Friday, November 15, 2013

image of Lucy pulling football from Charlie Brown This, in a nutshell, is what Toronto City Council has done to Rob Ford today. If Charlie Brown has taught us anything, it's that no matter how many times you fall down, You get back up so somebody can knock you down again.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Triple Distilled Sextodecimo 

image of Americans in Paris drinking whole heartedly after hearing of the end of prohibition.
2013 Sextodecimo. Vol.4. Drink up, boys, you may never get a chance to pose comedically with alcohol again.
“The first step is admitting you have a problem. The next is to write a song about it.”
Lately, one feels as though the days of romancing addiction are coming to an end. Perhaps, but unlikely. Finding inspiration at the bottom of a bottle is such an enduring cliché, it's hard to think of any artform not touched by it. From poetry, novels, film, music to painting, there are more examples than can be named. Momentarily I thought, surely you wouldn't dance drunk, then realized that is exactly the only time many people will dance in public. So, here's to you, Addiction and some of the fine art your illness has wrought.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

How Do You Burn a Fireproof Effigy? 


The last laugh is on the City of Toronto. Image via the Grid
“All non-Rob Ford related news is dead to me”
At approximately noon Tuesday, November 5th, 2013, Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, North America's fourth largest city admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine, perhaps a year ago during a drunken stupor (his words). This comes after months of denial and days after the Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair revealed that the police do have a video which appears to be the same one described months earlier. For months both Fords, Rob and Doug have denied there was such a video and that the “Media” were a “bunch of maggots” who were in some kind of out-of-control feeding frenzy. Even hours before the mayor's admission, Doug Ford had accused Chief Blair of a conflict of interest and that he should be the one to step aside rather than Rob.

From this moment on, all non-Rob Ford related news was dead to me. In fact, everything else was dead to me. Which is why, as of now, dear friends, I am stepping aside and devoting my full attention to this ludicrous, lubricous, and lurid tale of libations.

This isn't about an elected official using illicit drugs, or drinking and driving or the spurious $1 billion savings or any of the myriad of other incidents (see The Rob Ford Incident File) but of lies and deceptions and possible actions by those in the Mayor's office who may have threatened, harassed or tried to steal evidence in a police investigation. It's about a mayor who is often missing, drunk in public or associating with known gang members and drug dealers.

So how do you expect me to get a single scrap, one iota, one tiny indivisible particle of work completed? I am more enthralled by this than by anything in recent memory. The fall of the Berlin Wall? It was okay. The death of Diana? It was unseemly and morbid. The recent Royal Wedding of Will and Kate? I slept the whole day. The Senate Scandal? It's been good but now the details are getting pretty boring (oh, there was a second cheque? Yawn). But this? This is fantastic. This is like watching some idiot get a football in the crotch, in slow-motion. How can I not watch? Thus, how can I be expected to do anything else? Watching a spoiled, wealthy, whining, bullying drunkard getting his comeuppance – good God, it's like the hackneyed studio ending to The Magnificent Ambersons.

Yet he really isn't getting his comeuppance is he? How can a man without shame be shamed out of office? He won't resign despite all that he's admitted. Both Rob and Doug Ford are international embarrassments to the city of Toronto and there's not a thing we can do about it. Except moan about it via Twitter. Well, at least Twitter is good for something.

Remember, remember the fifth of November. How can I forget it? I wish I could. I'd burn an effigy of Mayor Ford if my back wasn't bothering me, and if it wasn't so damn cold and dark. Do not be mistaken, these are dark times. It as Douglas Adams once wrote, the long dark tea-time of the soul. Toronto is having an existential moment. A long, slow, painful moment.

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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Seen in October 

photo of Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in the BBC series, The Fall, which is currently streaming on Netflix US.
Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in BBC's The Fall. Image via La Times

Lately, I feel I've fallen into a trap of just trying to find something watchable on Netflix rather than seeing the films I want or ought to see. Bearing that in mind, here is what I saw in the last 30 days or so (minus the more than riveting Senate Spending Scandal or the foibles of Mayor Rob Ford).

The Fall
Gillian Anderson stars in this taut (like, tension cable taut) thriller from the BBC. Set in contemporary Belfast, Anderson plays Stella Gibson who is originally in Belfast to undertake an internal investigation of the local police force but becomes the senior investigator of a task force hunting a serial killer. This is one of those shows I love but it is hard to watch. The serial killer in question is a regular bloke, family man whose cold and calculated killings are fascinating and terrifying. Belfast itself is a bleak, wet, cold and violent place full of sectarian anger and fear which only highlights the nastiness of the crimes. Gibson is a little like Helen Mirren's character in the Prime Suspect series only not at all like that. Anderson's Gibson is aloof, demanding, distant and sexually, um, “confident” and assured of herself and her abilities. She knows she's a woman in a man's world and she really doesn't care if she kicks that world right in the 'nads.


Dirk Gently
A 4-part BBC series based on a Douglas Adams character, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. Gently's detecting method is to embrace coincidence, chaos and happenstance as part of the Universe's ability to reveal the answer to any challenging mystery. His technique of “Zen Navigation”, following anyone who looks like they know where they are going, is one such example. I like to think of this as a sort of British comedic take on the X-Files or Fringe. Investigations into the unexplained over tea and biscuits. Unfortunately, I've only seen the first 2 episodes while the second disc seems to have disappeared into thin air. Looks like a job for Dirk Gently.


Louie Season 3
Whenever this show appears to become too ridiculous or absurd, it quickly shifts into bittersweet and resonant. There is a darkness to Louie CK's humour which is what makes it stand out. The two episode storyline of Louie competing for a shot as a late night talk show host is equal parts surreal, hilarious and uplifting. Once again, CK saves his most emotional episode for the season closer.

Le Mans
“Life is driving. Everything before or after is just waiting.” Le Mans was Steve McQueen's dream project which flopped on its release in 1971 but has become to be considered a classic and one of the few authentic racing movies. What makes the film special is the mix of actual footage from the 1970 Le Mans with the filmed footage after the race that included the actors. It's so well blended you can't decide if this is a documentary or if they staged the entire race. One great piece of film lore is that to get the real race footage the production company had to qualify a car to actually compete while carrying three cameras and some of that footage is amazing. In fact, at one point, the camera car, a Porsche 908, was running in 8th place and only dropped back because it had to do so many pit stops to change film.

Rush
The retelling of the great 1970s F1 racing rivalry that formed between Austrian Niki Lauda and Brit James Hunt is full of melodrama and action. It's a movie so the 70s look a lot better than I remember. The story seems to highlight the difference between the unattractive yet technical, innovative, precise and well-planned Niki Lauda versus the handsome, swashbuckling, intuitive and thrill seeking, "all guts, no glory" style of the playboy James Hunt. This film doesn't have the same level of racing footage as the documentary Senna or the filmed-like-a-documentary, Le Mans, but the race sequences are still great and work in service of the story which is told from Lauda's point of view. One of the best things about a Ron Howard film is that you can't tell it's a Ron Howard film. This isn't the kind of movie that stays with you but it's certainly an entertaining and fun ride. Plus the cars look great.

True Blood season 06
I have never watched anything with so many plot holes and leaps of logic. It is the most ridiculous television I watch. Vampires versus werewolves versus humans and faeries. Yes. Faeries. It's full of sex, gore, violence and romantic entanglements. There were moments when True Blood could said to have had a subtext of religion, intolerance and sexuality, but by Season 5 all that sublety was chucked out for seeing a crazy plot arc through to its end. Calling it a guilty pleasure is an understatement. Sinful pleasure? I'm not even sure I get that much pleasure from it? The show is following a now familiar HBO pattern of ending the season on the second last episode, and using the last episode to set up the questions for the next season – which is really effective and mean thing to do.

This is the End
Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel attend a party at James Franco's house when The Apocalypse occurs. Incredibly stupid movie. I laughed from beginning to end. In a typical madcap scene, Emma Watson overhears “rapey talk” from her cohort of male leads so, armed with a fire axe and in six-inch stilettos, she forcibly takes all of their remaining water and walks back out into the inferno that is a burning L.A. The insanity of it all and the uncountable number of brief cameos reminded me of a raunchy, bawdy version of one of those late 60s ensemble films like It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World. It most certainly is.

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