Monday, March 03, 2008

# 3 - Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling is without question the best working actor under thirty, and I’d even say one of the top five living actors of any age). I would of course point to his performance in Half Nelson as a thoughtful but drug-addicted, inner city junior high history teacher (quite the mouthful) as back-up for that statement. The contrast between his passionate lectures which emphasize understanding the social forces behind major historical events (why they happened, rather than the who/what/where/when) and his drug abuse is heartbreaking. He is ultimately a good person with big ideas who wants to make the world a better place. His drug habit stemmed from his disaffection with the world, created by the realization that he’s just a small fish in a big pond and that he’ll ultimately never influence much of anything.

Much of the film focuses on his relationship with Drey, one of his female students who has found out about his dependency. She is also jaded, having grown up in a broken home in one of the more violent areas of Brooklyn. Both characters are extremely real, due to amazing acting and a script that doesn’t indulge the typical Dangerous Minds-esque clich├ęs that most ‘amazing teacher inspiring students in the ghetto’ films fall back on.

However, I will say that it’s scripted and shot in a wistful, introspective style which reminded me a bit of Lost in Translation (my favorite movie ever, in case you’ve forgotten!), so if you didn’t enjoy that film, you might not appreciate this either. You also need to be willing to accept that you’re not going to completely love the protagonist – he has a lot of human shading, shall we say.

Finally, if you’re not convinced yet … It also has one of the best jokes I’ve heard in years!

Girl: Knock Knock
RG: Who’s there?
Girl: Interrupting cow
RG: Interrupting co----

Okay maybe my sense of humor isn’t quite as good as my taste in movies. Anywho.

# 4 - Pan's Labyrinth

Roger Ebert declared Pan’s Labyrinth his favorite of the films he saw during his recovery back in 2006. I think there are a few (three, to be exact) better entries from that year, but I wholeheartedly agree with his 4-star rating. In case you’re curious, this is the first movie on my list that I believe deserves that rating (V for Vendetta is a 3-star film, numbers 5-9 are 3 ½ stars).

Pan’s tells the story of a young girl burdened with tumultuous family life in Spain in the 1940s. She retreats to an imaginary land (or a real otherworld, if you prefer) in reaction to the violence surrounding her. Here she must complete tasks in order to prove that she is the princess of this world.

The brilliance of this film lies, I believe, in Guillermo Del Toro’s direction which identifies the symmetry between the fantasy land and the fascist regime of the era. It couldn't have been easy to balance the (albeit extremely weird) fairy tale with incredibly graphic war scenes, but he pulls it off seamlessly. He is aided by fabulous art direction / cinematography, and great acting from the little girl and that creepy guy with eyes on his hands (see above!).

It’s kind of akin to Mirrormask, another good film about a young girl that uses fantasy to escape her life, but Pan’s is so much better because it is – in the end – cemented in a more adult world that doesn’t shy away from very real, devastating consequences.

I will never marry a man that ... (pt 8)

Drives automatic.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Trip Notes #4 - Spain

The fourth stop on our trip was by far the easiest to travel into. Besides Andrea being faced with an "over weight limit" luggage charge of 70 euros (her suitcase was bigger than she was), there was no problem getting on our plane from Geneva, and we were lucky enough to be greeted by our friend, Gerard, at the Barcelona airport. Gerard and Victor (both pictured) had spent the Spring term at Ivey on exchange.

After some general sightseeing (mostly just wandering around Las Ramblas and various small alleyways downtown), we ventured to eat the best meal of the entire trip at a fancy tapas restaurant (pictured). We were treated to some wine-tasting lessons and delicious food of all sorts. We finished the evening with a drink on top of a mountain and a home-cooked meal at Gerard's.

The next morning we embarked on a 6-hour, sickness-inducing ferry to the legendary party island of Ibiza (or Ivissa, if you prefer). Our ship arrived in the late hours of the night and we were greeted by a host of drunk, scantily-dressed British people (who's nights were just beginning). We were too tired and worried about finding our hotel that we failed to find the humor in their various antics. Eventually the hotel (3 single beds for a change!) was reached, food was acquired, and much sleep was had.

Upon waking, we went to a fairly secluded (and nude) beach that was surrounded by beautiful cliffs and turquoise water. Our dabble with "clothing-optional" came to an abrupt halt when a school bus of German children arrived unexpectedly in the afternoon. That evening was spent viewing an amazing sunset (shown above).

Having only one night on the island, we decided we must try out the infamous nightlife. We made it to the opening night of a huge stadium-sized club somewhere inland. They didn't allow cameras, probably because then there would be photographic evidence of all the people doing drugs inside! (We didn't actually witness any of this, but I don't see how the crowd could stand the one-beat techno music that played all night long without the help of narcotics!). We actually ran into a friend from Ivey completely randomly at said club. Small world! Overall our night was annoying at best, and we were glad to be leaving Ibiza the next morning.

The girls had managed to find a cheap flight back to Barcelona, but I pinched pennies and took an extra slow, 10-hour ferry back, which I spent currled up in the corner of a bar. I have nothing further to say about that.

Overall, Spain was a bit of a disappointment. It would be nice to go to Southern Spain sometime, however, because I hear that is much nicer.

Pictures of Barcelona.
Pictures of Ibiza.

I will never marry a man that ... (pt 7)

I will never marry a man that gets cable. (This may be the most ridiculous one yet, I know).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bearable Love Songs

I bet I know what you’re thinking: if ever there was a post I didn’t want to read, this is it. Do not worry, your pain will be brief and I can assure you there are no overly sappy songs. I was just thinking on the way home the other day while listening to one of the songs below that these four are truly the only love songs I enjoy and have never gotten sick of.

Layla – Eric Clapton
Wild Horses – Rolling Stones
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
Heart of Gold – Neil Young

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Thanksgiving Update

Wow, work really does take a toll on one’s blogging output. I can’t even imagine trying to blog and raise a family at the same time! It’s hard enough having juggling it with kitchen cleaning and other household chores.

But I have some downtime at work today (given that I still haven’t been given any actual work yet), so here’s a little update for you.

- Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. I must admit I was a little disappointed to learn that my parents were only visiting for one night and my other parents were out of town for the whole weekend. But things worked out well!

- Friday night my parents came down for a visit, arriving at my place around dinner time. We socialized for a bit before embarking on a 4 hour outing to Lee’s Palace. The Family Three, as Matt likes to call us, attended a Magnolia Electric Company concert and enjoyed some beer, yummy pizza, and pretty good music. Matt was able to snap a wonderful picture of my dear little mother and I drinking. My friends are all jealous.

- Saturday night 67% of the family headed back to London on an evening train. Later on, a few Ivey friends came in to visit from Guelph / other various Toronto outskirts. We met up with some other mutual friends at Hemingway’s in Yorkville and had a good time there despite that it was raining on the patio and it totally ruined my hair … We rounded out the night with some traditional Chinese food and a nice little group sleepover at my place.

- Sunday began with breakfast out with the same group of friends, followed by some general house cleaning. Around 5pm I went to a work friend’s apartment on Queens Quay for Thanksgiving dinner. Exhausted from the night before, I slept until dinner was produced and again while waiting for dessert. Nevertheless, there was quite a lot of bonding and good conversations – it was, in fact, the best dinner party I’ve ever attended.

- What I am thankful for: considering the diversity of problems that other people in the world are experiencing right now, I am so incredibly blessed to be: healthy, employed, safe, and in possession of a wonderful support network of family and multiple groups of amazing friends.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Big Move

I'm not going to write about all the millions of things went wrong, because I've done my venting to family and friends and have put that day to rest. But, I will share some of the positive details about my big move to Toronto.

- I really like the apartment itself. It's in a great location, walking distance from groceries, drug stores, comic stores (!!), a Canadian tire, the Eaton center, and all my favorite shoe stores. It's also a few minutes from the Bloor subway station, which means virtually never having to transfer subway lines. Moreover, it's cozy but I'm enjoying that (it's so easy to walk from one side to the other!), and it has everything I need.
- It was nice to have all my friends get together, and a couple of them stayed the night - good to have company for the first night.
- Last weekend, Mom and Matt made the trip down and helped me set up furniture, electronics, and paintings. A big help! And I think a fun weekend had by all.

Geeky Question: DVD Player Audio

So recently I discovered that my DVD player doesn't like to play the dialogue track on movies (but the background music and sound effects play just fine). I'm sure it's some button I've mistakenly pressed, but after trying every single button on my remote in hopes of fixing it - nothing is working!! Boo. Any ideas?

UPDATE: Problem solved by Matt! (I had to hook up ALL my speakers, not just a select few).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Other Vehicles Beware!

This morning I took my G road test. After having mild hysteria the night before, I had calmed myself down this morning (and done some last minute practicing of my less-than-ideal parallel parking skills) and embarked with my Grandpa to the testing facility. Went to the bathroom, registered, and then sat in the hot car next to field of ragweed (my prime allergy) for 30 minutes. Finally my tester, a nice old-ish man came out, checked my signals and horn, and off we went. Travelled along the 402 to the 401 Wellington Rd. exit (about 3-5 minutes in all), made some turns, did a parallel park and a 3-point turn, etc. The tester would frequently jot things down on his clipboard, so when we finished I was sure I had failed. Turns out he was just noting that I had completed the tasks! The parallel park went close to perfectly, and in the end I only made a few minor mistakes. No more driving tests till I'm 80! Yay :)

Friday, August 24, 2007


Taking a short break from my packing (which is mostly done). Two friends are coming and staying over around 10pm tonight. Two other friends are meeting us in the morning. One thing I'm a little worried about is acquiring my U-Haul truck. I made the reservation online and just called them asking when/where I could pick it up. They told me that they would call me tomorrow. Problem is, I only have the elevator in London from 9am-1am, so if I don't get the truck by 8:30... Thus I whined only to be told that they best option they could give me would be for me to call them at 7 in the morning. Apparently they don't often get trucks returned on time, so it'll be iffy. U-Haul really needs a better supply chain management system!!

Other than that ... I'm really excited to get settled in Toronto. I was able to see my new place a few weeks ago and I LOVE it! Hopefully will post some pictures soon.