You are who I hate

There is a special layer of hell reserved for people so vain and ridiculous that they ignore whatever sporting event they’re supposed to be watching, stand up and flap their arms at a camera they know must be pointed at them. I curse these people every time I watch a hockey game on TV. It’s usually a guy (but not always, as we’ll see) and he’s usually yelling into a cell phone. As annoyed as I get for being distracted from the game by some idiot fame whore, I can only imagine how it feels to sit beside or behind a douche of that magnitude. But fine, it’s one of 41 home games, and you scored great tickets from some scalper, and you can’t wait to show off to your buddy how close you are to the ice for the game you’re not even watching, so you call him and make him watch as you prove your dickishness to the world. Whatever.

But to do this at the Olympics? Something that happens every four years, and you’re one of the privileged few who’ll get to witness it? And — maybe worst of all — at a medal ceremony while the fucking flag is being raised?!!!!??!?

It’s kind of tough to make out the fuckass in this picture, but go ahead and watch the clip on YouTube. You’ll see her waving her be-bangled arms in the air like she just don’t care about the momentous outpouring of national pride happening right be-fucking-hind her. For Christ’s sake, if you can’t process what a special occasion this is and how lucky you are to be in the arena, then at least be respectful of the national goddamn anthem, you pathetic, oblivious slab of narcissism.

Je suis spoiled

Because Nellie’s birthday was a few days ago, she traditionally makes a bigger deal out of Valentine’s Day by making a nice meal and some kind of fancy dessert. This year she decided to make it rather official and posted the menu on the message board just inside our door.

In case you can’t read it (her cooking is better than her handwriting, fortunately) here’s the lineup:

My next blog will be typed while lying on my side, moaning and clutching my stomach.

[UPDATE: It were amazing.]

Aw, son of a bitch

From the raw story:

“People who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week have a much higher risk of pancreatic cancer, an unusual but deadly cancer, researchers reported on Monday.”

So, two a week is bad, but two a day is okay, right? Please? C’mon, gimme this one. I’ve had a long day, I’m tired and my pancreas hurts for some reason.

Hang on, hang on…that says “sweetened soft drinks” up there. Does that mean sugar and not artificial sweeteners?

“”The high levels of sugar in soft drinks may be increasing the level of insulin in the body, which we think contributes to pancreatic cancer cell growth,” [study leader Mark] Pereira said in a statement.”

Beautiful! Aspartame FTW!! I may now resume my rampant Diet Pepsi habit.

Where to next?

4,634 days ago I moved to a place I never thought I’d end up: Toronto. Growing up on the east coast of Canada, you’re trained to dislike Ontario in general, and Toronto in particular. Of course, that was an uninformed opinion, typical small-town distrust of big cities. I was excited as soon as it became a real possibility, just as I’d been excited to move from my tiny home town to Halifax for university. Living in the country’s biggest city became a thrilling idea. Anyway, I’d been offered a good job in Toronto straight out of school, and you didn’t turn that down.

I was lucky enough to move here with other people from university and lived here with my friend Brock for my first year. Brock had lived here before and made the transition a little easier. So did making a lot of good friends at work, mainly other transplanted Maritimers. I really started to love it here: countless live music venues, huge record stores (back when that was important), movie theatres showing all kinds of movies and all the sleepless energy of the big city. For god’s sake, the stores were open on Sunday! Nellie joined me in Toronto the following year, by which time I was in love with the city.

My jobs moved progressively further downtown (except for one blip up to Markham), and so did our apartments. We discovered more advantages of living here: new foods, nicer clothing stores, the film festival, better beer places. We got married, bought a home, adopted cats, got better jobs. Toronto was our home now, rather than a stopping point until we figured out what else to do.

After thirteen years here, though, I’m beginning to fall out of love with Toronto. It still has lots of what we like, but some of Toronto is wearing on us: the pollution, the dysfunctional waterfront, the paralyzing. I also find myself comparing Toronto to other Canadian cities, greener places with more character.

So what would it take to make me move? Career aside, I’d still want a city with a diverse population, good movie theatres (and maybe even a film festival), great restaurants and progressive politics. I’d also like to live in a city with good parks and nearby mountains. A few years ago live music venues and record stores would’ve been major factors, but things change. I suspect that soon movie theatres won’t matter much anymore either, as long as I have broadband.

The career point is the kicker, obviously, but supposing we got a great job offers in another city there are three places in Canada I’d consider moving to:

Halifax: home sweet home, obviously, but it’s changed from when we were students. Or maybe it’s just that we see more now than we did then. It’s a small town, but it’s laid back and comfortable while getting ever so slightly more cosmopolitan all the time. Plus, it’s close to family. However, if they hadn’t done away with the Sunday shopping ban three years ago, Halifax would’ve been a non-starter.

Calgary: true, Alberta’s a very conservative province, and the freaking cowboy/stampede culture would drive me batty, but I could put up with a lot for living 90 minutes from the Rockies.

Vancouver: I think this one tops my list. The green space, the proximity to mountains and wine country, the incredible restaurants, the weather (rain doesn’t bother me, given where I grew up) and the attitude of the city makes it feel like home every time I visit. So if somebody could hurry up and offer me an amazing job there, I’d appreciate it.

(By the way, apologies to Montreal. You certainly have your charms, but moving there from Toronto would feel too much like the same thing, just with a much better hockey team. Likewise, Ottawa: I like your green space and many of your inhabitants, but I…iiiii…zzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzzzSNRK!!! Huh? Wha? Oh…uh, sorry, Ottawa, you put me to sleep there.)

And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned cities outside of Canada. I’d be here all night.

The best films of 2009

Bearing in mind that I have not yet seen The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The White Ribbon, The Informant, Precious, The Road, A Serious Man, A Single Man, Big Fan, An Education, Food Inc., Invictus, Where The Wild Things Are or Zombieland (all of which would probably merit consideration for this list) and bearing in mind that I saw this year’s critical darling The Hurt Locker at last year’s TIFF (and was underwhelmed at the time, probably because I’d just watched the unmatched Iraq war story Generation Kill), here are my ten favourite films of 2009:

#10: Adventureland. I typically don’t enjoy movies about the 80s, but then they mock the 80s I’m fully on board. I could also watch Jesse Eisenberg all day and not get tired of it…he’s like a less-emo, more-nerd Michael Cera. Kristen Stewart is quite charming when she’s not fawning over a douche-y vampire. Ultimately, though, what made this movie was the script and the details which the writer must have pulled from his own past…what other reason would one have for writing the part of the former best friend who constantly bag-tags the main character?

#9: District 9. The first of a surprising amount of sci-fi on my list. Though I couldn’t really get myself to like the main character (even though I think I was supposed to), I loved the backstory, the sharp take on racism and the amazing special effects.

#8: Valhalla Rising. I didn’t like this film so much as I just couldn’t shake it from my mind after seeing it at TIFF. I’m not sure it will ever show in a North American theatre, a mainstream one at least. It was a combination of mindbendingly art-house and savagely violent. Seriously, there were psycho-religious themes running rampant through the whole thing, interrupted by things like, oh, say…the protagonist disemboweling a man with his bare hands. For example.

#7: Star Trek. I normally don’t like J.J. Abrams’ stuff, but I will give him this: brother, you have major-league stones. This had the potential to backfire on Abrams HUGE…rebooting one of the most passionately (and bizarrely?) beloved franchises of all time, but he pulled it off with a movie that was both entertaining and slyly immune to criticism of changing the original storyline. It’s a good sign if an action movie feels shorter than its running time, and this one felt much shorter.

#6: Leslie, My Name Is Evil. Uh…not sure how to describe this one. Another TIFF entry, and one of the weirder ones at that. Very campy, very dark and very much about a point in American history…Charlie Manson, Vietnam…the 60s in general, really. Completely over the top sometimes, while almost not bold enough at others, it was certainly memorable. A scene set perfectly to “Black Grease” by the Black Angels was simultaneously disgusting and beautiful. Maybe that’s a good description of the era director Reg Harkema was trying to capture.

#5: Up In The Air. Sharp writing, well-timed subject matter, three exceptionally strong lead performances and my omnipresent desire to be George Clooney made this one pretty damn entertaining.

#4: 500 Days Of Summer. Speaking of sharp writing, I think this one pretty much took the witty award for 2009. Probably took the soundtrack award too. It starred two of my favourite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, as well as one of my favourite things to look at, Zooey Deschanel. I will likely buy this, and watch it repeatedly.

#3: Avatar. I don’t want to buy into the hype. Because, really, this was not a good movie. Sure it was entertaining, but it had an over-familiar plot, substandard dialogue and was predictable from start to finish. So what’s it doing here? My god, man, did you not see it? It was fucking spectacular. Look, was it the kind of film that would typically be considered art? No, of course not. Did it change our perception of art when it comes to film? Probably. The Jazz Singer wasn’t a great movie either, but it changed film for good.

#2: The Cove. I typically favour real-life over fiction in film just as I do in print, and The Cove was the class of the docs I saw this year. It actually played out more as a thriller that you’re spying on than as a standard documentary, but as an animal lover the subject matter was heartwrenching. There were parts I had real trouble watching, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It deserved its win at Sundance, and its win at Hot Docs. It’ll deserve the Oscar too.

#1: Inglourious Basterds. It’s frustrating, really. The way Tarantino just flaunts such blatant genius by creating half a dozen indelible characters, and as many unforgettable scenes, in every movie he makes, using only dialog. I loved the movie my first time out, but as is usually the case with Tarantino films I found I enjoyed it much more the second time, even though I knew what would happen. Maybe because I knew what would happen, and found myself excited at moving from one great scene to another. Plus all the little familiar inside touches, like Harvey Keitel playing a voice on the end of the phone for ten seconds.

I think "gluttony" was a foregone conclusion

I knew I was in trouble when I saw all the glasses.

Last night Nellie, T-Bone, The Sof and I treated ourselves to one of Toronto’s Wintercity culinary events, Ex-Communication by Chocolat at MoRoCo Chocolate. This was the description:

“Une soiree of la luxure and sinful indulgence.  Experience a 6-course guided tasting dinner of sweet and savoury pleasures:  3 savoury courses and 3 Valrhona Chocolat dessert courses paired with the finest Champagnes, The Macallan & Highland Park Scotches, Canadian wines, followed by Courvoisier Cognacs as digestifs.”

Sold.

We arrived last night, queued with the rest of the guests and were immediately handed a glass of Champagne Gatinois Grand Cru. We were brought to our table which was covered in glasses…eight wine glasses, eight whisky glasses, four water glasses and four champagne flutes. It was obvious what kind of evening we were facing. We settled in and prepared ourselves for the theme of the night: the seven deadly sins.

  • Wrath was a shot of 60% dark Valrhona sipping chocolate paired with two scotches: 15-year-old Highland Park and 12-year-old Macallan. I like Highland Park, I love Macallan and I lurve dark chocolate…but my god, I never knew how well they went to together. A bit of chocolate on the tongue followed by whisky and zowie. I had a new hobby. An amuse bouche came out too…can’t remember it exactly, I think it was avocado and citrus on a crispy something or other. Good. As Nellie put it, our bouches were amoosed.
  • Envy was the best food course of the night: Japanese scallops in a white chocolate hollandaise sauce. We all loved it. I don’t even really like scallops. Paired with a 2006 Riesling from Alsace, enough of it to drown a small child.
  • Gluttony was subtitled “duck-duck-booze”, and aptly so: there was duck leg confit (yum!) with a chocolate puff pasty (meh) and slices of deck breast in a dark chocolate and chili glaze (YUM!). Still working our way through the Riesling, obviously.
  • Sloth consisted of a roasted filet mignon in a chocolate port reduction paired with a 2006 Penley Estates merlot. From here on out the savoury was over, and it was all sweet.
  • Pride was something pretty unusual: a chocolate “soda” float. Basically drinking chocolate mixed with soda water, from what I could tell. I didn’t love it but I thought it was interesting. Everyone else was less than impressed.
  • Greed consisted of two parts: a small serving of light chocolate mousse, and a dark chocolate & sweet red beet cake. I loved them both, but Nellie didn’t care for the beet cake at all. At this point we were getting pretty full, and the rich food & booze was starting to weigh on us.
  • The final course, Lust, was just too much. Three warm chocolate truffles apiece, 70% ganache and coated in coconut, sitting in a (rather icky) pool of passionfruit bubble tea sauce. We each had one, and it was quite good. The Sof noticed that the menu described the truffles as “flamed with Courvoisier VSOP Cognac” and we wondered what that meant, right up until the server showed up with a bottle and a lighter. They might’ve rehearsed this part a little more as the poor thing was unable to light our truffles in most cases, instead soaking our truffles through with Cognac. When I tried it…well, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. I was glad she’d left my third truffle unscathed so that I could enjoy it, but the whole affair was so rich — as was the glass of Courvoisier paired with the truffles and the shot of port to send us off — that we all felt done in.

All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, and a pretty good value in the end: three excellent meat dishes, wine, scotch, champagne, cognac and a formidable amount of chocolate for $125 including tax and tip. Not bad at all. A little much for a Monday night, maybe, especially for a lad with an 8:30 meeting, but there you go. I suspect, cardinal theme notwithstanding, that they could have scaled it back to five courses (dropping the soda and the fiery chocolate boozeballs) and hit the mark perfectly. Maybe next year.