Friday, June 14, 2019

Seen in May 


Some enchanted evening - Dany and Jon Snow take a walk in Season 8 of Game of Thrones, image via The Movie Db

A lot of time was invested in May in the final season of Game of Thrones and the Raptors' unprecedented playoff run (to victory! Go Raps!) Was it worth it? Sure. As much as anything that involves lying on the couch is worth anything I guess. I'm sure I could've been doing something else. Doing taxes? Did it. Exercise? Tomorrow or maybe on the weekend. In the end, there are only the memories. Now, what was I talking about? Oh right, movies and stuff.


Yossarian makes his case for his sanity, image via The Movie Db

Catch-22

This is the 1970 film based on the seminal novel of the same name from Joseph Heller. The novel and its title have became a sort of cultural touchstone of the madness of modern warfare. Set in the Mediterranean theatre air campaign of WWII, pilot Yossarian desires nothing more than a break from flying missions. Yet every time he and his fellow pilots are approaching the set limit of flight missions, the number is raised by their superiors. The only way to get out of flying additional missions is to be declared unfit to fly by insanity. The only way to be considered for such a recommendation is to request it from the base doctor who is the only one who can grant it. The catch? Only a reasonably sane individual would ask to be relieved of this duty, therefore the pilot asking for this exception must be sane and is thus fit to fly. I’m surprised this paradox hasn’t been pointed out more often recently as it’s been the basis of the US Attorney General’s reasoning on why the President of the United States hasn’t committed any crimes. Basically, because no actions of a sitting president can be considered criminal it is therefore impossible for a sitting president to commit a crime. This of course is nonsensical and forms the background to a kind of madcap escapade of the absurdity of modern warfare and American capitalism. Milo Minderbinder’s explanation of how eggs purchased at a loss from Malta vendors can be sold at a profit to the US Military as long as the transaction passes through the profiteering “Corporation” and a ready supply of silk can be provided to Egyptians even if the silk comes from the parachutes of American pilots is the level of satire that is the entire basis of this film.

The Tick Season 02

Season 2 Ticked along, reliably goofy with underwhelming effects and costumes.

Emily Blunt doesn't take any guff in Sicario, well, some guff, but not much. Image via The Movie Db

Sicario

This slightly confusing drug thriller is as good as it gets. Excellent performances from Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin underpin a conspiracy between the CIA working with (or against) the FBI to work with one cartel to undermine another more violent one. Who knows if these kind of operations ever happen but the infamous violence of the cartels is frighteningly depicted here as are their methods of stash houses and tunnelling. I don't know why I put off seeing this for so long but it is definitely worth watching. You'll also realize how deft a director Denis Villeneuve is and just why he's so sought after.
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Monday, June 03, 2019

Double Pane Happiness 


Through a glass darkly… the windows have a UV blocking film that gives the dark yet sparkly appearance.

“Double Happiness!”, he said.

“Sorry?”, I replied.

“Your address. 88. The number 4 in Asian culture is lucky, so '8' is double that. Hey, '88' must be quadruple happiness?!”

My friend's effusive discovery of my home's built-in luck, did momentarily charm me. Admittedly there are many days that I have not felt happy about my home purchase. To walk through a list of “disappointments” or complaints would either make me sound like a whiner, a prat, or a weak-spined man who did not take control of the reins of his destiny and instead fell into a fetal curl. There are some things money cannot fix, but when it comes to real estate, money can put its shoulder to a problem and make a push towards posterity.

Last year, I cut off one limb to strengthen another. By replacing my fence, deck and shed I put a nail in any possible claim on a parking space but it improved my day to day life tenfold. I suddenly had a usable shed, a respectable deck and fence and most importantly, a locked and fenced off area for my garbage and recycling bins. The bins need to be locked up not because they may escape, but because of all of the crazy escapades and illegal dumping that happened because there was an unused space behind my house. Whether there was a car there or not, garbage from unseen, unknown and known places piled up, inviting rats, both four-legged and two-legged to rummage and add to the detritus. Used needles and condoms were so commonplace it led one friend to say that with all the sex and drugs apparently taking place that my house was more fun outside of it, than within. Touché.

Less than a year later and those problems are mostly history (mostly) and now I have added spectacular new windows that look like they landed from the future on my house. Suddenly my place looks, if not great, then in the least, not bad. I like seeing it. From inside it’s quieter and brighter and just looks better. They say fences make good neighbours but that isn’t true. Good and high fences make you care less about whatever crap your neighbours are up to.

They also say money can’t buy happiness but of course it can buy things that can make you happy, so screw you, old saying. Sometimes money can buy happiness and when you are buying tall fences, lovely decking, a bit of security and double pane windows, it can even be quadruple happiness.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It's About the Journey (or Journal) 


"Gramps" Memory Books

A few years ago, after moving into my new place I discovered a box of sketchbooks. Empty sketchbooks. I realized I'd moved with them at least twice. They were roughly A5 format, some were stitch bound, others were wire coil bound, some were 80 pages, some were almost 200 pages but all of them were blank, open white pages. I determined I should either use them or give them away. Giving away some were easy, but I couldn't give up others and I didn't know why. I decided I would have to start using them. For whatever reason it made natural sense to use them as they were intended, as journals. It seemed just as natural to use the comic book format - either four boxes or six or more to simply fill in what was going on during any given day. Plus, I felt I wanted to teach myself how to tell stories in that format. When I began I almost obsessively drew everyday. At some point that seemed too much and there was about a four month gap when I only drew three or four times. Since then I usually do two or three a week and they capture the most ridiculously mundane details of my life. Dentist visits, biking in the rain, baking bread, going for a run, or reading on the couch. I'm not sure you'd really learn anything about me from them other than I have terrible penmanship and the quality of the drawing has remained woefully poor, but I will say, occasionally, a page of wordless images are some of the best things I've ever done.

Seeing this short film on The Atlantic and hearing the narrator's father talk about his father's journals and how sometimes he would just grab a journal from the bookshelf and relive moments from the past resonated with me. I do the same thing even though I only have been doing it since 2015 and only have eight sketchbooks. Still, I can recall the week around Mom's heart surgery, or a summer trip or a weekend when something odd happened.

Curiously verbose. Absurdly quotidian.


Page from one of my own journals

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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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