Thursday, August 25, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Pop, T-dot 

Last night Toronto had yet another storm for the ages. I had a front row seat, but didn't see much between cooking supper, doing laundry and cowering behind the couch. Thankfully, Jon Simonassi was far braver and made this great video.

Despite having a view of CN Tower, I still didn't feel like craning my neck out into the storm to watch for lightning strikes (though, as the largest lightning rod this side of Chicago, it gets hit often). I did however catch a few amazing lightning shards hit the Lake. It's sort of wildly beautiful and frightening all at the same time. I suppose I should have been watching for funnel clouds as Toronto, along with much of the Golden Horseshoe (more like a Golden Barbecue this summer) was under an official tornado watch from Environment Canada. Some of the thunder claps were incredible. Completely deafening and um... pant soiling. No matter what your brain tells you, when you hear a sudden noise that loud, your heart goes immediately into "flight mode", making me wonder are there more heart attacks during thunderstorms? (Based on a quick Web search – more sleep apnea and asthma but no extra cardiac events.) I did notice something strange after the storm but I thought it might just be me. There seemed to be a sort of metallic smell, as though someone had just sanded a steel pipe with steel wool, if you know what I mean. Some people describe it as fresh but I would't put it that way. According to Nova, it's the smell of Ozone or O3 which is abundant following an electrical storm.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Beginning of the End 

Toronto used to be more bicycle friendly, as this photo from the 1930 CNE attests. See more at BlogTO.

It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
In Ontario (I can't speak for other Canadian cities) everyone knows, summer begins to end when the "Exhibition" comes to town. In Ottawa, it's known as "The X" or "The Ex" (depending on the current marketing campaign). Whereas in Toronto, it's called the CNE, short for the Canadian National Exhibition. How grand. I can't remember what we called the one that appeared in the Avalon Mall's parking lot in St. John's. The Midway, the Fairgrounds? Midway sounds right. Right?

So that's it. At 10 AM Eastern Standard Time, August 19th, the end of summer begins. At the same time it's the official close of the sale of 112 Fern Avenue. A summer of house sales, house builds, house moves and endless, endless trips back and forth. I'll always think of it as "The Summer of a Thousand Cuts" (as in "Death by a thousand cuts"). A summer of endings and beginnings. At times it seemed like a cruel "Groundhog Day" version of an Endless Summer. It certainly was the summer of our discontent, in the real sense that all of my "discontent" was in full bloom. Of course, summer really ends with the explosive, howling Air Show on the Labour Day long weekend. If I could escape the city for a weekend, that would be it. Though Caribana would also be in the running.

I recently heard a quote from MacBeth that seems fitting. "It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Yeah. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing. That's life.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Have a Swim. Feel Better. 

Floating in the pool - Florida

I've been thinking a lot about swimming lately, particularly as I've been too busy to go this week (I usually swim two to three times a week). Not swimming, especially in the summer is rough for an enthusiast such as myself. As an enthusiast, I'm prone to mentally collect lists of films that touch on my chosen diversion. You know what I mean. I cycle a lot, so I note any movie where bikes play a part of the story (think of Breaking Away, or of the cycling montage in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or even The 40-year-old Virgin – where Steve Carrell is caricatured by his use of a bike). If you love hockey, you might list Slapshot or Mystery Alaska in your cerebral library of hockey movies (you’ll probably try to forget Rob Lowe’s Youngblood).
Relax. We'll have a swim. Feel better.
I’ve started to do that same thing with swimming, not just the obvious ones like Swimfan, Big River Man or The Swimmer but ones where a character is shown doing laps in lieu of a “long thoughtful walk on a beach” or something. I guess the idea is we can “see” a character thinking while a voice-over or inspirational music plays. The two scenes that come to mind are decades apart but similar (because they are in a pool – that’s about it really).
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Monday, August 08, 2011

An Accurate Depiction 

This New Yorker cartoon is an accurate depiction of my current state of mind and body.


Thursday, August 04, 2011

For Your Consideration 

This illustrates the idea for some kind of comprehensive bike lock system

Recently I saw Public Bikes had a call for customers to submit ideas for products they should carry. Ideas for things they would sell don't seem limited to bike accessories but in my mind, that is what they do best.
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Monday, August 01, 2011

Seen in July

The Housemaid, image via

This month, movies were all about escape. Escape from moving boxes, escape from the heat and most importantly, escape from reality. Isn't that what summer movies all about?

Extras - Season 2
From Ricky Gervais, creator of The Office, comes a series about a nobody actor trying to make it as an actor. Despite some terrible experiences as an extra he pushes on until he gets his own series. Sometimes though, you should watch what you wish for.

The Housemaid
A Korean thriller remake of a 1960 film. A young woman begins working as a nanny for a very wealthy family and draws the eye of the husband. Sexual goings-ons ensue as does an unwanted pregnancy — let the thrills begin. Not a typical thriller. It's a slow burn to a very sudden immolation.

Green Lantern
Ryan Reynolds seems like a white Wil Smith to me in that, sometimes his charm alone can save a picture. This one takes awhile to start up and delivers enormous special effects but the script didn't give Reynolds the opportunity to shine the way Robert Downey Jr. does in Iron Man. Still a bit of fun and nowhere as bad as critics have said.

Horrible Bosses
Surprisingly funny. This movie delivers the laughs where expected but still entertains. I know people say you only need to see highly cinematic films in the theatre but the same is true of comedies. Funny movies are just that much funnier with a group of people. The broader comedic bits by the cameos (Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston) are tempered by the easy humor of Jason Sedakis and the dryness of Jason Bateman (dryness that would make a soda cracker seem juicy).

The Last Station
Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren show the kids how it's done by portraying Leo Tolstoy and his wife. In the last years Tolstoy apparently encouraged a new philosophy and approach to spirituality. His writings beget an organized movement of Tolstoyians. One of the main goals of the movement was to convince Tolstoy to deed his writings to the public domain. His wife fears such a thing, thus the main conflict that drives the action. Actually more interesting than it sounds.

Breaking Bad Season 4
What shenanigans are Jesse and Walt up to now? Cooking, killin' and conniving, that's what.

Nurse Jackie season 03
Oh Jackie. You break hearts and you're the world's greatest liar… even to yourself.

X-Men: First Class
This was a better addition to the franchise than Wolverine and somehow manages to have its cake and eat it too. The movie is at times kitsch and other times reverent and introspective. Much of the success is due to the well assembled cast of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2
HP7, as it was written on the marquee. HP7? HP? Like the sauce or the computer company? Plus, wasn't it really 7.2? Whatever. It concludes the series of books and films that a generation have grown up consuming. All's well that ends well, I suppose. And it does end satisfyingly (I hope George Lucas took notes). I had re-watched the previous two films just to be up on the twisting logic of the plot but that wasn't the real effect, which was more to emotionally re-connect with the hero-trio of Hermione, Ron and of course, Harry. If you're engaged in the story, like any good yarn, you care about their fates. Otherwise, it's all just a bit of movie magic rather than the Hogwarts variety. By the way, I only just now realized the joke of Hermione carrying a bottomless purse.

Captain America
Another summer fantasy blockbuster. I promise I'll see a "serious" film soon. Some critics have complained that this origin-story movie is just a set-up for a bigger movie, The Avengers but I always thought Captain America's back story WAS his only story of interest. Others have noted the film's wash of old time movie matinee sepia can't hide its unsavory racial-superiority-through-mad-scientist-genetics. Yet, the villainy of racist Nazis pales next to the jingoism of the stars and stripes forever. Despite mocking the over-the-top patriotism of liberty Bonds, the movie cuts much more insidiously by mixing those ingredients with sentimentality and nostalgia. In general though this movie wears its heart on its sleeve and has as much fun as a, no doubt huge, budget will allow. Hugo Weaving gives another standout performance as the baddie, delivering a great Werner Herzog impression. Tommy Lee Jones has many of the best lines in a role that he's done many times and owns solely. Chris Evans does well as "Cap" using his impressive pecs for maximum hunkiness but also making Steve Rogers' grating earnestness believable & honest. That's what I always hated about Captain America; that earnest righteousness. The story is supposed to be the triumph of the good man given the right tools but he just seems to prove that nice guys finish last unless they have a square jaw a rockin' hairless bod!

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