Thursday, February 26, 2009

Picture crazy

Only a couple of days are left for you to enjoy an authentic February day. Two months of 2009 will officially be over. Where has the time gone? Everything since Christmas has been a blur, and who's to blame? Benjamin Button?

Anyway, it's been a while since I took some good photos, and even longer since I edited them or posted them anywhere. I'm not about to start tonight, but I think I'll post some fairly recent ones.

This nostalgia trip started when I opened my photo folders and saw some shots from October. I'm a September baby, but I think October wins the Favourite Month of the Year award. October has autumn trees with crisp brown leaves, frozen grass and frosted glass, chilly nights, Halloween frights, Ichabod Crane, and... pumpkins.

And, since I already posted pictures of Darcy (aka Superdog), and because the world can't have enough puppies, this is our other dog, Stewie.

I'll include the cats one day. Although, on a cat-related note, this strip should let you know why I love Get Fuzzy, Darby Conley, and grammar jokes. (BTW, is it even legal to post this?)

That's enough for now. I'll try to post something of substance very soon. Good night, Constant Reader, and enjoy your last two days of February.

Sincerely yours,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


To twit, or not to twit; that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of out-dated fads, or to take arms against a sea of ever-increasing internet applications, and by joining, stay current.

I was going to say that Shakespeare never had to put up with 16th century versions of Facebook, Blogger, and Twitter (Shakey: "Must remember to post the drawings of Richard Burbage, and scribble about the new play"), but then I remembered that I'm not Shakespeare. Took me all of a split second, really.

So, my twitting has begun. I guess that means I'll make the blog public, and then see if I can post in a somewhat-regular fashion.

By the way, since I got on the Shakespeare tangent, I love this Hugh Laurie/Rowan Atkinson sketch.
Shakespeare: "You can't say that. It's gibberish!"
Agent: "But it's short, William. It's short! Listen, it flows: 'To be or not to be; that is the question.'"
Shakespeare: "You're damn right it's the question. I don't have any bloody idea what he's talking about!"

Ah, brilliance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beaver tails... mmm

Hoo boy... that long weekend threw everything off, especially my sleep schedule. Being a zombie at work is no fun (one possible exception: if you're working closely with Simon Pegg on Shaun of the Dead 2).

The day started off with a one-hour commute that stretched to two hours because of last night's snowfall. Honestly, people, this is Toronto. It's the middle of February. Why aren't drivers used to snow yet? (More on snow at the bottom.)

So I was exiting the subway station near my office, counting down the hours left in the workday, when I saw an old co-worker going the other way. We were both in a hurry, but it was good to reconnect for a minute. The meeting was so unexpected that it brightened my morning just like that. Strange how old friends can do that.

In books, news, and books news, this is what's catching my attention:

-An online book club? Yessiree, and from none other than The New Yorker. February's book is Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. Check it out here.

-Newsflash: Gamers read. Galleycat posted a blurb and a video on the subject. Those millions of dedicated WoW-ers (probably not the right term) are also dedicated readers, and that's good news for fantasy writers.

-Life of Pi gets the big screen treatment. Maybe. This rumour's been around before, but now Variety is reporting that Ang Lee has signed on to direct. I like Lee. He brought Brokeback Mountain and Sense and Sensibility to the screen. Life of Pi will be interesting. I wonder how the child chosen to play Piscine will like acting opposite a tiger in a lifeboat.

-US President Obama visited Ottawa yesterday for a glorious 7 hours. Canadian news stations loved it. American reporters? They may have had a bit of trouble. Lest you think that article is all about American naivete when it comes to the Great White North, scroll down to the second half. The Canucks get made fun of too. Good-natured bashing is fun.

By the way, the American president has now bought and eaten a Beaver tail.

I'm Canadian, and I've never had one. I'll have to add it to my To-Do list.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A little more about that golden retriever

My last post revolved around Superdog. I thought why not let you know what he looks like. Here are two photos of Darcy, aka, Superdog.

-As a puppy, two years ago.

-Full-grown, and leaping through the snow in the backyard.

Sorry for the low-res shots. I'll post better ones when I can.
That's it for now. The long weekend's over, and I need some shut-eye. I'm supposed to function in the office tomorrow, and sleep is the key. That, and caffeine. One day I'll have to write about that week when I tried to wean myself off caffeine while at work. Those were the days.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My morning misadventure

I'm sitting in my kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee. It's the last day of the long weekend. The sun's coming up, my dog is at my feet, and you might wonder what could be better. Well, all of it.

I woke up over an hour ago feeling parched. I stumbled towards the kitchen with my eyes half-open. Superdog was happy to see me awake so early, but he's usually more subdued in the wee hours. He likes his rest, too.

I pushed through the kitchen door and was about two steps in before the a smell hit me, the kind of smell that can make you go from sleepy-eyed to red-alert in a second. I sniffed again, just to make sure I wasn't imagining things (as if my brain would conjure a smell like that just for the heck of it), but no. Something was amiss. I took a turn around the island, and right there--in the middle of the kitchen floor--was Superdog's Unfortunate Accident.

Everyone has their own reactions to these random and inexplicable occurrences. Mine was to wonder how a medium-sized golden retriever managed to produce something that big. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost, except I was going to be the one cleaning it up. I'll spare you the messy bits.

A lot of bleach and vinegar later, I put on my shoes and jacket while a very excited Superdog waited by his leash. It's below freezing outside, but I stayed in my knee-length shorts. This would be a brief trip, an emergency outing. Time was of the essence, and I couldn't afford luxuries like pants. Besides, it would be quick. Five minutes, tops.

Superdog and I made it to the end of the backyard, and it was actually a nice walk. The weather wasn't so cold. My bare shins were fine. My sock-less feet were still warm.

I was hoping that after Superdog's Unfortunate Accident, he would have only one thing on his mind. This was not the case. The backyard seemed to hold fresh wonders for him on this February morning. Every twig, every leaf, every frozen patch of earth; he found a new appreciation for each one, sniffing them inch by inch. I wondered if he had a life-altering experience during the night, and whether he discovered a new-found appreciation for shrubbery in the meantime.

I started to regret the shorts after about fifteen minutes without action. This was not what I bargained for. I must have miscalculated the severity of Superdog's situation. My patience was reaching its limit. Five minutes later, I quit. I tugged on the leash, and we began the walk back to the house.

Halfway back, something must have clicked. One second he was walking at my side, and the next second he was holding the pose I'd been waiting for. Victory! Or not. The pose didn't hold, and we were back to square one.

Now I knew there was something to wait for, and I couldn't in good conscience bring Superdog inside. Not when I might have to clean the mess all over again. Two more false starts, and I was having dark thoughts about tying the leash to a tree, if only so I could go inside and put on some pants. I coaxed, I begged, I swore. Finally, my prayers were answered. He held the pose. I turned around to give him some privacy, and watched the sun start to show through the trees to the southeast. The sky had the dark grey of pre-dawn when I'd stepped out into the yard. Now there was an orange glow, and shades of blue overhead.

The business concluded, we walked back to the house. Sleep was beyond me now, so I sat down with my laptop at the kitchen table. That's where I am now. I have a cup of coffee nearby, the morning sun is getting stronger, and Superdog is lying down by my side.

What could be better?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valens, Slumdog, and Coraline artwork!

Happy V-Day, everyone. Sort of. It's an hour or so too late for me, but it's still February 14th in some parts of the world. Do you know who St Valentine was? I thought he was just a martyr ("just"), but I heard a little story about him today, and I'll write it down later. Or you can skip to the end of the post and read it now.

A few quick hits:

-I just watched Slumdog Millionaire for the first time, and I loved it. I haven't seen all of the '09-Oscar Best Picture nominees yet, but you won't hear me complaining if SD wins. Stories about overcoming large odds have been done before, but this had something more. Maybe the difference between cultures is what makes the theme seem fresh. The movie also makes me want to go to India again, despite the prospect of being robbed blind (or by the blind). I was there when I was 4, but I still have great memories of the places I saw. It's weird when I think that it's been just over 20 years since I was there. My youngest sister wasn't even born yet.

To cut the rambling short... watch this movie. Some scenes may be disturbing for viewers because of the occasional violence and third-world squalor. All the more reason to see it. (And for a real-world taste of violence, lawlessness, and the caste system, read this.)

-Coraline. Yes, I already raved about this movie, but now there's artwork for it! Please, please, please let there be a Film Art book for this film like there has been for the Burton movies. I love the artwork for stop-motion films. I love the sculpting, and the concept designs, and anything associated with the production. I wanted to do this kind of work, once upon a time. I wanted to go to art school, I put together a portfolio towards the end of high school, and I had a couple of good interviews, but in the end I decided to go with university over college, and English over Visual Arts. I wish I could have done both.

I've been rambling again. Without further ado, stolen from Neil Gaiman's blog:

and probably my favourite, (For this one, click on Newer Things on the right and then Coraline.)

All the artwork is great, including the non-Coraline stuff. One fantastic sketch by Shane Prigmore had me laughing really hard, which woke up my significant other, sleeping in her bed just a few feet away. Sorry, hun. Here's the sketch:

It reminded me of how I felt after watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Aliens? Really? Sigh... I had to go watch Raiders just to feel better again. Which isn't a bad thing.

-I heard that St Valentine used to write to criminals. He would send them letters to keep up their spirits, and possibly to try rehabilitating them. And he would sign his letters with, "sincerely yours, Valentine." I can't swear that every word of this story is true, but it's certainly true that it is a story (50 points if you know where that's from).

Happy Valentine's Day to you.

Sincerely yours,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Magic and make-believe

I'm glad I waited a day before writing something about the movie Coraline. I loved Neil Gaiman's book because it was as good as the fairy tales and fables from my childhood. (Maybe that point is irrelevant... I love to read fantasy, so I haven't exactly outgrown stories of the uncanny.) Anyway, I was very excited to see the film adaptation. I'll watch any kind of stop-motion animation I can, so I was even more excited to see this film. As if the cake needed extra icing, there was this glowing review by Peter Howell, of The Toronto Star.

Then I watched the film yesterday afternoon. Hoo boy. I thought Howell got this one wrong. (Ahem, possible spoilers ahead.) I always argue against people who want a film to be more like the book it was adapted from--as if the two mediums are comparable--and there I was, feeling like I was being cheated by the changes from the book. Wybie? "Mom's snow globes"? An extended sequence through a fancy garden that was probably just there to show off the film's stop-motion and 3D capabilities? Ok, the stop-motion and 3D were very, very good, but showing off takes away from the story. Or so I thought.

I thought the film redeemed itself with the second-half, though it still wasn't as creepy as the book, but I wasn't experiencing the same instant thrill I had with The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Corpse Bride. I needed to let it sink in.

30 hours later, I find certain scenes flashing upon my inward eye. The visuals were so astounding, I want to see it again to catch all the stuff I know I missed. I want to know how they created, shot, and produced every stitch of the film. Plus, the story's really good. I can't believe I got so hung up on the book vs. movie argument that I cheated myself out of the feeling of wonder for the artistry. Conclusion #1: This is a damn fine movie. Conclusion #2: Despite my best intentions, I am sometimes an ass. (An ass who enjoys a good split infinitive.)

Moving on. E-books. Are they the future? Are they the present that the masses aren't accepting yet? Where there's a will, there's a way, and the electronics dudes are working on a way. Does the Amazon Kindle 2 look cool enough to tempt you (assuming you can find one)? Perhaps you like the look of the Sony Reader better. There are more things to factor than looks, but it's all pie in the sky for me. At $359 US for the Kindle 2, and $299 for the Reader, I can't afford to splurge on either one. So, unless I get one as a present...

Last topic. Steroids in baseball. I cannot describe how disappointed I was to learn that Alex Rodriguez did indeed use steroids. The man is far from my favourite player; he's a jerk by several accounts, but his demeanour isn't everything. He may be the highest-paid player in baseball (or in any sport I can think of), but he sort of earns that by being the best player around. The only other current player I would rank with him would be Albert Pujols, and only because Pujols is younger. But back to the steroid thing.

Barry Bonds owns the single-season and all-time home run records, but many people believe steroids helped him get part of the way there. His records are tainted by allegation and scandal, and it doesn't help that he's perceived as a jerk by everyone outside of San Fransisco. Here's where A-Rod comes in. The man is a hitting machine. He's the perfect player, if there is such a thing. I didn't like him much, but I admired him. I cheered as his great seasons continued because I got the sense that history was being made by someone who would get there because of hard work, not because of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. When I watched him bat against my favourite player, Roy "Doc" Halladay, I struggled between wanting to see A-Rod hit one out, and wanting Doc to get the swing-and-a-miss, strike-three call. Now all that's been ripped away. Rodriguez is like Bonds because both were already-gifted players who cheated to become even better. The silver lining (and you really have to want to see it) is that A-Rod admitted to it, while Bonds still denies using. I applaud the belated honesty, but I feel like that nameless kid in Chicago, all those decades ago. To paraphrase his line:

"Say it ain't so, Alex. Say it ain't so."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Like sending coals to Newcastle

Chances are you've heard about Coraline. It's the name of a movie released in theatres on Friday. It's based on the book by Neil Gaiman, an author I'm just beginning to appreciate.

I'd heard about Gaiman before--mostly from my best friend who loved the Sandman comics--but there are so many things to read... Gaiman got lost in the shuffle. Then I was in a bookstore and saw a book called Stardust. I remember that was adapted into a movie too. I started reading it and I could not put it down. The book had magic and wit, kind of like William Golding's The Princess Bride (another delightful book). But that was the only Gaiman I had around me. One thing led to another, and I forgot about looking for his other works.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I realised the fancy-shmancy, 3-D movie Coraline is based on Gaiman's book. Interesting. I love stop-motion animation, so I thought I'd check out the film at least. Thursday rolled around, and shortly after tuning in to CBC Radio One at work, I heard that Neil Gaiman was going to be there for an interview. It was very well done. He sounds smart, funny, and likeable. He mentioned this quote from G.K. Chesterton: "Fairy tales are good, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten." I may not have that word-for-word, so if it's wrong, let me know.

Anyway, I read Coraline today. Creepy, but sweet. It makes me wish I was a kid again, discovering similar stories for the first time.

There will be more Gaiman on the way. I picked up M is for Magic, a collection of his short stories, and I'm browsing his blog (see my blog list). Here's the dedication for that book: "Writing imaginary tales for children is like sending coals to Newcastle. For coals." I thought that was funny.

P.S. NG's latest book, The Graveyard Book, recently won the Newbery Medal. I remember picking up Newbery winners when I was a kid because they were automatic good reads (or they were to me). Read his fantastic account of how he heard the news here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...