Monday, September 30, 2013

7 Years Of Blogging

In less than 2 hours, it'll be October 1st, the 7th anniversary of when I started this blog.

To show how much less I have to say here than I used to, consider this: in December of 2006 alone, my 3rd month of blogging, I put out a whopping total of 175 posts.  Nine months into 2013, I've posted just 137 times (counting this one).

Oh well.  I have to say it's hard to be enthusiastic about blogging when it seems as though almost no one's reading it any more.  But such is life.

A Final Collection Of Breaking Bad Reviews

I've split my day so far between working on novel # 4 and reading Breaking Bad finale reviews.  I can't share anything with you yet about the former, but here's a roundup of some of the latter:

From the Onion's A/V Club, by Donna Bowman

From Slate, by Willa Paskin

From Badass Digest, by Devin Faraci

From the Onion's A/V Club (again), by Todd VanDerWerff (I really loved this one!)

From BoingBoing, by Kevin McFarland

I'm still reading, so I may add more later!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Baking Bad

For those who, like me, remember the old Hostess Twinkies ads that used to run in Marvel and DC comics, featuring the likes of Spider-Man and Batman, I give you this.

Breaking Bad Ending Big

Well, I don't actually know how Breaking Bad is going to end... the finale is still more than two hours away.  But we're going to have our own little BB mini-party tonight, as a friend and his teenage son are coming over to send off the series with us! 

As far as predictions are concerned, I'm pretty bad at them when it comes to TV shows (I had no idea where Lost was going as it wound down).  I will say that I hope Jesse gets revenge on Todd before it's all over, and that Walt doesn't survive the finale.  I've definitely gone from being a Walter White-booster to rooting against the man, although I admire the hell out of the job the writing staff has done in developing that character over six years of television.  His progress from mild mannered chemistry teacher to meth-empire-building Heisenberg is one for the ages, and I'll be sad to see it all end tonight.

Interesting Overview Of The RIM Story To Date

Definitely worth a read.  I found it telling, anecdotally-speaking, when my own brother gave up his long-beloved 'blueberry' for an iPhone within the last year.  He had been a diehard fan of the technology going back to his days on the police force, but he became frustrated with the complicated update process and finally just gave up on it.  I haven't heard too many complaints from him about his new phone, I must say.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shout Out For Civic-Minded People

When it comes to getting involved with local concerns, I wish I was more like friend of the blog, Mike Marsman.   Here he is, advocating for a cycle committee for this city, a cause that definitely deserves some support and energy.

Good on ya, Man from Mars!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Summer's Over

We closed the pool this weekend. 

Last week, we spent almost $3000 getting 3 leaks fixed in the underground lines near the skimmer and both return jets.  A few weeks before that, we spent $6000 to replace the retaining wall around the deck after carpenter ants ate through the old one.  Over the course of the summer, both of our pool cleaning devices stopped working - one because of the leaks degrading the water pressure, the other because of a defective piece of equipment.  For the first time since we moved into the house in 1998, we were actually vacuuming the pool manually for several weeks of 2013.  Ugh.

In other words, it's been an expensive summer and one that's been hard to enjoy.  Here's hoping next summer is the exact opposite!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Small Collection Of Great Breaking Bad Articles

Watching this week's third last Breaking Bad episode (entitled "Ozymandias") on Sunday night, both Vicki and I were grimacing and shaking our heads.  But in a good way, as you'll understand fully if you're into the series right now.  It was perhaps the roughest chapter in the lives of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman yet, and that's saying a lot.  This has become our favourite show on TV, and we're going to be very sad to see it end on September 29th.

Anyway, if you're a fan, too, here are a handful of interesting articles about "Ozymandias" in particular and endings in general:

From Boing Boing, Entertainment Weekly and Vulture.

Friday, September 13, 2013

First Act Of The New Book Is Now Written

Unlike my previous novels, I've had the structure of the fourth one in my head since before I began writing it.  I could clearly see the three acts that would make up the story, and I knew what would propel each act along.  For comparison's sake, I was well into No Brother of Mine before I came up with the idea of one of the detectives looking into the twenty year old death of the father.  That ended up being a major catalyst for the action in the second half of the book and yet it was a relatively late addition.

This time around, it's such a different experience from the earlier books that I almost can't believe it.  And so far, through six chapters, very little has changed between what I'd originally envisioned and what's actually going down on the virtual page.  Maybe this is the way I'll always write, from now on?  Or possibly I've just gotten lucky and it'll never happen again.

Anyway, I'm having a good time and my work is now about a third of the way complete.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our First TIFF

No, this post isn't about the first time Vicki and I had a big disagreement... Instead, it's about our trip to Toronto earlier this week to take in our first ever Toronto International Film Festival with Tammy!

Tammy and I had picked out three relatively obscure movies to buy advance tickets for, after discovering that all of the films we'd actually heard of were already sold out.  The ones we selected ended up all being interesting, in one way or another, and here's a brief description of each:

South is Nothing - We started off with an Italian story about a father and daughter trying to come to terms with the death of a family member.  The teenage daughter is interestingly presented as a boy throughout the early parts of the film, and it only gradually becomes apparent that she's actually a young girl.  Dressing and acting like a male are just her way of resisting the pressures to outgrow her tomboy adolescence in the wake of her brother's mysterious and sudden death.  For the Q&A session after the film, both the director and the actress who played the daughter fielded questions from us, and I asked a couple.  First, I wondered if the story had been inspired by anything in the director's background (he said 'yes' but was vague as to exactly what).  I also asked if the slow reveal of the character's gender had been done to allow each audience member to come to the realization at their own pace, and he confirmed that was exactly his intent.  I thought this was a very good film, though not quite nosing into great territory because of a few aspects of the story that could've been presented more clearly.

Canopy - This was the film I was most looking forward to, and perhaps my high expectations worked against it.  The premise sounded fascinating to me: an Australian paratrooper in World War II is stranded in a Singapore jungle and meets a Chinese soldier there while both try to evade capture by the Japanese army who've invaded the island.  I could imagine all kinds of ways to make that interesting, but the actual product was paced too slowly and spent much too much time on the scenery.  I liked the film but only just.  As with each of the shows we went to, the director (from Australia) and the lead actor (also an Aussie) took part in a Q&A afterwards, though it wasn't all that illuminating.

A Place in Heaven -  The highlight of the festival, for me anyway, was our final film on Monday night.  This Israeli tale about a father and son relationship against the backdrop of the hostility between the Jews and the Palestinians, stretching back several decades, was riveting from start to finish.  I found myself trying to guess what would happen next and failing nearly every time, which is a wonderful feeling when the developments on the screen exceed your expectations!  The lead actor Alon Aboutboul (playing the father) was present for the Q&A along with the director, and I discovered from Tammy that he'd had a small part in the opening Bane sequence of The Dark Knight Rises.  That may constitute the closest I've come yet to Batman!  At any rate, I loved A Place in Heaven and wouldn't be surprised to see it get Oscar consideration for Best Foreign Film.

On the Monday afternoon, while Tammy was working, Vicki and I went to see another film, more or less on a lark:

The Green Inferno - This is the latest from Eli Roth, known for horror films (like Hostel and Hostel II) although he more famously played Sgt. Donny Donovitz in Tarrentino's Inglourious Basterds, which Tammy claims to have seen 10 times (making her quite jealous that she missed seeing him live and in person at this show).  Anyway, this was billed as a homage to the Italian cannibal movies of the 70s, and it certainly delivered on that promise.  The story was completely predictable and appropriately gory, but otherwise fairly forgettable.  Vicki stuck it out like a trooper, though, reminding me once again that I did, indeed, win the wife lottery all those years ago!  In the Q&A afterwards, we learned that most of the natives (i.e. the "cannibals") shown in the film were from an actual tribe in the Amazon who'd had limited contact with civilization before Roth and the crew found them.  They'd never seen a movie before, and so they were shown Cannibal Holocaust, from 1980 (billed as "The Most Controversial Film Ever Made"), which they found to be hilariously funny!  They loved what they perceived as the comedic aspects of it, laughing from start to finish, and this experience completely sold them on the idea of appearing in the film and hamming it up as cannibals.  That, I have to admit, is strangely awesome all on its own.  The movie crew did their best to upgrade the tribe's little village before they left, including installing metal roofs and providing some cash that could be used in trade with the boats that travel up and down the Amazon selling supplies.  The Q&A was definitely the most interesting part of this, but I suppose I've also earned a tiny bit of street cred from being able to say I've been in the same room as Eli Roth!  That puts me one degree of separation from Tarrentino, for whatever that's worth (much less than being one degree from Batman, if you ask me!).

And that was our TIFF 2013 experience.  We all loved it, and hope to be able to repeat it next year.