Wednesday, December 06, 2017

What's in a Car? A Sedan By Any Other Name... Ode to a Family's First Wheels

In August of 2006, my wife and I drove off the lot with a brand new 2007 Kia Magentis and a huge debt. On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, that same car was dropped off at a different dealership in a different town, most likely to be stripped for parts, then scrapped, with maybe some obligatory junkyard sex in and/or with the backseat. (Listen, I'm not sure what kind of kinky sex stuff the average junkyard owner is into, and I'm not going to judge. All I know is that a man can get lonely out there in the scrapyard, and there's no shame in a man doing what he needs to do to stay warm on those long, cold, winter nights.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Get Out, Like Literally

Full Disclosure: I am not black. This is not meant as a political or social statement, simply a statement of fact. I am not black. I have no idea what it is like to live as a black man in America (Full FULL Disclosure: I am also Canadian). Or anywhere else for that matter. I do know that in the Western world, the lived experience of black people and other minorities is very different from my own lived experience as a (handsome) white male. I know this mostly because of Dave Chappelle.

No, Dave and I don't hang out on weekends, reminiscing over a cold Samuel Jackson and avoiding car rides with Wayne Brady. He's a world-famous comedian, and I'm just a regular, handsome, charming, talented, soon-to-be-discovered literary savant. No, back in the halcyon days of 2005, I was introduced to a little piece of television history known as Chappelle's Show. It was obviously a brilliant work of comedy from Dave Chappelle, but more than that, it was a commentary on racial issues, which to a young, white man who grew up and lived the first part of his life in a relatively homogeneous culture, was eye-opening to say the least. I would go so far as to say enlightening, but I wouldn't want to be accused of hyperbole.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Horse Named Terry

"Do you want to come and meet Terry?" Her brown eyes wide. Sparkling. The embodiment of child-like wonder. If ever I'd had cause to use the phrase, this had been it.

"Sure, kiddo." This was not a request to be refused. Hearts of stone would crumble from the look in those eyes. Ravaging marauders would have given pause at the look on my daughter's face before continuing their rampage. The village would be burned, but that skip in time, that temporal record scratch, would have marked the moment forever.

I followed my daughter through the stables to the very end of a row of stalls, past other horses, to find Terry, the smallest of the lot, and my daughter's mount for the previous week. More of a pony, really, than a horse. A dwarf amongst giants. But when my daughter had ridden him a mere twenty or so minutes before, her head had practically been obscured for all the clouds so high had she sat.

Some familiar smells: the hay, the manure, the wood from the old barn, hide and hair. A thousand different odours combined that most people knew as "the farm smell:" a brown sludge. But to those versed in such things, there was an entire palette there with all kinds of data ripe for the collating. I'd grown accustomed to my (sub)urban environment and the accompanying smells, but some things would not--indeed could not--be forgotten, and I still had a vocabulary for such things, limited though it was.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Future is Now: The Good, The Bad, and The Irreversible

If ever there was a movie for which the phrase "Your reputation precedes you" has applied, Irreversible is it. Written and directed by Gaspar Noé and released back in the halcyon days of 2002 in complete defiance of all that was ever considered good and holy, Irreversible quickly established itself in the cinematic cannon among cinephiles of all varieties, amateur and professional alike, as a rite of passage. Especially in the circles in which I travelled, it was considered required viewing, on par with other emerging and cult classics like Memento and Donnie Darko, part of a dark ritual of initiation. For whatever reason, it was a rite that I had never performed until fifteen years after the fact, even delaying nearly a year after picking up a used copy of the DVD (in pristine condition) at a local shop that deals in such wares.

Well, it wasn't for whatever reason. Irreversible is known for two things even by people who have never seen it: the reverse chronological structure of the narrative and that scene. You know, the scene where Monica Bellucci is brutally raped. Yeah, that scene.

I'm usually not squeamish when it comes to all varieties of fucked up shit portrayed in cinema. But something about Irreversible curled itself around my brain and wouldn't let go. As is usually the case with these things, my mind took those small kernels, planted them in the fertile earth of my imagination, watered them with ambiguity, and watched the Legend grow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Life, Death, and Aliens... The Arrival of Something Bigger Than Ourselves. Also, Weird Spider Monsters

Perhaps one of the oldest questions that has plagued humankind throughout the ages is the question of whether or not we have free will. Well, I guess considering the totality of human history, it might be tied with "What the hell is this thing that's killing me?!" The free will question seems tantalizing specifically because it's intangible. We may not always have known what was killing/eating us, but there was always concrete evidence of death, whether it be a plague-riddled corpse or some bones in mound of lion shit. Free will is "fun" to speculate about because, currently, there's no way to prove it either way. The significance is clear: are we free agents, forging our destiny and boldly splitting infinitives where nobody has split them before, or are our lives and the choices we make merely the end result of forces beyond our control? In our relationship with the cosmos, were we pitching or catching?

It's a tough question to square away, what with the lack of any current means of quantifying it, but it's also kind of central to our lives as sapient beings. It's also kind of a loaded question. The implication in most cases is that having free will is preferable to not having free will, and that in the demonstrable absence of free will, we would lose any sense of agency and accountability.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Game Over Man: Bill Paxton Shuffles Off His Mortal Coil

Bill Paxton died unexpectedly on February 25, 2017, at age 61, and my first thought was that he was so young. My second thought was that I had to watch Twister that night in tribute, only to discover--to my further dismay--that somehow Twister was not yet part of my collection. Apollo 13 seemed like a fitting substitute (watching Tombstone with Paxton's death scene seems a herculean task now), but my mind kept drifting back to that first thought. I can remember a time when 61 seemed ancient. Sixty-one was how old grandfathers were. Sixty-one was old. Almost inconceivably so. Now in my mid-30s, 61 seems like it's just around a few more corners. Jesus, most of us won't have even retired by that point. To lose Bill Paxton at 61 is still something I'm trying to wrap my head around.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Curse of Moana

Some days, I seem cursed by the fates themselves. After being emotionally coerced into spending one of my precious few yearly movie theatre outings on a children's movie, the animal-karaoke-showcasing Sing, I was hit with a double-whammy when I found myself out with the kids once again, this time for Disney's latest, Moana. Mother. Fucker. This time, I was completely cut out of the decision-making loop as my wife made plans with a friend family to meet for lunch at East Side Mario's (Apparently to take advantage of some strange deal where you buy an entree at regular price and get a frozen entree for free to take home, just to really hammer home how much you hate yourself. I guess it's one way for a restaurant chain to clear out expired stock from their freezer...) and then go catch a movie. For the kids. Think of the children.

Disney, proving once again that there is literally no culture that they aren't will to appropriate, this time around they "draw inspiration" from Polynesian mythology to craft a tale of--everyone together now--a young princess's journey of self discovery where she seeks to expand her worldview and ends up either finding contentment in the pastoral home from which she originally sought escape and assuming her rightful place at the top of the Great Chain or Being and/or proving herself worthy to and being whisked away by a member of a royal family and assuming her rightful place at the top of the Great Chain of Being.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Miguel Ferrer, In Memoriam

In a choice between being overrated or being underrated, I would have to go with the latter. You're almost always in a better position exceeding people's expectations than failing to meet them. (I suppose it's better that most of us fall somewhere towards one of the extreme's on this scale; everyone being rated exactly correctly would either result in a sparkling utopia--which would be utterly boring--or an inescapable dystopia--which would be horrifying.) One of the actors at the top of that list for me has always been Miguel Ferrer, whose performances for me always left a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the word was deprived of his gifts as of Thursday, January 19, 2017 as Ferrer died after a battle with throat cancer.

I refer to Ferrer as underrated as the highest compliment; I never felt he really got his due in Hollywood. For me, seeing his name attached to anything was always a selling point. He appeared on my radar at an early age, as he appeared in my introduction to R-Rated films and Paul Verhoeven's genius as Bob Morton, the guy who created Robocop in the movie of the same name. In addition to acting next to a man in an aluminum suit (and sometimes not wearing pants) pretending to be a cyborg, he also had to hold his own against archetypal 80s bad guy and occasional Starfleet Captain, Ronnie Cox, which he did beautifully.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sing It Like You Mean It

I don't get to go to the theatre that often, so when I do, I usually don't want to go see some kids movie. Don't get me wrong, there are some great animated films out there (see: The Incredibles), but typically, these types of "family friendly" films are geared more towards kids than families, with a few "adult" jokes thrown in to try and keep the parents from gouging their eyes out in boredom and frustration, which, to the studios' credit, has a decently high success rate. Especially considering that taking a family of four to the movies, including tickets and concession, is somewhere in the sixty to seventy dollar range, it's rubbing salt in the wound when I also have to shell out that kind of cash for a movie I have zero desire to see. Cue the "Won't somebody think of the children!" Simpsons meme here.

Sing, the latest and greatest from Illumination Entertainment, seemed even less appealing to me as it seemed from the trailers and everything I had read that it was little more than an excuse to show animated, anthropomorphic animals singing pop hits from both past and present. I tried to push the kids towards Moana, which seemed like it had landed among Disney's more palatable fare, or a second theatrical outing to Rogue One, but I was outvoted by both the kids and wife. I'm not sure when the fuck this family became a democratic republic, but I followed my typical strategy in most social situations: go along quietly, bide my time, and implement a silent campaign of espionage and misinformation, manipulating events until the perfect time to strike.