"Once you muscle your way past the gag reflex, all kinds of possibilities open up. "

Family day = movie day in the Dickinson household. We watched three today, and now my eyes hurt.

I normally don’t like animated films. I didn’t like Shrek (any of them), I was lukewarm on things like Monsters Inc or Over The Hedge, and liked Finding Nemo well enough but wouldn’t go out of my way to see it. However, Ratatouille (imdb | rotten tomatoes) had gotten such great reviews last year (a 96% on RT puts it in the upper echelon of all 1997 films) that I felt it deserved two hours of my time. I wasn’t disappointed either. It was funny without trying too hard, it was sweet without being sickly, and the animation looked incredible on Blu-ray. Even in this format it made Paris look beautiful. This isn’t a good animated film, it’s a good film full stop. I was dubious, but the critics didn’t lie on this one. Go rent it.

I’m still trying to make up my mind about We Own The Night (imdb | rotten tomatoes); was it an homage to 70s crime dramas or was it merely derivative of those same films? I’m not sure. I enjoyed the performances, but I knew what was coming long before it arrived on screen, and I deliberately try not to predict movie plots. It wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch; I just felt like I’d seen it a dozen times before.

Shifting gears completely we watched The Namesake (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at the end of our day, and it was pretty good. It felt a little jumpy to me, probably because it covered 30 years of ground, but it traded very effectively on nuanced and subtle development of relationships, to the point where you felt like you knew this characters very well by the end of the film. For a 2+ hour film where not a lot happens, it rarely if ever felt slow. So yeah, we liked it.

[tags]ratatouille, we own the night, the namesake[/tags]

"And the Danny's small brain grew 3 sizes that day."

Last week New York governor Eliot Spitzer wrote an editorial in the Washington Post about the predatory lending practices of some large US banks beginning in 2003, and about the Bush administration’s part in allowing them.

Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.

The tool they used for this, Spitzer says, was the obscure Office of the Comptroller of Currency:

In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.

The result, as everyone knows, is economic instability in America and thousands of lost homes. Of course, the blame for this lies in a number of places: the banks offering these predatory loans, the buyers whose eyes were bigger than their wallets, the investors who made sub-prime debt part of their portfolio and those who sold it to them, and on and on. I won’t debate who’s most to blame. What got my attention is the new light in which I see stories like this.

I’m no fan of the Bush administration, nor do I tend to agree with Republican policies*, be they social or fiscal. I tend to be very cynical in my assumptions about their actions (though that probably has less to do with their being Republican than their being politicians in general) so accounts like this would usually suggest the motivating factor was greed. My mind immediately leaps to the corrupting influence of lobbyists in cases like this, and it simply seems natural to me that the large American banks would throw piles of money at government officials, urging them to somehow keep these predatory lending practices legal. While I still consider this a possibility, I no longer leap to it as the most likely scenario.

Perhaps I could blame it on Naomi Klein‘s Shock Doctrine, or perhaps it’s all the Friedman-worship one runs across in the course of an MBA program, but I now consider another motivation on the part of the Bush administration: free market purity. Perhaps the administration believed in the power of unfettered markets so strongly that the notion of state governments’ interference in a company’s right to profit was unacceptable, and they removed the roadblock. It would be a nice bit of irony that, in their quest to remove a government barrier from the path of capitalism, the only tool available to them was more government bureaucracy: the OCC.

I’m not saying either of these theories is what actually happened. I don’t claim to be particularly insightful in matters economic or political. I was merely interested to notice that, because of these new things I have read and learned, my immediate bias has changed. I’m probably no less cynical about politics than before, but I now consider things in another light. That’s something, I guess.

To sum up: reading makes you smarter. Duh.

* Truth be told, I don’t really agree with Democrat policies that often either; it simply strikes me as the lesser of two evils.

[via Brijit]

[tags]eliot spitzer, predatory lending, milton friedman, naomi klein, shock doctrine, education[/tags]

"Man's grasp exceeds his nerve."

It’s a cold one out there. The inner harbour is now frozen up; the S-curve you can see in the ice is cut by the Ward’s Island ferry.


It’s been a lazy long weekend thus far. Last night we watched a movie — The Prestige (imdb | rotten tomatoes), which we both quite enjoyed — and this morning’s been all about catching up on light errands while Nellie and the boys sleep in. This afternoon I think the plan is to hit Canadian Tire, do some shopping and maybe see a movie on the way home, then watch some NBA skills competition. I have to get as much stuff done today as I can because tomorrow will be taken up by reading marketing and doing work, and Monday will be taken up by me laying on my ass and doing my damndest to clear the PVR.


Here’s why I like the interwebs, and specifically Flickr: yesterday I got an email from someone organizing an environmental forum in Alberta, and she wanted to use a picture we took on our 2006 Rockies trip. Not sure why; it was a fairly unimpressive picture. Still, I told her to go ahead.

Today I got an email from someone who’s seen the pictures we’ve taken out our windows, some of which show a construction site just to our east. He recognized the site, and said his daughter bought a condo there. He asked if I would mind taking the occasional picture of the site so that they could see the building’s progress. I remember wishing we had someone to do that with our site, so I created a Flickr set for him and agreed to post a picture a month. Hey, it’s no skin off my back and it gives his daughter a vantage point she couldn’t possibly get otherwise, so why not?

I feel all warm and digitally fuzzy.

[tags]toronto harbour, the prestige, family day ontario, flickr, vu condominiums[/tags]

"Officials would not estimate the likelihood of success, only calling it high."

Yesterday my brother was supposed to be in town for dinner, but fate prevented him from reaching Toronto in time, so Nellie and I just went ahead and had dinner at the same place. Screw valentine’s day; ’tis a crock.

Much more important to us are the days immediately before and after V-Day; Feb 13 is the anniversary of the day we got engaged (which Nellie refers to as engage-iversary) and Feb 15, the anniversary of the day we adopted the cats (which, naturally, she refers to as cat-iversary). Of course, there’s another wonderful day coming up on Monday: our new holiday. Thank you Dalton McGuinty.

One more Valentine’s-related tidbit: I’m guessing NBC re-aired last year’s V-Day episode of 30 Rock, ’cause yesterday my blog was flooded with hits for the phrase “Happy Valentimes!!


Let’s see, what’s in the news today? Hmm…US primaries…campus gunman…Pentagon to shoot down satellite…baseball hea…wait, what?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon plans to shoot down a disabled U.S. spy satellite before it enters the atmosphere to prevent a potentially deadly leak of toxic gas from the vehicle’s fuel tank, officials said on Thursday. [via Reuters]

Yeah, I don’t see how anything could go wrong with that.


Toshiba: bring out your dead.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has decided to exclusively sell high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format, dealing what could be a crippling blow to the rival HD DVD technology backed by Toshiba Corp. [via MSNBC]

Seriously where’s my Blu-Ray Children Of Men?

[tags]valentine’s day, family day ontario, disabled satellite, hd-dvd, blu-ray[/tags]

I think the $117 would've been better spent on an hour of therapy

From the “I’m glad it wasn’t my country” file:

Who got the money and why? It went to help pay a psychic who performed a ghost exorcism in one of the units. The occupants of the home reported hearing banging noises and seeing objects flying across the room by themselves, and told officials on Easington Council in Durham County, England they believed their apartment was haunted.

[via CityNews]


Torontoist makes a very good point today that I should’ve made yesterday: while the national news media makes fun of Toronto’s weather spazztasm, the local media leads the hand-wringing.


Big night for my teams. Montreal snapped a 3-game losing skid by scoring late to tie the game and then winning in overtime, while the Raptors beat Vince Carter and the Nets like a red-headed stepchild…a game T-Bone was lucky enough to see live. The Duke Blue Devils even beat Maryland tonight, which I kinda half care about.

[tags]haunted apartment, torontoist, toronto media, snow, canadiens, raptors, vince carter, duke blue devils[/tags]

"Snow: a form of precipitation witnessed every year in Toronto, to great astonishment."

Oh, Torontians. When the media begins making fun of your hysteria, that’s when you know you should quit your whining and just buy a fucking shovel.

I’ll admit it wasn’t a lot of fun outside today — I don’t mind the snow but I’d really prefer it didn’t come at me parallel to the ground — but for the love of Frank Shuster, it’s Canada and it’s February. Take a deep breath. Buy a scarf. When we get hit by something like this, you can kvetch all you want, but until then, all you’re doing is keeping the memory of Mel Lastman’s army distress call alive in the national consciousness.


We watched Hot Fuzz (imdb | rotten tomatoes) last night. It followed the style of Shaun Of The Dead closely: very, very funny at first and developing into a fairly serious homage (of, admittedly, a fairly silly subject: cop/buddy movies) by the end. If you liked SotD, I’d definitely recommend Hot Fuzz.

[tags]toronto, weather, snowfall, mel lastman, hot fuzz[/tags]

Subject to revision

Two more nails in the HD-DVD coffin. I hope this means I can get Children Of Men and Battlestar Galactica on Blu-Ray soon.


Speaking of movies, it’s time I face the fact that I’m not going to get through my must-see-in-2007 list any time soon. So, with that, here are my top* movies of 2007:

  1. There Will Be Blood
  2. Once
  3. No Country For Old Men
  4. Juno
  5. Zodiac
  6. Eastern Promises
  7. Starting Out In The Evening
  8. This Is England
  9. The Lookout
  10. Gone, Baby, Gone

There’s a second tier of films that I really liked as well, but I didn’t try to rank them. It’s pretty hard to compare 300 or Superbad to No End In Sight.

  • 300
  • 3:10 To Yuma
  • Black Book
  • Black Snake Moan
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Kingdom
  • No End In Sight
  • Sicko
  • Sunshine
  • Superbad

I thought the three most overrated films of the year were (in no particular order) Knocked Up, Atonement and Letters From Iwo Jima. The most disappointing by far was Spider-Man 3, especially considering Spider-Man 2 was probably the best superhero movie ever made.

* keep in mind that I didn’t see Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, I’m Not There, Michael Clayton, 4 Months 3 Weeks And 2 Days, Lars & The Real Girl, The Savages, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Away From Her, Inland Empire, Iraq In Fragments, Ratatouille or We Own The Night.

[tags]best movies of 2007, hd-dvd, blu-ray[/tags]

This title should have been "a lassi for my lassie," but she drank beer instead

Last night seven of us went to Indus Junction to celebrate Nellie’s birthday. It was very, very tasty…I think we tried five different appetizers and five mains. The vindaloo shrimp appetizer was excellent, as were the vegetable dumplings and the paneer & cauliflower dish. The vindaloo salmon was good too, and the soft garlic naan and dhal mahkni. A few of us had dessert; the rice pudding was apparently quite good but my double-fudge tart was just too much chocolate (!) for me.

All in all, good food, good spot, good service. We’ll be going back, I think.


The Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators early last week, but that was when Heatley and Alfredsson were injured. Last night the Senators, with their top line intact, hung a 6-1 loss on the Habs. Glad I didn’t stay home to watch that one.


It sounds more and more like Godspeed You! Black Emperor is over, finished, kaput. Granted, A Silver Mt. Zion is still active, but I’ll miss the bombast.

[tags]indus junction, montreal canadiens, ottawa senators, godspeed you! black emperor[/tags]