Monday, March 23, 2015

winter's last gasp

I've been keeping busy! Perhaps a little too much drinking, but can ya blame me? Played some pool Sunday night, that oft frustrating hobby; a joy when done well, a bore otherwise. Saturday was a solidarity rally with the university of Toronto and York teaching assistants, and possibly the largest action I've had the pleasure of marching with. A bright and at times brisk day, and spirits were high. That night was an acquaintance's birthday, where I mostly kept my manners up and my drink down, an evening ending with me buying a box of fried chicken and falling asleep with my clothes on.

Friday night I participating in an open sparring event, wherein people of various fighting backgrounds went at it in a casual, non-competitive atmosphere. I fared well enough, and left with some bruises for my trouble, though I did catch a toe in the eye and someone's backfist to my chin. A good practice, and useful gauge against other martial arts misfits, as I think of them. Though it might be pushing my luck, I'd like to try again in a couple months.

I saw Merchants of Doubt the previous weekend and it's simply galling to see the evidence of trickery, of manipulation, of FUD that the climate change deniers have used to numb the minds of the populace and slow the actions of government. On the other hand, it was nice to see Jamy Ian Swiss get to show off his skills while educating on the big screen.

Have I more news for you? I've been using Timeful pretty heavily to kick my butt into gear, at least in terms of getting stuff done. Mostly this has been reading, flossing, and practicing piano but it's a start.  I suppose in the realm of the personal I have no news, but am heavily into trying to make news.

OH I forgot that I went to a nightclub to meet some woman I met on-line. I mean, there's not much to tell, what with a noisy club not being particular suited to genuinely getting to know someone. But it was an adventure, of sorts at least.

Friday, March 13, 2015

board game jam 4

Another year, another Board Game Jam. This was the fourth appearance for Jenning and me, and I have to say it felt like our weakest attempt. Not that we didn't try, but I was not happy with what we came up with, a derivative of many other popular, more fun worker placement games. I suppose not every year can be a great success in creativity. The event itself was much the same as last year -- same workshop space at George Brown College, same party space at Mill Street Brew Pub, same format of introduction lesson, building and playtesting. The theme was "How do we know what we know?", which I probably put too much emphasis on. Thinking on it now, it makes sense to simply work on our previous unfinished works, which are otherwise sitting collecting dust on shelves, unplayed and forgotten for months and months.

The weather has turned! And what a quick turn it was, spring kicking down signs left and right of winter. I've taken to riding a bicycle to work again, and hope to find some time to do so leisurely, maybe check out some of my routes. The highlight of my work day, really.

Attended another nerd nite, which are starting to grow on me. There was a talk on Celtic misconceptions, and a presentation by some Google employees that was actually really interesting, even if it felt a bit like a commercial. Hard to place my finger on what I felt lacking about them -- perhaps it's the lack of a greater critical analysis in these talks.

Tonight I meet up with friends to try one of those "escape the room" games. Here's to hoping our oxygen doesn't run out!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

playing with video

I've been participating in an on-line course, Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen, and I feel like I've gotten quite a bit out of it. On top of having to think about how films are made, there have also been practical exercises, some of which I've had a blast with. For a lighting experiment I made this short video:

It came out a lot darker than I'd hoped, and the audio quality is lousy, but overall I'm happy with the results. I pretty much made do with the equipment available to me -- a desk lamp, a towel, and a battery-powered tea light. I'm impressed that I did it all on my iPhone 6! I'd no idea iMovie did so much. Here's a couple more videos I did on a lark (not for the course):

Well, I like them, although I suppose the cat one is the equivalent of me sharing a cheesy family video. Whatever dude! I had fun making them.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

healthy yet

For my 41st birthday I went to see Taken 3 with the movie-buff crew. Well, at least we had lots to drink afterwards at the Town Crier Pub to help me forget the absolute misery, the horrific realization that we should live in the universe that has Taken 3 in it. On the Saturday following I saw Song of the Sea, a far better film that served to ease my recovering head. Which I followed up with drinks at a cowboy bar, and a go at the mechanical bull. So I guess I'm more willing to try things in 2015.

I do try to listen to my body more, in that I am increasingly aware of the aches and wrinkles and blemishes that appear with disappointing frequency and intensity of late. My skin in particular seems drier (and itchier) than ever, reminding me of the husk I inhabit. I have kept up the karate, so that's something. I'm also reducing my overall drinking, the holiday season having now passed with its official ending being my mom's birthday. For that my sister and I prepared a pretty handsome meal: homemade spinach and cheese ravioli accompanied by king crab legs, followed by a decadent chocolate cake that had my mom taking numerous photos of, so impressed was she.

Perhaps even more significantly, I've taken measures to improve my sleep and daily mood: better sleep hygiene including a sleep mask, (mostly) keeping to a scheduled bedtime, avoiding my phone before bed, installing flux, and using a sunlight-emulating lamp (discussed here). I would've gotten one of those dawn-light wake-up lamps except I need the sleep mask, my place being not that dark at night. Has it all helped? Certainly I am able to wake up early and don't feel so run down. I haven't really evaluated which changes contributes most to this, but overall, yes, things are better sleep-wise. So that's something too.

Not much else to speak of. I went to another Toronto Nerd Nite. Got a pair of new glasses -- apparently my suspicions of my eyesight getting worse were unfounded. Oh, I did some caulking repair in my bathroom, which was a fun little project.

The adventure continues!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014 film recap

As part of my return to blogging, here's a recap of ALL the films that I saw in 2014, in generally the order I saw them. Enjoy, feel free to agree or disagree.

The Lego Movie (2014): Thought the father-son bit was a bit of a stretch but overall, really quite good.

Vernon, Florida (1981): Apparently Errol Morris had to re-work his idea for a story about a town of people who commonly cut off their own limbs to collect insurance money; the result is limp, without legs.

Gattaca (1997): Ethan Hawke struggling to survive under a strict classist society based on one's genes. Thoughtful, suspenseful, the value of a true friend.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): That movie everyone says Adam Sandler really shines in outside of his usual schleppy demeanor. I say, yeah, it was pretty good.

Battle Royale (2000): Not as traumatic as I had feared it would be. Bloody, certainly. More of a quirky survival-horror than the slaughter I'd imagined.

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Strong contender for best of 2014, certainly up there for best Wes Anderson film. Perhaps I empathize too strongly with old men recalling bittersweet tales.

Man of Tai Chi (2013): Man, do not touch this one with a six-foot pole, lest it spoil your image of Neo. Some fun martial arts do not save this mess.

Pootie Tang (2001): A few laughs, over-the-top caricatures.You can tell fun was had but I didn't quite feel it.

World War Z (2013): Brad Pitt races fast zombies around the world. Fun.

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014): Another victim of the government enforcement machine. Relevant, so very relevant documentary for our modern times.

Under the Skin (2014): What does it take to be human? What a strange creature, the human male, in this stolid, nearly silent film. I was fascinated to learn that most of the characters were non-actors, filmed with hidden cameras. Memorable soundtrack -- menacing, genuinely creepy.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): A far stronger film than the previous Captain America, with a focus on a modern topic. Comic books are known for their ability to combine the fantastic with questions facing society at large, and this movie translated that spirit admirably.

Godzilla (2014): Walk out after the first 30 minutes, for the rest is dreck, mindless, illogical puffery. OK, the Hawaii scenes were neat. But that ending! Throw it back into the sea, please.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012): Reviewed previously here. Quirky fun, mostly.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): I find myself drawn to stories wherein the protagonist gets to live again, or have an alternate life from which they return (or wake up from). X-Men:DoFP is one such story, and is so good with it.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014): Groundhog Day meets The Matrix meets (the beach storming of) Saving Private Ryan. That's not a criticism, necessarily, for I rather enjoyed it.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013): A-ha! Nice to see Coogan don his familiar sneer and look of trepidation. Lots of subtle laughs.

Lucy (2014): With its incredibly flawed premise, heavy-handed narrative, and lack of any intrigue or vulnerability, Lucy was mostly awful. A waste of Johansson's and Choi Min-sik's talents.

End of Watch (2012): Cops paying in blood for the disenfranchisement of the disadvantaged. I felt, despite its realism, this one didn't quite strike the right chord for me, despite its admittedly explosive ending.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): I think I may be the only person on Earth who hated this film. I try to come up with a redeeming quality and I cannot think of one.

New World (2013): Classic undercover cop getting caught between the force he works for and the syndicate he's infiltrating. The ending paid off well so I can recommend this one.

Dogtooth (2009): Disturbing, almost surreal. Unsettling to see parents raise their children with an iron grip, messing with their minds for seemingly no reason.

Barton Fink (1991): It was alright. I know it's full of layers and meaning and symbols, but I just couldn't identify with Fink. I noted Judy Davis (Audrey), who played a similar role in The Naked Lunch, also a film about a struggling writer.

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013): I wanted to learn more about Noam Chomsky (without actually doing the reading), so I figured this might be a fun way to do it. And indeed, in usual Michel Gondry style it is a fun film, but I suspect I need to watch it again to get the lessons within.

The Imitation Game (2014): More of a documentary told as a historical drama. Still, the story of Alan Turing is fascinating and Cumberbatch does an admirable job.

John Wick (2014): More Keanu! Seemed like a poor choice for a story about a guy who loses his temper. Uneven. Some good action sequences.

Interstellar (2014): Another contender for best film of 2014. Definitely most ambitious. Science aside, my gripe was with the concept of love being the eternal force that binds. The space sequences were incredible and the soundtrack (Hans Zimmer) gives me shivers.

Journey to the West (2013): Classic Chinese folk tale given that Stephen Chow touch -- exaggerated comedy, characters with painfully human features, cartoon-y action sequences. Some of the darker, bloodier imagery I could've done without.

Big Hero Six (2014): What is it with kid's films and family members dying? That observation aside, this was a fun film with entertaining characters. I loved the backgrounds, the buildings, the rooms.

The Trip to Italy (2014): More of the same, and that's not a bad thing at all. Pasta never looked so good.

When the Last Sword is Drawn (2003): I was looking for a simple samurai hack-n-slash and this fell short of that bill, leaving my desire unslaked. Talk about your drawn out deaths! I guess some swords just take forever.

Inherent Vice (2014): I left the theater feeling unsatisfied but upon reflection Inherent Vice stands up as an entertaining ride with lots of red herrings, like a disinterested child picking up a beloved toy who just as quickly discards it for another, over and over again. I will say that the soundtrack is excellent, maybe better than Interstellar's.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Final Justice (1999): Joe. Don. Baker. The crew seemingly tear this one up more than usual, apparently in response to JDB's backlashes. So, yes, this time it's personal.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014): It's finally over. Now let's leave happy hobbits be, yes? I think the first of the three Hobbit films was best; this one was just swordplay and slow-motion death sequences.

Kundo (2014): As is often the case with Korean film, this seemingly straightforward "country bandits versus rich officials" story does not end as one might expect. Normally I wholeheartedly welcome surprises but I felt cheated of a better action film.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011): Too predictable, with a payoff that took forever and then some to arrive. Is it my current privilege that prevents me from sympathizing with the destitute? I suppose in the future people may look back and shake their heads at our inadequate healthcare.

Birdman (2014): Brilliant. Michael Keaton is winning. Consider the number of extended-length takes this film has, the effort required to achieve such a feat. Again, here's me empathizing with an old has-been, when I'm really more of a has-never.

I know I've missed a few, but there you go.

Monday, January 05, 2015

it's twenty fifteen

Okay fine here is my update.

Twenty-fifteen! What joys do you have in store for the Hwanner? At this time I have no plans other than to keep karate going. Can I push myself onto a regular sleep schedule? That would be nice, for I suffer currently from night-restlessness.

But 2014! In review, I did a bit of travelling:

  • 4 days in New York City for NECSS in April
  • 2 days in Ottawa for SkeptiCamp in May
  • 8 days in Scotland for a road-trip in August
  • 2 days in Montreal for stag activities in October
  • 7 days in the Dominican Republic for Reg's wedding in October
  • 2 days in London (Ontario) to visit a friend in December
While my gym attendance went way down I still managed to get my blue belt in karate. Finished Breaking Bad over several weeks. Had some laughs at JFL 42. Volunteered with Cycle Toronto.

Saw the Pixies play at Massey Hall. Went dog-sledding. Marched at a bunch of protests. Participated in yet another Board Game Jam. Saw Neil deGrasse Tyson talk at U of T. Recorded a few TDAHS shows.

Work and cats are much the same, much the same.

Oh, I guess I can try recap the last couple months, since my last update. Well, the wedding went off well, Punta Cana being such as it is with hot, easy days, warm waters, and plentiful in comestibles. I took note of the worker conditions, of the turning of lush countryside into concrete malls. Many in our party, myself included, contracted a vicious stomach bug -- a day shuffling between the bed and the toilet. But otherwise, sure, I had fun: tanning, swimming, beach sports during the day; drinking, dancing, stumbling at night.

After returning I went back to training for my karate exam, cramming lessons where time allowed. It'd been some 3.5 years since my last exam; strange to think of how I managed to stretch my time thus. I suppose some of it can be explained away by gallivanting but I feel like it's more of an attitude shift. Certainly, with my blue belt I feel karate is back in my life again.

And then yeah, the holiday season. Work Christmas party. Shopping for gifts. Christmas Eve with the cousins, Christmas day with the parents and sister. Did not do nearly as much video gaming as I thought I would. Spent New Year's Eve with my film writer friends, a pretty grand potluck feast that fairly overflowed, followed by a smaller, rowdier dance-centric party at a nearby friend of a friend's.

Much drinking, December. And it shows! My back hurts, my head hurts, my foot falls asleep easily, my sleep is troubled. Things can only get better though, right? RIGHT???!

Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm going to the Dominican, what

The last time I was in the Dominican I went with my family and a couple other families; I remember the sandy beach by the hotel, the two arcade machines (one of them an intense racing game that I'm sure featured primitive graphics by today's standards), and the tiny lizards that seemed to be everywhere. But now I return for my friend's wedding, middle-aged and somewhat aimless.

Nay, I shan't let such thoughts rule my days under the tropical sun. I will eat hearty, play hard, drink fully, and sleep deeply. I will also be without internet, the fees being highway robbery, so I shall be away from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and in so doing travel in time for a while, untouched by the world and its carrying-on.

Well, I guess I can catch you up on what I've been busying myself with. This week I've been fighting a chest cold or some such thing; lying down for a period of time results in a hacking cough, making sleep difficult. Over the weekend I was in Montreal with friends, a stag weekend with drink and merry-making. I still am clueless around women, even at my age. Drink may provide a kind of courage but it does so at the cost of making you look rather like a dolt. It was nice to see the city, if only for a glimpse; I've many memories, most fond, some not so.

I have also been pushing myself physically, in order to get in shape for my blue belt test later this year. Whether I'll be ready is another question, but having a goal, even an unshaped one, is doing me some good. Oh, the weekend before was the Thanksgiving weekend: a dental appointment, groomsmen shopping, karate, and of course the big family meal.

My bedtime approaches, and I must awake in the early hours. Live well, my friends, and I shall see you in a week.