Hall & Oates: Your choice for regularity

Today I learned that Daryl Hall is 63 years old, only 11 years younger than my mother. This just seems weird. To me he still has feathered blond hair and pastel jackets. Actually, I suppose he still might.

But it’s still weird.

My journal from 1987

I moved to Vancouver in August of 1986 and my first job was working at Expo 86. Five months later I began keeping a journal (I never called it a diary — the book has no lock so any ol’ person could leaf through it freely and I’m pretty sure a few certain people have). I diligently wrote in it every day, even on days when I had nothing to say. It seemed important at the time.

From time to time I’m going to post entries from way back when, to look back on what kind of bright-eyed idealistic dummy I was at the age of 22.

A snippet to start, from January 22, 1987:

Will someone put arsenic in Mariette Hartley’s Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea…PLEASE!! After viewing her in that commercial only twice (during 20/20) I am ready to throw any number of blunt objects at the TV in the vague hope that through some weird freak of science, said objects will suddenly materialize before Ms Hartley and knock her front teeth out, thus cutting her grating, perky cute quotient down from two hundred trillion to something intolerably unbearable (which would be an improvement).

Such anger — although I think I nailed her perkiness fairly accurately. I was also gauche enough back then to use two exclamation points. Never again!

A dry run

Now that it is getting cooler out, the ol’ furnace is being fired up after a long summer slumber. As always, the air in my place dries out considerably when this happens and there’s a period of adjustment that lasts about a week where my throat gets a bit sore and my sinuses act up. It was under those conditions that I ran today, a day behind schedule.

As it turned out, they proved to be a non-factor. Under an overcast sky I ran my:

  • farthest distance: 6.65 km (previous: 6.6 km)
  • fastest overall pace: 5:17/km (previous: 5:19/km)

This marked the first time I made it well past the fountain (still not working) — I actually came close to the starting line, so that will be a future goal.

No remarkable incidents otherwise occurred during the run.

Reviews: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot & Third Man Out

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Last night I went to a staged reading of The Trial of Judas Iscariot, a  joint production with Pound of Flesh Theatre and presented at Pacific Theatre. I’d never been to the venue before at 12th and Hemlock. It’s a converted space in the basement of a church that used to house a swimming pool. Instead of the traditional stage/audience divide, the audience is split into two halves, with the small stage sandwiched in-between. The actors can enter and exit on three sides, two leading them under the audience. The theatre was intimate, which was pleasant enough and also rather warm and stuffy, which was less pleasant.

The Trial is an odd bit of theater and was presented in an equally unusual manner — Ron Reed, the artistic director, came onstage before the show to explain that the actors, who had been working with the script for a scant two and a half days, would be bringing said script onstage with them. Costumes would be minimal or suggested, as would props and scenery. Surprisingly, the performances were for the most part wonderfully tight, with only one notable (and actually funny) pause as one actor suddenly realized she was forgetting a single word and had to pause to find it on the page before continuing.

The play is an abstraction that puts Judas on trial for his betrayal of Jesus and instead of having a historical setting, it is instead presented in the modern day, with figures from the past ranging from Pontius Pilate to Mother Teresa and Freud mingling in a courtroom where the prosecution seems destined for Hell and the defense doesn’t seem squeaky clean, either. The first act rolls along quickly, with some very funny turns by Marcus Youssef as the sycophantic prosecutor, trying to stave off a trip to Hell while proving how Judas deserves to stay there and Michael Kopsa as Satan (“Call me Lou”), who metaphorically shifts forms throughout, from aw shucks nice guy to the one condemning you to an eternity of damnation without a glimmer of delight to be seen.

The auditorium doors had signs warning of extreme vulgar language and that warning is earned. This was stuff that could peel the paint off of Tarantino’s living room, yet it rarely felt gratuitous.

However, I ultimately left disappointed because despite some terrific performances and a strong, even rollicking first act, the second act’s pace slows noticeably as the characters indulge in longer and more serious monologues, all to service The Serious Message being presented about the nature of forgiveness. Eventually it felt like I’d stumbled into the Biblical equivalent of a Very Special Episode of Blossom. I am pretty tired of this kind of inconsistent and indulgent tone in stories, whatever the format, because it feels nakedly manipulative — stringing the audience along with “cheap” laughs in order to hit them with that oh-so-powerful sucker punch later — the Serious Message. There is certainly nothing wrong in exploring serious themes and I love a good drama as much as anyone, but this was less getting-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter and more eating a coconut cream pie only to find a slab of liver at the bottom.

Third Man Out

Third Man Out is a 2005 movie featuring the gay PI Donald Strachey, played by Chad “Yeah, that was me in the hot tub” Allen, who wears the role well. A user review on IMDB sums the film up appropriately as a gay twist on the old Nick and Nora movies. Mixing light banter with a murder mystery and all of it set against the hidden and not-so-hidden gay milieu around Albany, NY, the first installment rolls along smoothly, with plenty o’ beefcake to keep those less interested in whodunnit engaged while dropping in enough red herrings to keep everyone else watching. You could tell it was shot in Vancouver not just because of glimpses of places like Esso stations but also the fact that it was raining in nearly every damn scene. It may be difficult to track down the remaining movies in the series (four total so far) but I shall try!

Time to bash The Province again, whee!

While the Canwest media empire struggles to keep itself afloat amidst a huge load of debt, The Province continues to demonstrate why it was the newspaper I chose to mock back when I was studying journalism in college.

Today’s front page headline:

The story is about how Google Street Views has come to Vancouver (as I noted yesterday) and the front page tries to paint some scary picture of privacy being invaded. The Google images automatically blur license plates and faces, so the privacy concerns seem minimal at best. But that’s not something you put on the front page to evoke paranoia, is it? Anytime you get cash from an ATM, fill up your vehicle with gas, stroll though a mall, train station or airport, you are already being recorded, so the notion that you have any real privacy whilst out in public is unrealistic at best. It’s not news and hasn’t been for some time. Sure, there could be a thoughtful column pondering the increasing intrusion of cameras into public life but where’s the hysteria angle in that?

While grabbing a quick snack before attending a play last night, I picked up a copy of The Province that was handy and thumbed through it, finally landing on the op-ed pages. There was a signed editorial piece about how everyone loves Stephen Harper after his musical debut at a gala a few nights back. A pro-Harper editorial. Quite the shocker, it must be said. On the opposite page was the Letters to the Editor except it’s now called Backtalk (with the B cleverly reversed; alas, I cannot reproduce the effect here). Each letter, though given the brevity, it might be more accurate to call them letterettes, is presented under a sentence referencing the original story (ie. “Council plans to install nuclear warheads on city hall roof”) and is signed by, well, whatever the person wants. One letterling was signed by Joe the Plumber. There is no indication of location, so I’m not sure if Joe hails from Vancouver, Surrey or Madagascar.

In essence, The Province letters section, apparently culled from submissions to their website, amounts to anonymous soundbites of unknown origin. I remember some years ago I had several letters to The Vancouver Sun published, back when I was a regular reader. One of them was in response to a screed by their resident homophobe, Trevor Lautens. Lautens had written a typically despicable column and being full of youth and outrage, I penned an objection that they saw fit to put in the paper. They verified my name and address first. Yes, back then, The Sun not only put your name to what you wrote, but your actual street address (the last time I checked, they had modified that to simply your city). Today in The Province the reader comments are little more than worthless filler and even the page’s name — Backtalk — seems to acknowledge an expected tone of anger or dismissal because thoughtful responses that demonstrate an open mind and critical thinking are silly!

I am not hoping for a Canwest bailout that includes saving The Province.

I can see my house from here!

Google Street View has come to Vancouver. It’s kind of weird being able to take a 3D stroll of your neighborhood.

View Larger Map

The link above will show you exactly where I live. What’s even better is you can see Tim though the window sitting out back. Swing around and one of the neighbors is standing on the boulevard, no doubt with a “WTF?” look on her face as the camera car went rolling by.

It’s not perfect, though. At the 1200 block it suddenly jumps from the street to the alley behind our street, then at the 1100 block switches back to the street view again.

Running to stand still

The run at 4 p.m. was under a cloudy sky, with the temperature a bit on the cool side, around 12ºC. I decided to wear my light jacket but probably could have managed with just the t-shirt. I didn’t feel overheated, at least.

Not because of the jacket, anyway.

I lapsed on several fronts — my average pace was a lowly 5.28/km and total distance was 6.42 km — but I also had my fastest km and mile at 4:50/km and 7:59/mile (breaking the 8-minute mark for the first time). In automotive vernacular I think I blew a piston. By the 7 or 8 minute mark I could feel pain up the middle of my chest and my breathing because very loud and labored — even over the music of the iPod. I wasn’t sure I’d make it to 15 minutes, much less 35 but I slowed my pace and kept on and ended up bringing my time down for the final half-km so the graph of the run looks like a bowl.

By putting so much into a fast start I dragged down my total run. Coming off two days of rest probably slowed me down a tic or two, as well. On the one hand, the faster km and mile are nice. On the other, coming up short on the distance is irritating — and you know you’re falling short before it happens because I know pretty much exactly where I should be on the trail at most of the time intervals. When the nice iPod lady called out five minutes I knew I was off the pace and would have to pick it up a good bit to close the gap and my body was all “Oh ho, I don’t think so, mister!”

And the fountain still wasn’t working.

I think I’m going to move to 5 runs a week next week and see how that goes.

M(icky) Mouse

These are apparently concept sketches for an upcoming game featuring Mickey Mouse for the Nintendo Wii. The game, called Epic Mickey, is being headed up by Warren Spector, who has worked previously on the decidedly un-childlike games Thief and Deus Ex. As you can see, the world being portrayed appears to be a bit dark. Much like the movie 9, this stuff would probably give little kids (a presumed target audience for the game) nightmares. I approve!

More art can be found here.

Why I generally avoid the bus

Today I was riding the bus back home and being a Sunday, the trip frequency is reduced so that means every bus is crowded. Sure enough, the #19 was packed, though I lucked out and got a seat when I got on downtown. Eventually the standing-only room fills up and this rather large gentleman ends up parked beside me. When I say “rather large” I mean he is about as overweight as I weigh in total (that being 150 pounds). His belly is bulbous in a way that suggests he has recently consumed whole and intact a small planetoid. He is wearing a powder blue polo shirt and gray sweatpants. The vast expanse of the shirt does a brave job of mostly covering his upper body but the pinkish white flesh of his gut can be spied jutting out over the protesting waistband of the sweatpants.

Let me back up a bit. I don’t dislike fat people. We each all must come to terms with our individual lifestyles. Some of us cannot lose weight due to medical conditions, others because they think fat and chocolate are recognized food groups. Hey, whatever floats your (gravy) boat, I say. I do not judge, even after discovering that a sensible diet will indeed lead you to the prescribed weight for your given body type.

If you’re fat, I only ask one thing: keep that tremendously huge gut of yours out of my face when I’m on the bus. It makes me nervous.

The fat guy pulls out a cell phone and begins talking in a very loud manner. This is hardly unusual, as most people use A VERY LOUD TONE WHEN TALKING ON A CELL PHONE IN PUBLIC. I’m hoping technology will eventually solve whatever is causing this to happen. I glance up briefly. He is holding the phone with short fat fingers and the nails on each are trimmed. I know, you’re probably wondering why I am taking in so much of a person I apparently find kind of yucky. It was just a glance, really, then I noticed that the pinky finger of his right hand did not have a trimmed nail. In fact, the nail was quite long — as long as the nail on the finger itself. The words popped into my mind instantly: the scoop. That nail was deliberately left to grow long so it could serve as a scoop that would operate in the nostril mine, digging into the lodes and pulling out deposits, to be delivered to the awaiting truck — or as we call commonly call it, the mouth.

Blargh.

He moved after a few minutes to the rear exit, a popular place for people on the bus to gather when they are not planning on getting off any time soon. Blocking the exit sticks it to the man, I guess. He puts away the cell phone and puts on some MP3 player and begins listening to music AT A VOLUME THAT EVEN PETE TOWNSEND COULD STILL HEAR. When I get off the bus, I manage to slip my skinny frame by without making body contact and in this H1N1 world, I consider it a victory.

And I think again about why I generally avoid the bus.

Review: Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is good. If you’re a Tarantino fan you should see it. If you’re not, you should see it, anyway, because it’s a fun ride that doesn’t feel anything like it’s 2 hour and 48 minute running time.

While a lot of the Tarantino trademarks are in place — talky characters, explicit violence — the WWII setting and lengthy subtitled exchanges give the film a texture that sets it apart from the likes of Pulp Fiction or Deathproof. A number of scenes expertly play off the tension of what the characters aren’t saying, pleasant conversation masking the fear of spies being exposed or plots getting unraveled. And how can you not like a movie that introduces Hitler wearing a flowing white cape like some kind of comic super villain?

Brad Pitt is terrific as the smart and calmly sadistic leader of the Basterds, approaching his tasks with a laidback, down home charm — right up until the scalping starts. His scene in the lobby of the theater where he attempts Italian is hilarious, one of the few where the tension and comedy come together.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I had no idea how the final scene was going to play out. There comes a point where the story must turn one way or the other based on historical events and the way Tarantino chooses to go is interesting, to say the least.

A bloody thumbs up.

The Competition

Today’s run was around 11 a.m. on a cool but sunny Saturday (around 12ºC). I opted to go with just the usual short and t-shirt and will confess my hands felt like a pair of ice mitts by the time I got to the park. I resisted the urge to overdress and rightly so — I was sweating lightly within a few minutes.

However, in my rush out the door I had forgotten to make a stop in the loo and by the time I was at China Creek, my bladder was pointedly reminding me of this fact. A port-a-potty had been placed at the northwest corner of the park as part of a pilot project (a sign explained that it might be removed at the end of the month, based on public reaction).

Now, portable toilets are one of those things that are gross. No one ever says, “Wow, that sure was a nice port-a-potty!” You hold your nose, go in and do your thing as quickly as possible and without touching anything. I braced myself and opened the door. To my surprise, there was no odor at all, despite evidence that the toilet had indeed been used. I speculate the chemicals used to completely remove all trace of foul smell must be the kind powerful enough to bore straight through to the molten core of the planet and the toilet itself must therefore be made from the fused material collected from said core. There is no other explanation.

As usual, the start of the run was good but I was feeling a little logey by the 15 minute mark. It was also then that a shoelace came untied and I had to pause the workout to tie it, lest I stop running and do more falling on my face. There was a soccer practice/game underway and at one point an errant soccer ball made its way onto the path ahead of me. Today I would need to be vigilant not for delinquent girls but rogue sporting equipment. I continued on and right near the 5-minute mark a fellow jogger passed me. As you know, this is the official sign that It Is On. He widened the gap between us a little but not by much. I turned it up a notch, closing the gap and then passing him.

At the 2-minute mark The Competition passed me again. At this point in the run I am on my final lap and usually pick up the pace for the finish. The Competition was increasing his position ahead of me and it flickered through my mind that I may have to cede him the victory. But then I looked to the fountain by the path and realized that I was within reach of it — something I had never done before on the final lap. The Competition’s pace then flagged slightly, perhaps due to being comfortable with the lead or maybe due to tiredness. It didn’t matter. I turned on the afterburners. I intended to pass him and reach the fountain before the nice lady in my iPod announced the 35 minutes was up.

I felt good at this point — my stamina was easily keeping pace, the second wind having kicked in a few minutes earlier. My calves were holding up. The space between us began to shrink. I entered the final bend at the southwest corner of the trail, the fountain mere meters ahead on the right. I caught up and then strode ahead of him, reaching the fountain as I did so. A moment later, as if on cue, the iPod lady announced 35 minutes up, run complete. I came to a halt, allowing The Competition to pass me. He probably thought I was dicking around with him at this point. Just a coincidence, though — this time!

I went to get a victory drink from the fountain and found it wasn’t working. My one defeat.

I achieved a raft of personal bests on this run and Lance “I did not take steroids” Armstrong came on the offer his congrats. In all, I had my:

  • fastest km — 4.54/km (previous: 4:58)
  • fastest average km — 5.19/km (previous: 5:23)
  • greatest overall distance — 6.6 km (previous: 6.53)

Overall I have to say I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I feel pretty good tonight, too — none of my body parts are screaming at me.

I’d buy that for $18.99

It was 24 years ago that I bought my first CD. It cost $18.99 and I got it at Duncan Radio & Electronics, which according to Google still exists as Duncan Electronics. Given the move to big box stores and the nature of change, I am astonished this little store has apparently made it well into the 21st century.

That CD was Songs From the Big Chair by Tears For Fears. I still have the disc today, though it’s actually a reprint with bonus songs. I am a bit surprised that the format hasn’t been replaced by something else in the quarter century that it’s been around. Oh, there have been a few attempts — the Super Audio CD and DVD Audio come to mind — but neither gained any traction, probably because a) the average person couldn’t hear a difference and b) the discs were the same format as CDs, which again leads a lot of non-technophiles to conclude “How could it be better?”

But the CD has been effectively replaced in many ways by the digital music file, typically the MP3 (or MP4/AAC format that Apple uses on iTunes). I normally kept my MP3 purchases to a few one-offs that I had a nostalgic hankering for but when Apple removed the DRM from most purchases earlier this year and doubled the bitrate from 128 to 256 (which is close enough to CD quality than anyone but an audiophile is likely to be satisfied), I started buying whole albums online. I do miss the physical media mainly due to the absence of liner notes (some albums include a PDF file which includes them, which is nice) but on the plus side,  I can get an album in a few minutes with no travel and typically pay less, as well.

I still hate that godawful faux brushed metal look on iTunes, though. Apple’s interfaces tend to be sublime or pretty awful. iTunes would fall into the latter category.