Sunday, October 22, 2006

I am deranged but so, so playful.......

This weekend was JB's annual trip with "the boys" to Buffalo, NY to see the Buffalo Bills play the New England Patriots. I was scheduled to go in to work on Saturday evening but for the remainder of the weekend I planned on just watching movies and vegging out. Being the oncall Manager for work, this weekend, I ended up getting called on Friday night and was up until 4am due to an outage. I went to bed and woke up late Saturday morning. I Dropped JB off at his buddies house in the early afternoon, as they were car pooling to Buffalo. I knew I had a few hours to kill before I went back to work so, I made some 9 bean soup and a pot of tea and clicked on the TV. I was lying on the sofa and had the TV on The Movie Network. A movie was just starting and I noticed it was directed by Liev Schreiber. Now I am a huge fan of Liev Schrieber, the actor. He is one of those actors who reminds me of the old school actors from the 1930's and 40's. He has a fantastic voice and as all good actors you never really see him "act". He has been in some great films and stage shows so I was intrigued that he had Directed and written the screenplay for this film. I thought "what the hell, there is nothing else on. I will watch this film"

Boy am I glad I did. It was one of the most lovely and entertaining films I have seen in a very long time. The movie is called "Everything is Illuminated". It is based on a novel written by Johnathan Safran Froer. The story is about a young Jewish American man who endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village, that was ultimately razed by the Nazis, with the help of a local who speaks weirdly funny broken English. The three, plus grandfather's deranged dog, travel in an old car from Odessa into Ukraine's heart. The film does an amazing job of showing the sweeping landscapes of Ukraine. I remember my father telling me that when he was growing up, the Ukraine was known as "the bread basket of Europe" with never ending fields of wheat and never ending farmland. The film does a great job of capturing this beautiful landscape. It is a perfect backdrop for the three men, with dog, as they travel within the heart of Ukraine on their quest.

I thought Elijah Wood was perfect as the lead character Johnathan, who collects bizarre items in ziploc bags and has more phobias than a Woody Allen character. But the stars of the film, for me, were Eugene Hutz as Alex, Johnathan's guide and Alex's Grandfather's dog or "Officious Seeing Eye Bitch" named Sammy Davis Junior, Junior. Eugene Hutz, as Alex is a larger and funnier version/combination of "Boris" from the Smirnoff ice ads and one of the "wild and crazy guys" from SNL(Saturday Night Live).

This is a movie I could watch again and again. It even has a cool soundtrack which includes Eugene Hutz's band "Gogol Bordello". If you have a chance to rent this film, do so. You will not be disappointed.

Trailer for movie

Quote of the Day:

Alex: [referring to the dog] This is Sammy Davis Jr. Jr... She is Grandfather's Seeing Eye bitch. Father purchased her for him not because he believes Grandfather is blind, but because a Seeing Eye bitch is also a good thing for people who pine for the opposite of loneliness. In truth, Father did not purchase her at all, but merely retrieved her from the home for forgetful dogs. Because of this, she is not a real Seeing Eye bitch, and is also mentally deranged.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Even Hef lets the Bunnies speak once in a while......

The smiling woman to your left is the Canadian Minister of the Environment, Ms. Rona Ambrose. I was going to make this blog a rant on how we have the most boring Prime Minister of any Prime Minister Canada has ever had. I was going to rant about the fact that on the day our Prime Minister and his government axed $17.7 million from the human resources department's Adult Learning and Literacy Skills Program as part of a wave of spending cuts. His wife Laureen was out on the streets of Ottawa, clad in a yellow T-shirt and handing out newspapers in the drizzle as part of a CanWest media company literacy promotion.

There is just so much to rant about when it comes to Mr. Harper and his Government.

But, my real concern/rant of late is about the Governments new "Clean Air Act" and the apparent lack of urgency that our Government appears to have in fixing our environment in general. It is quite concerning. It is clear that our Minister of the Environment has and is basically undermining our work with the Kyoto Agreement. Canada will miss its second deadline this week to put forward a Kyoto plan. Instead she decided to have a press conference with Prime Minister Harper on the Governments supposed "Clean Air Act". An act where Ms. Ambrose has opted for and suggests the use of Intensity-based targets rather than a ban on greenhouse gas emissions. This means environmental emissions would be relative to the economic output of various industries. That means even though individual emission limits for each barrel of oil or piece of coal could be lowered, if production increases, the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants could grow.

Many environmentalists believe capping greenhouse gas emissions is key to tackling climate change. Critics of intensity-based targets say the approach allows heavily polluting industries, such as Alberta's oilsands, to continue to grow and pollute, while remaining under government-imposed limitations.

Hmm should we be suspicious that this woman is from Alberta? Should we be concerned that she wasn't allowed to discuss her plans at a recent press conference and that the Prime Minister did all the speaking for her. Should we be concerend that when on the hot seat about Kyoto and greenhouse gas emissions she blamed the previous government and further went on to state that the Liberal government had spent "at least $100 million" in foreign carbon credits. When the real number was, well, ZERO! And to think she's in charge of setting new policy on an issue that may be critical not just to Canada's international reputation, but also to the future state of the world.

Anyway, rather than me rant on anymore about it. Watch Rick Mercer's rant from this weeks show. "The Mercer Report" is a weekly show hosted by Rick and he is one of the great Canadian comedians and political satirists. He has a knack for clearly expressing what a lot of Canadians are thinking. Check out the video clip. If it doesn't load go to the Mercer Report and click on "Rick's rant for the week". I am lousy at setting up video links on this blog.

Quote of the Day:

“Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together” Johnathan Swift

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Uisge gu Leoir (Whisky Galore, for you non Gaelic speakers)

Growing up we watched a lot of movies. My Parents were bonified film junkies. My Father would give us lessons on why certain films were so great. We would watch what are now considered some of the greatest classics made and as a result we have grown up to appreciate the cinema. When we were very small my parents would take us to the drive in. Being the practical parents they were, they would take us to the drive-in in our PJ's, so that they could catch the latest flicks or blockbusters from the early 1970's and we got tired and fell asleep in the back seat of the car, we were already ready for bed when they got us all home. My Father would take my sister and I to see some of the great classic films of the 1970's. I think he would tell my Mother that he was taking us to see the latest kids flick when instead we saw Godfather, Godfather II, And Justice for All (my dad loved Pacino and Brando), All the Presidents Men. My father obviously felt our little minds could handle the not so child friendly scripts and violence in some of these films. But then we were of the era of "Bugs Bunny, Road Runner Hour" cartoon era.

Both my Parents were fans of the Director, Alexander MacKendrick. Alexander McKendrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1912 and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1941 Mackendrick was sent to North Africa, then Italy as part of the psychological warfare division shooting newsreels and documentary coverage as well as working on leaflets and radio news for the Allied commando effort. When Rome was liberated in 1943, Mackendrick was made director of the film unit and one of the projects he approved was Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945), a film that owes much to its documentary footage. In 1946 he was offered a contract with Ealing Studios, a relatively emerging production company that brought hope for Britain's movie culture by dominating the 1950s with its peculiar brand of comedy. Ealing Studios churned out some of the best classic British Films such as "The Man in the White Suit", "The Lady Killers", "Passport to Pimlico", "Kind Hearts and Coronets", "The Lavender Hill Mob" and one of my Mother's favorite films "The Blue Lamp". The title of the film refers to the blue lamp which traditionally hung outside British Police Stations.

While at Ealing Studios, MacKendrick directed the classics "The Man in the White Suit", "The Lady Killers". In 1957 he also directed, though not for Ealing, "The Sweet Smell of Success" a film noir classic and another one of my Father's favorite films as not only was it directed by MacKendrick but it also starred Burt Lancaster. A favorite actor of my dad's.

But, the MacKendrick film that has that special place in my heart and always reminds me of the great times I had watching movies with my parents was the film "Whisky Galore". "Whisky Galore" is the first movie MacKendrick directed for Ealing studios. The film was based on the story, written by Compton MacKenzie and Compton MacKenzie's story was based on a real-life incident that occurred in 1941 on the Hebridean island of Eriskay when the S.S. Politician ran aground. The famous tale of how a group of local Scottish islanders raided a shipwreck for its consignment of 24,000 cases of whisky has grown into a legend.

The film is a gem. It is considered one of Ealing Stuidios best comedies. An ensemble comedy that focuses on the moral obligations of a tiny Scottish village after the steamer S.S. Politician crashes on shore leaving an unguarded cargo of whisky, was both a British and international success. Soon Ealing, aided by Mackendrick, was well on its way to leading the revival of the national cinema. The story fit within the studio formula of an eccentric group dealing with an extraordinary situation, and its unassuming humor benefits from the peculiarities of its townsfolk. Particularly from the pompous naivety of the English Captain Waggett (Basil Radford) who declares himself as the voice of reason and attempts to stop the town from raiding the ship. The first Ealing film to be shot on location on the isolated island of Barra, a documentary-style approach captures the villagers in daily routine: farming, working around the house, congregating at the local pub. Once a shortage of whisky occurs, the town plunges into desperation, and the bucolic Scottish tranquility is shattered by a cry of “There is no whisky!” The whisky is subsequently recovered, and they work together with crafty strategies to dupe the Englishman. Notions of tradition and propriety, however, prevent the townsfolk from turning into a violent mob and overthrowing Waggett.

Over the years, I have been searching and searching for any copy I could find of "Whisky Galore" as it is never shown on TV, here in Canada. I would search EBay and debate purchasing what looked like shady, illegal copies and many VHS copies,prior to DVD's were not compatible with North American players. I would drag JB into vintage video stores to see if they could obtain a copy for me. I was determined but never had any luck. Finally, I just gave up a couple of years ago and reasoned "surely some company is going to re-release this film and some of the other Ealing classics" and I will just have to wait.

It's been more than a couple of years that I have even attempted to resurrect the search for a copy of the film but I am happy to report that my search has finally ended. Last night while perusing through I was doing my usual circuitous searching. Starting at books by Hoffer, to new jazz releases to Christams CD's then on to classic films on DVD. I noticed that "Sweet Smell of Success" was newly packaged into a DVD and then I thought "hmmmmm, "sweet smell of success...Alexander MacKendrick....I wonder....WHISKY GALORE!!!" I clicked on the name Alexander MacKendrick and waited with bated breath and up popped I couldn't believe my luck. There staring at me was the lovely face of the actress Joan Greenwood superimposed on a whisky bottle. I almost did a little dance. I immediately whipped out the visa card and ordered it.

I glanced at the usually entertaining "Amazon Customer Reviewed" section. There was one comment that stated "This is a pretty pricey Box set for , lets face it, only 1 great film being WHISKEY GALORE! and good PASSPORT TO P. . If the set was cheaper i'd consider it but for now lets release these seperately please" This person fails to understand that there are some things that some of us just can't put a price on. For me, it would be to have my own copy of "Whisky Galore" and all the happy memories that would come from watching this film again. Plus, the other films in the box set are no slouches either.

The set should arrive in 1 to 3 weeks.

Quote of the Day:

Dr Maclaren: It's a well known fact that some men were born two drinks below par.

Actor James Roberston Justice as Dr. MacLaren in Whisky Galore

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Elmo wants to play"

Great gift for your friends who are parents

If you really wanted to piss of some of your friends who have children. This latest Elmo toy would certainly do it. I keep watching this video and I am fascinated by this latest offering for children( i love the dogs reaction). This latest model seems to have been designed using the latest updates in robotics for kids toys. Personally, I find this toy a bit disturbing and really annoying (don't worry Mo or Paulus. JB and I won't purchase this for your offspring. we are not that mean) I guess if you are three years old, the age that Elmo is supposed to be in real life, you would find it appealing? I remember the "tickle me elmo" buying frenzy from the 1990's when parents were fighting tooth and nail for that doll. I remember there was controversy after the release of the doll with parents groups that misheard one of Elmo's phrases. His "Hug Elmo" phrase was misunderstood by many as "F--k Elmo". The voicing was revised so that the phrase sounded clearer and unmistakable.

On another note. It's Turkey Time!!! This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend. Not to be mistaken for American Thanksgiving which is in November and celebrates the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and sitting down to a nice dinner with the Native North American Indians before setting out to spend hundreds of years of cleansing the land of their culture and tribes. JB and I having both had extremely stressful months at work, actually forgot it was Thanksgiving coming up. We didn't really make any plans for dinner with what family we have in the vicinity. I usually make a turkey with all the fixin's and I enjoy doing it but this year I said to JB that I just felt like going away, doing nothing but relaxing and playing golf. Out of some bizarre need not to buck tradition, I will probably make a small turkey with fixins and gravy on Saturday as I really can't not make something Thanksgiving related for fear the "Thanksgiving gods" will strike me down for abandoning family tradition. I feel we should have some sort of turkey dinner plus I don't have to worry that my chowhound brother doesn't have food for the weekend as JB and I are gone Sunday and Monday.

We have decided to go to Niagara region and visit some wineries and play golf at the Whirpool Golf Course, near Niagara Falls and at the Niagara on the Lake golf course, the oldest golf course in North America. Niagara on the Lake is a lovely town, I have written previous blogs about it. I will be hitting the Niagara Home Bakery for Empire biscuits! Unfortunately, as we decided to book our weekend only two days ago, there were no rooms to be found in Niagara on the Lake. The only available rooms we could find were in Niagara Falls. JB much prefers Niagara on the Lake as do I but it is only a short lovely scenic drive along the Niagara river between the two towns. Niagara falls has become somewhat "Disney-fied" but I find Niagara Falls fascinating. It has evolved into this giant playland for kids and adults. The adults get two casinos and plenty of bars and clubs and the kids have Clifton Hill where there are wax museums, arcades etc. It has very much changed since my visits there as a child. Any time relatives came over from Scotland we had to make the trek to Niagara Falls as they all had to see this "wonder of nature". With the recent additions of the casinos and the increase in tourists, the actual town of Niagara Falls would be unrecognisable to anyone who has not been there in the last 15 to 20 years. There are all the typical touristy restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe, TGIF's etc. If you ignore all of the tourist crap and just stand by those falls and watch the power of nature it really is awe inspiring and the area on the Canadian side where the Canadian portion of the falls are located still looks the same as it did 50 years ago. The Niagara Parks Commission has done a great job of keeping the parklands around the falls pristine and the ultimate place for photo ops. And yes, to end the debate, the Canadian falls are much larger, nicer and better than the American falls.

“It is with roses and locomotives (not to mention acrobats Spring electricity Coney Island the 4th of July the eyes of mice and Niagara Falls) that my ''poems'' are competing.” e.e. cummings

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Collibus -Fideles-Caledoniis

Have the CCR (creedence clearwater revival)song "Who'll Stop the Rain" floating around in my head today. As you can see by the weather pixie on my page it is indeed PISSING down rain today. Normally, the rain doesn't bother me that much particularly during the week as one is normally at work. Unfortunately today is the day that I along with Espinoza and Lee decided to book off work and go and play golf at a new course we found. We rationalized that it couldn't possibly rain all day today as yesterday we awoke to thunder and lightening and heavy rain and by about 10am the clouds parted and the sun came out and it was a lovely day. Well, this morning at 6:35am i was awakened by a huge CRACK of thunder over our house and I thought "hmmmm a repeat of yesterday" I got up out of bed, got my coffee and as most golfers do, flipped the TV on to the weather network. The overly cheerful weather network lady chirped on about heavy rains moving out of the area today and the storm watch being lifted for GTA etc etc. I can hear the rain pelting down and about 10 mins later it stopped. "Cool" I thought. Then the blackberry pins started between Lee and Espinoza and I. "are we on" "ya, lets meet there rain will probably stop" "i checked the weather network it is supposed to move through" I drove JB to work and I could see the sky getting lighter and I thought "great, same as yesterday" I then dropped JB off at work and headed west towards Mississauga to our new "find". Driving west the sun was starting to really look like it was going to make an appearance. I arrived at the course. Got my clubs out. Walked down to the pro shop where I was greeted by the most friendly golf pro and pro shop staff I have ever encountered. I apologized that two of our threesome was late and Golf Pro said "no problem at all. the course is practically empty. you ladies will have the whole course to yourself this morning but it's a bit wet out there on the greens after all this rain" Lee arrived and Espinoza was still lost. Lee and I did some stretching, and in between stretches I took panicked calls from Espinoza who was completely lost. Lee and I stretched some more, looked out at the lovely course and inhaled and both said "man, it's better to be here than at work" After my third cell phone call from Espinoza, she finally found the place. We then marched down the path to the first tee. A daunting, long, long par 5 hole. You know it's not good when the 5ft 1in Lee yells from the tee box "where am I aiming? I can't see any flag" I yell back my usual answer "just hit it straight down the fairway" which she did!

This course is modeled on a Scottish course or as their website states:
The BraeBen Golf Course has been designed to be"True to the Scottish Highlands"The name of the course -"BraeBen" -is Gaelic for "slope" and "mountain or hill". The new, public 18 hole Championship Course features dramatic terrain, tall rough grasses, gnarled trees and shrubs, pristine fairways, greens and tees, punctuated with challenging pot bunkers - all reminiscent of golf's early beginnings. As in the highlands of Scotland, wind will be a factor on most days.
I read with interest a review of the course from "Fairways Magazine" that states the course is actually built over the old Britannia hills landfill site and that they have won environmental awards for the design of this course. It's pretty amazing that they have turned an ugly, eysore of a landfill site into a beautiful greenspace in an urban setting.(Photo is of the first hole looking towards the green). First hole over, we all triple bogied the hole, we march down to the second hole. Second hole is a short par 3, we then get to the third hole and then the fourth hole and I tee off, Espinoza tees off and then Lee gets to the tee box and again says "where is the flag? I don't know where I am aiming" Again we say "just hit it straight onto the fairway and figure it out from there" As, Lee is about to tee off, I look up and say "man, it sure looks like it is getting darker" Then it happened "BOOOOM!!" Thunder, then after the thunder a couple of drops and then a few more drops. Undaunted, we are determined to finish the hole. When we get to the green it is now pouring rain and I then notice that I am the only one who remembered my golf umbrella. It starts to come down like a monsoon. Lee and I both have on waterproof jackets but Espinoza has nada, just her nice trendy cotton track jacket and baby blue cargo pants on. I do up my jacket and grab my waterproof Burberry rain hat (a gift from my sister)out of my golf bag and hand Espinoza my umbrella as she is getting drenched. We decide we will finish this hole and then head back to the clubhouse for a snack and a beverage to warm us up. It's a long way back to the clubhouse from the 4th hole and we realize we are walking the wrong way. True to the course name, it is really hilly and your can't see any landmarks or buildings from our locale. We then backtrack and cut across another hole and disturb a gaggle of Canada geese who are just sitting in a group watching us walk by. One of them, probably the alpha male of the bunch decides to challenge us and starts to hiss at us. I hiss back "shouldn't you be flying south!!" The goose then lifted his beak in the air and did an about face and walked away. Guess I won that challenge. Clubhouse in sight, we think "great we can sit down have a drink and dry off" We enter the pro shop and the oh so friendly pro shop gent says "it's really coming down, eh?" I say "yep, we really thought it would not rain until later today we tried but only made it to the fourth hole" He then says "do you ladies want rain checks for your green fees today" All three of us say "Sure! thats great". He then says "I just need your white receipts from this morning" we all reach in and grap our soaked receipts. Lee then gasps "Oh no, i lost my rain cover for my clubs somewhere back there on the course" I suggest that Lee and one of us take one of the covered golf carts and drive back along the paths to find it. Espinoza volunteers to go with Lee and I wait and guard our clubs. They arrive back about 10 mins later with the found rain cover. We then ask if the clubhouse is open for lunch and are told that because the clubhouse is hosting a private function it will not be open til 2pm. It is only noon. We decide we can't wait til 2pm and instead, since we are in the hub of suburbia, we drive off to one of the many boring chain restaurants in the surrounding area. We all split a carafe of red wine and some pretty good sandwiches and look at each other and say "even if we couldn't golf it is STILL better than being at work!"

Espinoza drops Lee and I off back at the golf course and we go back to the pro shop and ask if we can use our rainchecks for Saturday. The weather network says it is going to be a lovely weekend with lots of sun! We have a 10:38 am tee time for Saturday.

I am now at home, watching the rain pelt down and the trees bend in the rather gusty winds that have developed. Going to uncork a bottle of wine and relax, read a book and enjoy the rest of my day off.

Quote of the Day:

When I'm on a golf course and it starts to rain and lightning, I hold up my one iron, 'cause I know even God can't hit a one iron. - Lee Trevino