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.

Jogging: Of midgets and mud

After over-exerting my calves with last Friday’s run, I opted to delay Monday’s run to Tuesday morning. It was cool and a bit showery so I wore a jacket for the first time since starting. Across from the park a truck was unloading at a warehouse, so coming around the northeast corner of the trail I was met with the smell of diesel. Bleah. That was soon replaced, however, as the big metal doors were rolled up to accept delivery. As mentioned before, it’s a fish warehouse, so the ripe smell of raw fish was soon wafting over into the park. Fortunately with little wind to move it, it mostly hung to the one side of the trail. The run itself was deliberately low key to insure I did not re-injure my tender calves.

I had an annoying pain in my abdomen that had plagued me Tuesday night. It seemed unrelated to running since it didn’t hit until after I was in bed, which leads me to wonder how exactly I sleep. A webcam could shed disturbing and possibly amusing light on this but I think I’ll not go there. The pulled abdominal muscle delayed my usual Wednesday run to today (Thursday) but with the muscle no longer bothering me, I decided to push myself a little harder. Success came as I clocked my fastest km, breaking my previous mark of 5:01 by coming in at 4:58 and also my fastest mile, which my iPod informed me of at the end of the run via the voice of Tiger Woods. As we all know, golfers are pretty hardcore athletes. My overall distance was 6.52, a shade off my best of 6.53 and close enough to be a draw. I am going to try to do my usual Friday run so we’ll see how it goes with 24 hours between runs instead of the usual 48 or so.

Regarding the midgets and mud: the trail was a bit soft in a few spots due to earlier rain but it didn’t present a problem. Likewise, the wee lads playing soccer for the first half of my run did not punt a ball at my head, so all was well there. At a glance they really do look like midgets in their striped uniforms and shorts. Given that it was cool, cloudy and threatening to rain, I was the only one out on the trail jogging, though a few people were walking their dogs, none of which ran in my way and threatened to knock me down. Good boy(s)!

Time to write

I have declared October another”post every day to the blog” month in an effort to keep my writing flowing in some shape or form. I will even endeavor to have something worth saying on most days. We’ll see how that goes come Halloween (which has been advertised for weeks already in stores, fighting for space with the “back to school” stuff).

When the carrot on the stick has two legs

Here are the plans for tracking my runs, as I alluded to in a previous entry. I’m using the Nike+ system, which you can get a look at on Apple’s website. It requires:

  • iPod nano, iTouch 2.0 or IPhone 3GS
  • Nike + iPod Sport Kit
  • Nike + shoes

You don’t need to spend $150 or so on the shoes as a number of companies sell pouches that attach to the laces of whatever shoes you own, allowing you to insert the sensor in a secure fashion that prevents your wallet from crying, a definite bonus.

I have a nano and found setup very simple. I opted for the default female voice who perkily counts off the time in five minute increments and kept the distance to kilometers since I am working around the idea of 5k runs. My first run, set to 30 minutes, went without any hitches last Friday. This week I moved up to 35 minutes and created a few unofficial goals for myself based on Monday’s run. On that day I ran 6.48 km at an average pace of 5:27/km. My fastest pace was 5:12/km. On Friday I improved the distance to 6.53 km, the pace to 5.23/km and fastest pace to 5.01/km, just missing my goal of 5 minutes even.

Nothing comes without a price, though, and my calves, already stiff going into the run, were what scientists call “really really sore” even before I had completed the run. I definitely exerted them in a way I didn’t intend to, but now I have a much better idea of where my limits are and I can begin working toward improving my speed and time without yoinking my muscles silly in the process. On the plus side, my stamina held up nicely and if I had been running at a consistent pace instead of bursting the first and last few laps, I could have kept going without any problem.

I find one of the best motivators when jogging is to have someone on the path ahead of me. I always want to pass them. In most cases I do, so yay me. On Friday a guy started jogging ahead of me and I was already a good six or seven laps in, so not exactly bursting with energy. I decided to at least keep pace with him but eventually decided to pass. About half a lap later the cheeky bugger then passes me and it was on. If you pass someone and they later pass you, you are now dueling. It’s like the law of running. I picked up the pace, opting to get close to judge whether he would start flagging or not. He kept moving steadily along and we neared the northeast corner of the path where it dips down into a bend and then back up. There was a woman ahead of us doing the equivalent of Grandma driving below the speed limit. She was on the right, he was on the left and the gap between them was rapidly closing. I made my move and burst ahead into the dip, picking up speed and putting a little distance between myself and my duelist. I didn’t check back but I think he stopped not too long after. It didn’t matter. I had won. Woo!

This is what endorphins do to you.

I’m undecided on next week’s course of action, but will likely continue on the 35 minute runs, looking to improve my performance while avoiding injury. A summary of my last five runs is now available on the right side of the blog near the bottom. It looks just like this (and for some reason seems to gently inflate the results):

The last day of summer

I like summer. It’s my favorite season for many reasons:

  • it’s mostly sunny and warm
  • men can walk around without their shirts on
  • there are no stupid holidays for stores to promote (“back to school” doesn’t count)
  • everything is green, growing and vibrant
  • there’s a ton o’ outdoor events throughout the city
  • even bad dates can at least include a nice walk

Today was the last day of summer. It was sunny and warm, as it has been nearly the entire summer. I shall miss these days as it cools, the leaves turn, the men put their shirts back on and the rain begins again in earnest.

10 things people will always complain about

  1. Politics
  2. Taxes
  3. Their supervisor/co-worker/job
  4. The decline of manners/common courtesy/civilization
  5. The price of gas
  6. The other driver
  7. Ads before movies
  8. Ads before anything
  9. “Kids these days”
  10. The lack of a save mechanism before boss fights*

* okay, maybe not everyone will complain about this one, but everyone should

Birthday #45!

I don’t complain about birthdays because not having one is much worse than having one. Today is my birthday.

I believe I am at the point now where it is recommend to represent the years on the cake via numbers than through actual candles, to reduce the risk of fire. I console myself by noting I’m in way better shape that when I was 25. Slightly more stylish, too.

I celebrated my birthday by going downtown at noon to the anti-HST rally at Canada Place. I’ll elaborate on that more in a separate post. For now, I will mark my past year on the planet with cake-eating pig. Hooray!

birthday_pig_cake

All Dogs Go to China Creek Park

On Friday there were more dogs at China Creek Park than I’d ever seen in four months of jogging there. It was weird, like it was some sort of Take Your Dog to the Park Or Else day. I always keep my eye on dogs when I’m running, especially the ones not on leashes (about half of them, typically) because, like gravel-throwing little girls you never know when a dog might do something you don’t expect. As it turns out, a chocolate lab came running up from behind and on my left and I didn’t see him until he was cutting in front of me close enough for a little dog-human contact. If he’d been a toy dog I probably would have crushed him under a foot. Unintentionally, I mean.

The actual jog went fairly dismally even if you don’t count dog collisions, as I checked my time at only 19 minutes in and called it quits just short of 23. I’d skipped the previous jog due to tender muscles around the shins and man, even skipping one run is noticeable.

Today’s went significantly better, however. I ran for 31:46 and have decided to add an extra minute onto each run for awhile and see how it goes. I have some plans for tracking distance and time that I may be implementing soon.

Reviews: Potter and a pair of 9s

A strangely packed week of movies, as I saw three (!):

District 9: This gorily violent science fiction film starts with a mothership containing a million or so “refugee aliens” parking over Johannesburg, South Africa. Defenseless, the aliens (derisively referred to as prawns) are put into a camp below the ship known as District 9. 20 years later the district is a huge slum and a private military contractor is tasked with moving the aliens to a new camp 200 miles away from the city (and conveniently out of sight). The movie starts with the mass eviction and follows as the head of the eviction plan gets a little closer than he’d like to the aliens and ultimately finds himself sympathetic to their plight.

Shot in a pseudo-documentary style, the movie is brutal, at turns funny and pulls off the neat trick of engaging and holding the viewer when none of the characters initially are even likable. Smart and incisive (especially in its portrayal of the ugly world of private military contractors and their ethics — or lack thereof), the only criticism I have of the film is the way it relies on a few “in the nick of time” moments to keep things moving along but these are quibbles. Highly recommended.

9: This animated post-apocalyptic film features an alternate history where machines built for war turn on their human masters, Terminator-style, wiping out all life. The only “survivors” are nine small burlap dolls who are strangely sentient. The movie follows as they fight to survive against the few remaining machines and ultimately explains how they came to be. Each of the nine is a stereotype — the set-in-his-ways old leader, the cruel, unthinking muscle, the “crazy” guy (voiced by Crispin Glover, naturally) and so on — but by movie’s end the stereotypes are actually explained in a way that works. What may not work for some is the somewhat esoteric ending that veers toward metaphysical, leaving a lot up to the viewer to decide. I actually found myself agreeing with a fairly solid criticism of the ending and yet it didn’t hurt my reaction to the film overall. The world it creates is dazzlingly presented and the machines are a nightmarish blend of mechanical and organic, with spiders, skulls, scissors and sinewy red string leading the way. Any parent taking a young kid to this film probably guaranteed the little bugger having nightmares for a week. :P Recommended.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: (some spoilers follow, if you care about that sort of thing) I have not read the books so I don’t know what’s been left behind in adapting them to the screen, though I understand with each successive novel getting longer, the writers are being more challenged in what to keep in the films to present a coherent story. Since the title mentions a Half-Blood Prince, I figure he’s going to be prominent to the story. Eventually there is a scene where Harry grabs a potion book and the inside cover reveals it is the property of the Half-Blood Prince. A-ha, I think! I wait for an elaboration on this. Late in the movie Snape, waving his wand all nasty-like at Harry, reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince. And that’s pretty much it. It felt like a major chunk of the story went missing and we got a Quidditch game thrown in instead. Dumbledore’s demise was also telegraphed so blatantly I almost expected to see a bullseye painted on his robes. The least-satisfying Harry Potter movie to date. It’s not horrible, though, and the young cast remains capable and engaging.

A good summation on playing Risk

I always sucked when playing Risk as a kid. It’s not a complex game but it does involve some math and I’m like Barbie when it comes to math — I’d rather go shopping. And I don’t even like shopping. The worst part is probably the Machiavellian maneuvers required to form and break alliances with others in order to conquer and achieve ultimate victory. I’m a nice guy, I just want to get along. The mentality doesn’t fit a war game well. While this quote from Quarter to Three’s gaming forum doesn’t reflect my own personal experience playing Risk, it does nicely cover how the game affects some people:

I have been so traumatized by Risk, I don’t even know where to begin. Games never ended without someone in tears. The last game of Risk I played, I was getting pummeled by my 10 year old cousin. In a huff, I started crying and threw my cards at her and quit.

I was 21.

On the flipside, I have fond memories of Careers, though I can barely recall any details of the game. I do remember we had the groovy version that included the Ecology career. Oh, those nutty 70s! boardgamegeek.com has an image of it here.

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