Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Itinerary

Sorry for the absence yesterday, Windsor, but things are going to be a little hectic in the next couple of days. Lady Trail's graduating tomorrow, so the in-laws have descended on K-Town en masse, making for a busy week.

So if things get sporadic, that's why. Send your well wishes for the Lady's successes ^_^

Monday, May 28, 2007

The State of the World

Rockin it from the day care centre to the old folks home.

She's gonna be pissed
While Lady Trail generally does not regret anything about her move away from the Rose City, something tells me there will be an outburst when she gets wind of this, and it will not be exceptionally pretty.

Common sense prevails in Toronto school shooting case
Numerous residents of Toronto's infamous Jane-Finch neighbourhood worked with police to assist their apprehension of two suspects in the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy at a Toronto high school.

Given the increased aversion to 'snitching,' in some urban neighbourhoods, such a development can only be seen as a positive.

If this doesn't sadden you like it saddens me, we are no longer friends
Kansas used bookstore owner takes to burning over 20,000 books, because he can't even give them away to schools or libraries, who say they're full.

The owner, Tom Wayne, said he's burning the books to protest what he sees as a lack of support for the written word. The first round lasted about an hour before the fire department shut him down for not having a permit, which he promises to obtain for the next go around.

Dude, call me. I'm sure I can take a few off your hands.

The worst petting zoo ever.

Beaches open, close after 200 people require lifeguard rescues in three hours. Where? Where else?

Men: we are too stupid to shop for groceries. Reports have been filed, state obvious.

Zombie outbreaks in San Fran and Memphis.

The always insane Hugo Chavez arbitrarily shuts down television network that criticzed him, replaces it with ass kissing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Brains, Boobs and Bums

Thoughts on a pair of subjects, neither of which are terribly important.

Continue reading this entry

It shames me to admit it, Windsor, but once upon a time The Trail was an English major. 'Recovering English major,' is how I still refer to myself as I attempt to shed the air of superiority and entitlement that comes with being a lit specialist [was there ever a better discipline for an only child?]

Granted, I only draw from my own experience, but in said experience, from my salad days to the present, English majors have always held themselves in higher regard, likely to compensate for the impracticality of their chosen field of study. Years of seeing 'arts degrees' scrawled next to campus toilet dispensers has finally broken them. They're striking back with the only weapon they have in the arsenal: looking down their noses with contempt.

You see, English majors posit themselves higher on the totem pole on the strengths of what they've read. Even though most of what they've read was mandatory for their classes, the sort of thing they would never read on their own. They read, and you likely don't. But it gets even thornier: it's not just a matter of whether you read or not, it's whether you're reading the right things. And for most people, the right things are usually terribly dull.

Nick Hornby, he of High Fidelity and About a Boy fame, tackles this conundrum in the preface to his book Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt. The second collection of his columns from The Believer magazine, Hornby keeps a running tab of the books he's read in any given month, not all of which were written before 1800, and he's perfectly okay with that. Because he realizes the reading is the important part:
In Britain, more than 12 million adults have a reading age of 13 or under, and yet some clever-dick journalist still insists on telling us that unless we're reading something proper, then we might as well not be reading at all.
I know you, Windsor. You're an intelligent lot, and as such you have likely tried to stuff some monstrous classic down your intellectual gullet, because you think you should read it. My literary nemeses
are both The English Patient and The Tin Drum. I remember falling asleep on my copy of the Gunter Grass multiple times in a study cubicle at the Leddy. No dice. But I did it, as I suspect you do it, because there's something seductive about reading. I always loved watching biographies of creative minds when they're described as 'voracious readers,' and everyone knows that description isn't followed with, 'he consumed Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton and John Grisham.' Hornby covered that for me, too.
I don't mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that's what you want to do, it's fine by me, because here's something else no one will tell you: if you don't read the classics...nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do)...
So up yours, Ulysses! Blow me, Gravity's Rainbow! I'm gonna read the new Jonathan Lethem novel about love and a rock band and love every second, so there!

And remember what I always say, children. It's wonderful to major in English. It is not okay to be an English major. Understand the distinction.

Boobs and Bums

Not too long ago I was at the Indigo in downtown Kingston [because I always am], and wandered into the Graphic Novel section. It's been about six months since I read a comic [went off 'em cold turkey in the move] and I was looking to touch base with the spandex set without spending money.

So I'm flipping through Green Lantern or some other damn thing when out of the corner of my eye I see some tall glass of water in a flowy skirt and tight sweater come wisping into my aisle, causing me to feel something I had never felt before.

Embarrassment. I did not want this pretty young thing to catch me reading a comic book. I put it back on the shelf and went off to find Lady Trail.

As any cursory glance of this blog will illustrate, I've never been ashamed of my nerdlier pursuits. Indeed, such hobbies have never been more publicly acceptable, which means more people pay attention, which means something in poor taste can generate an uproar.

Long story short, a statue of Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man's lady, was recently solicited and caused some to pause at what the product suggested.

The statue is based on this art by popular artist Adam Hughes, who sometimes portrays his women in a pin-up style [but not always: his take on Wonder Woman is powerful and dignified without being exploitive]:

According to Hughes, the image is meant to convey the following: Mary Jane, girlfriend [not wife] of Spider-Man, preparing her laundry to find Peter has slipped one of his costumes in her laundry so he won't have to wash it. The look on her face gives a playful exasperation at her boyfriend's mischief.

That's a lot for one image to get across. And unfortunately, when transferred to the third dimension, the effect we end up with is something like this:

Smarter people than I have already discussed why the statue is offensive and potentially damaging to the comics industry, so I leave that to sharper minds.

What I can't believe is the sheer stubbornness of comics fans. Response to the controversy seems to fall into two camps: 'aren't there better things to worry about?' and 'if you don't like it, don't buy/look at it.'

Guess what. There are always better things to worry about, I didn't see that argument getting trotted out when some dude railed against the killing of Captain America. And rest assured the people annoyed won't be buying it, but it's hard to ignore when it's been plastered on multiple news outlets [who should doubtless be worrying about better things themselves].

Never once do they consider that there might be some legitimacy to the complaints. If there's anyone more averse to admitting they were wrong than a comics fan, I'd love to know who it is. Yes boys, clearly it's all their problem, they should just leave you alone.

When I started collecting comics again a few years back, the whole thing felt smarter to me, even the superhero stuff. Now it's one group of people who think a certain way, creating a certain type of product to be consumed by another group a people who think exactly the same way. Stop the Ouroboros, I want to get off.

Maybe I was so quick to put that book on the shelf because I didn't want to be associated with those people.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quick and Dirty State of the World

Like you like it. Today's power outage means I have more to get done in less time, so your news comes with fewer bells and whistles today, Windsor.

--A more substantial report on the possible cancer cluster in Essex Hall.

--Another Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan.

--Blatantly for Lady Trail: an interesting piece on how students at Dawson College are using the theatre to deal with the aftermath of last year's shooting.

--How 25 British teenagers see themselves [check the slideshow].

--Florida tackles giant rat problem. Spider-alligators next on list.

--Some sexy new screenshots of Grand Theft Auto 4.

And now I'm off to pay the late fees on those movies I reviewed last night.

The Trail's Movie Corner: Miike Double Feature

For those who don't know, Takashi Miike is a beloved Japanese director among 'extreme cinema' fans, most famous for his films Ichi the Killer, Audition and Dead or Alive. Guillermo del Toro [Pan's Labirynth] considers him an influence, and Eli Roth loves him so much he got him to cameo in the first Hostel. His movies feature incest, necrophelia and lactating mothers [and that's all in one movie], as well as an almost elegant approach to gore that few can match.

Case in point: Miike was originally asked to contribute to Showtime's "Masters of Horror" anthology series in the US. His episode was deemed too graphic, so it went straight to DVD.

He is my favourite director for all those reasons. Obviously, I bought that giant book on his work.

That isn't to say I'm not repulsed by a large portion of what he depicts in his films, quite the contrary. But I have the utmost respect for anyone who just does not care about offending anyone. Audition caused walkouts when it reached its infamous conclusion; when Ichi debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, promotional barf bags were handed to audience members. He's also one of the most prolific directors working in any country, with over 50 films to his credit in less than 20 years. Which means he's become an extremely versatile director. His unique sensibilities might not make the transition from yakuza action flick to zombie musical, but he lets nothing stop him from trying, and that's commendable.

I picked up two of his less infamous works from Classics this last week. Let's see how we made out.

The City of Lost Souls

The outsider is one of Miike's favourite themes, and this movie is certainly his most blatant exploration of that experience. The film centers around the biracial Mario, of Japanese and Brazilian descent, and his girlfriend Kei, a Chinese hairdresser living in Japan. They, along with nearly every other character, are outcasts in Japan who create their own little society within it, and Miike does a good job of drawing the viewer into their world, and of making the Japanese characters seem foreign in their own country.

The plot follows Mario and Kei's attempts to travel back to Brazil, and the botched robbery at a Chinese-owned cockfight arena that finances it. The robbery heralds the unravelling of their tight knit group, leading the young lovers into a showdown with both the Chinese and Japanese mafias.

And it sounds better than it is. For every good thing the film does, there's two things that suck. For one, there is little by way of exposition, so when Mario conducts a dramatic rescue of Kei as she's being deported at the movie's start, there's no indication that they even know each other, let alone are romantically involved. It just looks like some crazy dude hijacks a helicopter for no reason and randomly picks some cute girl to kidnap.

Which results in zero chemistry between the leads, which is kind of a problem since a movie like this demands we want to see them together and be happy. Instead, we stick around for the Miike-moments [a bizarre and unnecessary bit of pig-fellatio, a cool capoiera street fight, the constipated dwarf] and take nothing away from the experience when it's over.

The Great Yokai War

This, is a kid's film. For anyone who knows Miike, this is the most bizarre thing he could have done, but that's what he did. He got ahold of a big budget and made a studio film for children.

The plot is predictably simple: young boy is chosen to be the "Kirin Rider," defender of justice and whatnot, and is enlisted by the yokai [spirits] of the Japanese countryside to defend against the vengeful spirits of all the things we use up and throw away.

The biggest selling point is clearly the yokai themselves, which are all apparently rooted in Japanese folklore, from the geisha with the extending neck to the cyclopean [not a word!] umbrella with its tongue hanging out. When the entire yokai population arrives on the scene of the final battle, they are wonder to behold. Though some of them dance close to the creepy line, we should remember that Jabba the Hutt was probably terrifying to a lot of adults back in the day. Me, I thought he was cool as hell. I suspect most kids would view the creepier Yokai the same way. They have strong stomachs for things like that, kids.

While it's probably about a half hour too long, and the denouement is kind of anti-climactic, when its firing on all cylinders, it's a hell of a good time. It even stirred up a little liquid in The Trail's eye during one almost comically tragic moment. Put it like this: Imagine if Bambi thought his mom escaped the hunters, only to discover her bleeding body struggling to walk before collapsing to the ground. Maybe not that bad, but something like that. Makes me wish I knew some kids to show it to.

Plus, it features Chiaki Kuriyama running around in a miniskirt most of the time. That's hot even in a white beehive.

The final word breaks down like this: Can I recommend either film over the three I mentioned at the start of this entry? Hells, no. But, if you've seen all those and are looking to dig a little deeper, pick up the Yokai War, to see where Miike might be headed. City of Lost Souls, while a deft merging of form and content, can barely be viewed for entertainment with its meandering plot and boring protagonists.

NOTE: The lovely folks at Brock King inform us that there will be a power outage from 9.00 - 1.00 p.m. tomorrow morning, so don't look for a post until mid-afternoon/early evening. S'all right? S'all right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The State of the World

Congratulations to 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who ensures that the world at large will continue to misspell my name.

Honestly, people. J-o-r-d-A-n. Like the river. Like the famous basketball player. It's not that hard.

Essex Hall possible cancer cluster
According to reports, UWindsor is currently investigating a high cancer rate among workers in Essex Hall.

A report is expected next month to shed light on the exact number of employees who have been diagnosed with the disease.

And on an upbeat note
Course calendars have finally moved to an exclusively online format, so if you're looking to do some course planning, go here. And if any Grad students happen to be here [but probably not, I'm too juvenile for them], they can find their calendar here.

Still haven't found what I'm looking for
It's happened to all of us. You search Google for, I don't know, Jack Bauer slash/fic and get drawn to some site that appears to have everything you want, but is really just a barrage of ads that have nothing to do with what you want.

Well, the Big G feels your pain, and is taking steps to reduce such incidents, sending out a slew of C&D's to offending websites, which exist primarily to exploit Google's AdSense service.

Props to the hivemind for choosing smooth and efficient web surfing over the cheap buck these sites provide.

Utah, beware! The emos are coming.

Eighth grader disproves portions of evolutionary theory with Epsom salts and paper towels, wins science fair.

Actual conversation at brunch on Monday becomes Globe and Mail feature: bacon improves everything.

Police cat is policing, catches fake vet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Late Night Nerdery

When I heard months back that Heath Ledger had been signed to play The Joker in next year's sequel to Batman Begins, I was puzzled. You need to understand, people, The Trail takes Batman very seriously, and considers him and The Joker the greatest hero/villain pairing of all time, regardless of medium of genre. No joke. So I was a little worried that post-Brokeback super serious Mr. Ledger wouldn't give the role the respect it needed to elevate it beyond parody.

Then I saw this.

Oh my. Now that's how you do it. I likes my Joker terrifying and effing crazy. Plus, it appears to owe a debt to Kakihara from Ichi the Killer. It is no understatement to say this image gave me seventeen varieties of boner. The next 12 months are filler.

Sweet dreams.

Alfie, Alfie...

It was certainly an interesting day to decide to spontaneously visit the nation's capital. The above photo does no justice to the sights and sounds of downtown Ottawa last Saturday. My camera started dying before we reached Elgin, which was blocked off for about 12 blocks so Sens fans could party in the street waving their flags and belting out chants of warship to Daniel Alfredsson. Certainly something worth getting excited about, and I don't even like hockey that much.

Hope your long weekend was enjoyable. Mine was spent in my favourite city with the fabulous Ictus band in preparation of our return to live performance in....August. Hey, it's hard to juggle grown-up schedules.

Anyway, what with the holiday, I've been roped into a working a double at the CTC tomorrow. It may not go the full 12 hours, but I just wanted you to be prepared in case you didn't get any updates tomorrow, it's because I hate life and have passed out as soon as I walked in the door.

As you wait, go see what Noam had to say when he was in town; check out the porn star who got off a drug charge by blowing the cop and then blogged about it; and why the recording industry has turned its sights on those dirty freeloading radio stations. What?

See you maybe tomorrow, probably Wednesday.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The State of the World

Numerous car windows smashed in Kingston parking lot
Including Lady Trails. You know, for as nice as our apartment is, what with the water seeping through the kitchen floor, random water and power outages, and now the passenger window smashed last night, why do I think Toronto will be any worse?

I don't know who Chalmers Johnson is. I don't know what the political slant of The Nation magazine is. What I do know is that it's extremely ballsy to publish an article pointing out that American foreign policy might have had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, two weeks after the attacks occurred.

It doesn't say anything you militant social justice types don't already know, I just had to give it some shine for saying it first.

You'll never see it coming
I like to make fun of The Secret, as I like to make fun of most self-help programs. If you're unfamiliar, which you might be, since the people behind the book and DVD give no information on the contents or subject of the materials, The Secret centers on The Law of Attraction, which states if you think positive, good things will happen to you. And this has taken the world by storm.

It even had Oprah's seal of approval, until a woman wrote in to say she was going off
her breast cancer treatments to think happy thoughts. That spooked even the Big O, who adjusted her endorsement of the book accordingly.

Slate tells us that thinking happy thoughts is what we've been doing all along, and that's why we're so woefully unprepared when bad things unexpectedly happen to us.

Like smashed car windows. Which I'm now off to go deal with. Hopefully your long weekend is off to a better start, Windsor.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Come Out to Plaaaaay: Ridin Nerdy

With the PS2 officially dead in the water as far as new game development goes, it means all the games I didn't buy upon their release are now 10 dollars at finer game retailers. This is one of them.

The Warriors has got to be one of the most influential bad movies ever. Certainly a bold statement, but I think it's fair. A movie like Rocky Horror is "bad", but it's supposed to be. Science fiction double feature, right? That's part of its charm, and it knows it.

I think that The Warriors was trying to be taken seriously, though, which seems almost laughable when watched today. It's based on 'Anabasis' by the Greek historian Xenophon, for God's sake!

The movie starts with a meeting of every gang in New York, called by Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs. Cyrus attempts to unify the gangs, as their total membership already outnumbers all the cops in the city, they could run things if they wanted. The assembled crowd roars its support as Cyrus is gunned down by a psycho named Luther, who blames the murder on The Warriors. The next ninety minutes follows them as they try to get back to their home turf of Coney Island, with the whole of the city's colourfully dressed gang membership on their tail.

Still, the movie's influence continues to be felt, from Luther's bottle clinking taunt of "Warriors, come out to plaaa-aaay!" to the look of The Baseball Furies with their full uniforms and facepoint, to Cyrus speech to the amassed gang members [Can you dig iiiiit!].

So it's not out of the question that a video game would be made of the flick, it's just weird that it took 26 years for it to happen. But that's what Rockstar [the people behind Grand Theft Auto] did a couple years ago.

The weirdest thing is, it's a good game. Essentially a brawler in the Double Dragon/Final Fight tradition, the game focuses on the six months or so leading up to the events of the movie, a brilliant move. Also, there are numerous "flashback" missions that flesh out how the
gang was formed in the first place, and how the key members joined up. The videogame makes the movie more enjoyable, giving the characters more depth aside from being "the guy with the hat," or the "the guy with the afro." I don't know that a movie tie-in videogame has ever done that. So points for that.

But the thing that was most surprising to me is the violence. Violence in video games is nothing new, but the violence in The Warriors seems to take it a bit farther, and I think I figured out why the other night: because it feels real. For all the flack GTA catches every time a new one comes out, The Warriors just might be worse. You might not steal cars, or pick up hookers, or even shoot people [haven't seen one gun yet], but you can beat the shit out of people in very realistic ways. There's nothing fancy or cartoony about climbing on top of a downed opponent and slamming a brick in their face as blood splatters the pavement.

Added to the general feel of uncomfortableness is the game's setting. This is 1970's New York, significantly less pretty than the city might be today, and the game captures the feel of that time and place remarkably well, from the grinding of the subway to the overall urban decay. I don't know, I never gave it much thought when I was sticking people up on San Andreas, yet when I mug somebody and toss them through a pile of garbage in Spanish Harlem, it makes me uncomfortable. It's the first time I've played a morally questionable character in a videogame and felt uneasy about it. Maybe I'm just becoming a pansy in my old age.

At any rate, The Warriors is still a shining example of what you can find out there for your aging game system for 10 bucks or so. Just remember, if a game's rated 'M', it's probably for a reason.

Stay cool, boppers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The State of the World

Worked late again, but sticking it out like a trooper, Windsor!

Same song, different day

Good news, Windsor company Cannon Automotive Solutions is opening a new $13 million production plant!

Bad news, it's going to be in Kentucky.

That about sums it up, kids.

Chicken little was right, everybody panic!
Apparently, city residents have nothing to worry about, as skyscrapers generally don't make a habit of falling to pieces, as First Canadian Place did in Toronto this morning, when a giant chunk of marble fell from it and onto the streets below.

Well, as someone who will be moving to said city by September, that is certainly a relief.

You may need to know me personally to understand the irony here.

China continues to target sex and violence in the media
China has long been known for its tough stance on outside influence, openly censoring anything they think might compromise the moral fibre of the populus. In that continued effort, the people of Hong Kong are beseeching Big Brother to turn its watchful eye onto a heretofore neglected publication filled with rape and murder: The Bible.

Reports say Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority had received over 800 complaints over the sex and violence in The Bible. If the Good Book is classified indecent, only people over 18 will be allowed to buy or read it.

Which might not be the worst thing in the world.

Police thank firemen with a bottle of bubbly from a murder victim's car. Oh, Florida.

There's emo, and then there's this. Seriously, didnt this kid have a copy of The Black Parade? It's supposed to work wonders, they tell me.

This is why there's a cigarette butt in your souvlaki.

Florida doubleheader: Man tries to save dog from alligator with pocketknife.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The State of the World

Comm studies boner
Don't forget, Noam Chomsky, the man himself, will be lecturing at what was formerly The Cleary this Thursday, May 17 at 5.00 p.m. The lecture will be followed with a concert by K'naan at 8.00 p.m. Ticket info for both events can be found here.

We meet again, my nemesis

A buddy of mine is currently trying to sell his house. It has not been going well. Rather, it's been going fine, if it wasn't for the fact that the people who want to buy his house have to sell theirs first.

Kudos to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation for figuring out that it's a buyer's market in Windsor. I wonder how they deduced that? Going for a Sunday drive through Windsor neighbourhoods?

I kid, but the CMHC and I go way back to the very beginnings of my life as The Paper Trail. The first column I wrote under that title was due to a rant I went on at the office over why a student newspaper received so many faxes about treating mould in your basement. So I had to take a shot for old times' sake.

Native patience growing thin, leaders warn
Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine told an audience this afternoon that decades of discussion have not yielded any results on native issues, and that Canadian aboriginals are losing their patience.

While not condoning acts like blockades, Fontaine urged the crowd to understand where the frustrations come from that lead to such actions.

"As you can see, we are starting to question the so-called rational process because it does not work," said Fontaine.

Legendary evangelist Jerry Falwell dies.

Dear American Media: The real website for the White House has a dot-gov on the end of it, not a dot-org. But thanks for coming out.

I normally would save this for flotsam, but the 'worst stunt' was amazing: Worst movie scenes ever, in six categories.

Chicago area hero combines pizza and beer in one bottle. I weep.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The State of the World

That which will not disappear
Remember that report on racism the administration commissioned for 10 large? Well, it's finished, and obviously no one's happy about it.

I haven't seen the actual report yet [it's the only item on the Senate agenda that doesn't have a document link], but according to The Star's article some feel it could use some work, downplaying racist events as "perceived" [which is tehnically true, but guaranteed to piss someone off], and leaving the Human Rights Office out of it is probably unfair, but hell, the HRO signed off on the policy to begin with, why would they get called out.

Still, Ross himself said the concerns of the students offended by the dress code were validated, and that he hopes to set up "something" to prevent incidents of systemic racism in the future.

The cookie for "most rational quote," came from chemistry prof Phillip Dutton, who discussed similar issues at a recent conference he attended: "It was pointed out that systemic racism is most effective when the system doesn't even recognize it's being racist."


See you around, Carl
Sometimes with these stories I feel like a bad comic book writer working on the presumption that every issue could be someone's first! At this point, is there anyone who would come here who doesn't know who Carl Leone, Jr. is? And that he was on trial for aggravated sexual assault for not informing his sexual partners he was HIV positive? And that he pleaded guilty to 15 charges earlier this month?

See what I just did there?

Anyhoo, even though initial reports said he was being sentenced today, he's only been remanded police custody where he'll be jailed until a Toronto doctor decides if Leone warrants the dangerous offender label The Crown is seeking. He's back in court July 24.

A middle decrease
Apparently, the middle class is shrinking, down 4.8 per cent from 1989 to 2004, largely due to the familes themselves becoming either richer or poorer.

Clearly that wealth gap some people like to make an issue about is purely a myth.

PS: Dear Globe and Mail, your redesign is balls. Love, The Trail.

Did you know a large part of Canada experiences lower gravity than the rest of the planet? It does, and here's why.

If you're gonna film yourself cheating on your husband, make sure the guy you're cheating with isn't prone to heart attacks and, um, death.

Police dinner interrupted when hired entertainment gets a little racist. Oh, Flor--you know where.

Some...eerie similarities between The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

How Can You Blog at a Time Like This?!

Seriously, people, we're just over an hour away from discovering if LaKisha will get the boot from Idol tonight! What the hell am I doing here?!

Oh right, sharing some of the pieces of detritus that make the internet worthy of existence.

Donald Duck reminds Australian WWII soldiers to pack condoms.

Iraqi lawmakers vote to get the U.S. out of their country.

A quick and thoughtful blog post on why one can gleefully marvel at The Hoff's drunken cheeseburger eating in private, yet be offended when it plays on CNN.

Common sense would tell you those little Google ads on websites could never net much bank. Here's eight people who disprove that logic.

Pat Buchanan says immigrants are the cause of the VTech shootings.

George Lucas says he's making a couple new Star Wars movies, direct to TV. I can think of three people right now who are turning purple with rage at the thought.

Tired of the big corporations claiming ownership of hexidecimal numbers and suing anyone who publishes them? Now you can get in on the fun by owning your own number! It may not crack DVDs, but it's gotta have some useful application [site currently down due to traffic overload. Thank god we never have that problem here, eh Windsor?].

In a followup from last night's bibliophilic post, a flickrpool of reading stacks, that is, the books people plan to read but haven't yet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Snooty Post About Books

It happens sometimes. The addiction. I'll go years without indulging to any great degree, and then I get a taste and I'm sliding downhill again.


We're in one of those periods right now. My travels have taken me to some amazing bookstores lately [notably Novel Idea in Kingston and Pages in Toronto] and I have a hard time leaving without something. Chalk it up to the unbearable thought of sitting in the staff lunchroom of the CTC with no reading material to block out the the stuttering ramblings of the old timers and their hollow threats to one day shake up higher management.

Today I finished a wonderful book, the kind that makes you mad when you're done because you wish you could write that well. And it brought me back to a book that used to make me feel that way, and how it holds up now. So join me this evening as we lock these two competitors into the four sides of steel and watch the cage match unfold.


Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman vs. The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem. Fight!

Maybe it's my developing attention defecit disorder, maybe I'm just drawn to them more in light of the story I had to write recently, but I am all about short pieces. I've been devouring short story and essay collections left and right. I can usually start and finish a story on my work breaks, which is an added benefit. And it's not secret that The Trail loves the sort of low culture examinations these two collections offer, but they each do it in very different ways.

Chuck Klosterman is loved and loathed by a lot of people, usually for the same reason. He writes like we talk, and like we think, which leaves some of us marveling at how he understands us, and leaves the rest of wondering how the guy has made a career on the conversations we have at the bar. Chuck's got some journalistic chops, to be certain [as the profile pieces reprinted in his later book Chuck Klosterman IV illustrate], but we're concerned with his essays here, which center around things like the social relevance of Saved by the Bell and The Real World, or how The Empire Strikes Back defined a generation.

While I initially fell into the camp that revered Klosterman for his cultural insight, I find myself becoming more and more put off by his work, mostly because Chuck sometimes seems like he is acutely aware that he is writing an essay that you will read, and he knows you are reading it. Or, as a blog buddy of mine once put it, "I can't get over the notion that he's trying to make me want to sleep with him." Which is pretty accurate, actually.

For me, Klosterman left to his own devices is like watching too many episodes of Family Guy in a row. At its core, it's still good, but the endless asides, footnotes and non sequiturs can get a little grating. Get to the point, already.

Contrast that with the utterly scholarly tone established in Jonathan Lethem's slim volume of essays on such topics as John Cassavetes, the work Jack Kirby did for Marvel Comics in the 1970's, and the original Star Wars.

Lethem had already established himself as a novelist to watch when this collection was published. His prose is sharp and crackles with image and self-awareness. If Klosterman is who we might write like already, Lethem is the guy we wish we could write like.

But this isn't a difference of style alone, it's a difference of content; rather, the difference of one writer willing to show himself to his audience over another who chooses to preach at them.

Each writer in each book does a piece related to Star Wars. Klosterman posits the interesting theory that for most of the 'slacker' generation of the mid-90's, the first movie they ever saw was The Empire Strikes Back, the one where the good guys lose, and that this had a profound effect on their motivation levels and overall disposition. Lethem writes about how he saw the original Star Wars 21 times when it was released.

On the basis of a such a bare description, Klosterman seems infinitely more compelling. But this is not the case. Klosterman merely gives you six pages of "This is what I think and this is why." Lethem takes you inside himself and all his viewings: the time he took his mother with him, before she succumbed to cancer; the girl he took once, and later followed to ballet class, which only added to his parents' fearful suspicion he might be gay; the fact he finds C-3PO sexy. Lethem gives the reader full access, while still identifying and acknowledging the film's cultural importance.

While Chuck busies himself trying to make readers think he's cool, Lethem lets them in, warts and all with no fear. And it's that fearlessness that earns him this victory, by leaving the cage. Maybe not as decisive as a pinfall, but a win's a win.

The State of the World

You're slacking off, criminals
Statistics from Windsor Police show that overall crime was down in March 2007 compared to the previous year. Just not by much.

According to the stats, the +/- on most types of offenses was about 20, so I don't think it's time to have a parade yet.

Tory MP apologizes for lackey's dim witted impersonation
On May 2nd Randi Davidson received an email from her MP, Gord Brown, stating that every allegation of abused Afghan detainees had been investigated and proven to be unfounded. Two problems.

A: That's not entirely true.

B. Brown didn't even write the email; his assistant, Mark King, wrote it.

Brown has since apologized, saying the views expressed in the correspondence are not his views.

[This is] The Dream of George and Liz
The British press has been keeping a close eye on Queen Elizabeth's visit to The US, and was right there when President Bush implied the monarch was 200 years old, then downplayed the gaffe with a good ol' boy wink.

What will we do for fun when he's gone?

Snopes susses out that email on the murdered couple you may have received.

Productivity be damned!

Drunk lawyer kills man in car crash, tells cops he hopes the guy has insurance.

Twenty-year-old ticketed for building pirate fort in the woods. Oh, Florida.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Trail's Movie Corner: Home Edition

When the most interesting thing you can find online is a gallery of Polish movie posters [seriously, what's wrong with those people?], it's a slow news day, Windsor. But I trust no news is good news, and that you're faring well.

By far one of K-town's dearest treasures is a small movie rental place over on Clarence called Classic Video. With extensive specialty sections and a three movie/eight day/five buck special, we were long overdue to make a withdrawal.

This is what we went home with.

Infernal Affairs

When we flew to Vancouver for the CUP Conference this past January, Air Canada kept us right in style, with video on demand in coach class and a healthy selection of new-ish films and TV shows to keep us entertained. I was tossing up The Queen and The Departed, ultimately choosing the latter since I'm a sucker for a Scorsese crime flick. And I was enthralled the entire time. The story of police and mafia undercover agents each infiltrating the other's organization had me hooked from the opening scenes. Imagine my surprise as the credits rolled to see it was based on a Chinese movie I had heard mention of in some of my geekier circles.

Now typically, I'm a sucker for authenticity, which I think lead to my initial love for Japanese horror: the remakes of movies like Ring, Ju-On and Dark Water made me want to see the original versions. Still, I felt conflicted as I popped the disc in. Could the original movie really be as good as a redo by one of the greatest living American moviemakers?

The answer is: almost, yeah. Tony Leung [the DiCaprio] and Andy Lau [the Damon] both turn in strong performances, especially the charismatic Leung, and Eric Tsang's Triad boss Sam is possibly more sinister than Nicholson's gangster, because he lacks Nicholson's crazed eruptions of violence, he's just arrogant and cold, leaving you waiting for when he might go off.

Still, if you've seen The Departed, you can easily see the weak points in the original they improved upon. The love triangle is gone, instead each of the leads is given theoir own romantic interest, which fells like an afterthought in Lau's case and forcibly shoehorned in Leung's.

Also, there's an odd bit of deus ex machina at the movie's conclusion that feels grossly out of place from the rest of the movie. But the reason I liked it so much is that it had less of a Hollywood ending than The Departed did. And that's all I'll say on that. Definitely worth a look.

Portishead: roseland new york

Is you're like me, you mourn Portishead's inactivity. And if you know Portishead, you know what this is all about. I don't know why I hadn't spent time with it previously, and really, we didn't watch that much of it this time, mostly because The Lady and I both know one of us will just buy it at some point.

That said, it's a classic, even if Beth Gibbons is one of the oddest frontwomen music has ever known. That delicate voice coming out of such a shy performer who never opens her eyes, yet smokes and pounds back a couple cans of Budweiser while at the mic. God bless her. And this is a perfect disc for doing just those things. Preferably on a Sunday.

Clone High: The Complete First Season

Sing along!

Way, way back in the 1980's, secret government employees dug up famous guys and ladies, and made amusing genetic copies!

And that's the plot right there. Running for one lonesome season in 2002, this show took the clones of famous figures through history are revisited as whiny high schoolers, sending up themselves and the "high school drama" format at the same time, with pretty funny-to-hysterical results throughout, all of which are on this set.

Who can forget JFK gloating, "Nothing bad ever happens to the Kennedys!" before flipping his speedster? Or Gandhi deciding to become a rap star [G-Spot rocks the G-Spot!] or Marilyn Manson singing on the importance of a balanced diet? Fantastic.

Clone High came along at a weird time for 'grown-up' animation. Adult Swim wasn't the dominating force it is today. In 2002, there weren't many cartoons pushing the envelope. The show came under fire from India for its depiction of Gandhi as an ADD afflicted lovable spaz with a penchant for sticking things up his nose, and some suspect the show was hiatused in 2003 to avoid further controversy.

Maybe it's the show's cancellation that has lead me to become so disturbed by its conclusion. The final episode ends on a cliffhanger featuring an attack by the military at the prom, the entire cast frozen alive in a meat locker and John Stamos bloodied with a missing eye, as Abe Lincoln and Joan of Arc, hearts broken, reach for each other. And that's it! WTF!

Despite the completely unfulfilling conclusion, the show is still strong enough to merit a viewing, or check out a couple episodes on a streaming video site owned by the same company that owns this blogging utility. But I would never endorse that. *cough*

Thanks for joining me for another edition of The Trail's Movie Corner. Last one of this week, I promise.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Trail's Movie Corner

This may be a little shocking to you, Windsor, but The Trail is a nerd. A bona-fide, card carrying geek. I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Even though I gave them up, there are still over 2,000 comics sitting in my parents basement back in the burg, so superhero movies have long held a special place in my heart. A place so special, I'd be willing to break my own rules on moviegoing and endure opening night.

I'll do my best to keep this spoiler free, but we'll throw up the ol' SPOILER-ISH ALERT just to keep everyone happy.

As the lights came up tonight, a lot of younger folks were griping that Spider-Man 3 was the worst movie they'd ever seen. Chalk that up to the hyperbolic impetuousness of youth, but there are certainly things to find flaws with in the movie, including:

  • The pacing. With three villains, the black costume storyline and a couple of love triangles, there's a lot of ground to cover. Raimi&Co do the best they can, but it does feel rushed in spots.

  • The 'over-the-top' nature of some scenes [specifically Peter's funky walk down the street before taking Gwen out]. I'll grant, they're very silly.

  • Yes, this is Spidey at his most emo. Everyone cries in this movie, everyone has some 'poor me' issue that they act out over.

BUT I still say it's the best of the three. This is why.

Yeah, the movie is jam packed. But given that it's the last one Raimi, Maguire and Dunst had signed on for, why not jam it full with as much as they could? For myself, I only thought the pacing was really off in the beginning, but why waste time with set up? How many people will be watching the third movie who hadn't seen at least the second?

Yes, there are goofy moments, but guess what? It's a frigging comic book movie! If you want realism, go watch Batman Begins again. Raimi has always respected the comic form, and he also knows it shouldn't be taken super seriously.

And yes, it's emo-y. Hell, when his dark side comes out, Parker even pulls hair down over his eyes and wears a black hoodie. And while that's amusing to me, I'm certain there are some kids who would think that was pretty bad ass. But what really stuck out to me tonight, and maybe this was just at our showing, was the way people would laugh during the "emotional" moments. And maybe there is something innately funny about Tobey Maguire in his long underwear weeping at a personal loss, but to laugh only indicates you don't understand Spider-Man as a character. What has always made him resonate with people is that for all his power, he never catches a break. His tragedies, and the way he endures them, are what define him.

Also, Bryce Dallas-Howard is smoking as a blonde, and as a normal woman [seriously, someone get Dunst a cheeseburger].

If there's one complaint, it's that Venom comes along way too late. For my money, a hero's best villains have always been their reverse, the evil version of themselves. Superman has Bizarro, The Flash has Prof. Zoom, Wolverine has Sabretooth, and Spider-Man has Venom. To be honest, The Sandman was only there as a plot device to start Peter down his dark road [even though Thomas Hayden Church was spot effing on in his role].

Fanboy nitpicks? A couple, yeah. Where the hell was the spider sense? Like, that thing that tells him there's danger or something ain't right? There were a few times when it felt like it should have gone off, but didn't.

Also, in the comics, Venom/Eddie Brock had his own warped code of ethics to him. Yes, he wanted Peter Parker dead, but always made an effort to keep innocents from getting involved, telling Parker to meet him at some abandoned location away from people, stopping in the middle of a fight to keep bystanders from being hurt. The version of the character in my head wouldn't have put MJ in such danger.

But that's minor, to be honest. I thought it ended very well, and was a fitting ending, should they decide not to do a fourth [though when the receipts come in, I imagine Sony will start begging].

And come on, this one had the longest Bruce Campbell cameo in the series! That alone makes it tops in my book.

Next time on the movie corner, a Chinese flick called Infernal Affairs. You may know it better from its American remake, a little picture called The Departed.

Enjoy your weekend, Windsor!

The State of the World

The most important heads up I can give you
The Marketplace Cafe in the student centre has switched to summer hours. That means they close at 2.00 p.m. Do you know how many times that screwed me over when I was news editor? Hey, let's go for lunch! Oh wait, it's 2.15, they're closed, not I have to grab an Oh Henry and a Pepsi from the vending machines.

The Tim Horton's will stay open til 4.00, but I didn't have that luxury back then, dammit.

US deserters lose bid for refugee status
A pair of military men who fled for Canada to avoid serving in Iraq have been denied refugee status after the Federal Court of Appeal wouldn't rule the 2003 invasion illegal.

The pair's lawyer estimates as many as 190 Americans are in Canada to avoid court martial, though only about 40 have filed for refugee status.

An amusing take on the latest exercise in futility
So those 'Impeach Bush' outbursts are starting up again, going so far this time as to have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi take a phone poll as to whether the American public agrees with the idea [I don't buy that one. The Democrats aren't that brazen].

While talk of this sort ultimately leads nowhere [because again, the Democrats aren't that brazen], I found this the best plan for reaching the stated goal.

A drunken Hasselhoff takes six minutes to chow down a hamburger.

At least once a week, a US teacher is busted for sleeping with a student. This is today's.

Melodramatic teenager sent home from school for wearing a pentagram on her face. Dad doesn't help matters.

Bob Dylan probably not the best choice to speak to kindergarteners.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Forever Delayed

I'm off tomorrow, Windsor, which means you'll be getting super posts like old times, but which also means that The Lady [recently hired by Crestwood Preparatory in the lovely York Mills area of Toronto, so congrats to her] and I spent some quality time, since I'm not as tired as I would be normally.

As such, I'm off to do some reading, and watch The Daily Show. You get to admire the upcoming Geisha/Shogun Dunnys by Huck Gee, set for release next month. That's called hotness, Windsor.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Trail's Movie Corner

Generally, your man is not a big "movie in theatres" person. If he does partake in the theatrical experience, certain criteria have to be met.
  1. Never on a Friday or Saturday if the proposed movie has been out less than three weeks.

  2. Absolutely never on opening night.

The Trail's just not big on crowds. I want to be comfortable, that's all. Thankfully, all conditions were met for the late Tuesday showing of Hot Fuzz downtown last night.

Safe to assume the readership of this blog knows what's up with the movie, so you know it's the next effort from director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who brought us the instant classic Shaun of the Dead. Which if you've never seen, punch yourself repeatedly in the thigh, then make haste to Blockbuster.

Whereas Shaun was the trio's skewered homage to zombie movies, Fuzz is designed to be the ultimate cop movie. Super straightlaced supercop [Pegg] gets transferred from London to sleepy village in the country. Hilarity ensues as supercop adjusts to rural life and teaching his slow-witted partner [Frost] how to be a better officer. Then people start dying.

It was mentioned in a comment on yesterday's post that while Fuzz is a damn fine movie, it in no way even comes close to Shaun, and it's difficult to separate the two. I just couldn't buy Pegg as the consummate professional police officer Nick Angel, when I kept seeing him as the lovable slacker at the electronics shop. Frost plays essentially the same character he did before, just less obnoxious.

The other major complaint is that the first two-thirds of the movie is paced slowly, probably deliberately so, to put the audience in Angel's shoes, adjusting to the more relaxed life in the village. Then it becomes completely uncorked in the last half hour, and I laughed my ass off throughout. To say anymore would spoil the experience for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Hot Fuzz is definitely worth the ten bucks, just accept that it's not Shaun of the Dead II before you sit down, and your overall experience should be more enjoyable than mine was.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The State of the World, then Intermission, then Breaking Nerd News

Leone to be sentenced on May 11
Following an unexpected guilty plea on Friday, Windsor businessman Carl Leone will discover his fate in 10 short days when he's sentenced in his sexual assault case.

The extra time has been granted so that Leone can settle his financial affairs and set up a health monitoring program for himself. The maximum sentence for each of Leone's 15 counts of sexual assault is life in prison, though it's still just rumour that the Crown will pursue the stiffest sentence.

Lethbridge cracking down on naughty artists
Following an outburst of complaints from area residents following a Snoop Dogg concert in Lethbridge last January, the city and its arena managers have implemented fines against entertainers who smoke, do drugs or encourage illegal behaviour from the stage.

So really. Why the hell was Snoop Dogg in Lethbridge?

Sponsorship and censorship on the wired
This seems to be breaking out as I type this [don't be fooled by the timestamp, I went to a movie, it's actually after midnight], but there is a bona fide user revolt going on at Digg.

Primer: Digg is one of those sites where people submit article links, and other users vote them up or down depending on how they like them. The Trail never really utilized it much, since it tended to skew to the juvenile or gadget-y side of the spectrum.

If you go there now, you will see variations on a 32 digit hexadecimal code which you can use to copy HD-DVDs, if you have the know-how. And Digg's admins have been removing any stories including the code, claiming they received a notice from the organization behind HD-DVD that the code infringes their copyright [can an organization own the code that's been hacked to undermine their software?]

Digg's users have not taken kindly to having the invisible hand direct the content they can and cannot promote. Discovering that HD-DVD has been a past sponsor of the Digg Nation video show has only riled them up even more.

It really is sad, as the Digg model for information distribution set a new standard, and one that's been effectively pilfered by everyone from Netscape to Rocketboom. It'll be interesting to see how they try and save face on this one, or if they just stand by their blog post and hire some extra staff to delete the posts with the code that will continue to pop up. Cause if there's one thing I've learned about the internets, it's that it holds a grudge.

Off to bed. I'll tell you about Hot Fuzz tomorrow.