Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roget's Almanac, 2011 Edition 

At 231 pages this year's almanac is the thickest ever. Despite the occasional typo or formatting error I was genuinely surprised to get the thing finished and printed in time for the holidays. For those of you less inclined to print and more inclined to read digital editions, you can read it here or download the PDF version from here.

I hope you find something of interest.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 

Santa in the trainer, (after Charley Harper)

Santa's trained all year for this night. All those cookies aren't helping. Leave out soy milk or an energy drink, protein bars, and maybe some fruit to power him through this year's Christmas Criterion! Don't let him down!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Not Quite Christmas

It wasn't quite the night before Christmas and I'm pretty sure some creatures were stirring including a mouse. After a last minute decision to pick up something for the shortest people I know (it is my prerogative as height-challenged to refer to children as "short") I decided my soul needed some attention and thus did my bicycle fly me over the now icy black tar MacAdam and carry me to the AGO's current show "Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde".

I have a sort of self-conscious curiosity about Russian Jewish artists. It feels like that world should be familiar but it's entirely foreign. From what appears as a repressive Hassidic tradition springs an almost uncontainable expression. There were two paintings in particular that almost made me laugh out loud (imagine the tweet: "Chagall! LOL!") – I know that makes no sense but you could really feel an infectious joy in these paintings. Or maybe you feel that way because the rest of the exhibit is full of dire death and seriousness of socialism. Take a pill, Socialists, seriously bumming us out.

The Dance, Marc Chagall, image via Terminartors Artist Database

You can see the vibrancy of the painting above and can imagine it can just seem like "Well, someone's having a good time over here." The exhibit did a nice job of putting Chagall's work in context of his time and just how those artists were influenced by folk and religious iconic art but in general, you know, these shows are always a little too much of "his contemporaries" and not enough Chagall himself.

Still, I'm glad I went. Consider it a mini-recharge. The building itself offers so sunny moments too so it was some time well spent. It's funny but there were definitely a lot of parents with their grown children, back on their university break, walking and talking at the gallery, catching up and just seeming to be happy to be in each other's company. At least that's the story I conjured for myself.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seasonal Negotiation 

It behoves us, the amateurs, the enthusiasts, the devotees to provide a holiday free musical experience during this solstice. I like to think this playlist maps a December weekend of unblinking sunlight. You start your Saturday determined and armed with only your wits and your wallet to tackle a week's worth of errands until you slide into a fugue state of wondering how you got here. You migrate to inevitable anger and vitriol and then eventually acceptance and mellowness.

Download the Playlist (99 MB) - if you're using iTunes, import the playlist which is included as an XML file.

Track List

5 Secrets of Negotiation - John Hodgman
Incinerate - Sonic Youth
Agoraphobia (Deerhunter) - The Walkmen
Whole Wide World - Wreckless Eric
Lover's Spit (BSS) - Feist
Battery Kinzie - Fleet Foxes
Somethin Is Better Than Nothin - Tashaki Miyaki
Dreaming - Blondie
B1 Lair (E*Rock remix) - Peepholes
Queen Bitch - David Bowie
Jeepster - T.Rex
Everlasting Light - The Black Keys
Declare Guerre Nucleaire - The Hives
By Morning, It's Gone - The Deadly Snakes
Suit Of Lights - The Costello Show Feat. The Attractions & Confederates
It Is So Nice to Get Stoned - Ted Lucas

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dad in Plaid 

I remember how angry Dad would get priming the Coleman stove. How angry? This angry. My brother looks so pleased he might just pee his pants.

My Dad as Ron Swanson.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Seen in November

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days image via

While some may try nobly to rebrand November as "Movember", to raise consciousness of men's health issues, to me, it will always be about the ultimate men's health issue; war. It was my intent to watch a heap of war films. It didn't quite turn out that way. Oddly, this poor number of films watched happened the same month I got a TV, a cable package and Apple TV. Overwhelmed, I guess.*

Black Book
Dutch drama set during WWII that tells the story of a beautiful Jewish woman who goes from hiding from the Nazis to fighting them as part of the Dutch resistance to falling in love with a Nazi officer who wasn't such a bad Nazi because he collects stamps (what?) At times this flick feels like a zestful 1950s style war flick while at others it feels like a graphic exploitation movie. In the end all we know is that what our heroine did, she did for queen and country and the men she loved died as misunderstood or as traitors but it took a very unconvincing and overly long road to get there.

There's some kind of subtext to this story of an unsuccessful writer who gets hooked on a drug that sort of makes you the best "you" that you can be. I have no idea what that subtext would be. The drug heightens and enhances the mind to allow you to 1) write a masterpiece in days 2) pick up languages and ladies with aplomb 3) fight like Bruce Lee 4) and make millions of dollars easily. More than a few plot points are ignored or forgotten but in general I liked this updated Faustian tale that seems to mix self-help dogma with an action thriller.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
In the last days of WWII, based on actual events, Sophie Scholl, a young anti-Nazi activist is arrested as a member of the White Rose group for writing and distributing treasonous leaflets. Her courage, intelligence and passion are evident throughout her Gestapo interrogation. The more they press her, the more resolute and assured she becomes — right through her trial & execution. I often wonder how I would've acted in Nazi Germany. Would I stand up for what was right or would I even have been smart enough to leave as so many did? Or, more likely I would've been done in by making a wise crack about Hitler's height. I hope I never have to find out.

The son of Odin is disgraced by his scheming trickster brother and ousted from Valhalla. He falls from that world/dimension to Earth and into the waiting arms of Natalie Portman. Well, that was a rotten bit of luck. From there on it's the story of an arrogant and entitled Thor learning to be a little bit human. When he learns to sacrifice himself for others his powers are restored and mankind saved etc. It's all played too large or importantly for my liking but if your keen on little mindless feux d'artifices then go right ahead.

*mind you, 2 of these films were seen via Netflix, one via Video on Demand and another via iTunes, so the same services that kept me from watching more movies enabled what I did watch.

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