Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cruelest Month 

image via Boston Globe

I've heard that November is the cruelest month. This year, a span of a week in April has been beyond cruel, landing somewhere around vicious. Wars and time shook off more than a few mortal coils. When Roger Ebert succumbed, it prompted Dick Cavett to muse, "Why isn't ever Dick Cheney?" It may never be it seems, as the former vice president watched Margaret Thatcher put to ground. Then Jonathan Winters faded from light and bowed out. Still no sign of Cheney's demise. Also with no sign of Spring in sight, we buttoned our top button and slung our scarves and leaned to the wind. The wind blew back when two bombs killed three and wounded hundreds in Boston. Poison powder was sent to two US senators, a judge and the president of the United States. A fertilizer plant explosion blew a hole in the heart of Texas killing 14 and injuring over 200 people. Simultaneous car bombs blasted away 30 or more lives in Baghdad and when you weren't looking the Syrian civil war worsened. You wouldn't blame someone for waxing poetic for the time when news had to be printed on paper and delivered the next morning. You couldn't turn it off. The "feed" of information was gluttonous and spewed forth bile with fierce purpose. As though the Universe was trying to teach us all a lesson.
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Friday, April 05, 2013

This Thing Just Got Real…

image via Brooks England Blog

Then again, I guess it was a "Thing" all along. I've only recently started riding the distances wherein chamois cream may be considered. I have a friend who has ridden thousands of kilometres without the stuff and believes saddle sores are caused by funky riding shorts. I think the first season I rode thousands of kilometres with underwear beneath my riding shorts, which seasoned riders would think of as heresy – I think they're not wearing the right underwear. This season, I'm switching the riding shorts for riding undergarments – just like the Mormons – and I'll be wearing more regular looking shorts on top. I don't mean for training rides but on touring rides. I've been wearing the new underwear on the trainer and I have to admit, they are not as comfortable as regular riding shorts but I guess I'll eventually get used to them. I can't say riding sores have ever really been a problem but maybe I'm just not riding enough. If riding more is the only way to find out then I'm game to get my rash on! The Ride to Conquer Cancer is only 2 months away so at some point my 20 mins on the trainer will have to migrate to 5 hours on the road.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Seen in March 

Scene from Zero Dark Thirty whereby a team of Navy SEALs do what they do. Image via the Hollywood Reporter

Steven Spielberg's epic portrayal of Lincoln's struggle to pass the constitutional amendment that would emancipate slaves and abolish slavery in America feels at times like a period piece version of C-Span. The climatic vote is stirring though full of dramatic pause, but Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln is very, very good. He made an almost mythical historical figure a real person yet still iconic. It's hard to believe that abolishing slavery had to be argued at all but it is shown here with all its dirty laundry.

Ben Affleck's Argo tells the story of the six American hostages who escaped from Iran in 1979 during the Tehran hostage crisis. It is told from the point of view of the CIA agent who conceived of the idea of disguising the six Americans as members of a Canadian film crew. So the Canadians involved don't get their due, Iranians involved don't get their due and frankly anyone not named Tony Mendez doesn't get their due. But that is kind of the point; Tony Mendez never got his due and this is his story. It's an effective drama that shows just how little we know about the intelligence agency and just how much they sometimes give. It might be interesting to see this period of history depicted more deeply as a mini-series rather than a 2 hour film.

Seven Psychopaths
Martin McDonagh's follow up to In Brugges is a similarly funny, intelligent and violent thriller about writer's block that doesn't work quite as well. As much as I wanted to like this, I can't really recommend it.

The Dictator
Sacha Baron Cohen is a troublemaker who likes making anti-gay and anti-Semitic jokes to prove a point. This film about a fictitious Arabic dictator walks the line, many times crossing it but it's all in good fun isn't it? Cohen has been described as shameless or impossible to embarrass and you may have to find some of those qualities in yourself to enjoy this movie.

Black Mirror
Cross Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected with The Twilight Zone mixed with the moral morass of an age of mobile phones, ubiquitous video and photography without privacy and you may have a good picture of what this intelligent and surprising British drama is like. It is very good.

Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater
Excellent hour of stand-up comedy from a man who is more artist than clown. I'm a fan. Not everyone is. His absurdist humour is intelligent but can be blunt at times which I think, is the point. This production is also a standout for its quality and the fact that the comedian did it all himself. He rented the hall, hired the camera and sound crew, directed, produced and edited it himself. Film and television are often thought of as collaborative arts but Louis C.K. has shown how a singular vision it can be. He is the The Singularity of Hilarity.

The Errol Morris documentary about Joyce McKinney, a one time beauty queen (apparently) with a (self reported IQ) of 168 who became obsessed with a pudgy Mormon missionary, Kirk Anderson (sp?) in the late 70s. She loved him so much that she followed him to England where she abducted him, keeping him in a countryside cottage for 3 days, having sex to break him from his Mormon "cult", while believing he would marry her. Kirk so feared excommunication from the church he later claimed to be kidnapped and an unwilling participant triggering Mckinney's arrest. As always with Morris documentaries, the subject is given more than enough rope to hang themselves. My only problem is the film purports to be about the Tabloid press' fascination with a sex scandal but it really is more about the truth we tell ourselves versus the truth as others see it.

Zero Dark Thirty
Intense is probably not the right word for this film. There are moments of a quiet procedure interrupted by horrible violence. The story of Osama Bin Laden's capture and death could only ever be that way. Much has been made of the torture scenes and its role in the plot but it is pretty clear how fruitless any information garnered from torture was. The really useful information seemed to come from interrogations in confinement and not torture (though the threat is present). The rest of the story is "old fashioned police work" and new fangled technology. The dramatic Navy Seal operation is intense but surprisingly the soldiers are depicted as working confidently, assuredly and with focus. When the moment does come it is without fanfare. "Geronimo. For God and country. Geronimo." Maya, the agent who tracked the courier that led to success is poignantly shown crying without an answer to the question "Where do you want to go?"

The Story of Film. An Odyssey.
A meditative, philosophical and international series that looks at the history and significance of movies. From the British Film Institute. At times a bit esoteric but comes across as an enlightening love poem to movies and filmmakers.

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Monday, April 01, 2013

Easy as an Easter Sunday 

Easter Sunday from rowdyman on Vimeo.

Here's an Easter card in lieu of a printed one. Despite another grey Toronto day, the atmosphere was sunny and bright at Bec, Andy and Gina's. A finely wrought feast was set with all seated bringing forth each their own contribution. From spaghetti squash, ratatouille, sprouts (with bacon and without), salads, wine, fresh baked bread1, some of the most tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs you'll ever have and finished with an assortment of chocolates, cookies and one "I spy with my little eye, some of Nonna's famous apple pie". As evidence, I submit for your viewing pleasure the above videola picture-gram. Set to the tune of a duet of Andy and Gina's practiced hand, a fine afternoon was had by all on this day of our Lord, two-thousand-three.

FN 1: From your author, the bread I made, for once, turned out very well. I think it's been well over a year since any baking I've made has resulted in anything with success. What did I do this time? Only the bread knows for sure. I did use a fresh pack of instant yeast. I let it rest a little over 12-14 hours. I allowed a second rising (only appropriate for Easter, no?) for about 2 hours. I left the oven to heat an extra amount of time. I baked it for 30 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered. I very nearly burned it, but instead it turned out fine. As I said, only the bread knows for certain.

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