Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A New Dog Can Learn Old Tricks 

image of Best Buy Store
image via Daily Finance
“I entered what is sort of surprising in downtown Toronto — essentially a suburban sized big-box store”
I had decided a quick fix to my current need for radios in both the bedroom and the kitchen was to purchase a single modest speaker that could connect via Bluetooth to my phone/laptop/tablet. I did some cursory research and found 3 or 4 options, all apparently in stock according to the BestBuy Web site at a store located on my route home.

Now, I could’ve just ordered one of these little speakers via Amazon or BestBuy, but I thought why wait 2-3 weeks for delivery when I could walk into a well stocked store and walk out minutes later with an item I could test and see in person. BestBuy even offers a way to order an item you want that may be out of stock and have it delivered to the store of your choice, but that could take 24-48 hours and I wanted this thing now, not later. It’s the whole reason for a bricks-and-mortar store, right? The immediacy and ease of the shopping experience was only minutes away. Right? No, not right.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

April Movies Bring May Posts 

image from Dune storyboards
Jean Giraud's storyboard sketches for Jodorowsky's Dune

Another double month post – these things have a way of slipping between the cracks of life. In a very busy couple of months it was hard to find time to watch many movies or shows (especially with the Stanley Cup Playoffs dominating television).


Jodorowsky’s Dune
This documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fever dream of a version of Dune is fantastic. Partly because you find out more about one of the most daring, crazy and weird filmmakers you’ll ever meet, but also because his vision of Frank Herbert’s Dune is both wild and sort of honest in a weird way (he admits it’s a confusing book). Also, you get to meet artists like H. R. Giger who went on to create the alien for Ridley Scott and the French cartoonist, a hero of mine, Moebius (Jean Giraud), who created amazingly vivid storyboard sketches for the film. Admittedly, hearing Jodorowsky talk about how good his version of Dune was going to be was probably a whole lot better than his actual production of it may ever have been.

Mad Men Season Six
This took up most of April for me as I stretched and enjoyed every minute of it. Well, “enjoyed” isn’t quite right, but I was absorbed watching Don Draper’s continuing descent, like a slow draining sink, into alcoholism and his attempt to claw back some of his life and work.

The Italian Trip
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back on another Trip but this time visiting restaurants in small beautiful Italian towns. In this version their roles seem reversed with Coogan seemingly being more accepting of himself and his place in the world while Brydon grapples with his career ambitions.

After a long respected career as a stand-up comedian resulting in general obscurity, Marc Maron began a podcast that was one-half self therapy and one half interviewing long time, and in many cases, more successful, comedian colleagues. The success of the podcast led to this IFC series where Maron plays himself conducting interviews of his friends. It works and you realize the reason you could never be a comedian is that you just don’t hate yourself enough.

Captain America: Winter Soldier
This bit of blockbuster massive budget entertainment is one of the smartest and most politically critical superhero films you’ll find. Cap finds himself becoming increasingly a tool of the kind of government he thought he was fighting against. A government that is suppressing its populace through invasive surveillance and proactive military actions used to be the bad guys, not the NSA backed domestic spooks the US government has become. Casting Robert Redford was an inspired choice given he played the opposite side of the coin in the conspiracy thriller Three Days of the Condor over thirty years ago. While there is a lot to chew on in this film there is also a disturbing seed of an idea that sometimes the most patriotic thing you can do is attack the government you’ve come to mistrust. A sharp blade cuts both ways, I guess.
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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Moving On/In 

Rooftops and the City (Richmond at Sherbourne - just blocks from my new place) from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.

After telling a friend of my recent move she sent me this note:
On 2 Jun, 2014, at 3:52 PM, A. wrote:
    Thats my old hood!
    In a new Regent park condo?

    And i am still in Cabbagetown every wknd cuz my partner lives there.
    It is an amazing neighbourhood.

    Congrats and send details.


My response below:

I have to admit - I wish it was a new Regent Park Condo; they look pretty nice - but I’m still so very Duddy Kravitz and as such, I wanted something more house-like. It’s a tiny townhouse (formerly a big ol’ house since split into three) - sort of directly southwest of the new Regent Park development. I can’t really say I know the neighbourhood or what it’s called? On one map, it is distinctly Moss Park, though the resident’s association refers to it as “Cabbagetown South” (which sounds aspirational to me; anything to make it sound like it ISN’T Moss Park*). I like to think of it as on the seam between Regent Park, Moss Park, Cork Town and Cabbagetown (I know, my geography is all wrong but there you go). It’s a teeny-tiny street running between Dundas and Shuter - so yes, there are lots of older gents drinking from brown paper bags. Note: whatever is in brown paper bags makes you walk and talk funny.

But it checks off all the things I wanted:
  • no pressing need for reno
  • small deck, room for a bike shed
  • spare room for office/spare bdroom
  • parking space (not that I have a car)
  • within walking distance of transit (if I stretch I could touch the Dundas Street car; I hear it clearly)
  • biking distance to work (30-35 mins)
  • bonus: Fireplace

I mean, there are some things that are very wrong with the place (electrically heated; flat-roof; zero storage; the upper floors get crazy hot) - but at the end of the day, my mortgage + my taxes are the same as the rent at my Parkdale apartment (I do miss the views really badly, but not the smells or the bugs, or the mice or the creaky elevators), and if/when I decide to leave, I’ll get all those upfront costs back and can move to a farm upstate (or some other ridiculous real estate dream; modern shed house with spectacular views of the ocean just steps from coffee shops?)

I read an article in the New York Times quantifying when you should buy vs rent but the whole argument is moot in Toronto. There are no equivalent options to rent versus buying. Almost an identical apartment to the one I rented in Parkdale located in High Park was almost $700 more per month (though it was in immaculate condition). For the same monthly costs of a shabby, small and older downtown apartment I get my own house that’s twice the size, has outdoor space and a fire place. Take that NYT.

Listen to me - still trying to justify it. Of course, I’m the kind of person who gets Buyer’s Remorse after buying a $60 pair of Gap jeans, so it’s sort of amplified by a house. Oh and this is the only time in my life I would condone burning books, and clothes, and files, and photo albums and IKEA furniture that follows you like a lost dog. I was considering getting another IKEA closet/armoire thing but now I’m thinking I would just rather have less stuff. Is it possible to have even less stuff? Yes. Most people on this planet have less stuff.

No more “personal collections”, that’s what museums are for. No more clothing than I can wear. No more files to keep in case I’m audited. No more books I don’t read. No more CDs, no more DVDs. Do you know, I actually moved a couple of dozen EMPTY DVD cases? I did. I don’t know why. No more records for which I have no record player. No more magazines. This is 2014, I have Flipboard and Pinterest for that. No more art than I have walls for. No more pants than I have asses for. No more kitchen gadgets for food I can’t cook. No more, no more, no more. Like the Chileans who campaigned against Pinochet, I yell “No Màs!”

That’s my new mantra: less stuff — more life.


*For those not in Toronto, neighbourhoods like Regent Park, Moss Park and Alexandra Park are all notoriously and partially failed social housing experiments where at times crime flourished and immigrant communities found themselves stuck in a cycle of poverty. Despite their failings (most famously, no through streets which created courtyards where drug deals could be done out of the eyes of police and make it difficult for emergency services to access the homes), the overwhelming community spirit of these places remained strong and residents demanded better. Mistakes in planning are now being undone and the City has committed to a long term vision of bringing improved services and encouraging development that would create a more diverse mix of residents thus negating the feeling of a big old dump of subsidized housing creating an economically depressed zone within a burgeoning urban area. Meanwhile, like many cities, these depressed neighbourhoods abut some of the most expensive real estate in town. Cabbagetown, just north of my street, is well known as one of the first parts of Toronto to become gentrified and is characterized by doll-house-sized Victorian row houses that have been lovingly restored by their affluent “creative class” residents, which of course, meant that it became and remains a highly desirable area complimented by cafes, restaurants and boutique shopping. Meanwhile, Regent Park has been invigorated by new housing with economically diverse residents. On the other hand, Moss Park remains urbanely gritty. On my cycling routes I attempt to circumnavigate that block and hope to hell I don’t have to stop at the light. Why just recently I was accosted and cussed at by two Moss Park residents best described as Jessie Pinkman’s meth buddies Badger and Skinny Pete.** I don’t know that there’s anything the City can do about that. There are simply too many rooming houses and men’s shelters like the Salvation Army building nearby to simply erase the kind of lunatic fringe that many neighbourhoods have.

**Breaking Bad reference which I foresee using regularly to describe the most unfriendly of neighbours.

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