Cover photo by Alex Proimos, used under Creative Commons license

“Okay, I want you to walk back in there and very calmly, very politely tell the risk assessors to fuck off.”

We finally watched The Big Short (imdb | rotten tomatoes) last weekend. It was good, but not quite as good as I’d been led to believe by the reviews. That said, it was still FAR better (and funnier) than I ever would have guessed the movie could be after I reading the Michael Lewis book it was based on. So…a win, I guess?


Cover photo by Alex Proimos, used under Creative Commons license

"How can a guy who can't speak English lie?"

A few days ago I finished the new Michael Lewis book The Big Short (amazon). In typical Lewis fashion it’s a somehow-entertaining story about markets, their bizarre circumstances and the equally bizarre personalities who dwell there.

While it does get a bit dense when it delves into the intricacies of credit default swaps and tranches of debt and so on (it reminded me of the middle portion of Moby Dick where Melville just goes on and on about whales) it’s still a very entertaining and unbelievable story. Few people actually saw the subprime mortgage crisis coming (which in itself is remarkable) and those who did were on the very fringes of the market, and it’s their stories Lewis follows.

You should read it, if only to see how a one-eyed recluse with Asperger’s (seriously) outsmarted the whole system.

"Who would've thought we'd have a black son before we met a Democrat?"

I read The Blind Side by Michael Lewis (amazon) a while ago, and I remember thinking that when it was made into a movie, they would have two opportunities to mess it up. The first would be finding the right person to play Michael Oher. The second would be finding the right person to play Leigh Anne Tuohy. When I heard they’d cast Sandra Bullock I pretty much gave up hope of it being anything but a disaster.

However, award buzz for Bullock began almost immediately after the movie (imdb | rotten tomatoes) came out and I wondered if she’d prove me wrong. We finally watched it yesterday. And she did. She played it pretty much as I expected her to be played. Likewise, the actor who portrayed Michael Oher (even if he was more baby-faced than Oher) played it pretty much as I’d expected.

Overall the whole thing had more of a predictable, feel-good pattern to it, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps a movie from being particularly memorable. If you’ve read Lewis’ books before you might have expected a colder, more analytical view of the events, but Lewis does admit in his book that he knows the Tuohy family, and I suspect that affected how he told the story. It’s an entertaining enough little slice of a day, just don’t expect any surprises.

"I have just met you, and I love you."

Well, I’ve had an enjoyable forty-ish hours. It started Friday night when we walked down to Front Street to see this year’s criterium. I have no real interest in cycling, but it’s fun to watch racing on a downtown street. Plus, it gave me a chance to test out our new camera: a Canon SX10 IS. We used to have an S3 but sold it when Nellie got her Nikon SLR. I still have a little Canon S230, which is fine for carrying around in my pocket if we’re out with friends, but it turns out there was too big a gap between that and the D40. This SX10 feels familiar (it’s basically just the update of the S3 we had before), is a pretty good mix of convenience and quality, and the 20x zoom will come in handy. For example:

These guys were way down Front Street when I took that. Anyway, we couldn’t stay long as we had dinner reservations at Canoe with Nellie’s mom, so home we went to get all gussied up. Canoe was magnificent, as one would expect, and lives so comfortably in their place atop the Toronto restaurant pile (according to Toronto Life, anyway). Nellie and her mom started with the chevre with rosemary brioche, I had the prawn & asparagus chowder with tarragon butter, and we shared a bottle of 2007 Fielding viognier. For our mains I had the caribou (which was amazing), Nellie and her mom had the prime ribeye and we took a 2006 a bottle of Domaine Gardies Mas Les Cabes. No dessert, just dessert wine for Nellie and I and a glass of white for her mom. Oh, and at some point the afore-mentioned mom took off her shoes and went for a stroll through the restaurant. Don’t ask.

The next day, after dropping Nellie’s mom off at the airport we went to see Up (imdb | rotten tomatoes) at Yonge & Dundas. I’m not a big animation fan, and while I did like the last two Pixar releases (Ratatouille and wall-e) I didn’t bother to see them in the theatre. However, a screaming 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a lot of advance critical praise made this one my top movie theatre priority this weekend. And it was good. Really, really good. It was sweet, funny, entertaining and (of course) spectacularly animated. Fun story, too, like Raiders Of The Lost Ark if Indy were an octagenarian. In the end I think it might have actually been a mistake to see it in the theatre, since the kid and mother behind me who talked often — and loudly — occasionally “pulled me” out of the film. But I’m still glad I saw it yesterday.

The movies weren’t done there. We freed up a little more room on the PVR by watching Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park (imdb | rotten tomatoes), which I kind of liked (bizarre mismatched music notwithstanding) but I felt it would have made a better short film than feature. There were so many repeated scenes and long tracking shots that nine minutes likely would’ve done it.

We also finally got around to watching the pilot of Glee (fox | onion a.v. club), which I found fairly funny, but if the singing keeps up like this I may struggle to keep watching. I can only take so much Amy Winehouse and Journey. While we watched that a killer rainstorm passed over Toronto, followed quickly by a brilliant rainbow (and another faint cousin):

Also, at some point this weekend I finished reading The Blind Side (amazon) by Michael Lewis. Only about a quarter of the book was what I expected it to be — an historic and financial look at the left tackle position in football. Instead it focused on a kid named Michael Oher, and told a very engaging story about his life. There is, in fact, a movie being adapted from it but with Sandra Bullock cast as one of the leads I don’t hold out much hope for it not sucking.

With that book done I’ve taken the advice given to me over the years by several friends, including those who’d just finished with my copy, and begun reading The Long Walk To Freedom.

Unfortunately it’s a bit too chilly out today to enjoy the sun the way we’d like, but that gives us a good excuse to tackle yet another chunk of the PVR’s hard drive.