, there was an amber alert issued for a missing child who, sadly, was found dead hours later. The Toronto Police had to issue a warning to the public to not call 911 with complaints, because there were people who actually called 911 to complain that the alert from their phones of the girl's disappearance woke them. In response to this nugget, Scott Gilmore wrote a piece in Maclean's titled, "You are horrible people." It was widely shared, no doubt because people recognized others in the post.

Yet there are many more horrible people omitted which I would like to add.
Read more »

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

I left Twitter for a week and you won’t believe what happened next 

This is what happens when you unplug yourself from a single app

After the New Zealand Mosque attack, amid thoughts and prayers and the horror and the agony and the unity there was of course the bilious spew of the Internet but in even weirder and weirder ways. For context: a young woman of colour wearing a Bernie Sanders campaign t-shirt, was recorded righteously confronting Chelsea Clinton at a memorial ceremony for those who died in New Zealand, and saying that Clinton had used the kind of language against Muslims that led to such attacks on Muslims. What were those words? Ms Clinton had “retweeted” a comment that went something like, while criticism of Israel may be valid, we most push back from any antisemitism, which was in itself a retort to the only female Muslim representative who had commented on another tweet about “it being all about the money” (paraphrasing) — “it” being the suggestion that American Jews who contributed to any lobby for a foreign country (namely Israel) was questionably close to unpatriotic behaviour (or something? This rabbit hole is deep and weird). So to recap, Clinton’s stance on antisemitism was seen as an attack on an American Muslim woman which was somehow to blame for violence against Muslims everywhere so she shouldn’t attend memorials in the names of those who perished due to her words (which, by the way she did not utter nor type but reposted as an implied agreement of sentiment). This, of course, was a colossal exaggeration and wholly unnecessary especially as Clinton is a known supporter of immigrants and immigration and women of all faiths and races. Then some people righteously, on Twitter, defended Chelsea Clinton which led others, on Twitter to fire back that it was so predictable that the perceived worst victim of a shooting of almost 50 Muslims by a racist in a foreign country was an affluent white woman in New York.

I probably did injustice to the entire fustercluck of Twitter outrage that has led to some very nasty confrontations in real life. Yet, it was this debacle that led me to delete the Twitter app on my phone. Not my account mind you, just the application on my personal phone. I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade (member since 2008). I’ve learned of the death of every major artist, entertainer or politician over that decade via Twitter. It was my second most used phone app after e-mail. Now, I’ve spent the entire week away from Twitter and this is what happened: Read more »

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