Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

This Movie is Broken

Last night, we attended an Open Roof Films screening of This Movie is Broken in the parking lot of Amsterdam Brewery.  Prior to the film, a Toronto band called The Little Black Dress (not to be confused with Little Black Dress) played a few tunes.

I guess it's common for more than one band to choose the same or similar names.  The difference here is the definite article.  I don't like the name at all. I think both bands should give up and try a new name.  Leaving that aside, I was not terribly impressed with the band.  The sound was OK and the music was not too bad, but I couldn't get past the lyrics and the vocals.  Maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea.  Anyway, on to the movie.

I love Broken Social Scene.  I like many of the offshoots too.  So, I was happy with the live concert, documentary portion of the film.  I enjoyed that part very very much.  As for the rest of the film, well, not so much.  In fact, I felt that the film was quite boring aside from the music, at least until we got to the twist near the end.  Yes, that was surprising and it served as a wake up segment.  But, I found that scene hard to believe though well done.  Still, it was enjoyable, and then we had a leisurely bike ride home along the very dark waterfront trail.

That's it.  Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Pseudo-reviews of some of the books I have read recently...

The Zero by Jess Walter - This is the second Walter book I have read (the other being Citizen Vince).  IMHO, The Zero is better.  This book also happens to be the third 9/11 book I have read.  I'd rank Ken Kalfus's A Disorder Peculiar to the Country higher than The Zero, but I'd place The Zero ahead of DeLillo's Falling Man, a novel I did not really like, though I admit it has moments of genius.  The Zero is a kind of thriller, I suppose, and a sort of dark comedy with some noir thrown in.  It'sa good summer read.

The Grifters by Jim Thomspon - Essential Jim Thompson.

The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq - I loved Platform very much. This book?: not so much.  Despite the graphic sex that should appeal to me, the book reads like a too-long essay on the social history of France told by way of biographies of two half brothers.  The trouble is that the novel is unbelievably boring.

A Partisan's Daughter by Louis De Bernieres - I am a huge fan of this writer, but I hated this book. 

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk - I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't.  I mean, it's OK, and it's certainly not terrible.  If you removed the sex parts, though, you would be left with an unreadable book.  I'd really hate to use the word stupid to describe this book, but I might have to.

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall - I imagine that if the publisher packaged this book as a mass market paperback and placed it at the checkout at supermarkets, it would sell quite a few copies.  I fail to understand why this book is being referred to as literary.  I just don't see that.  It's a quirky sort of book that is not challenging to read.  Literary it is not.  It might pass for good.  It's not brilliant.

Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo - I'm a big fan of DeLillo. I've loved everything I had read, except for Falling Man, as I have already mentioned.  This book is great, but a bit of a chore to get through. If you are a serious DeLillo fan, you will already have read it anyway.

Kockroach by Tyler Knox - Kockroach is sort of the reverse of Kafka's Metamorphosis.  Imagine a cockroach turning into a man who gets involved in organized crime.  It's a fun read.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - The idea behind this novel is fascinating and I enjoyed it at some level, but I would say that it shouldn't have been a novel.  I really think that this book would have been better as a long short story or a novella.  I think it was difficult for the author to sustain the story, or maybe I simply tired of it.

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh - I suppose this is a modern twist The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It's thoroughly enjoyable, but you have to accept the crazy supernatural concept.

Leading the Cheers by Justin Cartwright - Not bad, but Justin has done better.  White Lightning, for example, is better.

SeƱor Vivo and the Coca Lord by Louis De Bernieres - Awesome.  This is book two in the Latin American trilogy.  Book three is waiting for me. De Bernieres is a talented writer and he has a gift for comedy and political satire.

Monday, August 09, 2010


Thankfully, I was unable to go downtown to have a look around the G20 protests.  If I had, I am sure I would have been arrested, probably for the crime of taking photos or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if that place was the designated protest site.

As we have heard, the police arrested people with very little or no cause, including reporters.  I think the police ought to be held accountable for the failure to contain the violence everyone knew was coming, despite the obscene amount of cash spent on security.  The police ought to be accountable for the catch-and-release program, in which they illegally arrested people just to get them off the streets, even if they were peaceful protesters.

I am a law-abiding citizen who has never had anything but respect for our police, but I am shocked and appalled by the police tactics during the G20.  We lived in a police state during the summit.  It was like martial law without the declaration. 

We need a comprehensive and independent review of all police actions during the summit.  We also need clarity of the issue of the security fence being declared a public work.  After a brief visit to the fence to take a couple of shots, I bailed, when I saw others with cameras being searched and asked to produce ID for no reason.  

I would never have described myself as anti-police, but after the G20, I have lost faith in the police.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Funeral

Back in May, I had the solemn task of attending my father's funeral.  Of course, it was a sad day, and yet it was punctuated by stories and laughter, as always happens at funerals when family and friends remember the lives of those who have passed.  In some ways, it was like any other funeral I have attended.  We had an afternoon visitation and an evening visitation, followed by the funeral the next day. 

Perhaps it's my age speaking, but I have to say that I was stunned by what people choose to wear to the visitations.  My cousin wore a pair of ratty old jeans, white running shoes, and a faded yellow t-shirt.  Others came in shorts and sandals, short skirts and halter tops, and garments that made it look like they had been out for a hike.  I do not think that a black dress or suit are requirements any more (though I wore a black suit), I think that people ought to make an effort to dress properly to show respect.  I think it's insulting to the family to show up wearing something you would wear to a bar-b-que or to change a flat on your car.

At the funeral home, I was greeted by an aged woman who asked if I knew who she was.  A name popped into my head immediately, but then I rejected it thinking that it was an impossibility that she could still be alive.  After a few seconds, I uttered her name at the same time as she.  I almost fainted.  How is it possible that you are still alive, I wanted to ask.  I manged to restrain myself.  My grandmother is older (now 91), but I always thought that this woman was even older, but maybe that has to do with the beard and mustache she has sported for her entire life.  And, of course, this explains why she never remarried after her husband died a very young man.

I knew the even older woman standing beside her instantly, though she was even older.  She is someone I could never forget.  Throughout the day and the next, I saw people I hadn't seen in 20, 30 or more years.  So, I guess the themes of the day were grieving, nostalgia, remembrance, and reacquaintance.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bike Tax

What is it with all of the people suggesting that cyclists should be taxed or licensed?  You've got to be kidding me.  Stop the madness!

1) Erecting financial barriers to physical fitness is a bad idea.  We ought to do whatever we can to encourage exercise - walking, cycling, running, etc.  Imposing costs will prevent at least some from cycling, and will ultimately put pressure on our health care system.  We are getting fatter, or so I have read.  Let's all get some exercise.

2) All levels of government should do everything they can to promote green methods of transportation.  Whether you accept the theory of climate change is irrelevant.  Cars pollute; bikes do not.  I've cycled through enough exhaust to know that we need less pollution.

3) I am frustrated by those who suggest that cyclists ought to pay for the road since they use it.  By that argument, we ought to tax everyone who uses the roads and sidewalks.  This would include skateboarders, roller bladers, runners, and even pedestrians, including moms pushing baby carriages.

4) Cyclists pay taxes, despite what the anti-cyclists say.  Even renters pay taxes indirectly.  We all pay tax.  Cyclists ought to get a tax break, not penalty for helping the environment and getting some exercise.

5) Bikes do not damage the roads. Cars and trucks damage the roads, and so it makes sense for them to pay for vehicle registration and other fees.

6) Many lower-income residents (especially students) can not afford such a fee.

7) I've read long rants from drivers who complain about cyclists getting in their way, slowing them down on their way to work or to the corner store.  Drivers ought to promote cycling.  Imagine if all of the cyclists they drive past were drivers stuck in traffic in front of them.  Wouldn't it be better to get some of those people out of the cars on the road ahead and make more room on the road?

Imagine a family of four that wants to take a bike ride through some residential streets on a Sunday afternoon.  Suddenly, they have to pay for four licenses?  It's ludicrous.  And, what if you have two bikes?  Do you pay twice?

Despite what Rob Ford believes, cycling is good for everybody.  Rob Ford really needs to hop on a bike and go for a ride.