November 1, 2008

Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted

Chuck Palahniuk is king of the saleable gross-out. This guy made his name with Fight Club -- an extreme descent into the do-nothing, thirty-something generation that has little more than Simpsons quotes and dry wit to bond over -- and has tried to outdo himself on the excrete-o-meter ever since. (Case in point: Invisible Monsters, where a distraught model blows off her own jaw to explore the other side of the beauty myth. Case in point: Choke, in which sex addicts prey on weaklings, including each other, in a search for some sort of fulfillment.

In Haunted, Palahniuk doesn't merely give us one social screwup; he gives us more than 20. They all pack themselves, And Then There Were None-style, into an abandoned theatre for a writers' retreat. Of course, the bodies, and the body parts, pile up shortly after that alley door clicks shut.

Enjoy. Just don't read chapter one over lunch. Yeuch.

October 19, 2008

Open letter to HBO

Dear Execs at HBO

Please count my wife and me among the faithful — Daniel Knauf's Carnivale is not only a wonderfully creative exploration of the TV medium, it's a challenging piece of modern art. And yes, I say that even after the second season attempted to somewhat dumb down the show for the ever-disappointing American TV-watching audience. (Props for that admission go to series star Clancy Brown, one of the most eloquent actors I've heard interviewed.)

There are so few genuinely original additions to the popular culture pantheon; when one appears, we all have a responsibility to ensure it has every possible support. It's a crying shame when powers that be pull plugs, especially when motivated by petty things such as money. We, and several of our friends, have purchased both seasons on DVD, doing our part to put our money where are mouths are. What more can we do to encourage you to go on fighting the good fight?

These writers + these filmmakers + this cast = something unique. Please don't lose the opportunity to complete, or least seriously further, this utterly special story arc.

October 8, 2008

Tropic Thunder - film review, better late than never

The inevitable comparisons between Tropic Thunder and Apocalypse Now are somewhat misguided, I feel, since at the very heart of Ben Stiller's magnum opus is the desire to take the piss out of that very film. One should not compare a parody with its target on an artistic level. It's supposed to be similar, and therefore, by its very nature, denies creative comparison.

A similar mistake was made recently when Total Guitar Magazine copped a brain fart and included the Mike Flowers Pops spoof of Wonderwall on its worst cover list; Vegas-style renditions, a la Flowers or the brilliant, aptly named Richard Cheese, are not meant to be good. It's just a bonus if they are (case in point: Cheese's stellar cover of Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf).

Back to the film, luckily, Tropic Thunder is good. Funny in places, most of the time thanks to Robert Downey Jr. Serious in places, interestingly thanks to Jack Black. Hilarious in its pisstake of pretty much every serious war flick since, and including, Apocalypse Now.

October 7, 2008

Robertson Davies - Fifth Business


My knowledge of Canadian literature is admittedly weak, which has recently spawned a trek down must-read lane. My fave so far has got to be Chester Brown's decision to tackle Louis Riel's life story as a graphic novel.

Fifth Business, which I finished reading today, was my first foray into the good work of Mr Robertson Davies, and I have to say it was rather enjoyable (from a dusty-academic-reading-obviously-dated-classic point of view). 

Dunstable (really, "Dunstable"?) Ramsay is, well, a dusty academic writing his life story in an obviously dated way. His life is unremarkable, insomuch as the average person is unremarkable. He went to war, where he lost his leg and fancied that he witnessed a miracle. He returned to Canada lead the life of a bachelor, witness to his best friend becoming both a womanizing adulterer and an astonishingly wealthy man. He followed his passion to write a couple of academically successful books, and subsequently to meet a few eccentrics along the way. Oh, and he just happened to inspire the greatest magician of the modern age. Dan Brown this ain't. But that's a good thing.

Davies's work, at least here, is wonderfully complex in its layering; repeated readings will no doubt present miracles of interpretation. I look forward to the next tome in the trilogy, The Manticore.

September 15, 2008

August 26, 2008

Quote of the day

"Potential events are often more important than real events."

-- Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street

August 1, 2008

I miss George Carlin.


"In your own words. You hear it in classrooms. And courtrooms. They'll say, 'Tell us in your own words...'

Do you have your own words? Personally, I'm using the ones everybody else has been using.

Next time they tell you to say something in your own words, say, 'Nigflot blorny quando floon.'

— George Carlin

Of course, if you do indeed say "Nigflot blorny quando floon," you'l be using George Carlin's words. Not your own. But you get the picture.

July 31, 2008

What doth maketh the boy?


"A boy is a man in miniature, and though he may sometimes exhibit notable virtue, as well as characteristics that seem to be charming because they are childlike, he is also schemer, self-seeker, traitor, Judas, crook, and villain -- in short, a man. Oh, these autobiographies in which the writer postures and simpers as a David Copperfield or a Huck Finn! False, false as harlots' oaths!"

-- Robertson Davies as Dunstan 'Corky' Ramsay in Fifth Business

July 22, 2008

Don't you hate it when...

... people start their speech by saying, "I was just going to say that..."?

UGH! You ARE saying it, ya big idjit! If you were just going to say something, you wouldn't be saying it!

DAMN!

July 9, 2008

Must... smile...

I've just been introduced to a video that cannot help but make the viewer smile. I hear some people are suggesting -- and I can't help but agree with the sentiment, no matter how tongue in cheek it might be -- that the star of this video be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Enjoy.


Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

July 3, 2008

A recent convert...

... I can't believe I didn't pick up on this before, but here's a podcast that is mandatory listening for anyone with even a passing interest in music or popular culture.

Coverville

June 30, 2008

Sex and the City review

I had a few (emphasis on few) people tell me they'd like my movie review-lets to be posted in the main part of the blog as well as in the sidebar, so here goes:

Sex and the City (2008)

Old Horseface and her three friends are back in action, this time on the silver screen. For fans of the series, they'll be in over-dressed heaven: this cash grab is more than two hours long, and views like five or six back-to-back episodes of the show. Good for y'all, have a great time.

There isn't much to pleasantly surprise spouses of those same fans, unfortunately: SatC is still a whine-fest featuring four women who aren't happy when they're single, and find every possible reason to bitch and complain about their partners when they're not. These aren't women, they're caricatures; fashion whores who make rabid sports fans look positively well-rounded. More of the same means this film will rake in millions in a VERY short time, and probably inspire a sequel or two as well.

I have to say, my wife loved it, and I am trying to subscribe to the old adage: "Happy wife, happy life." (To Nadia: I love you honey!) That said, I won't be joining her in repeat viewings when the DVD inevitably makes its way into the collection.

June 28, 2008

Love, exciting and new...

A couple of quotes about love that I dig at the moment:

A love story is not about those who lose their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no one, can fool nothing — not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces. It is a consuming of oneself and the past.
— Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (page 97 in my copy).

The saddest part of a broken heart
isn't the ending, so much as the start

— Feist, Let It Die from the album of the same name.

Love, exciting and new.
Come aboard, we're expecting you.

— Jack Jones, The Love Boat Theme

June 14, 2008

A Global Village

Nicked and edited from Education, Vol 120, #4:

A Global Village

A few things to put your life in perspective, and hopefully inspire acceptance, understanding and education...

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere (including both North and South America
8 Africans

52 females
48 males

30 white people
70 non-white people

89 heterosexuals
11 homosexuals

80 people would live in substandard housing.
50 people would suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death.
1 would be near birth.

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth.
All 6 of those people would be from the United States.
70 people would be unable to read.
1 -- only one -- would have a college education.
1 would own a computer.

June 6, 2008

House of Tiles


House of Tiles
Originally uploaded by stodmyk
In Mexico City, a young gentleman was chided by his father, who told the boy "he would never own a house of tiles," a common phrase of the day similar to today's "he'll never amount to a hill of beans."

When the guy became hideously wealthy years later, he built a veritable temple and mothered the damned thing in tiles -- outside, inside, walls, floors, ceilings. It's a gorgeous piece of decadence in the middle of the Centro Historico.

Here's Nadia and me beside a detail of the outer wall of the House of Tiles.

May 29, 2008

The future face(s) of East Vancouver?


Three faces
Originally uploaded by stodmyk
The Mexican government is notorious for its corruption; centuries of caste-based governance and racial pressures will do that to you. (Case in point: not many people know that nearly five million Mexicans DON'T speak Spanish at all, but still speak Mayan and other native languages. You think QUEBEC has a "distinct society"?Imagine speaking frickin' MAYAN.)



In the past 15 years or so, however, they've done a marvelous job of turning some of those inequalities around. Sure, it's still a country full of desperation, poverty and injustice. But for all of those hard-working, smile-through-it-all, give-it-their-best folk who don't fit the unfair stereotypes, there's good news: it's also started to regain a lot of its glory, culture and, perhaps most important of all, hope.



At the corner of Calle Moneda and Calle Academia, this outstanding sculpture by José Luis Cuevas is a representation of the inspiring reclamation of the downtown area of Mexico City. There are dozens of these sculptures scattered throughout the region, lending public pride and touristic interest to previously downtrodden areas. A vigilant police presence and the creation of several museums in the area have helped to keep these artpieces free of vandalism and graffiti, as well.



East Van could use some projects like this, don't you think? (I'm sorry, pre-fab fibreglass bears painted up like Lydia the Tattooed Lady just don't cut it as culture.) When our museum-bound pieces are stolen for scrap metal (don't get me started on the whole Bill Reid thing), maybe street art weighing several tonnes is the answer.



Oh, that gorgeous third face in the middle is courtesy of my wife, the lovely and talented Nadia Ruiz, who remains a wonderful representation of the reclamation of my adult life. Perhaps she will also be a part of the better parts of East Van, if we ever manage to raise joint venture capital to put a down payment on a house there. (I wonder if there are any other solid gold boxes with lax security out there.)

May 27, 2008

Us at Chitzen Itza


Us at Chitzen Itza
Originally uploaded by stodmyk
Okay, I'll admit it. I haven't seen Apocalypto, and have only an amateur relationship with archaeology in general. But DAMN, was Chitzen Itza every bit the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring experience those chisel-wielding, safari hatted geeks told me it would be.

Nadia and I rented a car in Cancun, and hit Chitzen Itza on Friday, May 16.

May 26, 2008

Jonesing for the IVth film

Like most action film fans of this day & age, I knashed on Raiders of the Lost Ark and

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) -Harrison Ford still has some crack left in his bullwhip, but unfortunately he's toting on his 65-year-old shoulders a story conceived by the long-braindead George Lucas. He of the franchise-killing behemoth hasn't conceived a good story since the mid- to late-80s; that's probably why Ford refused to don the Indy Fedora for nigh on 20 years. That said, even with hamfisted period references to the late 50s, Goonies-style runaway scenes involving a small cadre of "good guys", and a storyline that would have gotten a Grade 9 creative writer shivved in the upstairs boys' room, it's fun to see Indiana Jones in action once again. This battles Temple of Doom for second place in the "best of the franchise" competition -- nothing will ever match Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that's no reason not to try once or twice more. (And I reiterate: if we can have seven different James Bonds, why not recast Jones? Ralph Fiennes would be great in the Fedora. Or hell, suave him up and give Johnny Depp a go-round as the professor. And for Pete's sake, get Lucas out of the producer's chair and get a writer worth his salt to work on the next one.)

Jonesing for the IVth Indy flick

Like most action film fans of this day & age, I knashed on Raiders of the Lost Ark long before I dropped my jaw for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) -Harrison Ford still has some crack left in his bullwhip, but unfortunately he's toting on his 65-year-old shoulders a story conceived by the long-braindead George Lucas. He of the franchise-killing behemoth hasn't conceived a good story since the mid- to late-80s; that's probably why Ford refused to don the Indy Fedora for nigh on 20 years. That said, even with hamfisted period references to the late 50s, Goonies-style runaway scenes involving a small cadre of "good guys", and a storyline that would have gotten a Grade 9 creative writer shivved in the upstairs boys' room, it's fun to see Indiana Jones in action once again. This battles Temple of Doom for second place in the "best of the franchise" competition -- nothing will ever match Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that's no reason not to try once or twice more. (And I reiterate: if we can have seven different James Bonds, why not recast Jones? Ralph Fiennes would be great in the Fedora. Or hell, suave him up and give Johnny Depp a go-round as the professor. And for Pete's sake, get Lucas out of the producer's chair and get a writer worth his salt to work on the next one.)

May 1, 2008

We were on CBC Radio, yo!

Chris Strompolos in VancouverWell, it's official. Chris Strompolos, producer of Raiders: The Adaptation, is in Vancouver and we spent most of today running around town doing media appearances and scarfing down good food far too quickly to properly appreciate it.

Chris Strompolos on Urban RushWe hit Shaw Cable's Urban Rush in the afternoon, CBC Radio One's On the Coast later on and managed to squeeze in a talk with the self-professed geekfest that is the Vancouver-produced video game and fanboy culture show, Electric Playground.

Chris Strompolos on CBC RadioI'm trying to be Zen about it — because the coverage is great!!! and it's all about the kids at Camp Good Times and the Canadian Cancer Society — but 24HRS Vancouver spelled my name incorrectly throughout this otherwise smokin' feature in the Friday morning paper.

*sigh*

Oh well. I'm not supposed to be the star of it, anyway. 

Chris Strompolos with the VTSL castChris had a good time, and was a great sport about walking all over the downtown core on two hours of sleep. We wound up the day by seeing Raiders of the Lost Improv at Vancouver TheatreSports League (how could we not check it out), thanks to Exec. Director Jay Ono who comped us into the show and gave us a wonderful plug for the crowd before the show. From left to right: Ted Cole, Nick Harrison, Chris Strompolos, Michael Tiegen, Denise Jones

Thanks to everyone who helped to put this together. Friday evenin' is all about the 3400 block of Cambie Street. It's Black Dog Video from 5 to 6, where Melinda has put together an amazing meet & greet on short notice. Then it's the Park Theatre from 6 to 7, where Storm Brew is setting us up with some excellent hops. Showtime is 7 pm sharp! After party is a possibility at Daddy-O's just up the street!


All photos in this post by Jason Kurylo. Thanks to Shaw Cable, CBC Radio and the Vancouver TheatreSports League for letting us pretty much have the run of their places while we ran around promoting our wee fundraiser.

April 23, 2008

Props to Rock-Paper-Scissors and Black Dog Video

Other than my lovely wife Nadia (kisses bebe!), two of the biggest helps thus far in putting on this movie screening (Friday May 2 at the Park Theatre, Raiders: The Adaptation, tickets $12 with proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society) have been:

Diana Frances at Rock-Paper-Scissors, a Vancouer-based corporate comedy organization and regular performer at Urban Improv on Monday nights at Chivana Restaurant. I've known her for ages (met her when I previewed A Twisted Christmas Carol for the WestEnder years ago, and she's A-1 in my book, a damned nice woman who is also one of the funniest people I know. Please support live performance!

Melinda Michalak at Black Dog Video, across the street from the Park on Cambie, and also a damned nice woman. I've just met Melinda, but she has jumped on this project with a load of enthusiasm, and given me advice, contacts and energy in an extremely short time. Please support local business!

Props all round for these two amazing people...

April 20, 2008

Raiders: The Adaptation in Vancouver May 2

I'm finding out more and more about event organization -- like, for example, that no one has a Serving it Right certificate AND wants to put their name on a one-day liquor license. Or that they use freakin' WALLPAPER GLUE to put up those posters on construction sites and posting poles downtown. But I digress.

Vancouver blogger and self-professed 'huge, geeky nerd'Shane Birley has nicely upped the show on his blog, Shane's World. It's my experience that the people least likely to actually be huge geeky nerds happen to think they fit that category. A tip of the huge, geeky hat to Shane, and I hope I get to shake his paw at the event.

Shane is a big part of Left Right Minds, a multi-service company dealing providing web development, promotions, consulting and a bunch of other services for businesses and non-profits. The biggest arts name I recognize on their roster is Uzume Taiko, the super-cool drumming group that's been (ahem) making noise the past couple of years.

Thanks again, Shane!

April 9, 2008

Tickets now available online

My Indiana Jones loving friends, now the Raiders: The Adaptation tickets are officially available on the Festival Cinemas website.

May 2, 7 pm, Park Theatre, 3440 Cambie Street. It's for charity! Tickets are $12; if we get more than 200 people, we make money for the folks who fight cancer. 500 is a full house.

Festial Cinemas

Click on the BUY TICKETS tab on the right, and look for Raiders: The Adaptation.

April 8, 2008

Raiders: The Adaptation in Vancouver May 2


Here's the official event poster for the upcoming charity movie screening of Raiders: The Adaptation. Posters should go up around town very soon.

April 2, 2008

Raiders: the Adaptation in Vancouver May 2

Doing my part for the lead up to the new Indiana Jones movie, I'm hosting the Vancouver premier screening of Raiders: The Adaptation -- it's a charity screening to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society, so I hope to have a packed house for the event.

7 pm
May 2, 2008
Park Theatre
3440 Cambie Street
Vancouver

Tickets are $12, and will be available for advance purchase -- let me know if you want to come!

April 1, 2008

There just may be a god after all

Once in a while, a news story warms the cockles of my heart. I rarely wish harm upon anyone, but if anybody deserves to be drenched in hot embers, it's fans of professional wrestling:

40 burned by WrestleMania fireworks

March 6, 2008

Numbers 3 and 4

o·ver·whelm: (ō'vər-hwělm', -wělm') tr.v.
** o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms

1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.

2. To defeat completely and decisively: Our team overwhelmed the visitors by 40 points.

3. To affect deeply in mind or emotion: Despair overwhelmed me.

4. To present with an excessive amount: They overwhelmed us with expensive gifts.

5. To turn over; upset: The small craft was overwhelmed by the enormous waves.

February 18, 2008

Louis Riel Day

It's Louis Riel Day in Manitoba (the easternmost of Canada's western provinces). Some people think Louis Riel was a traitor -- some think he was the founder of Manitoba, and more important to building Canada than John A MacDonald himself. Either way, it's a great way to heighten interest in Canadian history without yet another high school lecture on the Metis.

Everything I learned about the Northwest Rebellion in high school was presented in ultra-boring memorize-dates-and-names fashion. An annual civic holiday, perhaps alongside mandatory reading of Chester Brown's well-made graphic novel, will do more for aboriginal rights and cultural awareness than any number of ill-made 1960s National Film Board edutainmental reels.


(I love the NFB, by the way, especially for its animated shorts, but all the outdated NFB films they showed us in high school put me off Canadian history for nigh on 25 years.)

February 13, 2008

Settlers of Catan, et al

Nothing much to say about it at the moment, but I'm really enjoying board games of late.

Specifically, I'm playing Settlers of Catan ( unofficial but cool online version here), Carcassonne (which my wife and I are playing quite often, as it works well for two players, and Blokus.

Hey, don't judge. They beat the hell outta watchin' TV every waking moment.

February 6, 2008

Demetri Martin quote of the day

Sometimes, people who done tell jokes is funny people.

"A mobile home with a flat tire is a home."

-- Demetri Martin

February 5, 2008

Demetri Martin quote of the day

Demetri Martin is funny.

"Hot potato is a very different game when the players are starving. Then it's more like 'My Potato.' I've got burned fingertips, but I don't give a damn: FREE POTATO!"

-- Demetri Martin

February 4, 2008

Demetri Martin quote of the day

I was recently introduced to a New York comic whose one-liners are worthy of Stephen Wright himself. One a day, my friends, one a day:

"They call it fishin', but they should call it what it really is: trickin' and killin'."

-- Demetri Martin

February 3, 2008

Demetri Martin quote of the day

I was recently introduced to a New York comic whose one-liners are worthy of Stephen Wright himself. One a day, my friends, one a day:

"Saying 'I apologize' is the same as saying 'I'm sorry'. Unless you're at a funeral."

-- Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin quote of the day

I've just been introduced to a New York comedian, who's, well, funny, in a Stephen-Wright-at-the-piano kind of way:

"It's easy to turn any toy into an adult toy: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION."

-- Demetri Martin

Super Bowl XLII

I just don't get it.

Whether Tom Brady and the Patriots make history, or the NY Giants stop 'em in the Super Bowl, I just couldn't give a rat's ass. I mean, these are teams that play fewer than 20 games per season. Sure, any one of the guys on the Pats' offensive line could run a Sherman Tank into the ground -- and they're supposedly five kilos per hulk smaller than the Giants' O-line. But this is a league that routinely sees felons paid tens of millions per year to knock their opponents into the hospital.

Okay, most sports have bad guys. But this is a league that has drug-doping as a side salad to the game itself. Michael Vick is still revered by a lot of fans because he can run the pigskin better than most other quarterbacks, but the guy hid a dog-fighting ring on the property of his mansion. Now the poor baby can't play his favourite game any more. I'm so sad -- I'm sure he'll feel really bad flashing his bling without a weekly sweatfest in front of legions of adoring sheep.

And the whole hoopla of the game doesn't wash. There are entire fan clubs just for the advertisements unveiled during the game. Doesn't this seem odd? People are cheering, rating, and even downloading these commercials.

Don't even get me started on Alicia Keys lip-synching through the pre-game show, which might I mention started several hours before kickoff?

Call me if you can explain this whole thing.