Monday, December 31, 2012

And Now, Deep Thoughts ...

Who are you?
Is your life worth living?
What is your life worth living for?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

At the Movies

1) The Dark Knight Rises.

Christian Charles Philip Bale
A few hokey moments aside (government statue of “The Batman”?  Riiiiight.), it delivers. But enough with the superhero movies already.  Next thing you know they’ll be making Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Outer Space.  

Oh for f*ck’s sake.

2) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hello ladies.  My name is Benedict.
More like “an expanded journey full of filler so we can justify three moneymakers in lieu of one.” The Hobbit takes itself too seriously at too many points and is too long by about two and a half hours.  Better off re-reading the book and saving this and the next one for blu-ray or DVD or VHS - assuming anyone still does that.  However, I’ll venture to the theatre again for the third to see the handsome chiseled but alien good looks of Benedict Cumberbatch in dragon form on the big screen squaring off against Holmes’ homey Martin Freeman.   I just love saying that name: Benedict Cumberbatch.  It’s not even a made-up actor name; he was born with that.  Some guys have all the luck ...

3) Killing Them Softly.  

Brad Pitt back when he actually seemed to give a damn.
The best thing this movie has going for it is how little Brad Pitt actually appears in it. Good move, mister director. Good move.  Lots of stylized graphic violence and little of anything else.

4) Beasts of the Southern Wild.  

 Quvenzhané Wallis does something called acting.  Look into it, Tom Cruise.
Very good acting.  Extremely good.  The likes of Tom Cruise nowhere in sight.  The lead actress was between five and seven years old during the making of this movie. Ignore the occasional use of heavy-handed effects that you tend to find everywhere these days, and there’s a good story about people in here.

5) Life of Pi

It's great.
Hm, no snarky remarks here.  Perhaps the Montreal and Indian connections got to me; or the fact that it did have something to do with 3.141592653589793234626 … ; or the continual microsleeps I had throughout; whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this movie.  Enough to make me want to buy the book and read it.  Go check it out.

6) Searching for Sugar Man

Sixto Díaz Rodríguez
I love documentaries, and this one is no exception.  Frankly, if I’d just sat in a darkened theatre for two hours with nothing but Rodriguez’s music playing, it would have been pure bliss.

Still looking forward to …

1) Wrong.  The alarm clock flips to 7:60am.  That’s all I needed.  The awesome original soundtrack is a bonus.

2) Django Unchained. 'nuff said.


Before, I go I want to tell everyone about a very bad dream I had the other night.  It was called the seventh season of Dexter.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Sunglasses Man.  Someone's been listening to too much Corey Hart.

The new film “The Amazing Spider-Man” opened this week.  Directed by Mark Webb and featuring an amazingly talented cast, including Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, and star C. Thomas Howell, it sucks.  Hard. 

Save your money for Batman.

The end.

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Interesting Day

Grey and dreary. Rain drizzling down. Thoughts of weddings that were, will be, could have been.

It started off with a loud bang, as I was suddenly and rudely “informed” that construction would be going on in the studio next door.

The good: I had overslept my alarm and the construction woke me up.
The bad: the construction workers shut off my water. At 8am. Without any prior warning whatsoever.

Je vous remercie beaucoup messieurs!

I politely informed them in my poorly spoken French that I needed to shower, eat, and get to work. They promised to turn it on in 10 minutes. I reminded them half an hour later. 5 more minutes? Okay. I finally got water by 10am. Considering my previous experience in my first Sydney apartment, I consider myself lucky.

I finally sat down to have breakfast. The phone rang. This is a common enough occurrence that I’m beginning to think the universe is trying to send through the message that I should no longer eat; but I digress.

>>> Dramatic conversations ensued. <<<

I went to work and did my best to focus on thoughts of abstract interpretations and fragments and probabilistic systems and protein-protein interactions and lumpability and bisimulation, and it was good for the most part. Still, by the end of the day my brain was mush and I had to head home.

I entered the train station with my brand-spanking new Navigo annual pass, the train pulled up, stopped, filled with passengers, and ….. and …. and an announcement came over the loudspeakers indicating that all trains in both directions would be halted for the night due to someone “falling” on the tracks somewhere on the line.

The walk home was long, wet, and cold.

It was just one of those days.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What is Love?

That is the eternal question first asked by Haddaway waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1993 (I’m better than Wikipedia, I am).

So what is love? I don’t know. Countless others have spent years trying to decipher its meaning and have found only partial success. I suppose on the most basic level, it’s just a biological mechanism that binds us long enough to successfully reproduce. Of course, it’s so much more than that, right? Check out a pair of fantastic TED Talks by Helen Fisher on the subject.

Helen Fisher tells us why we love and cheat.
Helen Fisher studies the brain in love.

I may not know many things, but I do know that love is hard work. Sometimes it’s butterflies in your stomach and other times warm reassurance. It can mean having to move half-way across the world, or just bringing some flowers, poetry, and a box of chocolates. Or driving in the middle of a terrible snow storm to get your buddy some meds.

There are many kinds of love: love for one’s spouse, family, friends, oneself, puri with bacon and tea, sixties Spider-Man, that crazy red-faced guy and his buddy who used to collect cans around the McGill campus, and so on. I’m lucky enough to have experienced most of them. I’m curious about what life is like for those who have never experienced any. Sometimes I wonder if that’s where far-right conservatives come from; perhaps they each just need a big hug.

At my sister’s wedding, I had to read the famous love verse from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

(At my Nana’s funeral I got to read the much cooler, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end ....” My Nana was awesome like that. But I digress.)

Is that love? Well, I suppose that does cover a lot of territory. Still I prefer this quote that is often erroneously attributed to Dr. Seuss but insofar as I can tell is actually from Robert Fulghum

“We’re all a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

One more thing: if you’re looking for a good, unique gift, I can’t recommend My Forever Child highly enough. They truly take the time to make beautifully engraved handcrafted jewellery that convey messages of love and hope. I got the believe hope-miracles necklace for my sister and it is the first gift in 33 years that actually made her happy. I like it so much I got one for Jellybean as well. Give them a try.

Okay, last one, I swear: that latest episode of HIMYM was finally a good one, but still sad. Someone needs to let them know that comedies are not supposed to make people sad. Especially not on Valentine’s Day.

-Le Norm

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Omelette du Fromage

And thus ends my Australian experiment. I liken the experience somwhat to being repeatedly sodomized with an old, splintered broom handle and being expected to say thank you for it. They don’t like it when you don’t say thank you.

Unfortunately, leaving Australia was just as terrible an experience as when I first arrived many moons ago. Sydney Airport is just awful. After passing through security, I stumbled a bit while putting on my backpack. An official quickly offered to help me, though I soon discovered it was just a ruse to get me to cross the security line for yet another security inspection. He assured me that this had nothing to do with racism, while I, resigned, assumed the usual position. I did not say a word. We both knew he was fooling no one. I did not let it get me down, however, as I knew I was finally out of there and on to bigger and better things.

My flights with Singapore airlines involved about a four-hour layover in Singapore before proceeding to France. The flights were fantastic, with meals ranging from pan-fried fish to egg noodles with seafood. Hosts were so nice, there was absolutely no charge for extra luggage (the stated limits were 20kg checked baggage and 7kg carry on, but I brought 26kg and 10kg respectively), and all in all it was one of the best flights I’ve been on (second only to a LAN flight to Brazil). “Western” airlines (Australian, Canadian, and the dismal American ones) could learn a thing or two (or five billion) from them. Oh I forgot the best part: they had those little airline peanut bags for snacks (apologies to those with peanut allergies, but they are THAT good)!

Incidentally, I used an Osprey Porter 46 for my carry-on luggage, as it came highly recommended on the web; it fits the 115cm linear dimension requirements of Singapore Airlines and only weights about 1.5kg itself. Very handy to have the backpack straps too. I got it for about $130 AUD from the Mascot location here:

My four-hour stop over in Singapore was a breath of fresh air. I had just enough time to stay at an airport transit hotel. The one at T3 was booked out, so the friendly staff booked one at T2, which was just a short Skytrain and walk away (about 10 minutes tops). I had a nice room with twin beds, shower, tub, toilet, TV, etc. for about $50 AUD for four hours. I slept for two hours, had my shower, and then left to roam around the airport feeling very refreshed - in fact, better rested than when I began the flight. Transit rooms like this NEED to happen at more airports. Changi Airport impressed me enough that I’m quite eager to return to Singapore for a proper visit.

Finally, landing in Paris was a breeze. I arrived, went directly to the non-EU passport line, had my passport stamped without the official so much as looking at me and that was it! No checking for suspicious behaviour, no security check for the umpteenth time, no huge quarantine warning and check, no officials fighting over which line to dump me in, no two hour dramas collecting baggage or trying to exit, etc. I still even had an egg-salad sandwich that Jellybean had made me for the flights. It all served to remind me of how shitty some airports *cough* LAX, SYD *cough* really are.

So now I’m in Paris and there is a lot of work to be done, but I am happy and hopeful. I can already tell that this will be a much better fit than The Land Down Under. All the same, I will miss a few things: running ‘round Centennial Park, Bonsoy, Café Umago, salsa with UNSW LDS and at Pumphouse, and of course, my favourite peeps (you know who you are - I love you!).

-Le Norm

P.S. It’s actually omelette AU fromage.