Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Nature vs. Nurture: The Director's Cut

I'm really starting to slack off on these posts, huh? I need some more inspiration: someone better start pissing me off big time or this blog is gonna grind to a halt. And I know that my readers in Sweden (I'm really digging ClustrMaps) would be horribly disappointed.

So here I am at work with a little time to spare. Let's see what I can whip off.

There are a few movie buffs in my particular work area and we have taken to exchanging DVDs that we own. There's this one guy who seems to know quite a bit about dark, indie European films but - get this - borrowed Top Gun from me.

He'd never seen it.

Now this guy is about the same age as me, so not having seen that particular piece of 80s gold is rather unusual.

He now has a paper desk sign/name plate that reads: "Maverick".

It got me thinking about how different people have different influences; even film buffs. I can't believe the number of times I run across someone who hasn't seen a flick I consider a classic.

"Whaddaya mean you haven't seen Mr. Mom? You grow up in Iceland or somethin'?"

I have friends who haven't seen Jaws, or The Godfather or even Star Wars for Pete's sake. I wonder smetimes at how our lives have differed as a result. Hell, after seeing Jaws, I didn't want to swim alone or open my eyes underwater for fear of what I'd see.

Who knows? If I hadn't seen it, maybe I would have been the next Mark Spitz or somethin'.

What I don't understand is, how can you enjoy movies like Not Just Another Teen Movie or Scary Movie if you haven't seen the movies being spoofed or referenced? I mean, nowadays, so many movies rely on the fact that audiences share certain cultural influences. What could possibly have been appealing about the first 5 minutes of Chicken Run if you haven't seen The Great Escape? (one of my all time favourite flicks, by the way) That particular movie also got spoofed in the Simpsons episode where Maggie got dropped off at a day care (to name just one of many other references).

Is it still funny if you don't get the joke?

Alright you movie slackers, the following is a short list of films I believe you must see in order to "get" most of the movie references out there (in no particular order):

- Jaws
- Star Wars
- The Godfather
- West Side Story
- The Wizard of Oz
- Casablanca
- Citizen Kane
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Great Escape
- E.T.
- Dr. Strangelove
- Pulp Fiction
- Forrest Gump
- Psycho
- Alien
- It's a Wonderful Life
- A Streetcar Named Desire
- Taxi Driver
- Cool Hand Luke
- Rear Window
- The Outsiders
- Terminator
- Gone With The Wind
- The Graduate
- Deliverance
- The Matrix
- Apocalypse Now
- The Silence of the Lambs
- The Blair Witch Project
- Rocky
- The Shining
- The Breakfast Club
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- (at least one movie featuring Rambo, Dirty Harry, James Bond...)

These are not the best movies of all time, necessarily (though most would no doubt make my list), but they're the ones I think get referenced the most in pop culture.

You can find the American Film Institute's top 100 list here.

A more interesting and quite different Time Magazine top 100 is here.

If you haven't seen most of these movies then for the love of Mike get off your ass, get to a video store and rent them.

...Then get back on your ass, I guess.

"You go inside the cage. Cage goes in the water. You go in the water. Shark's in the water ... Our shark. (singing) Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..."
- Robert Shaw as Quint in "Jaws"

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The morning after the mourning after

Team Canada lost.

Funny how you can be in the midst of the Olympics, where national pride is on display and dozens of athletes are competing for this country and yet when you refer to "Team Canada" every Molson-blooded Canadian knows who you're talking about.

Especially, these past couple of weeks, if you mention losing.

Wow, did these guys suck. I mean, the competition was better than ever - no doubt - but the problems with this particular incarnation of the men's hockey team seemed pretty evident from the moment we faced off against that powerhouse of the ice: Switzerland.

Sure, people will be talking about what went wrong, second-guessing Gretzky's player picks, speculating on what's wrong with the national program (nothing - so drop it), but I think James Duthie had the best encapsulation of the experience on tsn.ca:

"Anyway, since last thing you probably need is another column on What Went Wrong for Team Canada (EVERYFREAKINTHING!), let's talk about what went right.

Umm. Gee. Wow. I got nothin'.

Wait! The goalies! The goalies were good! And I thought the trainer and stick guy were very efficient when called on.

Besides that, Eeeeek. It was so bad, I half expected Wayne Gretzky to come out last night and say: "I'm not taking any hockey questions, I'll only talk about gambling."


Harsh but hilarious.

As for me, well, I think I've said it all before: Pat Quinn is not a very good coach. Sure, he's good at dealing with big-ticket players, but he knows nothing about systems and defence - and it showed in Torino as much as it shows in Toronto. These guys were garbage in their own end and had the worst break-outs I've seen since my high school yearbook.

As for the players, I can't believe Heatley was so invisible. I literally forgot he was on the team. For my money, I would have preferred to see Spezza on the big ice (why not have him paired with Heatley, just like at home in Ottawa?) and left "defensive specialist" (polite way of saying the guy can't score) Kris Draper on the taxi squad. The fact is, Gretzky rewards the old boys, the ones who have been around. But everyone has got to start somewhere - if Spezza and Staal aren't good enough this time, what makes them good enough next time? If anything, Spezza is far more valuable on Olympic-sized ice than on the NHL-sized ice they'll have in Vancouver.

And McCabe. Oh, McCabe. Any Maple Leafs fan could have told you the guy is a defensive liability. But who knew Chris Pronger would challenge him for the title of Canada's most generous player? (Oh! Hello, Mr. Russian, would you like a puck? Here ya go, buddy)

But I can't say I was terribly upset when I woke up this morning, even when I realized Laura Harring wasn't, in fact, lying next to me. The fact is, these guys never got our hopes up - they looked bad in the round robin and there was no reason to believe they would get past the Russians.

And they didn't.

So who am I cheering for now? Well, the good thing about this tourney is that there are still tons of NHLers in it, including a few Leafs. I gotta say I'll be pulling for Mats. It'd be nice to see him win a championship with the 'C' on his chest.

God knows it ain't gonna happen in Toronto...

Whoever said, "It's not whether you win or lose that counts," probably lost.
- Martina Navratilova

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

TTC = Take The Car

I kid of course; I like public transit and am a big proponent of its use.

Now that I live downtown, it's so much cheaper not to have a car. I can walk just about anywhere I need to go (including work! Woo-hoo!) and take the TTC only when I need to get to events that are across town. A car? Who needs it? (Of course, I rarely get out of town these days..but like I said, I'm saving tons of dough)

Anyhow, the point of this blog is to bitch and bitch I shall.

I like the TTC, but I f***ing hate streetcars.

Forget the fact that they are a blight on the urban landscape, what with their wires running every which way across Queen, Spadina, etc., they don't even do their job effectively.

The major flaw with streetcars is evident to anyone who has lived in the downtown core: they are slaves to the tracks. See, up here in Canada we have this funny white thing (no, not Jim Carrey - he's barely even amusing anymore) called snow. Snow tends to get shovelled up and put to the side of the road where it creates these little mountains for kids to play on and risk their lives in. The problem comes when people try to (lawfully, mind you) park next to the snow banks - the cars tend to stick out a little further than they do in the summer. This creates havoc with the streetcars because they cannot manoeuvre their fat track-bound asses around the cars.

And so they get stuck, with nowhere to go until the car gets moved either by the owner or by a tow truck.


Last night, I was trying to get home from my sports league. I waited for the streetcar. I waited some more. I waited some more. I waited for Godot. I waited on tables. I waited to exhale...still no streetcar. Turns out the damn thing had gotten into a fender bender with a minivan about 300 metres up the street, just out of view. It had to stop and wait for the police and TTC officials. Of course, this meant that not only was it not going to reach my stop to pick me up, but that every other streetcar behind it was stuck too.

Took me an hour and a half to get home. It's a 20 minute ride.

My proposition? Ditch the streetcars, tear up the tracks, tear down the wires, reclaim the streets and invest in some "green" buses that can go anywhere they damn well please.

'Cause what's the point of a streetcar system that's so easily de-railed?

Monday, February 20, 2006


You know how there are some things on the face of this Earth that irk the crap out of you? Like poison ivy or hemorroids or George Bush? One thing that sets me off is MVP debates.

See, I got home Friday after work, turned on the tv (as I normally do whenever I am conscious) and there was this sports roundtable including Pinball Clemons, debating the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

What gets my thong in a knot, though (don't ask), is the inevitable argument by one party that MVP stands for the "player most valuable to his team." See, this is the precursor to the argument that a good player on a crap team should be MVP because if you took him off that team they would completely suck (see Kobe Bryant). And by extension, a good player on a good team should not win 'cause they'd be ok without him and he is thus not as valuable (see Steve Nash).

Now listen up, 'cause I'm only gonna say this once.



Every team has an MVP. Every team has a "player most valuable to his team". That's a team MVP.

A league MVP is the player deemed most valuable to the league. (Just like the Super Bowl MVP is the MVP of the Super Bowl game - see a pattern emerging?)

Which, more often than not, is a polite way of saying the best player in the league. Who that might be is a different matter.

There. One more thing I've ranted about. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find my Preparation H.

"I'll always be Number 1 to myself."
-Moses Malone, NBA hall of famer

Friday, February 17, 2006

More Olympic thoughts

1. What is up with those ridiculous hockey jerseys?!?! Honestly, who thought this was a good idea? Is this the hockey powers-that-be sucking up to Nike or what? For those unaware, the hockey jerseys being worn at the Olympics are tighter and "more aerodynamic" than the typical NHL jersey. Basically, the hockey players look like pansies with skinny arms. The Olympic ones don't look nearly as bad as the junior ones (ugh - I almost couldn't watch. It was like seeing your dad in ladies underwear), but they're still ugly as all hell. I can only imagine how uncomfortable they must be. The players wore the junior style ones before the beginning of the season and clearly were not impressed. Thank goodness the NHL has not adopted them. With any luck, Nike will go out of business before the NHL can suck up to them, too.

2. Watched the ladies boardercross finals before heading out to work this morning. The two Canadians wiped out spectacularly, so we only got a bronze - which was the worst possible outcome. The race was notable, however, for the fact that the American boarder, with a commanding lead, decided to hot dog it in the final couple of jumps and ended up wiping out herself. This allowed the Swiss boarder to pass her at the last minute for the gold medal. Served her right. I like boardercross (though I must say the half-pipe competition is stupid and, again, being a judged event, not a sport) but it's pretty clear that a lot of these riders are more concerned about looking good than competing. You'll see hot dogging pretty regularly. But what really gets me is when the rider sitting in third place (in a heat where only the top two go on) pulls up and essentially stops trying to catch the riders ahead of them (despite the fact that a rider can stumble at any moment). This may look nonchalant and cool, but demonstrates the self-conscious, egotistical nature of many of these "x-game" athletes. Not what I like to see at the Olympics. I like my athletes competitive and my homosexuals fllllaming! (D'oh!)

3. And what's with sportsmanship anyways? Canadian officials have embarrassed the country by appealing the result in the women's 500-metre short track speed skating finals. Basically, the silver medalist from Whereverstan (actually, Evgenia Radanova from Bulgaria - close enough) stretched out her leg at the last minute in a vain attempt to edge out the winner from China. In doing so, the front of her skate was raised as she crossed the line - a no-no in short track these days. So get this: the Canadian officials are trying to have her disqualified in the hopes that the fourth place skater, Kalyna Roberge, will be awarded bronze. WTF? Never mind that the Bulgarian finished second by a ton and that the foot-raising was a non-factor, Roberge will never be able to claim that she was the third-fastest skater on that day, medal or no. (To her credit, Roberge herself is criticizing the appeal) This shows a lack of class on the Canadian officials' part, especially considering that the only reason we won silver in the women's team sprint (another made up cross country event) was because a Norwegian official handed Sara Renner a replacement pole when she broke hers (and would have dropped out of contention). That's good sportsmanship, folks.

4. This just in: two-man luge is still the dumbest "sport" ever.

Phil's "Olympic diary" continues...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Summer vs. Winter Olympics

Sorry, folks, I don't know what's been wrong with me. I guess I haven't been in much of a ranting mood recently. Dunno why. Am I getting old and mellow? Feeling relaxed? Content with the world?

Hell no!

So, after some tv viewing got my blood boiling again, here is another off-the -cuff rant. Enjoy.

So, the other day, I had a debate with a couple of friends about the Winter Olympics; specifically, how it (woefully) compares to the Summer Games.

Don't get me wrong, I like winter sports and the Winter Olympics in general, but I just think it lacks variety. See, just about every competition can be broken down into three categories, with very few exceptions: skiing of some sort, skating of some sort, track sliding of some sort. I haven't taken a look at a list of every winter event, but they seem to be pretty limited in scope to me. I mean, they take one sport, say cross-country skiing, and they make 15 events out of it with every possible combination of skiers and distances they can come up with (1x5km, 1x10km, 1x15km, 2x10km, 1x5km biathlon, 1x10km biathlon, pursuits, classical vs free etc etc). My friend argued that the Summer Games suffer from the same repetitive themes, what with the numerous running events in the track schedule. Sure, 4x400m relay may seem kinda silly, but that is a fraction of one event that makes up a fraction of track that makes up a fraction of the Summer Games. Even the track events aren't repetitive: you've got running, jumping, throwing, vaulting and hurdling events. When you break it down, even those aren't repetitive - there's a huge difference between javelin and shot-put, for example, both "throwing" sports. And while the Winter Games have all sorts of "combined" events, the only combining you'll see in the Summer Games is for things like the decathlon (10 freaking events, son!).

And don't get me started on the luge/skeleton crap. Two-man luge? What the f**k is that? It isn't bad enough that you are making up new sports by simply flipping the rider either facing forward or on his back, you have to add riders? What for? The other day, a two-man luge team wiped out. The one guy on the bottom (poor bastard) actually knocked himself unconscious. The "team" managed to slide down the rest of the course and come to a safe stop. The top guy sat up and kind of shock his head dejectedly. All the while, his buddy is still lying there, out like a light.


How many sports do you know can be played where one member of the team is UNCONSCIOUS?? This is a sport?!

But my main point in this friendly debate was that the Summer Games have sports to spare that could easily be transferred to the Winter Games. Volleyball, for one. Here you have an indoor sport, not specifically associated with the summer, that can be featured in the Winter Olympics and break up the ice and snow monotony. Weightlifting? Gymnastics? Same thing.

Wouldn't it be neat to go from speed skating to the balance beam and not just from short to long track?

Of course, I could go on and on about how judged sports like gymnastics, figure skating and even free style ski jumping are not sports at all (skills - yes, sports - no) and have no place in the Olympics to begin with, but if you're going to shove the parallel bars down my throat, at least put it after curling to break up this Winter Olympics monotony.

Thank goodness for men's hockey or I would have tuned out long ago.

Which brings me to my next rant...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The state of things

Kinda quiet around these parts, ain't it?

I guess I haven't really been inspired to write anything new. What's going on these days?

1. Oh, yeah, Dick Cheney blasted a guy with a shotgun. Good thing it was a pretty weak one...Oh yeah, and the guy suffered a heart attack as a result. He'll live...Oh yeah, and they were in no hurry to tell anyone about it. Check cnn.com for more.

2. The Toronto Sun pissed me off yesterday (what else is new for that rag?). Olympic speed skater and medal hopeful Cindy Klassen didn't quite live up to the hype and, granted, her potential, but the Toronto Sun leapt at the chance to display their lack of class with this front page headline: "Just A Bronze". WTF? So maybe she didn't win when everyone expected her to (should one expect anything in sports?) and she gassed out at the end, but no Olympian should be treated like a failure. She's still the best in the country, you pinheads.

3. The press is having a field day with the Rick Tocchet gambling ring...or at least how it relates to Wayne Gretzky. WTF?! There was so much b.s. speculation, hyperbole and rumour surrounding this story, I changed the channel whenever it came on. This is "journalism" at its absolute worst and one of the reasons I left Ryerson University's program many moons ago. To see dozens of members of the press gather around Gretzky to ask the same questions day in and day out when even the cops are saying he had nothing to do with it. Holy keerist, boys, drop it already. Or at least focus on Tocchet who, while he may not be as big a star, is the main accused.

The kicker is that the #1 area of discussion surrounding all this is, "will it be a distraction for Team Canada?"...You have got to be joking. Gretzky's involvement is a non-story and the only reason it is still being discussed is because the reporters are whipping themselves into a frenzy. This is yet another case of reporters reporting on reports (if your story includes the words "reports indicate" or "it has been reported" then you do not have enough facts - start over!). That is atrocious behaviour for members of the media. Attention all media types: your job is to report the news not create it.

4. Uber neo-Conservative MP David Emerson is still oblivious. The worst argument I've heard him make is that voters in ridings vote for the person, not the party. If this is how you vote, you're a moron. Let me get this straight: if Stephen Harper were running in my riding, I should vote for him because he swings a big dick in Ottawa and it's more likely he'll be able to do stuff for my area of the country? Not quite. First of all, I would never vote for that douchebag. Second, if he ain't in power, he ain't doing squat. Third, any member voted in from my riding will represent my area of the country; what distinguishes them is what they stand for - their party ideology. Fourth, do you even know who your candidates are and what they've done? Most people in large communities don't. I'd never even heard of my candidates except Bill Graham (doesn't mean I'd vote for him). If David Emerson believes that voters should make their selections based on the person and not the party then the solution is simple: run as an independent and then form an association with a party afterwards. Knob. And did you notice that the hundreds of outraged protesters who showed up to chew out Emerson are "party zealots and party operatives"? Um...would that be the same party that gave you tens of thousands of dollars and under whose banner you were elected? Or the other party you crossed the floor to join (after much soul-searching no doubt)? It's hard to keep track these days, you understand.

Well folks, I'd bitch and moan some more, but it's 5pm and it's time to go home.

Pea soup!

"I can't complain, but sometimes I still do."
~Joe Walsh, "Life's Been Good"

Friday, February 10, 2006

(Ow! Ow! My stomach...)

Thanks to a Boingboing article, I came across the official Chuck Norris t-shirt website.

I don't think I've ever cried at work before.

(Ow. It hurts. Make the laughter stop.)

This and other cool Chuck Norris facts available here:

"The quickest way to a Man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist."

"Chuck Norris once ate a whole cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper in it."

"Some people like to eat frogs' legs. Chuck Norris likes to eat lizard legs. Hence, snakes."

"Chuck Norris doesnt shave; he kicks himself in the face. The only thing that can cut Chuck Norris is Chuck Norris."

A blog of fresh air, or why I love Garth Turner


Came across an article in the Toronto Star that talked about Garth Turner (Halton MP) who got in trouble with the Conservative Party bullies over his comments on the Emerson floor-crossing affair (see previous post).

When the Star article mentioned Turner had a blog, I sought it out. Wow.

THIS is what blogs are for. Getting the inside scoop, directly from the horse's mouth, without media filtering.


I ate it up. I am now a die-hard Garth Turner fan. He is the man. He is everything a politician should be: principled, opinionated, outspoken. A snippet:

"Did I know the potential consequences of speaking my mind, or sticking with the principles that brought me to this cold hill? Yeah, I did. I have been an MP before, and a leadership candidate and a cabinet minister. I have the hide to prove it. I know the PMO has a song sheet it wants all caucus members to sing from, and I know what happens when an individual chooses to go his or her own way. I was just hoping this time I would not be asked to choose – between party and principle.

I chose principle. My deepest loyalty is to what I believe, what I told the voters and what I want Parliament to become. The Emerson affair may indeed blow over. The minister may decide not to take the heat. David may turn into a cabinet star and a national asset. But he should still have the conviction to get elected a member of the team he chose. The same team that I chose, and fought like a warrior to join, helped by hundreds more and supported by tens of thousands of others. How could any member of caucus not privately feel the same?"


The guy speaks the honest truth to reporters, gets a brow beating from the PM and goes right back out and says it again and then some.


"I like you. You have balls. I like balls."
- Terrorist, "Team America: World Police"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Torino, not Turin

I was cruising through The Toronto Star's website today, as I do every day at work, and came across an article about the upcoming Olympics. The focus of the piece was on whether the Games are taking place in Turin or Torino and who is calling it which. (NBC calls it Torino, the Star calls it Turin and CBC calls it the Torino Games in Turin. The IOC? Torino 2006 in Turin, Italy)

At first, I was reading what the chief of the Olympic organizing committee had to say and thought, "oh, get over it already - the Games are always called by their English names".

And then I thought about it.

Wait a minute: just how did Torino become Turin, Muenchen become Munich and Roma become Rome? I mean, I can pronounce each of the "original" names, so why did they change? The article refers to the names being "anglicized", but what the heck is English about "Munich"?!

Sure, Florence might flow off the tongue easier than Firenze, but who decided "Florence" was an appropriate "translation"? It isn't even phonetic!

(Can I use any more "quotes" in this post?)

I'm a convert: for me, the games will be taking place in Torino, not Turin. Screw it: any word that can be written in the Latin/Roman alphabet should be kept as is and pronounced in its original fashion.

Change the maps back!

Did you know Moscow is Mockba? Sure Mockba kinda sucks, but Moscow sounds like a sedentary bovine, for Pete's sake...

"Until I was thirteen, I thought my name was 'shut up'."
-Joe Namath

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Goddamned cartoons

As I type this, "Mad World" by Gary Jules (see Donny Darko soundtrack) is playing on my headphones...

Some of you may have noticed the addition of the ClustrMaps image on the sidebar, which is supposed to indicate where visitors to this site are coming from. So, to my visitors from throughout the US, Portugal, France, Germany, Argentina and India: welcome. Please feel free to leave a comment. (no, you do not need to be a blogger)

I had been considering writing a post with regards to this whole Danish-Islam-cartoon controversy, but to be honest the topic gives me a headache. It seems quite apparent to me that this particular news item, more than any other in memory, highlights the racial, political and religious differences between the peoples of the world and the reasons why we'll never have a Star Trekesque utopia. Too bad - I was kinda looking forward to the female ensigns in the short skirts. Rowr.

But in trying to escape the subject by visiting some of my favourite bookmarks, I came across my old writing instructor Denis McGrath's blog and, go figure, he wrote a very nice piece examining the black-and-white, headline-driven manner in which the media cover this type of story that runs much, much deeper.

You can read that post here.

As a writer, Denis has the ability to make succinct arguments using the written (typed?) word.

As for me, well, I suppose I'd just like to pass along the following opinions/observations on the whole cartoon controversy:

1. This is not a cartoon controversy. If you think the whole thing boils down to a picture, you're incredibly obtuse. This is about religion, respect and yes, politics.

2. People have a right to protest, burn flags and be incredibly pissed.

3. Calling for the death of heathens is, well, extreme, but if that's what you honestly believe your religion, your god, your faith would demand, then who am I to judge? Of course, I'm not going to let you kill me, but I'm gonna do my damnedest to respect your beliefs.

4. Religion is much much much more powerful than politics when dealing with people of faith. We're talking god, eternity, heaven and hell here. I'll George Bush over Satan anyday, much as that might seem as a toss-up at the moment.

5. Just because the West is more "liberal" and we might be more tolerant of cartoons, dark humour and momma jokes, doesn't mean we should expect the rest of the world to be that way. I grew up one way, you grew up another.

6. Don't assume the Islamic protesters speak for the whole or even a significant portion of the world's muslims - do you think Pat Robertson speaks for all/most Christians?

7. The newspapers that published the cartoons were absolutely, totalling wrong. Freedom of the press, my ass. Those papers would never have printed a cartoon depicting a jewish person as cheap or standing in a shower in Auschwitz hoping for hot water. Clearly, those papers were either inconsiderate of their muslim readers or simply ignorant of their existence. While many countries believe in freedom of the press, you'll find that many of these same countries have anti-hate literature laws. If someone is allowed to mock Muslims in such a blatant, Islam=Terrorism fashion, why not just give the KKK a national newspaper, printed in Harlem, and get it over with?

8. Newspapers in France are not the same as papers in Toronto: a muslim "joke" in France is much more likely to be a racial slur than here, not that we would print that sort of thing here anyways.

9. The fact that the news today reports that Flemming Rose, the Danish editor of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten is willing to publish anti-jewish cartoons is proof positive that the man, has in fact, lost control and his mind, and should add his job to the list. Two wrongs do not make a right. First off, you are implying that Muslims hate Jews and that slamming the latter will make the former happy. While this may be true for some muslims, again, you're painting a people with a broad brush and just pissing off more people in the process. Fess up to having made a poor judgement call in your paper and on international television, resign your position and don't turn the ignition in your car ever again.

10. Please do not confuse Church with religion with faith with truth. Personally, I am a non-practicing Catholic who believes the "capital-C" Church is insane. No flesh-and-blood man (pointy hat or not) can tell me what my God does and does not want of me. That is, if I believed in a god, which I'm not sure I do, but that's a story for another day. On the other hand, if you have a strong faith, I'll respect that. I may think it's erroneous or flawed, but I'm not about to run around printing thousand of newspapers for distribution to millions of people telling the world your religion of choice (and hopefully it is of choice, and not simply your religion of birth) is nuts.

Like Denis says, the press has been having a field day with this, making it seem much more extreme and fanning the flames (hey it sells papers...). This isn't a story about a cartoon and it certainly isn't cut and dried. There are tons of shades of grey which are lost in the headlines being splashed around. Keeping an open mind is the first step in seeing them.

Like the lady said, folks: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
~Seneca the Younger

Monday, February 06, 2006

Movie Review: The Constant Gardener ***spoilers***

I rented "The Constant Gardener" on Saturday.

Overall, I liked it. It was well shot and the actors did a fine job. I am, once again, a Ralph Fiennes fan.

The plot, however, kinda blew.

I liked the love story, but the whole "pharmaceutical industry as bad guy" idea was stupid. Let me get this straight: a company conducting human trials in Africa starts this extensive cover-up of fatal side effects in the hopes that their product will get chosen as THE cure medicine for TB worldwide...

...'cause no one's gonna notice when people start dying after that in the "real world".

Geez, someone spikes one bottle of Tylenol and the world goes ape-shit. When a small percentage of people (times 5 billion) start dying, no one's gonna come hunting for the scalps of the company directors? Come on.

It was a flawed premise that permeated the entire film. Annoying.

Oh, and if you didn't watch the bonus features on the DVD, you missed the deleted scenes - including a whole scene in Canada...uh, well...Manitoba....very boring, flat, snow-covered rural Manitoba. (did you get the sense it was winter in England?) It looked soooooooo bad. Made Canada look like a wasteland. Why not an urban setting like Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver for this big drug company? You'd have thought it was Siberia - I'm not kidding. Brutal.

Thank goodness that whole sequence got cut (it would have looked very odd next to the African footage - though that might have been the point - beautiful Africa is being screwed over by ugly western interests). It explained the pharmaceutical angle a little more, which might have helped - though it made the story seem even more desperate and far-fetched. Apparently pharmaceuticals play no role in the source book and it was really an "adapted" screenplay.

I wouldn't have minded seeing Fiennes get an Oscar nom for his performance. I haven't seen "Hustle & Flow" but from what I hear he might have been overlooked. Rachel Weisz for Best Supporting?...well...ok, I'll buy it. I haven't seen any of the other nominees except Katherine Keener in "Capote" and Weisz certainly deserves it over her.

Like I said, I liked the love story, mostly because I think the actors did a fine job with unusual material. The love story as written on paper was a little contrived - in fact, the script itself alludes to the marriage being one "of convenience"...but we're supposed to buy the fact that Justin (Fiennes) will go to the ends of the earth to uncover the truth about Tessa (Weisz). At times his grief seemed a little much - and you have to buy it for the rest of the movie to work.

So thumbs up to the actors, thumbs half-and-half to the script.

...but if you think this is gonna make me read a book, you're nuts.

"He's sulking like Achilles in his tent . . . Achilles? Homer? THE ILIAD? READ A BOOK!"
- Handy (attached to the Human Ton), "The Tick"

Awesome prank


More schools should have this much spirit and ingenuity. I am now a Yale fan.

Seemed fitting on the heels of the Super Bowl.

Floor crossing belongs in ballet, not politics

Holy hypocrites, Batman!

Seems all that yelling and screaming the Conservatives did when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to join the Liberals is going to come back to bite them in the you-know-where.

And deservedly so.

News came this morning that former Liberal cabinet minister David Emerson has crossed the floor to join the governing Conservatives and accept a cabinet post.

What a little shit.

This is much more reprehensible than Stronach's move and I'll tell you why (like you doubted I would).

See, when Stronach crossed, it was following a Conservative leadership race which she had lost. Stephen Harper had been chosen as the new leader - clearly a right wing selection within a right wing party. She looks around, decides this is not the party she wishes to be a part of and leaves (yeah, I know, odds are it was for less noble reasons than that, but let's give her some leeway).

Emerson, on the other hand had JUST BEEN ELECTED a couple of weeks ago as a Liberal. He was a cabinet minister, so he knew what the party was about when he ran and there is no new leader for him to object to...in fact there's no leader at all.

So what's his motivation? If he had a crisis of conscience, he should have made it known prior to the election. He has essentially negated the votes of the people of Vancouver Kingsway. Did I mention that the Conservatives ran a distant third in that riding, getting fewer than half the votes the Liberals did? (20k vs 8k)

If the Conservatives and NDP are going to work on election reform, they might want to address the whole floor-crossing issue.

You want to cross? Fine. Resign and hold a by-election.


Subtracted Super Bowl ads

Boy, we really do get the short end of the stick up here when it comes to the Super Bowl ads, eh?

We did get that lame Pepsi commercial with Puff Daddy and Jay Mohr...

But the best ads were lost thanks to the utterly ridiculous simultaneous substitution provisions we have in the Great White North. Why we reward Canadian broadcasters for carrying American programming is beyond me, but c'est la vie.

I checked out the ads I missed at Fox Sports. Some of them were really good. FedEx, Budweiser, careerbuilder.com, Degree and Ameriquest had the best ones, I think. Surprisingly enough, Pepsi's ads were easily the worst, along with Cadillac and McDonald's. I imagine we'll be seeing them on the tube over the next few weeks, but it'll be too late for the post-game watercooler conversations, unfortunately.

"The magic fridge is back!"...classic.

Super Bowl XL

Another Super Bowl came and went last night. It wasn't the prettiest of games but at least it was entertaining - thank goodness!

See, this is the time of year when CFL fans come out of the woodwork to proclaim the Canadian game is superior to the NFL because the Grey Cup is often a thrilling game and the SuperBowl rarely lives up to the hype.

They're right, of course - the Grey Cup is, typically, far more interesting than the Super Bowl - but the CFL is still a second-rate league. And it always will be. Hey, the local high school championship may be fantastic - doesn't make it better than the pros. The CFL is where NFL cast-offs go to die. The rules may make it more exciting, but the calibre of play just doesn't compare.

But back to the Super Bowl.

I'm not sure if the better team won, but I'd have to say the Steelers earned it. Beating Cincinnati, Indianopolis and Denver on the road to get to the big dance? Come on, who can argue with that?

But when it came to the big game, the Seahawks clearly got robbed...and shot themselves in the foot:

- Roethlisberger did not get into the end zone, I don't care what you say. (4 points)
- I'm not sure Darrell Jackson pushed off to catch that negated touchdown, it looked more like a hand check to me. (7 points)
- A catch down to the 2 yard line was negated when Sean Locklear was called for holding Kimo von Oelhoffen - yeah, not so much - when in fact von Oelhoffen went offside on that play and, just to rub it in, the next. (7 points?)

That's easily an 18-point swing on a game that was won by 11. But the Seahawks also dropped balls and made some lacklustre efforts that cost them large (what the heck was with that terrible clock management at the end of each half!?).

But I think what bothered me most about this game was the way it was hyped. The Steelers came in with the reputation of being the blue-collar team, the opposite of the flashy champions of the past like the Cowboys and Niners. But it was clear come game time that the Steelers were the overwhelming favourites, that the Seahawks were the unloved dogs. Even the features showing players and coaches with the Vince Lombardi trophy had more Steelers in them. And the Steelers put the game away with - you guessed it - a flashy gadget play.

It all kinda made me feel sorry for the Seahawks. And while I went into the game cheering for the Steelers, I started pulling for Seattle later in the game. Sure, I still wanted Roethlisberger to get his ring and validation, but I couldn't help but feel the Seahawks were getting a bum deal out of this whole Super Bowl experience.

...and more than just being forced to go to Detroit.

Goodspeed: "I'll do my best."
Mason: "Your best?! Losers always whine about their best, winners go home and fuck the prom queen!"
Nicolas Cage & Sean Connery, "The Rock"

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's déjà vu all over again...

Do you ever get the feeling that I am repeating myself? That you've read this same crap before?

Well, some guys from the University of Leeds think it might all be your imagination and they intend to prove how you get that sensation.

Seems they intend to prove that the process or sensation of remembering the past is attributable to a certain part of the brain which can be activated even when the memory being recalled does nto exist. That way, when you are experiencing something new, you have the sensation that you have seen it all before.

Voila: déjà vu.

"Dr Moulin believes a circuit in our temporal lobe fires up when we recall the past, creating the experience of remembering but also a 'recollective experience' – the sense of the self in the past. In a person with chronic déjà vu this circuit is either overactive or permanently switched on, creating memories where none exist. When novel events are processed, they are accompanied by a strong feeling of remembering."

I have déjà vu quite regularly. Sometimes it's so strong that I am utterly convinced that psychic abilities must exist. And that's why the Leeds version doesn't quite wash with me. Sometimes I'll not only have an "episode" of déjà vu, but I'll be able to recall when I last thought about that memory, giving it a solid date in the past.

This happened recently, though I'm sure the conditions under which it happened would only serve to convince the Leeds researchers that it is, in fact, a trick of the brain.

See, I was skating with my housemate Dan and his girlfriend Jenna (yeah, I love being a third wheel - I have a thing for tricycles) on a warm day. The ice was crap and when I went to turn from backwards to forwards skating, I tripped and fell, hitting my head on the ice (really f***ing hard - don't tell mom). Although I didn't lose conciousness, I am convinced I concussed myself because I felt nauseous soon afterwards - a classic symptom.

Anyhow, soon thereafter I was having a very strong sense of déjà vu. I had the sensation of having done all this before - skating with Dan and Jenna, talking about whatever the heck it was we were talking about, on this ice surface I had never even seen before. It was visual; I had "seen" this before.

This sensation actually came and went over several minutes. It was freaky. Dan figured I'd lost it. (When I tried to focus on the "memory", I felt nauseous almost instantaneously)

But the weird thing is, and the part the Leeds guys will have a hard time explaining to my satisfaction, is that I can recall when I last thought about that "memory". I can sometimes say, "I was just thinking about this a couple of days ago," (usually in a half-dreaming state) even though, as the scientists will attempt to prove, such a memory did not exist.

But, really, it isn't a "memory" I'm remembering. I know I haven't been there before. What I am remembering is a photographic image I had (while dreaming) of that exact same visual that I am now seeing. This can be as simple as the way someone is sitting in a chair (but you've never seen that chair before, so...). I'm remembering a prevision - a random image I had foreseen without processing it at the time.

Heck, I've got no explanation for it. I'm just sayin'.

p.s. I wonder if the writers of the Matrix have ever experienced déjà vu? When Neo saw the cat? That's not how I experience déjà vu...

I don't know about the rest of you psychics...

The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.
~Salvador Dali

Dream job

So anyone who knows me knows I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Sad, I know.

What a waste of a multi-talented, stunningly-attractive genius, eh?

(yeah, yeah - screw you, too)

Anyhow, I came across this post on Boingboing and I wanted to make a note of it for myself - what better way to do that than to have it linked in my blog?

It's about how one might go about creating the art/look of a comic book, step-by-step, using a computer's photoshop program to enhance the hand-drawn elements. This guy makes it look ridiculously simple...if you can draw. I've always loved comics and have long thought that creating them for a living would be a real dream job. Unfortunately, I didn't cultivate the limited talent I had as a youngster...story of my life.

If only I had listened to my mom, I would have been a professional guitar-playing/karate-chopping/science-experimenting artist by now.

Now that's a job.

Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas.
~Paula Poundstone