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.


Monday, September 29, 2014

trying my hand in Scotland

AirTransat flight, packed into the window seat, using my coat to cover my eyes. An uneven sleep. Two meals: a beef and potatoes dinner, and a continental breakfast featuring pink goop posing as yogourt. Greeted by my friend at the airport with a welcome coffee in hand. Short drive through Glasgow, stopped to admire one of the downtown campuses. Lunch at Bar Gandolfi: pasta with capers and anchovies. A sleepy but gorgeous trip to the house, gliding between soft green hills. Steak dinner in Casa Mia in Dumfries, my tummy enjoying the extended day.
Egg, venison sausage, back bacon

Sunday was a much needed sleep-in, followed up by a healthy brunch, a bike ride around the surrounding countryside, and recording an ALS ice challenge.

Loch Lomond
Monday was driving through Moffat to drop off the housecat, then to Glasgow with a short stop at a rest station for petrol and a heavy plate of sausage, potatoes and peas. Checked into the Citizen M, a modern, streamlined hotel, seemingly inspired by Japanese sleep pods. Walk to The Admiral Bar to catch a Glasgow Skeptics' talk on electoral inequality, which I found useful. Sidled up to some fellows afterwards, resulting in a night of drinking, debating and poking fun at politicians, ended with deep-fried sausage and chips eaten drunkenly on the stumble back.

Glen Coe
Tuesday was the second half of the drive up to Loch Ness, first with a rest stop at Loch Lomond, Then through the Highlands, that remote beauty, alternating massive rocky hills with green valleys. I was particularly impressed by Glen Coe, whose magnificence is lost in a photo -- the sheer gravity of all that stone and earth piled high puts one in a minute space, bending one's perspective. Upon arriving in Dores we had a fine meal; another steak for me, followed by a quiet walk along the beach.
Urquhart Castle

Wednesday was a full breakfast of fresh rolls, pancakes, bacon and eggs. Drove up through Inverness then down the other side of the Loch, stopping in Drumnadrochit for souvenirs before continuing to Urquhart Castle. Though it is a ruin, one gets a feel for how this was a living fortress of the Middle Ages, complete with drawbridge and trebuchet.

Loch Tay, with a crannog on the right
Our return drive continued south; we missed the Crannog Center's closing time, but our luck in finding lodgings for the night held true in Killin. Tonight's dinner was a creamy seafood pasta, courtesy of the charming Smiddy restaurant. We followed up with drinks in the local pub, entertained by a young woman and her French bulldog.

Thursday was a day-trip in Edinburgh -- visiting the Castle, seeing the newly installed trams. We took in some fine views from the top of the Camera Obscura building, which otherwise houses a curious collection of visual illusions, many of which I'd seen in my internet travels and in other science centres.

The Royal Mile
Now a coffee and sandwich while watching the continuous flow of tourists through the downtown, various street performers vying for their attention -- a young woman on a ukulele, another creating long bubbles, a bagpipe player, a Stormtrooper with a kilt.

Friday served as a day of rest -- pizza and video games, catching up on Twitter and news of the referendum. A walk in the nearby forest at dusk.

Saturday was another trip to Moffat, treated to brunch. Finally got to try a "99 flake", something I'd been curious about since seeing it in Little Britain -- the ice cream is a lot more watery than I'd prefer, and the flake itself was pretty bland. Purchased some souvenirs in the form of Scotch and Moffat toffee, which is more of a hard candy that goes from sweet to slightly sour, the acid shining through.

Road to Dumfries
And so on the Sunday I returned, back to Toronto, back to the cats (for whom I got a sitter), back to my condo and work and morning scrums. My summer adventure was over, and I return anew, wanting to do more, to be more.

I had a full breath of a fair, green land, and I hope to breathe it again, one day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Flying to Scotland

I'm flying to Scotland tonight to see a friend there. I grew tired of having nothing to show for the summer -- nights of staying in watching Netflix, weekends with no plans. Feels good to finally do something.

Well, I caught a friend playing at the Emmet Ray this past Sunday, some live music to fill my time. Saw some faces I hadn't seen in ages, had a few beers, enjoyed myself.

My condo's heat pump was a bit wonky for a week or so there. It turned out that the fan for the building's water supply to the heat pumps needed a reset, or some such thing. Anyway the cooling works again, which puts my mind at ease regarding the cats. I actually dreamt of them last night, scrambling at the walls, trying to escape from what I gather were zombies or a similar threat. I feel guilty every day that I don't play with them, such is the attachment I've grown. I hired a cat sitter to look after them while I'm away, who appeared very prepared and professional. Still, the cats' well-being occupies my mind.

I am really liking Breaking Bad. I'd been holding out on watching it, the premise being so implausible to me. Once one gets over that hump however the show truly stands on its own as a work of television art. Much more addictive than Game of Thrones, which I found to be shallow, without substance. Seeing Walt sink into depravity is both fascinating and painful; I feel sorry for those around him. And I'm only in the second season!

Apparently Rob Ford is making a comeback in the polls! Toronto, my how you dumb/disengaged/jaded you've become!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Summer of Shows

Well, I'm caught up on A Game of Thrones. I was not all that into the show for the first three seasons, which is strange -- you'd think I'd be all over something full of swords and magic and intrigue. But no, it wasn't until the fourth season that I started to get that "just one more episode" feeling. It's difficult to say exactly what the show lacked for me. Not enough relatable characters? I did come to enjoy the Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark stories, and I liked the idea of Sansa developing into something other than a pouting ingĂ©nue. Over in Essos, I couldn't get past the idea of Daenerys freeing slaves by merely talking to them, as if one could change a person's core belief with only reason. Were that the world was so easily fixed! And, on a nitpick scale, how is she feeding her army? Where are the trains of supply wagons?

I've now moved onto Breaking Bad, and I have greatly enjoyed my time with it thus far, some five episodes in. I've heard about the descent the characters fall into, and am glad that their slide is slow for they are quite likeable as they are now, on the precipice of still being moral. This last episode had Walt turn down an offer to pay for his chemo, which I thought was quite foolish, and would appreciate some more justification for this. A minor quibble; the show is very well done and lives up to the hyperbole.

Did I mention that I finished the US version of The Office some months back? I quite liked it, even after Steve Carell's character left. Sure, the show felt quite different with the rotation of bosses, but simply seeing my favourite personalities continue to interact was enough. Never did like Ed Helm's Andy Bernard; while Carell's Michael Scott had an innocent quality to him, Andy was just a fickle, self-absorbed jerk. Anyway, I'm glad to have finished it.

Back in the real world, I finally made it over to Bike Sauce over the Simcoe weekend and changed the freewheel on my bicycle. It was a relatively painless operation, with the guiding words of the volunteers there. I think next I shall replace the seat and the pedals, both of which are in very sorry states indeed.

Urp, yes, I continue to play Hearthstone daily. Naxxramas, the new single-player campaign, has added some variety and cards to the game, so hopefully the metagame will see some changes. I do like building anti-"Miracle Rogue" decks -- my best bet is with a Paladin rush deck so far, though it only wins maybe 1/3 of the time it's played. Currently I run a lot of Warlock handlock/giants, and try to figure out the best ways to work in the new cards.

The summer is nearly over! I watched a lot of movies and shows, and certainly put in a lot of hours in video games. Spent time with friends, exercised, intermittently volunteered, but what else have I gotten done? Are there any adventures left before the autumn?

We shall see!



Friday, July 11, 2014

a midsummer's update

The fan for my heat pump stopped working. It's been wonky of late, and when I got home last Tuesday, after a day under the sticky glaring sun, my condo offered little relief. Indeed I ended up resorting to drinking myself to sleep, cursing the humid air. I was at the Evergreen Brickworks, enjoying beer and meat and fruit pies, a foodie event to be sure.

Yes, Canada Day, a country I love and cherish but is governed by fools I cannot abide, seemingly populated with people I hold less and less in common with. Well, not truly truly, but certainly I find the divide between us has seemingly deepened. Or perhaps it was always thus, and only as my eyes look broader do I see the chasms of empathy, of understanding, of relating. Let it be said that variety is both humanity's strength and weakness.

But the weather, the weather since that day has mellowed, a mild summer with much rain and cool winds. I find it comfortable; surely this is better than the raging waves of heat and humidity in summers we've known before here. Thus my heat pump (the fan, in fact) lies dormant, the comfortable evening air a viable, even preferable, alternative.

I volunteered with Cycle Toronto today, working as a bicycle valet for the opening of the nearby Corktown Commons, a thoroughly modern oasis in the city, nestled in a remote corner, complete with a water park and pond. It's quite the thing, and I hope to enjoy it again soon.

I've been burning through Death Note, an anime that holds up to the praise I've heard. The premise: a high school student finds a notebook that, when a person's name is written in it, will cause that person to die. Given this somewhat absurd item in an otherwise modern Japan actually makes for a good crime-drama, with a group of detectives attempting to find and bait out the killer, who sees himself as a kind of god, punishing those he deems unfit for the world.

I've also been trying some other iOS games, looking for an alternative to Hero Academy, which has unfortunately been neglected by Robot Entertainment, its creators. Such an excellent turn-based game! I dare say a classic, and I've not yet seen its equal. I lament its gradual demise. In any case, I've tried Summoner Wars, Uniwar HD, Outwitters, with the last of these being the closest (and yet still falling short) to the type of strategic thrill of HA.

Am I seeing anyone, you, like so many around me, may ask? No, I am not. Strange how one's outlook on daily life can change by such a small fact, such an innocent point. I remain single, comforted by little, dragging my feet through the days, growing heavier and wondering what next can I do to keep sane, to scrape up what little joy I can from the dregs I've surrounded myself with. Ha, but I exaggerate, a bit anyways.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

what i am doing, i am doing what, what am i doing

I spent the day at home, having to wait to get my heat-pump serviced (again) -- this time it seems it needed a flushing out, by which I suppose it was clogged in some capacity. A novel thing, working from home: cats at my feet, a large pot of coffee within reach, dressed in my most comfortable of attires. I rather enjoyed it, and got to try out the local Sky Blue Sky sandwich shop; excellent chowder!

Earlier this week I did one of my spur-of-the-moment rides across the city, from downtown to the beaches and back home, a circuitous route, some 20 km, navigating by will alone, without a destination or goal other than to feel the city pass by, to push my legs and lungs. Such glorious weather, I could not deny its call to enjoy it.

I have been keeping up with karate. Mostly keeping up, there being only the one class a week right now. I would like to say that I've been keeping up with my workouts as well, but that would be a blatant lie; I go through phases of regular and not at all. I often blame the waves of fatigue I feel when I arrive at home, though perhaps now that the A/C is on again I can self-persuade myself more frequently. Sleep is certainly a factor here, though the quality of that is my lack of willpower, my lack of drive.

Oh yeah, Monday night was so blasted warm I got very little sleep, having to resort to drinking half a bottle of wine to endure the evening air. Summer's early warning shots are scary indeed.

Saturday I was in Trinity Bellwoods, putting in some hours with Cycle Toronto. Strange to think of myself accosting strangers, attempting to raise awareness and sell memberships. I was glad to be out and about, at least. For I am in a funk, have been for the past couple months. I feel myself becoming farther and farther removed from those around me. I suppose much of it has to do with everyone settling down and coupling up, but even so.

I'll mention lastly that I saw Godzilla (terrible, just brain-dead action) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (the best of the series, has heart and teeth).

Here's to hoping for some joy in June!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

zizek's the pervert's guide to ideology

Here are my notes made while watching Slavoj Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Ideology. I've italicized those parts which I feel ring the most true or insightful for me. I've little illusion that you, dear reader, will understand all I've hastily scribbled down, but perhaps it'll give some fresh perspective into these films.

"They Live"
The glasses allow the wearer to see ideology. To put them on, to be free, and to have one's illusions shattered, is a painful experience; hence the big fight scene. Freedom is painful.

"The Sound of Music"
The guilt felt by people confessing is not from having sinned, or betrayed their conscience; it's from not having enjoyed the sin enough.

Coca Cola, Kinder Egg
Desire begets desire. The ultimate horror of desire is to have it fully sated, so that it disappears. The centre is the prize, which allows us to enjoy the chocolate (?), "probably made in some Chinese gulag."

"Ode to Joy", "Clockwork Orange", "West Side Story", 2011 England Riots
A piece of music with a fascinating history of use. Who is excluded from the universal joy? How can you know all this, that the actions are wrong, the causes of it, and still do it. "Even the most brutal violence is the enacting of a certain symbolic deadlock."

"Taxi Driver", "The Searchers", Anders Breivik
Fantasy is a lie in that it covers up a gap in consistency; fantasy provides an easy answer. What drives the violence of the hero is not that the victim is just a victim but rather that the victim enjoys and even participates in their own victimhood. Indeed, the violence should rather be directed inwards, towards the ideology that chains you, ties you.

"Jaws", "Triumph of the Will"
The function of the shark is to trade all of our smaller fears into a single target. Perhaps in a similar way as anti-Semitic Germany. Fascism aims to maintain a conservative hierarchy. Develop a narrative that explains the problems with a target, a foreigner.

(Sidenote: Rammstein have been accused of having Nazi sentiments (?), but in reality they separate the parts of mass group rituals from Nazism, allowing people to enjoy the ritual without the ideology.)

Airplane graveyard
Capitalism is a kind of religion, where one sacrifices oneself, one's environment, so that capital is moved.

"Titanic", "The Fall of Berlin"
Winslet's character has a broken image of herself, which DiCaprio literally and figuratively puts together; she draws energy from a lower-class person before she can return to the upper-class. The catastrophe overshadows this conservative message, of the rich taking advantage of the poor, using the couple as a vessel to hold the movie together, to make it more palatable to the liberally minded.

"Full Metal Jacket", "M.A.S.H.", "If...."
Military routine can induce one of two reactions: ironic distance e.g. joking around, or an obscene supplement e.g. marching chants. Communities always require unwritten rules. But to get too close to this obscenity is suicidal, destructive.

"The Dark Knight", rhetoric justifying the invasion of Iraq
Disturbingly perpetuates the myth that telling the truth (the Joker) means distraction -- the idea that if the public were to learn the truth (that Havery Dent committed those murders rather than Batman) would result in chaos. The lie maintains order, an old conservative wisdom: That the truth is too strong to be told to ordinary people.

9/11, the Big Other, "The Loves of a Blond", "The Fireman's Ball", "Brief Encounter", "Brazil"
"If there is no God, then everything is permitted." Patently the opposite is true; the concept of God allows people to do horrific things. The same can be said of true Communists, who see themselves as instruments of their shared perceived historical destiny; as tools they allow themselves to do terrible things, since it is not they, personally, who orders them. To undermine this ideology one needs to ridicule the practices of the individual in the system, not (just) their leader. The Big Other, sometimes embodied as a nosy busybody, forces us to act civilized, to maintain social appearances. Thus is the tragedy of our predicament -- the necessity of the Big Other, and yet there not actually being one.

"The Last Temptation of Christ"
All new inventions come from hysterical questioning. Judaism persists in the anxiety of the question: "But what do you want from me?" Christianity resolves this tension with love. However, in Christianity and Christ's death there is a strong atheist message -- that one is free to do as one sees fit (?).

"Seconds" (1956)
A change of the external did not change the man; the dream the company fulfilled was a shallow, materialist dream. The first step to freedom is not just to change reality to fit your dream; it's to change the way you dream. Which, again, will hurt, as all satisfactions we have come from our dreams.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Notes while watching Safety Not Guaranteed

WITH SPOILERS

Who names their daughter Darius?

Difficult to believe that Aubrey Plaza's character, she of the smouldering eyes, would be such a shut-in, speaking as an aspiring one myself; that kind of sarcastic, skeptical-of-life intelligence attracts the like-minded, at least to a close-knit few.

Weekend getaways, especially ones near the ocean, trigger memories of 2009, wherein I had many such trips. Quiet towns, lonely roads, quaint B&Bs, diner food.

Ugh, shooting without goggles? Running through the line of fire? C'MON!!

Not sure how I feel about the subplot, this slick guy, a self-assured jerk whom I care little for, seeking out his old flame. Is it my lot in life to be so agonized by these fellows?

Aw, he turns into a nice human and helps a virgin seduce high-school students with alcohol.

Heh, someone had a lot of fun making that thing: A combination of the classic Time Machine machine and the alien device in Contact, with lasers and a few Tesla coils thrown in.

Eh, the film was okay. Felt a bit rough in dialogue and jokes. Strange to see Plaza smile fully.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

back from Ottawa

Is it May already? Time does indeed fly, though I've little reason to let it to do so. Low, low have my thoughts, and heart, been of late. The weather has at least finally begun to turn, a gradual, teasing warming that comes and goes. On top of playing games, I have also turned to shows -- Archer, House of Cards (US), Adventure Time, Attack on Titan, Game of Thrones, The Office (US), Rick and Morty. The last of these I highly wholly recommend, and I rarely get excited about a television show.

Uhm, in local news.. turns out profits from the Green Beanery goes to a group that denies man-made climate change. That's some venti-sized greenwashing! Thankfully they are not my supplier of beans, slow as I am at consuming them.

But no, I have been busy this past week. Indeed even now, dear reader, I write to you from the comfort of the Ottawa train to Toronto, there to attend Skepticamp*. I quite enjoy the train: the separation from the fickleness of traffic, the quiet of gliding past the Ontario landscape. I was there for only 2 days and 2 nights, with my time split between seeing the talks, and walking to and enjoying Rockcliffe Park, that scenic escape. Ah, the mem'ries of my days in Ottawa came flooding back, a very fond time, though my recollection of it is riddled with wistfulness. I looked in on Auberge Des Arts, and 486 Cumberland St., that fabled dwelling. The city has changed, to be sure -- condos, those wretched lifeless boxes, are popping up like so many urban barnacles. But the cityscape is not yet too far changed and retains much of its historic small city charm.

To continue my recap of last week: Friday night I heard my friend's band (LeBaron) play at C'est What!, Thursday I saw Reg participate in a boxing match, Tuesday and Wednesday I hung out with some friends from out of town, and Monday I caught The Grand Budapest Hotel with Steve, the latest Wes Anderson film, and a most excellent one at that. A different flavour from Moonrise Kingdom; darker, a sense of saudade, of knowing that your friend is already gone.

Whew! Well I look forward to getting back to my usual procrastinating, and giving the cats some attention.

*I'll recap the Skepticamp at a later time.

Friday, May 02, 2014

podcasts i listen to

And here, ladies and gentlemen, are my most frequently listened-to podcasts. Whether it's walking to the store, doing chores or sitting on transit, these are the shows that find their way into my ear and eventually my mind.

Science & Skepticism
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe
This is it, the one that started it all, the podcast that sparked my trip into the world of skepticism and critical thinking. Funny, informative, thoughtful, and just a bit nerdy, this is the science podcast by which others are judged. I have David to thank for pointing me in their direction.

The Reality Check
Consisting of members of the Ottawa Skeptics, this educational podcast has a more Canada-centric focus to the stories it covers. A bit dry at times.

Stuff You Should Know
Each episode covers a topic -- kind of a layman's reading of a wikipedia article. Entertaining and down-to-earth. Plus they've got soothing radio voices.

Inquiring Minds
In-depth interviews with scientists and writers.

Comedy
Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast
Before the show, CBB was a podcast with the host interviewing an array of characters played by actors and comedians. The zaniness is best digested in small doses, but it is consistently laugh-out-loud funny.

How Did This Get Made?
Bad movies reviewed by three very entertaining hosts. While not a requirement, the show's a lot funnier if you've seen the movie they discuss. My favorite might be Mortal Kombat.

Other
As It Happens
Classic CBC radio show that interviews the people in the news around the world. Questions are intelligent and direct, allowing one to hear the word from the source. I've been listening to AIH for years and years, even before SGU. I say classic but they are also always relevant, consistently informative.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

new york in april

I'm back from Manhattan, having spent the weekend there for the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism. I may get around to writing up some comprehensive notes about it later, but for now suffice to say that I enjoyed it very much, having learnt a lot and met many fine individuals. Additionally, David and I managed to hand out cards for the show, so here's to hoping that we get some new listeners! Although, I must admit I am simultaneously mortified at the things that people may hear me utter. Oh, I am neither eloquent or enjoyable to hear, and it stresses me that my spoken voice does little justice to my character.

New York itself was nice. The warm weather made for some glorious strolls, though I had only a handful of free hours to enjoy it in. On my longer hike I was pleased by how many people recognized my Siouxsie Sioux shirt, one of my few treasured garments. It genuinely felt good to breathe in the city, to observe its thick cultural mixture, to look up and see buildings that have been enjoyed by generations.

We ate humbly, there not being the time to fully, deeply partake in what NYC had to offer. My best meal was probably a simple bowl of oatmeal with almonds, apple, and maple syrup from Birch coffee, a moment of quiet where I had nothing but this meal to attend to. Else-wise, I had a lot of hamburgers, available on pretty much every corner.

I stayed at the Gershwin Hotel, it being economically located for my tastes. Adequate is how I'd describe my lodgings, though some might find its spartan rooms cramped and claustrophobic. Myself, I was quite comfortable with my earplugs, laptop and wine.

Getting to and from New York was a fairly trouble-free affair -- flight to Newark International, an hour wait at customs (!), shuttle to the train station, then a train to New York Penn. Station. The kindness of strangers came into play many times, frequently answering our troubled speculations.

Now I am back. And there is so much to do!

Monday, February 17, 2014

games, trying to keep positive

Games seem to be the thing on my mind, these days. I suppose the cold weather is a strong influence on my staying indoors, where it's warm and I can keep my coziest garments on. I did get up to playing some board games with people though:

Thursday night MJ and I discovered the joy of Lost Cities, a simple two-player game that is deep enough to keep one always thinking, but quick enough to not get bogged down with lengthy turns. Perfect for filling up half an hour.

Friday night I went to a CFI board game night, where I got to try and enjoy Shadow Hunters, which I liken as a version of The Resistance but with hit points. It doesn't have the same social directness as there's no need for accusations or protestations. Much more tactical, and at the same time more tame. I didn't much care for the artwork, or the visual design choices -- that card font is just awful.

Saturday Jenning's wife had a birthday party where a group of us played The Resistance, which is always good for a few big laughs. It's amusing to see people's personality get played out when they are forced to act, to lie, and to plead innocence. Why should a witch-hunt be so enjoyable?

The rest of the weekend I stayed in, playing games of the video variety. I also saw two movies -- Battle Royale (2000) and Punch Drunk Love (2002), both of which I've been meaning to see for a long time. Battle Royale delivered on its promises, and though I had steeled myself against the violence before it came, I found it not so bad, not as gruesome as I'd imagined to experience. Perhaps it was seeing it on a sunny Sunday afternoon with cats at my feet but I wasn't shocked at all. Well, certainly 14 years of violent films, many of them owing homage to BR, has inured me to the graphic horror. I liked the ending, the very ending, leaving one with the idea that life is a game, a game in which you must fight to survive, and that trust, true trust, is a valuable thing to be cherished and held.

I didn't know much about Punch Drunk Love, other than hearing that Adam Sandler was excellent, which he was. I have to admit, I though the film would be about an alcoholic. But it's actually much more nuanced, more human, more insightful than the title implies. Like any great film, each scene is precise, each look meaningful. The only question, in my mind, is why Lena, Emily Watson's character, would be so attracted to Barry (Sandler) -- her explanation was weak, and indeed, I feel like we needed to learn a bit more about her. Overall, however, I enjoyed the film -- it kept me gripped and interested throughout, until suddenly, abruptly, they were saying goodbye, a window briefly opened now closed. And seeing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was an unexpected bonus, bless his soul, his goodbye far, far too early.

I almost forgot to mention Risk of Rain! I've put in about 10 hours over the weekend, since purchasing it on a suggestion from a friend at work. I'm generally not a big fan of side-scrolling jumpers, but there's enough of a Rogue-like quality to the game to keep me going -- you build your character from found items, you grow in strength with experience, and the maps are partially randomized. The 8-bit aesthetic is also a big draw for me. Apparently the co-op multiplayer is a blast, but I've yet to try. I've so far unlocked two more characters, but the Commando's roll ability is just too useful for me to switch. We'll see. I'm not a fan of the increased-difficulty-over-time mechanic, especially since much of the game is exploration and your little man moves soooo slowly.

And I still hate jumping puzzles. Hates them.

Finally, yes, I'm still playing the Hearthstone! I got to 10 wins with a Paladin in the Arena today. It's remains my favorite class: Argent Protector, Aldor Peacekeeper, Truesilver Champion -- such good cards! Ugh what a nerd.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

happy birthday to me

That is to say, it was my birthday a couple weeks ago, and now I enter the muck, the deep muck, of middle age. Forty is my number, friends, and I shake my head whenever I am reminded of it. Which is daily, hourly, far too frequently. Who'd have thought 40 year old Hwan would be this? Not me, least of all me.

It was nice to see people give their regards, a gesture not lost on me. Especially those kind few who made the effort to go out of their way to pick something out. I like to think I'm not materialistic in nature but these items I covet, a physical link between giver and receiver.

How else was my January? I helped MJ move out of my place into a new apartment, which took up a couple weekends of back-breaking work and remains a strain on our relationship. I do find myself getting increasingly tired -- I shall sigh myself into the next world, this one too much of a bore. Thinking about it now kills me all the more.

I saw The Pixies at Massey Hall! My first show of theirs, though I've been a fan since high school. Even without Kim Deal they were a joy to behold. I had a middle-balcony seat, giving a removed yet close-up experience. They mixed old and new, and the people danced to the old, nodded along to the new. The opening band, whose awful name I cannot now recall, were themselves forgettable.

MJ and I went dog-sledding this past weekend. Windrift Kennels, the same place I'd went a couple years ago, and we had a blast! The weather did seem colder, so I must make a note here to bundle more carefully next time -- my feet felt like stumps by the end of it. We went with friends, some of whom were a bit underwhelmed. I personally didn't really have any complaints, other than I wished the weather allowed for more photography.

The weather! Egads it is so dreadfully cold out. I picked up a cough at some point, one of those nagging keeps-you-up-at-night coughs, waking up with an alarming amount of phlegm in my lungs. I am disheartened to think that this is the climate we have to look forward to, that people have resigned themselves to this environmental misery.

Well, I have Hearthstone to keep me warm. I have been a playing a LOT of the game. So much so, I've decided to start recording my games, which, if you care to do so, can be viewed here: Laz Befriends. I honestly don't suggest you do so, unless you're actually interested in witnessing me stumble through learning how to play the game. The audio for the first few episodes is off as well, so you may want to skip them. Anyway, I'm going to try to make this a "thing" I do, at least until I get sick of it.

Until next time...

Thursday, January 02, 2014

it's twenty fourteen

One of my resolutions, one of several such odious things, is to post more. So here are some quick movie reviews of films I caught over the past couple of weeks, me having had so much time to myself (but never enough, nay, hardly close to enough):

Tokyo Godfathers (2003): One of those rare Christmas-themed stories that is actually a joy to watch while maintaining a semblance of seriousness, entertaining every minute without resorting to jerking tears. Highly recommended.

Four Lions (2010): A comedy about young terrorist-wannabes. The lamely controversial theme aside, I found this film funny in parts, smiling frequently but rarely breaking into audible laughter. I still am not sure if I should like the ending, though perhaps that's the point.

Equilibrium (2002): Priests with guns and high martial arts hunting terrorists! A dystopian society subdued by drugs! I actually quite liked this one, and wished that they'd the budget to make the film a bit more timeless. Christan Bale stars as Keanu Reeves as The One.

Man on Wire (2008): Fascinating documentary about a man's dream to walk a high wire between the Twin Towers. The film is very aware that the enterprise is much like a bank heist -- the stage must be scouted, examined from every angle, plans drawn, disguises worn, and devices built before the ultimate show. I was amused by how fame affected the proverbial walker.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): Food documentaries often drive my appetite for their subject, and this movie succeeds well in this respect. Oh, to taste a pre-brushed, artisan-prepared serving of sushi! Though who knows, perhaps such a thing can never live up to its photoshopped image.

Manhattan (1979): I have to admit, I have an uneasiness about enjoying any Woody Allen work in which his character dallies with a much younger woman. Still, it's hard to be critical of a film so funny, so beautifully shot, so full of great dialogue, so very aware of itself. My affection of the city was handily revitalized thus.

Dredd (2012): I read some positive reviews of this film, that it was worth a glance but I found it more forgettable than anything. The gadgets and one-liners might appease fans of the comic, I suppose, but they had little to offer me. I feel like the whole "psychic power" thing unnecessary and/or underused.

Only God Forgives (2013): I cannot forgive this film for looking great while being terrible. Drive was miles better than this, this assemblage of brutal violence and uninterested goons.