Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Skating Through Winter 

A little downtown skate.

For most of my life skating meant only one thing: hockey. As an adult I've moved on from late night shinny and pickup games that required an hour of driving for 45 minutes of ice time and a following day of barely being able to lift my feet, to more leisurely skates. Skating now is that more civil activity of circularly striding around a rink or trail until the cold has taken hold and your body has told you it's time to move on. Still, the glide, the breeze and especially the sounds are very nice. That scraping of blades on the ice reverberating and echoing around you is so evocative of childhood winters. The skating in circles, while repetitive, does remind me of those occasional school trips where a busload of us would be driven to the rink and told to skate dutifully around while perhaps the worst speaker system in the world blared some fuzzy Bay City Rollers. For those of us who played hockey it was a fun moment to skate circles around school bullies who inexplicably didn't play hockey (most likely due to some economic disadvantage). Even better for me, as I, for reasons still unknown, could skate backwards almost better than forwards, now had a chance to impress the most unimpressionable prettiest girls in our class. Oh yes reader, I played it cool. I would stride around letting my teammates whiz by, then with the simplest of spins, cruise easily around the bend, building speed with every crossover, then overtake Alison, Kim, Gina or Tina, and looking back at them say with an easy grin and head tilt, "hi, I think you're skating the wrong way." before hearing a resolute teacher yell, "Mister Rogers! Please, turn around!", "Yes, miss" I'd say and swoop past that one girl who'd falsely protest, "Hey, watch it, show-off!" then in a gentlemanly and quiet manner offer, "oh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." At which point I would pick up enough speed to lap my clumsier classmates and glide along side her and say, "You again, didn't I just see you here?" I think I could elicit a giggle. Here, on the ice I was as confident and pithy as any Jane Austin paramour. Off the ice, I had nothing and would return to doodling in the back of my Hilroy notebook. Innocent times. I still take pleasure in some, though not as much, love of the ice. I see it in others too. We're not the brash ones. We're the ones holding back and making space for kiddos that might fall, who then decide to lie there looking up at the clouds. Trust me, we want to break free but we'll put our hands behind our backs and slip into an easy floating pace.

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Friday, February 10, 2023

What Lies Beneath

A jellyfish of the coast of Cornwall. Photograph: Martin Stevens.

Watching a recent television episode of a father and son fishing from a boat reminded me of how much of our youth was spent on the water. When I say water, I mean the open water, and when I say open water, I mean the water above The Grand Banks. Occasionally I recall not being able to see the shore through a fog bank or mist and a great dread would swell up from inside my stomach and stick in my throat. It wasn't sea sickness, it was fear. Being able to see the shore was a safety blanket. I remember a few times when the swell of the sea was such that you would regularly lose sight of land and you’d find yourself confounded by the perception that you were looking up at a hill of water. Then, in the next moment, you were looking down a slope of it as though you were a surfer riding a wave. All of this would take place in a 16-foot wooden boat (was it even 16 feet?) that on land seemed stubbornly hard to move but on the water felt as though it were simply a fallen leaf from a willow.

This fear has a name – thalassophobia. From a definition found online, its veracity confirmed by its ubiquity:

“The thalassophobia (from the Greek, Thalassa or “sea”) definition is pretty straightforward — it's defined as the persistent fear of vast, deep, and often dark bodies of water that feel dangerous. Specifically, thalassophobia describes a person's fear of the great unknown in the water right below their feet.”
In a funny way, having spent enough time on the sea made other bodies of water like lakes, ponds or rivers seem puny and harmless by comparison. Only wild, rapidly moving rivers seemed ominous and something to be feared. To me, fresh water was almost quaint. What could possibly be in there? A fish? Some weeds? Nothing nearly as frightening as a mammal the size of a city bus or a flock of formless jelly fish and their stringy unpredictable stingers. That is until I spent some time on Lake Ontario in a Kayak.
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Friday, February 03, 2023

Seen in January 

Your holy goofs.

Hibernation is in full effect and the upside of staying inside is being able to enjoy the many modern delights at our fingertips.

Mission: Joy (Finding Happiness in Troubled Times)

A documentary that examines the friendship between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, two of the most respected voices for peace and spirituality we've known in our lifetime. What is obvious immediately is the great respect the two have for each other, and perhaps even mutual fascination as they discuss the difficulties each faced in their own lives. Another interesting outcome of their conversation is simply how similar the bigger questions of life are addressed by two very different religions and worldviews. The old adage, we have more in common than that which divides us, has never seemed truer or more obvious.

The Gray Man

A convict is chosen by a CIA handler because he saw something in him. A moral centre, or an ability to set his morals aside perhaps? Not a hired gun. Not an agent. Not good. Not bad. Something in between. Someone who works in the gray. Get it? This is a big action packed spy movie from the Russo brothers, with big name stars such as Ryan Gosling as Six, the assassin moving in the shadows who discovers some intel on a flash drive (eye-roll – have spies never learned of the dark web or secure servers?), oh and at some point he has to save a young girl as a promise or something. The agency sends a private psychopathic contractor, Lloyd Hansen, played with delight by Chris Evans, to capture and/or kill Six. The plot is so minimal it's often discarded or forgotten. This is a movie of spectacular shoot-outs, chases and intricate fight scenes. Judging from Rotten Tomatoes scores, audiences generally like such fare and critics do not. This film does not take itself too seriously and has some fun "meta" jokes, like when Evans issues a command for someone to "shoot this Ken Doll in the face!", referring to Gosling's character, who, by the way, will soon be appearing as "Ken" in the upcoming film, Barbie. If that's the sort of throwaway lines you like with your action, you'll enjoy this.

Brad Pitt, in a rare moment not surrounded by other stars, in Bullet Train.

Bullet Train
Amazon Prime

Another all out action offensive topped to the gills with fine and recognizable actors which is thin on plot but thick with action sequences. Brad Pitt is codename: Ladybug, who is tasked with retrieving a suitcase on a high-speed Japanese train. Of course, there are others who want the case. Two British toughs, named Lemon and Clementine (two more great actors, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry respectively) are transporting both the case and the son of a vicious mobster. A young woman (Joey King) wants the case as leverage against her intended target, another assassin has also been sent to steal the case and yet another criminal, from a Mexican cartel is there for revenge for his own family. While the film may have more plot complications than necessary, it's a funny, high-speed adventure, fun for the whole family - well, not the whole family, but the action-enjoying-adults in the family.

Everyday Staten Island vampire and his familiar.

What We Do in the Shadows S04

This household of Staten Island vampires keeps on entertaining. Some say it's not as "clever" as the original film but to those I say, "pish-posh", it's a funny and absurd show to be enjoyed like all-dressed potato chips — quickly and in large quantities.

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