Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Feel Special 

Specialized Tricross Comp

About two weeks ago, I got off the couch, drove to Gears bike shop in Mississauga and walked out with the best bike I've ever owned. Well, certainly the most expensive. How did it come to this? Riding a fairly cheap 80s Bianchi 10-speed is what. That bike is still fun to ride, but not comfortable. Plus, I was just tired of seeing tubby guys pass me on a much better bike. You know what? It really was the bike. This bike could still be faster (I've really got to ditch the wide 32 wheels and switch to 23s or 25s which will make a difference). Now I've got 20 speeds with shifters on the brake levers. It is a smooth ride, but not without some bumps. Like I said, I have to change to a more narrow tire, add a bike computer and it looks like I'll have to change the quick release rear axle thingy (is that the "dropout"?) because it doesn't seem to fit in my trainer.

Still, no excuses now. Just get out there and ride.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Charley Harper, that's hoo...

Lately, with the encroaching seasonal twilight crawling ever closer, I've been hearing and thinking about things that go bump/scratch/ruffle in the night. This Charley Harper illustration reminded me of that and the autumnal darkness that is approaching.

Last winter, while laying sick in bed, I gobbled up the reprinted art of Charley Harper: an Illustrated Life. If you drop by our place, be sure to ask to see it, or pick up a copy for yourself you cheap arsehole. What am I? Your personal library, you mooch. Sheesh, you try to educate some people and they just try to take advantage.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cameo Within a Chameleon 

From Peter Theatre
What exactly is going on here?

Some time ago I saw this trailer for the film "Rango". Dumb name. Apparently it concerns a chameleon with an identity crisis. Perhaps a pet lizard escaped into the wild? Who knows? The trailer doesn't give much away. Yet I noticed said lizard was voiced by Johnny Depp. A lizard wearing a floppy hat and a Hawaiian shirt, walking in the desert. Kind of like that film based on the work of Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, when Depp portrayed Thompson's alter ego (or a caricature of him at least). Then, in a slashing cut, there it is, the adorable mutt, Rango is flung head long into an oncoming red caddy coupe, driven by a thin necked fellow in a floppy hat and Hawaiian shirt, just like in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Is this a pop-culture nod to Depp's work? To Thompson's? Or is it just a throwaway created by an animator who noticed the resemblance and made the connection? Are they messing with our heads? Why did I even notice it?

The word "chameleon" is derived from the Greek, "khamai", meaning ‘on the ground’.

The word "cameo" from the medieval Latin, "cammaeus", thought to mean "engraved gem", or not. It's disputed.

Ok, I really thought there would be a stronger connection there. Nope. Cameo, chameleon? Though I think maybe the film makers thought there was a connection. Maybe they even think cameo, chameleon and camouflage share the same root. To be honest, that's what I thought, but it just isn't so.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finished Product

A Kraft Klassic

Really, you could just jam all the ingredients in your mouth and it might taste the same but it wouldn't make tidy little squares.
NOTE: I've sarcastically categorized this and the previous post as "food" but I don't know how much of these squares is actually food?

Posted via email from peter's preposterous posterous


Gluten Free Junk Food

We just happen to have marshmallows in the house (longish story). For some reason I thought I'd just go buy the other 3 ingredients and make Rice Krispie squares. Sort of like having butter in the house and deciding to go buy cheese, eggs and flour to make a soufflé. After making it, I know why we don't often do it. It's like melting a bunch of candy bars and sticking them together. Here's the recipe - knock yourself out:
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. peanut butter
10 oz. mini-marshmallows
3 1/2 c. Rice Krispies
Melt and mix butter, 1 cup chocolate chips and peanut butter. Add marshmallows until melted. Add Rice Krispies and nuts. Put in 9 x 13 inch pan.
1 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
Melt 1 cup chips, milk and butter. Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat with mixer. Put on bars while still warm.
 To think I once passed on a chance to try a deep-fried Mars bar.

mmmm... sort of.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chico & Rita 

"Chico and Rita is an appealing curio — an animated film from Spanish director Fernando Trueba (Belle epoque) about a young couple who meet in Havana in 1948. Chico’s a talented jazz pianist, Rita’s a sultry singer. [...]

Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque) and Spain’s most famous designer Javier Mariscal have collaborated on the animation.

The music, featuring Cuban rhythms and American bebop, is sensational — and the visuals, by the great designer Javier Mariscal, are ravishing, especially his cityscapes of New York, Vegas and pre‑revolutionary Havana."
the Telegraph

I feel like I've been waiting for this kind of film, all of my life. An animated tale of two star-crossed lovers set in New York and Havana with a backdrop of 1950s Jazz, all gorgeously designed by Javier Marsical. The beauty of the city, the colours of Cuba, the big band music of the day are enough to make me want to see what looks like a precious little gift. Add to that the director of a fondly remembered "Belle Epoque" and a design hero and it's almost too much to bear.

My own feeble attempts at capturing a story using this music, set in this era were, let's be polite shall we, "unfulfilled" (24hr. Man, and Salt Peanuts may remain my only sad contribution to the oeuvre). It's currently entered in the Toronto International Film Festival where I doubt I will be able to see it, so I'm hoping it finds a North American distributor and we'll be seeing it this autumn. Whether it's an international hit or merely a pretty bauble remains to be seen, but from the trailer above I'm salivating at the chance of seeing it.

Another beautiful animated film may be equally hard to see. "The Illusionist" is a new film by the makers of "The Triplets of Bellville" based on an original Jacques Tati script. It's not a surprise that while animated films have become blockbuster box office staples in the States, only European film makers continue to explore the merging of digital composition, 3D CGI and traditional techniques to create an entirely new experience.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Very Nice, Indeed 

"Very Nice, Very Nice" via

Last night on TVO, I caught the last half of a film about Arthur Lipsett, a NFB film maker who made a seven minute short called "Very Nice, Very Nice". Made in 1961 "...Lipsett's first film is an avant-garde blend of photography and sound. It looks behind the business-as-usual face we put on life and shows anxieties we want to forget. It is made of dozens of pictures that seem familiar, with fragments of speech heard in passing and, between times, a voice saying, "Very nice, very nice." It was was critically acclaimed and plays frequently in festivals and film schools around the world."

More than what that NFB synopsis suggests is how incredibly modern the film feels. It's a bit of a lesson in both editing and collage, and is far more influential than realized (George Lucas counts Lipsett's "21-87" as an important influence). I don't really understand why I hadn't heard of this film. It seems as though we were force-fed Norman McLaren and Donald Brittain in school but nothing about Lipsett. Perhaps it's because he became mentally ill and withdrew from friends and family, eventually committing suicide in 1986. Fortunately, in 2006 the film Remembering Arthur was made and illuminates his work as well as his personal troubles. Enjoy seven minutes of surprise and delight.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Three Days in a Foreign City

Montreal as seen from a moving bicycle. Image via Flickr.

A small fan by the bed passes over me like a search light. Thin sheets flutter and the hair on my legs bristle. It is no relief. I feel like I'm slowly cooking from the inside out. A hot late summer night in Montreal. It's dark but light from the nearby houses is soaking through the room. Morning comes too soon and a heavy rain wakes me but at least the heat has fizzled out. Cooler air starts to penetrate the small apartment where we're staying.

It occurs to me that no other city confounds me like Montreal. I can never make sense of its cardinal points. Maybe it's because the city feels canted on the diagonal or that I'm always looking at the foreign feeling streetscape or the people or more significantly the Young Women of Montreal.

The Young Women of Montreal wear high boots and short breezy skirts. They wear large fashionable sunglasses, and snug, plunging v-neck t-shirts that reveal elaborate tattoos or unique jewelry or uncommonly graceful necks. Their posture and poise is remarkably upright compared to the common hipster slouch of Toronto. Theirs is a walk of confidence, ease and certainty. Like dancers versus sulking teens. Young women of Montreal wear little make-up while older women of Montreal wear too much. Though to be honest even the older people seem younger and move with same thrust as their youthful counterparts. Montreal feels younger, more energetic, more awake than Toronto.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Meaning of ‘Man Up’

Are we not men? Is this not a "man's world"? I guess my noting of this trend was only slightly behind the last stop in trend spotting - the New York Times. What follows is a tidy and concise round up of the possible origins of the phrase "man up" and by default points to the beginning of the move to "manliness" in media writ large. At the very least, it suggests when marketing masculinity as an alternative to brutish machismo began with additional moral implications (such as being gentlemanly, or doing the right thing for the right reason).

From The New York Times:

ON LANGUAGE: The Meaning of ‘Man Up’

Behind a simple imperative lurks a complex web of masculinity.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Riding the Rails to MTL

I think I knew this already but the elegance of rail travel has long since passed in this country. From the incredible cost to the inane boarding procedures and the spotty schedule, it's a wonder Via Rail still exists. Let's not discuss how slow the train travels, the loose rattling sound of disrepair I've put up with for 5 hours (or that we still have another hour to go), the busted bathroom or the outdated "snack cart". Via Rail could use an entire overhaul. There's really no reason not to just take Porter Air. The cost is comparable, the trip shorter and the service is better. According to Porter, flying their small aircraft is also greener but I'll leave that up for debate. Yet, I'm still looking forward to seeing Montreal, seeing our friends, and being faaaaaar away from the Air Show in Toronto. I'm also grateful for NOT working on the house as it has been my unfortunate tradition for the last several years to actually labour on Labour Day Weekend. Montreal, home to Habs, steams and Poutine - I embrace you. Don't disappoint me.


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Seen in August

From Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game. Image via the Film Sufi

Youth in Revolt
There is one scene with Fred Willard that is worth the price of admission on it's own and makes up for any other failings the film may have. Michael Cera turns in not just his standard A-game as the heroic loser that he has honed so well but even gets the chance to wallow in the role of a roguishly acerbic villian.

Despicable Me
Pixar, you have been served notice. A smartly funny, entertaining and well animated and designed movie. Just the right amount of cute and wry. Steve Carrell and Jason Segel are great as the primary "voice talent".

Toy Story 3
Just when you thought Pixar must finally have by now obviously run out of ideas they turn around create another hilarious and beautifully made movie. Woody and the gang go on another... blah blah blah - that's the marketing crap but this movie deserves more than that. It is very funny, in that all-ages kind of way that Pixar has perfected (I sense a Simpons influence in the humour) but also very dramatic and moving. The one down side is some may consider it overly sentimental, especially those who lost their soul somewhere along the line.
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