2010 annual report: expansion

Dear stakeholders, I present herein the report on my progress for the year 2010. Please, hold your questions until the end.

The highlight of the whole year may well have been our excellent trip to California where we visited San Francisco and the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Trips to Nova Scotia for our friend Karen’s wedding (in the spring) and to see our families (at Christmas) were great too, especially since being away from Toronto during the G20 meant we managed to avoid that whole clusterfuck. We even went camping in Algonquin. All in all a good year for travel.

Of course, we enjoyed ourselves closer to home as well. We were mesmerized by the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and celebrated the men’s hockey gold in Dundas Square just like the rest of the city. We saw a Habs/Leafs game, our second in three months after not seeing one in the previous 12 years we lived here. We did new Toronto-y things like dragon boating and a harbour cruise and biking around the islands and seeing a concert (Iggy & The Stooges) live in Dundas Square. We also did annual pilgrimages to Hot Docs and TIFF.

We explored a few new local restaurants like Origin (twice) and Duggan’s (many, many times) and ate an utterly decadent meal at MoRoCo in our first venture past the truffle bar out front. Most of our new restaurants discoveries came during our travels, and I’d need all day to list them all. Really, the biggest change this year might have been Nellie’s emerging talent in the kitchen, preparing incredible meals for Valentine’s Day (as is her custom) or various dinner parties.

I watched 71 new movies, bought 19 albums and ten DVDs, and read nine books. That’s right, only nine; I blame it on the fact that I’ve been reading Postwar by Tony Judt since January and I’m 2/3 of the way through the goddamn 830-page thing. Believe me, reading 560 pages of Judt is like reading 5 normal books, so I have to keep taking breaks and reading something else. In 2010 I read Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges, Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee, Liar’s Poker and The Big Short by Michael Lewis, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Blood Meridian and No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and Ill Fares The Land, also by Tony Judt.

Lots of good things happened in 2010, like when I won the Oscar pool, or when we won some art at auction during a charity event, or when I finally settled on my favourite albums of the past ten years, or when my team and I volunteered at Ronald McDonald House. I got to watch my Canadiens make a run deep into the NHL playoffs, and maybe best of all was that Nellie’s favourite team won the cup, and she helped her dad celebrate that win. Of course, there was a lot that troubled us too: some small (a Rogers fiasco, the earthquake which I suppose was more fun than troubling from my perspective) and some big (the afore-mentioned G20 debacle and — perhaps most importantly — Chris Farley somehow being elected mayor).

Most of all, though, I think the biggest development of 2010 was my expanded interest in wine and beer, especially local wine and beer. We finally took advantage of the two main wine regions near Toronto, making two trips to Niagara, one to Prince Edward County and one to the AGO for a wine tasting event called TasteOntario. learning that there really is great Ontario wine out there. I then decided to take that local streak and apply it to beer, starting a little endeavour called Project FiftyBrew.

There’s a large portion of my life which I don’t discuss here, and that’s what I do for a living. Last year I said developments at work were the biggest source of change in my life; this year I’d say that change has become the status quo, to the point where everything else (watching movies, listening to music, watching TV, reading books, and certainly blogging) falls by the wayside. Know what else stops when work is like this? Exercise. I haven’t run in months, and at present I weigh more than I ever have before in my life. Obviously, I’m hoping that my 2011 annual report will contain news of how I turned that around. To that end I did one last thing in 2010 to get that underway: I signed myself up for the Harry Rosen Spring Runoff 5k.

So it seems the two most noticeable elements of my 2010 were my expanded interest in wine & beer, and my expanding waistline. As I write this, it occurs to me the two may not be unrelated.

Best songs of 2010

Alphabetically, natch:

  • Arcade Fire . “Rococo”
  • Avi Buffalo . “What’s In It For?”
  • Band Of Horses . “Bartles + James”
  • Besnard Lakes . “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Part II”
  • Black Angels . “The Sniper”
  • Broken Social Scene . “Meet Me In The Basement”
  • Call Me Lightning . “Pure Shit”
  • Dead Weather . “Gasoline”
  • Frightened Rabbit . “Things”
  • Hidden Cameras . “He Falls To Me”
  • Kissaway Trail . “Beat Your Heartbeat”
  • Mates Of State . “Long Way Home”
  • National . “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
  • National . “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
  • New Pornographers . “Crash Years”
  • Sharon Van Etten . “I Wish I Knew”
  • Shearwater . “Castaways”
  • Sleigh Bells . “Crown On The Ground”
  • Titus Andronicus . “The Battle Of Hampton Roads”
  • Titus Andronicus . “To Old Friends And New”
  • Vampire Weekend . “Holiday”
  • Vampire Weekend . “White Sky”
  • Walkmen . “Angela Surf City”
  • Walkmen . “Victory”
  • Wolf Parade . “Palm Road”

Quite a few repeaters in there, no? The National, Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen and Titus Andronicus, who very nearly scored three.

Honorable mention: Best Coast . “Boyfriend” / Black Francis . “Six Legged Man” / Black Mountain . “The Hair Song” / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club . “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” / Corin Tucker . “Doubt / Dean & Britta . “Not A Young Man Anymore (My Robot Friend remix)” / Japandroids . “Lucifer’s Symphony” / Junip . “In Every Direction” / No Age . “Glitter” / Titus Andronicus . “Four Score And Seven”.

Best albums of 2010

It’s an annual event that I pick my ten favourite albums of the year and, a few months later, revise the bejeezus out of it because I was late to the party on some brilliant new band or another. So, welcome to another round.

  1. Titus Andronicus . The Monitor
  2. The National . High Violet
  3. Arcade Fire . The Suburbs
  4. A Silver Mt. Zion . Kollaps Tradixionales
  5. The Besnard Lakes . Are The Roaring Night
  6. The New Pornographers . Together
  7. Junip . Fields
  8. Frightened Rabbit . The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
  9. Corin Tucker . 1000 Years
  10. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club . Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

Note that there is a big, big gap between the top three and everything else. In fact, little if anything separates #4 from #10. Basically it broke down like this: a brilliant Titus Andronicus album, excellent albums by The National and Arcade Fire, and then seven more pretty good releases. And then there was the ‘not bad’ pile made up of Crazy For You by Best Coast, Sea Of Cowards by Dead Weather, Sleep Mountain by The Kissaway Trail, Transference by Spoon, Personal Life by The Thermals and Going Places by Yellow Swans.

Crushes by Mates Of State definitely would have made the list, but it’s an entire album of covers so I don’t think it qualifies.

72/20/8

People who know me, or read this blog, know two things which would be very near the top of a list of things I love: chocolate and graphs. Thus, whoever purchased the gift shown below clearly knows me very well.

Chocolate pie chart, beetches

Coincidentally, the chart above is an accurate representation of my vacation so far:

  • dark chocolate = relaxing
  • milk chocolate = eating
  • white chocolate = admiring fancy chocolate pie charts

"Roman is having an OK day and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof."

Relaxing holidays lend themselves to movie-watching, and we did a bit of that last night. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was rather crap, but Easy A was really good. Funny, well-written, smart and a showcase for the fantastic Emma Stone. Also, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as her parents were hilarious. Highly recommended; don’t let the high school setting fool you.

Happy Christmas Eve everybody!

Status report: kickass

This vacation is progressing exactly as I had hoped: quietly, and with a minimum of excitement. I am well-fed and well-rested. I have neither slept in an airport nor fended off surging coastal waves, so I count myself lucky. I’ve already gotten some cool presents. And I have lots more — family reunions, more presents, world junior hockey, our anniversary — to look forward to yet. Holidays FTW.

The wind-down

Yesterday Nellie and I flew to Nova Scotia for the holidays. Well, sort of — we actually landed in Moncton and drove to my parents farm in NS. Drove in a rented Dodge Charger, no less. Anyway.

On the plus side it’s everything we were looking for: peace, quiet, family, dog, chocolate goodies, cribbage, nice weather, sleeping in and not thinking about work.

The only downside seems to be that — as is customary when I go into relaxing vacation mode — I’ve gotten sick. Twelve hours after leaving the office I had a full-on cold. Still, even that’s not so bad…it gives me an excuse to lie about, drink hot chocolate, eat oranges and watch TV.

Strength in numbers

Yesterday my team (my work team, that is) and I spent a few hours  at Toronto’s Ronald McDonald House. We brought food and toys and stockings for the families and kids staying there, and packed them up for the residents. We also got a quick tour, learned about the origins of the Ronald McDonald House charity and heard about the amazing new building being built here in Toronto. It was fun to get out of the office as a team, but it also felt good to help out even a little.

Seriously…Laser?!?

A few days ago I was looking at the list of new-release movies I’ve watched this year. It was alarming. There was a grand total of 16, 5 of which played at TIFF and — apart from Let Me In — haven’t even hit North American theatres yet:

  1. Date Night
  2. The Book Of Eli
  3. Green Zone
  4. Inception
  5. The Runaways
  6. Kick-Ass
  7. Trust (tiff)
  8. Blame (tiff)
  9. Let Me In (tiff)
  10. Confessions (tiff)
  11. 13 Assassins (tiff)
  12. Robin Hood
  13. The Social Network
  14. The Crazies
  15. Iron Man 2
  16. Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage

That’s not good.  Apart from Inception, Let Me In, 13 Assassins and The Social Network (which were excellent) and Kick-Ass, Trust, Confessions and the Rush documentary (which were good) I’d done a shit job of seeing movies in 2010. I should also point out that I saw only three of those in a theatre.

But I read an article in Eye today called “2010: The Year That Wasn’t There” in which they suggested the movies on offer this year have been rather shit to begin with:

But here’s the thing: other than Inception—which was less of a pop-cultural event than The Dark Knight and frankly less of a mind-fuck than Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters—who can remember any of this year’s other big-ticket items? In a piece published this past July in The Wall Street Journal, critic Joe Queenan exercised his inner Comic Book Guy by asking if this was, cinematically speaking, the Worst. Year. Ever.

So maybe it wasn’t just me then. I’m gonna say…50% Hollywood, 50% Dickinson. Still, surely there’ve been films released this year worth seeing that I was just too busy to get to, and which will challenge for Academy Awards. Off I went to Rotten Tomatoes, who helpfully compiles lists of top-rated movies by year. And, from that, I created the list of nineteen movies which we’ll try to see before the Oscars, if not by the end of the year.

  • 127 Hours
  • A Single Man
  • Black Swan
  • Blue Valentine
  • Buried
  • Easy A
  • Exit Through The Gift Shop
  • Get Low
  • Inside Job
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • Restrepo
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Somewhere
  • The Fighter
  • The Tillman Story
  • The Town
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

Yesterday we got started with The Kids Are All Right (imdb | rotten tomatoes), mainly because it’s available on demand and we’re lazy. It was okay, though a little too long, and I did think it was going to be funnier than it turned out. And then today we watched Winter’s Bone (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was dirty and cold and gritty and realistic and excellent.

In the home, hoppy stretch

During my long radio silence (I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging…sorry!) there’s been much progress made on Project FiftyBrew:

  • I have now officially knocked off 39 of 50
  • I have six at home in my fridge, courtesy of friends driving them here from Kentucky and Montreal:
    • Dieu Du Ciel Fumisterie
    • Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
    • Unibroue Éphémère Cassis
    • Unibroue La Terrible
    • Unibroue Quelque Chose
    • Unibroue Raftman
  • There is a bottle of Propellor London Style Porter waiting for me at my brother’s house in Nova Scotia
  • I can get the Wellington Iron Duke at a local beer store, and last time I checked Volo still has the Alley Kat Olde Deuteronomy in stock.

That leaves two problem children: the Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale (which Volo seems to be out of at the moment) and the Unibroue Eau Benite. So if anyone living in Alberta happens to come across a bottle of the Full Moon, mail it to me, ‘kay? Likewise anyone living in Quebec if they seen an Eau Benite at their local dep.