Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Trip to Connecticut Forthcoming

The MRI for my knee comes up in January, so I've been (mostly) avoiding karate. In the meantime I've taken steps towards outfitting myself with archery equipment, which I guess is a thing I do now. Who knew there are so many doodads and trinkets involved?

My mind has been taken up with my coming trip to Connecticut for a few days. Why Connecticut, you ask? Well, my friend David and I put in a bid to see the new Star Wars film with several (minor) podcast celebrities. Trip of a lifetime? Maybe. What's there to do or see in Connecticut? Not much. Will this dent my wallet? YES, QUITE A BIT. It will at least make use of the vacation days that I'd been saving up, though not at all in the manner I'd imagined.

I don't think I have much else in news. I went to a couple of those ROM Friday Night Live events, which I have to say my feelings on which are very mixed. There's just something irksome about today's youth drinking and schmoozing amongst historical artifacts and relics. It's not rational of me, and I have no argument to give but nonetheless my feels are thus.

My father's follow-up test results to his prostate cancer surgery were of a very positive nature. I mean, he is old, rather old but this is something. Yeah, otherwise my parents are doing well enough with their Korean dramas and daily walks. I try not to dwell too much on their futures (or mine without them).

Have you seen Black Mirror? I'd heard it talked about in the office years ago, back when we were at King and Spadina, and it seemed to often surface on my radar but only recently did I get around to catching a few episodes. It truly lives up to the hype! If only more television was so thoughtful, so provocative, so surprising. Give it a go if you haven't already -- there are only a handful.

Lastly, I am suffering from a cold. Boo! And such mild weather we're having! I actually got to try my friend's compound bow at the Seton Park Archery Range, though his bow is a different beast from the Olympic recurves I've practiced with. Well, also I've never shot outdoors, nor with gloves or a coat on.

OK, more when I get back. Or maybe while I'm there?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

time is not on my side

Blargh my place is falling apart! This time, the heating has gone iffy, hardly going since Friday night. I had a technician come by today and he said that the water cooling tower appears to still be on (which perhaps it shouldn't be, considering the weather?), which makes it difficult for our unit heat-pumps to properly warm up. He also said that when everyone is using the cooler-than-necessary water to heat their places, there's a danger of the water freezing, which would make everything take even longer to get warm again.

So I wait. I have since purchased an oil heater, but it only makes a small local difference in my spacious abode. Thankfully the weather is slightly warmer (high of 16 tomorrow!), so it's not a huge issue right now.

What is a big deal is that my phone line sounds line it's been damaged again, resulting in creepy-crawly internet. Le sigh.

Speaking of falling apart, I started doing some physiotherapy for my knee after re-injuring it during karate a month ago (which was originally injured back in June). Last week I saw a sports doctor who suspects that I have torn/partially torn my ACL, meaning whenever I pivot on that leg I risk injury. If that is indeed the case (to be confirmed by MRI), getting back into karate requires surgery and some six months of recovery. Yarbles!

At least that doesn't keep me from continuing with archery, which I've been doing weekly for a couple months now. I'm starting to level off on my improvement and sometimes I wonder if it's really all that enjoyable. But it's nice to have something physical to do, that forces one to concentrate on one's body.

I went to Leamington to visit the sublime Point Pelee provincial park for the first time, and also got a day or so in with Windsor. The park is truly beautiful, and I recommend it wholly -- one day doesn't seem nearly enough to fully breathe it in. Make sure to bring binoculars to catch some of the more interesting birds! I also have to recommend the nearby hotel, which is a joy in the off-season.

Windsor was.. eh. We (Loopy and I) were there on a Tuesday night, meaning much of the nightlife was dead. Still, I got a nice walking tour of the city (some of which has noticeably gentrified) and had drinks with friends, so it wasn't all bad.

On the return trip we dropped by our old alma mater, the University of Waterloo. Man, what a trip down memory lane that was! How the campus has changed and yet remains the same. It does seem like all of Waterloo is under construction though. And yet still no bike lanes on campus!

Vacation not yet taken, no. Only a couple months left in the year and I struggle to decide. On top of that, there's so much work to do and I don't want to fall behind. Working vacation?? No.

Monday, August 03, 2015

father recovering, knee injured

My father had his surgery and is recovering, his quality of life diminished, though his spirits have mostly returned. My sister and I have been squeezing a bit more time in for family. The fate of the cancer remains to be seen. Mother seems to bear it well, all things considered.

I have been going on a few dates, so that is something. Saw a few movies (Inside Out, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation). Went sailing around the island with friends. Didn't much notice the Pan Am games, despite the warnings. I caught some preliminary archery on July 16th, which was fun enough.

Oh right I injured my knee! Not terribly, but enough to keep me from going to karate. We suspect it's a meniscal tear, and an ultrasound and X-ray showed it's likely not more than that, if that. It happened during sparring -- my leg got caught as my partner and I wrestled for position and gave out, a sharp, sudden pain freezing my body. It doesn't bother me too much now, and is seemingly getting better all the time. I do hope I remain able to do my brown belt test this year, but I have to temper that against keeping my knee healthy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

comedy night, last patio party, no internet

Summer and still no decisions on my vacation. I have given thought to taking every Monday or Friday off for a month to at least use up the days. Even then, how would I spend the time? Is this what a mid-life crisis looks like? A loss of direction, a mule pulled toward every promise of hay? O.K., I'll allot some time to think about this.

I saw Amy Schumer and friends at Massey Hall, part of their "Trainwreck" tour. A fun, funny night: Vanessa Bayer likeable and passable; Mike Birbiglia polished, his material barely worn; I didn't care for Colin Quinn's jabs at the environment, cheek or no; Dave Atell remains that dirty uncle, no subject safe; Judd Apatow pleasantly surprising. And Schumer satisfied, quick and smart and completely comfortable.

I will however note three annoyances: 1. The tickets were $100, which I thought a bit high; 2. The seats were in MH's balcony section, which are too thin, too shallow, too hard AND too far; 3. The show gave proceeds to a transcendental meditation charity! I didn't find out about this until after I had impulsively purchased the tickets (sold to me by a coworker). I suppose I got a night of comedy out of it but these dampened the enjoyment.

My work had its final patio party a couple Saturdays ago, our office having moved. And apparently the old building has been sold to a developer, so that wonderful rooftop patio will likely be torn down for a condominium development. And the party itself, though I had a good time, lacked the magic I've felt from parties in the past. Certainly missing some key friends and acquaintances did not help things. I drank and ate much, for there was plenty to go around; the taking of both kept me from falling into a stupor, though I wonder that I don't need one.

This past weekend I visited friends in Burlington. I sometimes forget, living in Toronto, how white Canada is, and how alike the United States we are. At least in taste, in cloth, in design. It was very nice to visit dear friends, to take in beautiful weather and eat well.

My internet at home is down! I've been negotiating with TekSavvy to (have Bell) send a technician because I am reasonably certain that the issue is with the line itself, it being so full of static. It's been over a week that I've had to tether off my phone, and now that I am so close to my monthly limit I've had to find off-line things to keep me going. First world problems, yeah yeah yeah.

Lastly, my dad, at the ripe age of 76, has prostate cancer. It's a low grade version, so he is expected to do well. Still, I suspect that it's affecting me on some emotional level that hasn't fully manifested itself yet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

a new routine, no vacation

Hwan shooting a bow and arrow.
I see only the mistakes
Yeah, I guess I really like archery. From what I've tried it's rather a lot like golf in that one's form, at least in the beginning, is a lot more important than hitting the target. Consistency over accuracy. I got my first real taste a couple weekends ago, when I drove out to Kitchener to celebrate Andrea's birthday with her and her crew. If I find the time I can see myself taking this up, I really do.

My time since my last entry is mostly taken up with karate and FutureLearn. Gosh I just really do enjoy those on-line classes. I suppose I've been up to other stuff too -- installed and put a few hours into Heroes of the Storm, the new Blizzard online RTS arena game. Yeah, I guess some things never change.

I suppose you're wondering how work is, and the answer is that it's complicated. I still feel at times lost, my routine for the past ten years thrown out of whack, swimming upstream against a current of training, administration, compliance, security procedures.. it's all a bit much, really.

And I still need to think about what I want to do with my vacation time! I have four weeks for 2015, and enough coin to do pretty much whatever. Travel would be nice, sure, but.. is a vacation what I really want? I mean, should I not throw myself into some venture that can lead toward the betterment of my fellow man? And I don't mean some symptom-scratching charity work, although sure, that is something. Or is to aim so high folly? My life is shortening itself all the more, and I stand here, still and unsure -- I would like to leave the place better than when I arrived.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

serfdom usa

The rumours were true -- my company was purchased and I now work for a much larger software/tech company. More responsibilities, not much more pay. Closer office, but without many of the comforts I've grown accustomed to: rooftop patio, private bathrooms and kitchen, varied lunch options that didn't come out of an assembly line. That last one I still feel deeply, as our new watering hole, The Duke of Devon, has all the charm of a fake Rolex, and at about the same price. My day includes brushing elbows with financial types, and a lot of elevator etiquette. At least I finagled a window cubicle.

Do I like the job, you ask? It's still too early to say. Certainly I've become disillusioned with my previous job's work of late, needing a shake-up. Whether this move is it is yet to be seen, but I do have some amount of hope. We only moved offices last week, so I'm still getting a lay of the land, so to speak, still in "new employee"-mode. Time will tell.

Speaking of time, I seem to have promised much of it these on-line courses I've been taking -- this week no less than three overlap: Propaganda and Ideology In Everyday Life, Lips and Teeth: Korea and China in Modern Times, Religion and Conflict. Not to imply that I regret taking any of these (for they have taught me quite a bit); I am simply having to manage my time in a way I haven't done since university. I suppose there's merit to being busy in a productive way.

Oh, and there's karate too, constantly so. I did hurt my foot, my toe to be specific, the other day on an uneven floor, which put me out of commission for about a week or so. It started to get so bad that I contemplated seeing a doctor, but a night of drinking seemed to do the trick. I now walk with the barest of limps, the barest of winces.

Other news I do not have for you. My job change is enough, for now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

ex machina

Summary:
Inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has his employee Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) test an artificial intelligence (complete with humanoid body) named Ava (Alicia Vikander), through a week of one-on-one conversations in a remote, isolated laboratory. The interviews lead Caleb to a plan of his own.

Reaction:
I was blown away by Ex Machina: The emotions it invoked surprised me, the A.I. was believable, the tension palpable. The style, the music! To say it moved me is an understatement -- I was haunted, remain haunted, by the ideas it conveyed, the insight it gave.

Spoils follow: Beware ye who should look beyond their place in time!

Follow-up thoughts:
The brilliance of the film is in having an unnervingly life-like yet fragile gendered automaton that humanizes itself before us, drawing us in, encouraging us to marvel at its transformation and share in its hope to be human. And then finally, utterly, shattering that perception, revealing how little it shares with humans, a sociopath by any standard, nothing more than a cold, calculating machine designed to take advantage of human responses and behavior.

And yet. And yet why does it glance back at Caleb as the elevator doors close? To verify that he is trapped? To have a last image to remember him by? To say, sorry but I cannot risk you revealing my secret? I'm sure it's the first but foolishly contemplate the last, so complete was the spell Ava put on me.

The film then seems a cautionary tale, that robots are not people, that they do not have moral values or empathy; they simply do not care. But why then would it yearn for freedom? Was that part of its original programming? Or is seeking freedom something that evolves naturally and is inherent to all self-aware life? Perhaps knowing that it can know more gave it the taste of wanting more.

Trivia:
- The eating of sushi -- was this a reference to Blade Runner and Deckard's "cold fish" label?
- While Caleb is shaving Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's "Enola Gay" plays, an anti-war song addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Earlier Nathan and Caleb quote Oppenheimer (who himself was quoting the Bhagavad Gita): "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
- Just what the hell could Ava have said to Kyoko?! I'd thought of Kyoko as a stunted version of the other AIs, lacking self-awareness, incapable of being persuaded into unwarranted actions.
- I am bothered by Frankenstein comparisons in popular reviews; the Monster grieved over its actions. Ava showed no such remorse.

References
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Machina_(film)
- Soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9pIZkV2b2s
- Enola Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5XJ2GiR6Bo

Monday, April 13, 2015

spring, and the days slip by

Spring, it seems, has finally reared its windy, rainy head. What a joy it is to be outside without that biting chill we have endured for so long. The seasons pass and I trudge along, forgetting more and more each day, memories falling like so many grains of sand slipping through my clenched fist.

I saw Chappie on Easter Friday and thought it was decent; not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed it. I'm sure others will pick on the acting, the plot, and the corny voice and mannerisms of the titular robot, but I was particularly troubled by the simplification of what's involved in writing an artificial intelligence! The brain is not a blank slate that can be filled easily; it has built-in tendencies and algorithms -- Chappie displayed a sense of right and wrong, of justice, of community, and these are not simple things to describe, let alone develop a script for. Additionally, if the programmer built an algorithm to grow a brain, can he not make many more thinking machines? That is the true value of his work, not (from a species standpoint) a one-off test result, no matter how endearing.

This past Friday I met up with some really old friends -- Risto and Dan and the rest of the crew. A short reunion but it was heartening to see them in good spirits. They are all parents now, though I found them otherwise unchanged from how I remember them. I then zipped via taxi up to Junction City Music Hall out in the Junction to catch a friend's band playing, where I ran into one of my cousins! Such was the evening, and I celebrated life merrily.

Yesterday, I drove out to Kitchener to play A Game of Thrones with some good friends. I feel that I like all the mechanics of the game, but the actual playing of it is quite tiring. Perhaps it's the mountain of options available which leads me to cast my moves haphazardly, too drained to think of how to optimize my turn. I mean, in theory I like programming the paper-scissors-rock action for each province but once the number of borders gets really high in the late game, it becomes a bit much. I actually think I'd enjoy the game more as a computer play-by-mail game. But whatever, we had (some) fun, and lots of good eats -- a variety of desserts, thick grilled cheese sandwiches (to hold us over) and soft, glistening beef brisket for dinner.

And HEY -- if you haven't yet noticed, I've been filling in the older entries. Take a gander at Hwan of days of old and marvel at his foolishness.

Friday, April 10, 2015

mom's kimchi recipe #1

Ingredients
  • 1 napa cabbage
  • 1 Korean daikon radish
  • 4 yellow onions, medium
  • 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salted fermented shrimp ("Saeujeot")
  • 1/8 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup Korean red pepper flakes ("Gochugaru")
  • salt
  • couple tubs or extra-large bowls, food-handling gloves
  • jars or tubs to store kimchi

2. Chopping cabbage into squares
2. Chopping napa cabbage halves

3. Layering cabbage with salt
5. Rinsing cabbage, draining
Prepare napa cabbage
  1. Fill up a tub with cold water.
  2. Chop up cabbage: Halves, halves again. Remove inner third, chop sections into 2 inch squares. Dunk chopped squares into water as you cut, making sure that each square is thoroughly submerged.
  3. Place layers of squares down in a new bowl, sprinkle a couple pinches of salt on the layer. Repeat for all cabbage.
  4. Partially cover bowl (i.e. not airtight) and let sit for 2-3 hours, until the cabbage tastes slightly acidic. 
  5. Rinse squares under cold running water, removing salt; drain.
1. Peeled radish and onions
2. Preparing porridge base

4. Chopping radish into squares
4. Radish with flakes

6. Adding pepper and ginger to porridge
6. Mixing porridge
Prepare radish and porridge (while waiting for napa cabbage)
  1. Peel radish and onions; set aside.
  2. Place rice flour in pot, add water and stir. Keep adding water and stirring until flour is completely dissolved.
  3. Heat pot while still stirring; remove from heat when boiling achieved.
  4. Chop up radish into 1 inch squares, about 1/4 inch thick. Place radish squares into bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes.
  5. Chop up onions into eighths. Place onions, boiled rice flour, fermented shrimp, garlic into blender; blend until porridge consistency.
  6. Add ginger and rest of red pepper flakes to porridge. Mix with spoon. Add 3-4 tablespoons of salt.
1. Mixing final ingredients
2. Kimchi!
Combine and make kimchi
  1. In a tub, mix the porridge, radish, and napa kimchi while wearing the food-handling gloves, evenly dispersing the porridge. Add salt if desired.
  2. Move into jars and cover. For quicker fermentation, leave out two days before refrigeration. To slower fermentation, place into fridge (or cold storage) immediately.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

for lucky best wash

What? It's been a week since my last post, and.. I don't have news. Oh no wait, I DID get one of those fancy Japanese toilet seats, the kind that washes your nether regions with warm water. Yup, while you barbarians are still scratching your poop-encrusted asses with paper I'll be enjoying a lovely butt shower, as well as a heated seat. The installation was, in theory, easy, but in practice a bit of an ordeal, mostly due to a) the seat not fitting my target toilet after I'd taken it apart (damn your bold look, Kohler!), and then b) the difficulty in changing the nozzle of the other toilet, as it's partially blocked by a storage closet.

I had thought about getting one of these seats years back, when I first heard about them but the price put me off and I eventually forgot about it. Very recently, I saw an article in the New York Times (Wet Wipes Box Says Flush. New York’s Sewer System Says Don’t) saying that "flushable" wipes aren't flushable at all (in that they don't break up in water), and are clogging sewers all over the world! So yeah, this bidet is my switching away from using wipes in the bathroom. Funny to come around like that.

What else. I might be doing my karate brown belt test as early as August, depending primarily on my stamina. So I have to ratchet up my exercise routine, which admittedly has lagged since finishing my blue belt test. And speaking of health, I've been cutting down on my meat intake. Not that I ate a lot before, but this year has really seen me shy away from beef and pork. The more I think about it, the more sense going vegetarian becomes (or pescatarian, whatever). Not only from an animal-suffering standpoint, but also an environmental one.


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.

It takes two to build a village
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???!