Thursday, January 31, 2008

Music's Where I Meet My Friends.

The R3:30 is one of my dearest discoveries of 2007*.

The R3:30 is CBC Radio 3's weekly indie music countdown. It is released every Monday as a free podcast. It is hosted by the wry Craig Norris and produced by the effervescent Pedro Mendes. Together, they introduce their audience to kickety-kick-ass new music.

The partner of my classmate from my construction course, Melanie, is a photographer for Radio 3, and she told me to check it out. I did, and so began a renaissance of dedication to CBC. Before this, I'd never seriously strayed beyond Radio One.

I have discovered so many new artists through this podcast. The Weakerthans, Numéro#, The Pink Mountaintops, Abdominal, Two Hours Traffic, Caribou, Pride Tiger, Abdominal (click on the image), The Russian Futurists, and Chromeo are only a few. It's nice to be stretching my Canadian music knowledge.

I have abstained from listening for the last three weeks so in the next few days when I'm recovering from LASIK, I can have some greatness to listen to. It was difficult, and now I am afraid I'm behind on some cool announcement. I'm banking the love.

The element of the podcast I especially enjoy the banter of the host and the producer. Oddly enough, more than once, Craig has pleaded with listeners not to skip ahead and only listen to the music. This is usually when there's an especially interesting Long Range Request, or if there's a contest announced. I'm more prone to do the opposite; skipping the music I'm not interested in or re-playing the bits in-between. Pedro and Craig behave as if they are infinitely exhausted by each other, but there's so much love. Pedro is an unabashed anime fiend and Craig likes to indulge in odd, wandering, tangential stories, sometimes about feet and butter. Anyone who knows me understands why this nonsense appeals to me.

Please, if you are a media consumer and want to try something different, fun, and distinctly Canadian, download an episode, become addicted, download back episodes, listen to them instead of sleeping, and then fantasize about what you'd say to get a job on the podcast. Or is that just me?

*Other new discoveries of 2007:
Flight of the Conchords (no, I still don't own the DVD...)
Evil Dead: The Musical
swiss chard (not a super hip band: I really do mean the leafy green)
Rock Plaza Central

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bigger Is Not Better.

The Mini (Morris and Minor) was originally designed with economy in mind. Economy of price and economy of materials, which of course, go hand-in-hand. The original Mini had no window crank, but had a divided sliding window, and no interior door handle, but a cord instead. Two doors, a matchbox-sized trunk, and the motor turned on a 90 degree angle to a conventional car made the Mini a paragon of mindful design. It wasn't the giant muscle cars that were popular and presitigious in America, but post-WWII Britain was still in ration mode, and a petrol crisis had just passed. The Mini's introduction was perfect timing.

I loved Minis. I still do. I've not been in a new Mini yet. I was hell bent and determined to own one when I lived in England in '99-'00, so when it actually came to pass that I needed a car, it wasn't looking for just any car: I was looking for a Mini.

I had a ball in the shittiest car in the United Kingdom. It was black with a checkered roof, dots on the doors and racing stripes on the hood. It cost me £400, and it was probably worth half that.

This little trip down memory boulevard is brought to you by the release of the new Mini Clubman. The original Mini Clubman was a slightly longer and larger verion of the wee Mini, with a two-door back door system. The marketers called it a 4-door. (Sneaky buggers.)

I am pleased that the re-made Mini is such a success that it has an opportunity to have as many incarnations as the original. There's the basic Mini, a zippier Cooper, and now this Clubman.

If anyone's still searching for a gift, my birthday is coming up.

(This is absurd, of course. I don't need or want a car. Well, for a Mini, I might just park it and watch its wonder.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What's This Post Missing? Not Stage Directions!

Oh, no... since January 7th? Is that really the last post?


I want to officially announce that I am no longer going to apologise for not posting very often. I'm just going to post more often.

I'm at Holly and Murph's place now, in Kitchener-Waterloo, spending some R&R after a crap semester at work. I hope next semester is better, even though I have to teach some class called "Individuals and Families" and a photography class. The photography class should be good, but the Individuals class has a rep as being a bird course. I hope it is. Or, it will be by the time I'm done with it!

Holly is heavily in the family way, and it's nice to meet Murph for the first time. A pleasant chap, despite his Yankee roots. [Insert smiley emoticon here, were this a folksy email]

The big news for this post is:

On Thursday I'm going to have LASIK eye correction done. It'll take care of my myopia and my astigmatism. Yes, I'm very nervous, and more so as the day approaches. The free gift with purchase, though, is a complimentary Valium, so I plan to take it. It'll calm my nerves. Oddly enough, I think I ruminated over taking the Valium more than I did having a laser pointed at my brain. [Insert nervous laughter here, were this a terrible one-woman play]

Ok, I'm off. I have some serious sitting to do. I think I'm finally ready to see Borat, too, so I might take the plunge this weekend. I'll only be one year behind when I start saying "Wow-ee-wow-wow" or whatever nonsense everyone was spouting. [Roll eyes here, if I were one of my annoying 17-year old students]

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Red Fever.

Mercy. It gives me the vapors.

I happen to like Conan O'Brien's facial hair. There have been too many cracks saying it should go.

Here's the formula, geniuses:

Awesome Dude + Awesome Beard = Awesome times infinity.

Why the eff did it take me so long to find a pic of the new face 'do? I thought I was going to have to go with this one:

For the record, people who are thinking it: the beard does not make him look more like a leprechaun.

I'm back, safe and sound in Upper Canada. I can feel the soot accumulating in my lungs with each breath. I had a two hour delay in Hali because of the fog in Toronto, but the flight was good, I didn't get a hot whopper, which was my new flying fear. (Thanks, Jason Mulgrew, aka, The Worst Man on Earth. See sidebar links.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This Will Be Our Year.

One of the things I love about the end of the calender year is all the "year in review" specials on TV and radio. (I miss Fromage!) The train wrecks, the triumphs, the deaths, the who-cares-another-celebrity-had-a-genetically-superior-spawn births.

This was a big year for me, but 365 days ago, I wouldn't have guessed it. It was a year ago today my grandmother died, and later in January '07, my good friend Anna's father died. I didn't think this was an especially auspicious way to kick off the year.

BUT, I had my cool albeit low-paying job at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. It was a great place to work, and I harbour pipe dreams of returning there some day. I moaned when I had to paint walls for days on end ("For this I bled my eyes out for my MA?"), but as a reward I got to show schoolkids around and learn 'em some art 'n' history. The big highlight, though, were the times I had to work in the vault. That's where the permanent collection is stored, so I got to explore the bins and absorb all the great Canadian art the Gallery owns. And by absorb, I don't mean touch, of course, unless absolutely necessary, and then only with cotton gloves. [insert nervous laughter here]

Then, as my work term came to a close, I got word that I was accepted into Fleming College's Sustainable Building Design and Construction program. For years, I'd read about straw bale housing and alternative building methods, and I'd been to one workshop, but I didn't feel like it was enough. I was excited and scared by the prospect of taking a building course.

The nightmares started soon after I sent in my tuition cheque, and imagining a life with fewer fingers became a distracting daydream. It was the circular saws. Those damn circular saws.

By July, and four months into a five month course, I was the power saw mistress of the construction site, and I'd learned more than I ever could have imagined. Like grad school, it only taught me how little I know. I know now I can design with sustainable methods, and, to a certain extent, build, but I need help. I'm ok with that.

My classmates were a singular bunch of very different people who were drawn together with my like-minded goals: learn how to help people live their lives better and more mindfully.

Plus, I got a bitchin' scar on my forearm from a straw bale building tool used to make the scratch coat in earthen plasters. Not dissimilar to this one:
Yeah, I'm hard.

The upshot is, I know more than I did, and I think that should always be a goal.

After living in beautiful cottage country Ontario, I couldn't stand the idea of moving back to PEI to be once again under- or unemployed, so I decided to make the move to Toronto. An old friend came out of the woodwork to hook me up with a sweet job teaching at a private high school. I was so stoked to have a job lined up before I even moved to the city.

My new and good friend T took me into his house and I got to know his family while I stayed with them for a month while my own living situation was ironed out. Then the fam hooked me up with a friend of theirs for two weeks until my house was ready.

My house in Toronto! I live with 4 other East Coasters and we are a sleepy bunch because we'd much rather stay up late chatting than go to bed. Perhaps my resolution this year is to get 8 hours of sleep every night. We'll see how long that lasts.

Now, for the new year, I hope to travel, I hope to read, I hope to get a new job, and I hope to get laser eye surgery (possibly as soon as late January!). I also hope to strengthen my knees or take a dance class or something. No capoeira. Oh, and I'd like to finish that bleedin' screenplay I've been toiling on/ignoring for 2 years.

Find below the ubiquitous movie year in review.

2007 Movies On My Radar.

I'm stormstayed today. It is chucking down snow today. We got about 30cm on New Year's Eve (party chez moi, bed by 10:30pm, covered in headcold snot)(WOOO!!!), and there's another 30cm forecast for today. It is quite pretty, I must admit, but I'm glad I'm not flying back to Toronto today. My sister was trapped in Halifax last night for hours but finally did get back to Ottawa.

I wish I had bought some more DVDs for my constant stormstayed state, but how is one to know?

I didn't see as many movies as usual this year, mostly owing to my busyness in the autumn as a new teacher, and the rural nature of my summer digs in Minden. (The local movie house in that town was condemned for mould and the formidable Kinmount cinema was about a 20 minute drive away.)

I had some big movie disappointments of the year.

Exhibit A: Knocked Up (2007). Smut does not funny make, Mr. Apatow. Seth Rogan did it better with Superbad (2007), a teen comedy that didn't seem as sad or crass. There were fewer weed jokes, though, which is always a sign of quality. =cough=

Exhibit B: Hot Fuzz(2007). I still heart Simon Pegg, and I still heart him and Nick Frost together, but I think my blind devotion to Shaun of the Dead (2004) tainted Fuzz. Plus, my old compliant of "too long!" haunts me. I haven't seen it a second time yet, but I would like to see the DVD's special features, since Shaun's were stellar.

Exhibit C: This one didn't really surprise me, but it was shit enough to repeat myself: Transformers (2007). What a sack of shit this one was. Shia, you're still on the husband list, but this is a dark point in your otherwise reputable cv. Fingers crossed for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Easy Money (2008).

On to the great stuff:

Juno (2007). Oh, Juno. This movie is as sweet as they say, without being cloying. It is as quirky as they say, without ODing on quirk. The performances were as great as the script. Oh, and don't get your hopes up, "Arrested Development" fans: Bateman and Cera are never in a scene together. It's probably for the best. I've had too many naughty dreams about the two of them since AD went off the air. My head would probably explode.

Ratatouille (2007). Wow was all I could say after this one. It was sweet, and funny, and sophisticated, and a real treat. It's out on video now. Take my word for it and see it.

No Country For Old Men(2007). Holy crapper, this one was good. I left the theatre thinking every person I passed was a homicidal sociopath. (I was in Toronto, so chances were good, I guess.) Gritty (visually and emotionally), well paced, and well cast, it deserves all the buzz it gets. (Unlike Charlie Wilson's War (2007), which I think was a solid "meh.") I was pleased at how simple this story was - an everyman with good tracking skills stumbles across a drug deal which ended in a bloodbath, and becomes the hunted when he makes off with a case of money. I also liked that I wasn't sure who the protagonist was - the hunter, the hunted, or the pleasant sheriff, of course played by Tommy Lee Jones.

The Darjeeling Limited(2007). Wes Anderson gets a crap deal. His movies are
so visually distinctive and his dialogue so unique and poignant, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing each movie to the other because there's simply nothing else out there like them. The problem is, each of his movies can't stand on their own as a singular work. Even my favourite movie reviewer (yes, I have a favourite movie reviewer) went into too much detail about Anderson's other films when reviewing Darjeeling. Perhaps in the future, I'll write a post about how much I love Anderson's movies, but not now: this is all Darjeeling.

Darjeeling follows the Whitman brothers on an ill-advised Indian train journey. The three abuse narcotics, each other, and a poor train steward in an almost-slapstick family-under-the-microscope film. It was raw and funny and visually smacked me in the head.

Darjeeling started with a short. Not a bullshit animated short, but a short film called The Hotel Chevalier (2007). It was released on iTunes before Darjeeling was released to the big screen as a teaser, but the theatre where I saw the feature was wise enough to include the short beforehand. I'm glad it did, because it made Jason Schwartzman's character much richer. [Sidebar: Schwartzman - potential husband list member?] And, boys (the few straight boys I know), you get to see Natalie Portman starkers, as much of a bony treat that is...

Schwartzman's Jack is sexual and sad (and has great hair), Adrien Brody makes a great foray into comedy as brother Peter, and Owen Wilson 's Francis is not the frat pack jackass we've been subjected to over the last few years. After Wilson's real-life suicide attempt of this year, there are some scenes of Darjeeling that are especially breath-catching.

As for 2008, there's not a lot I'm really looking forward to. There is a new X-Files movie due out in July, and a Clooney/Krasinski effort due in April, but other than anything involving members of the Husband List, I'll take movies as they come.