Attention Toronto: brace yourself for more army jokes

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is why the rest of the country makes fun of us.

Now’s the time to call your boss and ask if you can either work from home or just take the day off tomorrow — anything to avoid driving through the storm that Environment Canada predicts is going to drop upwards of 20 centimetres of snow on Toronto and surrounding area.

Fer chrissakes, people. It’s winter. It’s Canada. It’s 8 inches of snow. Montreal doesn’t even send out the snowplows for that much. Hell, no one in Saskatchewan even bothers looking for a shovel if it’s less than a foot.

Find yourselves some (snow)balls.

If not, I'm gonna have a lifetime supply of coasters

I’ve acquired a scant 11 DVDs this year, by far the fewest since I started keeping track of these things, and almost certainly the fewest since I bought a DVD player in 2000. Three of those — American Psycho, Full Metal Jacket and S.W.A.T. — came free when Nellie got me a Blu-Ray player, and Full Metal Jacket‘s the only one I would’ve even thought about buying otherwise. Another — Persepolis — was a gift, and another — Forgetting Sarah Marshall — my wife bought, not me.

Even if I count all 11, it’s still less than the number of books I bought this year…again, probably the first time that’s happened since at least 2000.

When I was a kid my parents bought a ton of movies on VHS, partially because we all like to re-watch movies, and partially because in the middle of nowhere with only two or three TV channels, you have to stockpile your entertainment options. I kept that mentality when I began buying for myself, building a library, buying 30 or 40 movies some years. Movies aren’t completely on-demand for me yet, but I can feel it getting close; I guess that’s why I’ve stopped hording.

Now then…anyone want to buy ~250 DVDs?

"It feels like I'm shitting a knife!"

Our aspirational target this weekend was profound laziness. While we didn’t quite hit that (damn stretch goals) we did manage to watch two movies:

Baby Mama (imdb | rotten tomatoes) started off badly — not that the jokes weren’t funny, it’s just that we’d seen them all in the trailer — but got funnier as it went on. This post’s title, a line from the film, made me laugh out loud. I’m still giggling just typing it. Let’s face it, though, Tina Fey could do the New York Times crossword on camera for 90 minutes and I’d still pay to see it.

I think we waited too long to see Tropic Thunder (imdb | rotten tomatoes) ’cause I just didn’t like it. I liked how it skewered movie-making in general, and action movies in particular, but I’m not sure I really laughed at single line not uttered by Danny McBride. And Tom Cruise’s tiny part, the one that’s earned him a fricking Golden Globe nomination? Not so much with the funny.

Here, I’ll give you an example of funny, and it just happens to involve Tina Fey. It’s from last Thursday’s episode of 30 Rock:

Liz: “Jack, do you know the Postmaster General?”

Jack: “I do, but we had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. If I wanted to lick a hippie I’d just return Joan Baez’s phone calls.”


Because I will never want to buy a commemorative plate of any kind

Every time I check my mailbox — because some adorable companies still insist on sending me actual paper mail…quaint, no? — I’m amazed at the quantity of junk mail I see. The recycling bins in my building’s mail room are overflowing with flyers, ads…junk mail of every stripe. Seems like such a massive waste.

Of course, until about a year ago, I was one of the people throwing junk mail in there. It was automatic: open the mailbox, sort out what’s useful, toss the rest in the bin and off I went. Finally, and I don’t know remember what prompted me to do it exactly, I printed a small ‘no junk mail please’ graphic that I downloaded from Red Dot Campaign and stuck it in my mailbox. Since then…no junk mail. At all. None. The odd bit of marketing disguised as a letter sneaks through (damn realtors!) but 95% of the time…junk free.

So yeah…I no longer get all this paper & plastic that I have to throw out. The delivery guy no longer has to bother stuffing my mailbox. The cleaning people who gather up the recycling have that much less crap to cart away. And it was easy to do. And it cost me nothing.

You need to get in on this action, people. If we can inadvertently kill newspapers, we can kill junk mail.

10 in 23

I still have to listen to the following music from 2008 before I can make any judgment about what my favourite was.

  • bonnie prince billy . lie down in the light
  • calm blue sea . the calm blue sea
  • new year . the new year
  • dears . missiles
  • bowerbirds . hymn for a dark horse
  • thievery corporation . radio retaliation
  • deerhunter . microcastle
  • isobel campbell & mark lanegan . sunday at devil dirt
  • raveonettes . beauty dies ep
  • parts & labor . receivers

I’ve already listened to and bought the following:

  • this will destroy you . this will destroy you
  • frightened rabbit . the midnight organ fight
  • constantines . kensington heights
  • raveonettes . lust lust lust
  • silver mt. zion . 13 blues for thirteen moons
  • sigur ros . hvarf – heim
  • duke spirit . neptune
  • dodos . visiter
  • dandy warhols . earth to the dandy warhols
  • mates of state . re-arrange us
  • elbow . the seldom seen kid
  • death cab for cutie . narrow stairs
  • kills . midnight boom
  • kings of leon . only by the night
  • fembots . calling out
  • stern, marnie . this is it and i am it and you are it and so is that and he is it and she is it and it is it and that is that
  • walkmen . you and me

Anything major you think I might’ve missed?

Spicy chicken = biggie sized. If you know what I mean.

The Distillery District

Today was very busy, and yet somehow very relaxing. I got a metric whack of Christmas shopping done, ate a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich (ohh…missed you SO HARD), bumped into my buddy Brad, met my new doctor (who is surprisingly young and alarmingly attractive), tried some yummy Costa Rican chocolate with roasted hazelnuts from Soma, bought some shirts at my new store crush Lileo, and generally enjoyed walking around the city, even if it was a little busy with shoppers. Even late on a Monday morning, I guess I have to expect that with less than three weeks ’til the big day.

A couple of observations:

  • I love my new winter coat. I am never cold outside (even venturing out on days like yesterday, which Tom Purves compared to a Shackleton expedition), but I don’t get warm when wearing it indoors. Note to Canadians: a winter coat is the wrong thing to skimp on.
  • There is a special layer of hell reserved for a) people who look one way and walk another in crowded environments; b) people who stop dead at the top or bottom of an escalator; and c) cashiers who cough violently into their hand just before they reach into the till to hand me my change. When I am king PayWave and PayPass will work everygoddamnwhere.
  • The Distillery District (see above) is a really lovely place, especially in the winter, especiallyespecially when they’re decked out for Christmas, and superespecially in the middle of a weekday when no one else is around.
  • Overheard in the PATH: Lady #1: “I have nothing in my wallet but I’m still going shopping.” Lady #2: “I have nothing in my wallet but I’m still buying a car.” Downturn? Quel downturn?

Tomorrow it’s back to work, but right now the most stressful thing I feel like doing is putting my undefeated Wii Tennis streak on the line.

"The mall at the end of town is dead. Amen."

I hate malls. I avoid them like the plague, even though I live just a few minutes from the largest (probably) downtown shopping centre in North America and a short subway ride from the fifth-largest mall in Canada. And apparently there are a bunch more around the city that I’ve just never laid eyes on. The crowds, the stale compound-like atmosphere, the food courts reeking of Manchu Wok…I’ve just never liked them.

Mind you, growing up, it was a big deal when a mall came to the town near where we lived. It had a K-Mart and a Save-Easy and a sports store and a drug store where I could buy comics. Truthfully I was too young to remember that mall opening, but I remember it being a big deal when we could go. Then a second mall opened in the mid-80s with better stores…Zellers instead of K-Mart, Sobeys instead of Save-Easy, Coles instead of just the drug store magazine racks,  A&W, a music store and (hooray!) an arcade. This mall was the new hotness, and everyone loved going there.

My mother still preferred to shop and do business downtown when she could, at the small locally-owned photo printers or clothing stores, and there was a real music store there where I could buy drums, but for the most part business was conducted on the outskirts of town at these malls. Before long, though, the new mall killed the old mall, leaving a near-empty shell sporting a few die-hard stores just across the road from a parking lot of mall-goers. Rare visits to the old mall felt vaguely creepy or eerie. I was too young to know that I was sensing imminent failure; dating would later allow me to hone that skill.

Now, when I visit that town on occasion, the “new” mall still seems fairly busy, but the real excitement seems to be at the big box stores…Wal-Mart came, first attached to the mall and then stand-alone. The grocery stores detached themselves from the malls and built neighbouring castles. Canadian Tire and Kent moved in. God knows what else is there now. Meanwhile, the stores downtown on or near main street struggle to survive. While this bothers me a bit, let me be clear: I’m not advocating the nostalgic return to an old towne main street; people will shop where they want to shop, and I have no desire to artificially perpetuate a dying model for posterity’s sake. I just have a fondness for that particular main street.

That said, I recognize that business and public preference can change, and for years I’ve hoped that the fad of shopping malls would eventually burn out. The last several years have certainly been pointing in that direction — though focus seems to be shifting more to the “power centre” model and not back to main street — the mall still seems to have a powerful hold. Even in downtown Toronto, with Queen Street, Yorkville, King Street, St. Lawrence Market and the like nearby, I still get asked for directions to the Eaton Centre all the time.*

So I was very interested to read that, according to Newsweek (via the Creative Class blog), last year was “the first in half a century that a new indoor mall didn’t open somewhere in the country—a precipitous decline since the mid-1990s when they rose at a rate of 140 a year.” The Newsweek article points to DeadMalls, a site which was always filled me with worry and joy. I wanted this trend to be over, remembering how empty and awful the old mall in that town became, but I didn’t relish the idea of hundreds of deserted neon bunkers littering the landscape. The mall experiment won’t be an easy one to clean up.

* It happened yesterday, actually.

"How much memory does that thing have?"

I can’t stop thinking about Tuesday night’s episode of The Shield, the series finale. It was a perfect and nervewracking conclusion to a gripping season, which was itself the culmination of an amazingly consistent series. I still think the season with Forest Whitaker was the best, and among the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen, but this final season came close. There was a scene in the penultimate episode that was so perfect it almost hurt.

I’ve said many times before that it was one of the best shows on TV, and Salon recently named it the most underappreciated show on TV (alongside past winners like Battlestar Galactica and The Wire). If you’re looking for a good series to watch, or if you think you’ll have some free time over the holidays, or if you’re just annoyed at having missed out on one of the best shows on TV, go rent the first season and dig in to the twisted world of Vic Mackey.