340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cradle to grave.

There's nothing like assembling a crib in under an hour to make a father-to-be feel like a fucking rock star. Room looks boss, furniture's rolling in piecemeal, got a baby shower coming up this weekend... stuff-wise, we're doing pretty okay, methinks.

* * *

C & I already know that we want to include sex education in our family life from the get-go, incorporating it holistically into our family life and creating an environment where "informed" is the watchword. Hopefully, that'll prevent Blasty from becoming one of the dull, listless kids that are breaking Karen Platt's back. A Victoria, BC-based sexual health educator, Platt wrote a distressing and depressing mini-essay on the pathetic state of "sex ed" in BC schools. Check it out over at The Tyee.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Yes Virginia, it is.

Knowing we're going cartoon-crazy, pacanukeha sent us to "Is Pixar a 'boys only' club?" over on eclecticism. Using a quick census of characters from Pixar movies, the mini-essay illustrates a number of the issues we have with the current crop of animated flicks circlating out there. It's gonna be a good source of quick quotes the next time I need to explain to Blasty why s/he needs to take a closer look at what's going on in Toy Story.

Friday, May 26, 2006

It's Friday!

Who knew I used to be a health nut? Seems that during my undergrad I was diligently -- even fastidiously -- repairing damaged lung-tissue cells while playing Starcraft with my roommate:

The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.


Earlier work established that marijuana does contain cancer-causing chemicals as potentially harmful as those in tobacco, he said. However, marijuana also contains the chemical THC, which he said may kill aging cells and keep them from becoming cancerous. (emphasis added)

Bam! One more demon-weed myth busted. Read the entire Washington Post article here (will launch a new window).

* * *

We had access to too much money, too much equipment,
and little by little, we went insane.

  - Francis Ford Coppola, on filming Apocalypse Now.

Continuing the theme of nifty science, I suppose you've heard about DARPA's most recent foray into invisibility technology? Man, I love those guys... buncha edge-of-reality fruitcakes with a two-billion-dollar budget and Asimov's collected works as research guidelines.

Anyway, this has been a "quirky" news item for every major news outlet in the country, but in case you missed it here's CBC's report (will launch a new window):

A cloak made of a "metamaterial" wouldn't reflect light or cast a shadow.

All light or other electromagnetic waves would be steered around the object, making it invisible, said study author David Smith, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

"The theory has only now become relevant because we can make metamaterials with the properties we are looking for," Smith said in a release.

Hilariously, the CBC decided to go with an image of a Harry Potter action figure to illustrate this story. Apparently, the boy-wizard's invisibility cloak is the most popular analogy Reuter's or AP or whoever could come up with. Does no-one remember Predator?

* * *

Speaking of Predator, this made me chuckle:

An attempt was made to get shots of the Predator swinging from tree to tree using a monkey in a red special-effects suit. However, the monkey kept removing the suit and the idea was abandoned. (from IMDb's page for the movie)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You -- higher mammal! Can you read?

In our continuing quest to get a handle on what's being marketed to children, C and I watched Madgascar a couple of weeks ago. It was fun and the voice casting was good enough -- Sacha Cohen was particularly awesome as King Julien -- but on the whole it felt a bit forced.

We laughed at the right moments and the penguins are as funny as you think they are; there's the usual mix of sight gags for the tikes and puns + pop culture drops for the grownups; musical numbers, big two-dimensional set pieces... worth watching, but somehow it felt like I'd seen it all before in one of the dozen other smash-success animated blockbusters -- right down to the same-old, same-old boy's club / adventuring company that's propelled through the picture.

Whether it's Woody and Buzz Lightyear or Mr. Incredible and Frozone, it's all the same crap and I'm sick of the feisty female sidekick-slash-love interest hovering around the margins of the action, tossing out the occasional bon mot or rolling her eyes at the boys' misadventures.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily...

I like a gentle spring shower -- or even a solid spring downpour -- as much as the next person, but I've about had it with this soggy, waterlogged morass we're laughingly referring to as a "season." Ten days of rain isn't "spring," it's an incremental monsoon.

* * *

In the interests of thematic continuity, I present you with an aquatic story: for the first time in your life, you can watch a (heavily-mediated) underwater volcanic eruption:

In the first direct observations of an underwater volcanic eruption, newly unveiled video shows plumes of ash and molten drops of sulphur spewing from a crater deep in the North Pacific.


A remotely operated research submarine captured the images in March 2004 and October 2005 of the volcano NW Rota-1, scientists report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

This link will launch the article in a new window. From there, you can view the video.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Potent symbols.

Casually referencing Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Alice in Wonderland and The Neverending Story, MirrorMask is a wildly evocative fairy tale/hallucination which kept us riveted. The movie follows the (mis)adventures of Helena -- caught in the throes of what is either an intricate, fantastical dream or a vision quest -- and weaves a rich tapestry of myth, creating an entire world out of the symbols and signposts of her life.

With solid performances and a unique, engaging esthetic, MirrorMask may have been written for a young audience but is a great story for viewers of all ages: like any good fairy tale, it deals with the hard stuff (duty, destiny, death & deliverance) in a way that makes it accessible, palatable and memorable.

Friday, May 19, 2006

By ones and twos.

Here's an interesting tidbit from CBC.ca:

The federal government will soon award the Memorial Cross, which is currently given only to mothers and wives of fallen Canadian soldiers, to their husbands and fathers as well.

After an uncomfortable incident last year where a man wasn't allowed to collect his son's posthumously-awarded medal, instead forced to watched from the sidelines while his wife received it on her own. It was doubly painful for the family: he wasn't permitted to participate in a final ceremony honouring his child and she had to endure the pomp and circumstance alone.

There really wasn't any reason to hang on to this outmoded piece of sexist protocol and, given the otherwise depressing status of women under Harper, a welcome piece of good, progressive news.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Will wonders never cease?

Usually, Gazette editorials are targets for carefully-crafted loogies, phlegmatic projectiles summoned forth by my contempt for the facile, pretentious blowhards who pen these thinly-veiled neo-con tracts. Usually. Today's one of those rare days when I actually find myself nodding as I read the editorial board's criticisms of Harper's incomprehensible plan to scrap EnerGuide:

Axing EnerGuide is short-sighted

The Gazette

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

No matter what kind of made-in-Canada solution the Harper government proposes to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, it will inevitably involve cutting back on energy consumption.

The amount of the reduction, and the speed with which any target can be met, is what's under consideration, not the need to reduce consumption.

This makes the Conservatives' decision to cancel the EnerGuide program all the more puzzling. The program seems to fit perfectly with Conservative values: It calls on the private sector; encourages homeowners to take matters of energy conservation in hand themselves and provides public money only after private money has been spent and the work verified.

The savings from the program launched in 1998 are substantial. Homeowners received federal grants, on average worth $1,000, to retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient.

In Saskatchewan, for instance, homeowners who participated in the program were able to cut back by a third on their energy consumption. Retrofit changes cost, on average, between $10,000 and $15,000.

Under the EnerGuide program, between October 2003 and March this year, about 52,000 homeowners received $75 million from Ottawa once they improved their energy efficiency rating.

Homeowners invested three and a half times as much in renovations to achieve the higher rating. The resulting savings, according to a published report, were roughly 28 per cent.

Residential energy consumption is far from negligible in Canada. According to the federal government's own figures, the residential sector's energy use increased by 13 per cent between 1990 and 2003. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions increased by 15 per cent, or 10.3 megatonnes.

But--and this is crucial--without energy efficiency improvements, residential energy use would have climbed by 32 per cent between 1990 and 2003.

Improvements to the thermal covering of Canadian homes, coupled with more efficient appliances and heating equipment, whether for air or water, led to a gain in residential energy efficiency.

This is a significant step forward. There is no reason to jeopardize these gains. Global warming will be contained when everyone puts their effort into it. Countries, large and small, developed and developing, and citizens at all economic levels must be involved in saving the planet we all share.

The beauty of a program like EnerGuide is that it not only helps stop energy waste, it also makes individual citizens aware of how they contribute to a global problem. That is how people learn to stop polluting the world beyond the point of no recovery.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rhymes with 'kaboom'.

I don't know why the dork hordes were so upset about the big-screen treatment of iconic shoot-em-up Doom; this flick really isn't any worse than Ghosts of Mars or any other sci-fi/action schlock. In fact, I actually liked the "twist" (and I use the term verrryyy loosely) and C & I both thought the first-person sequence was pretty well done.

There were a bunch of nods to the original game, nice touchstones for nostalgic gamers, and on the whole it was a fun watch. If you want a low-rent Aliens to numb your brain for an hour, this is it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Awash in pop.

The Survivor finale's about to start, so I'll keep this brief: first, thanks to grad school avenger for sending steenblogen and I this video of a guy caught zug-zugging himself.

* * *

Secondly -- and speaking of beaches -- Pacanukeha's got a link up to some amazing sand sculptures -- check it out.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Not without incident.

We don't buy a whole lot of movies: on our limited entertainment budget, a movie has to be good and withstand repeated viewings to justify a purchase. Equilibrium neatly satisfies both criteria. This taut, smartly-directed action flick features a plausible concept, decent script, solid acting and modest ambitions to rise a little above a couple of its genre's conventions.

Christian Bale is excellent -- and he has to be, as he really carries the movie. Sean Bean and Emily Watson are both compelling and deliver nuanced, layered performances but their parts are small and ultimately their characters are signposts in John Preston's (Bale) journey. Even the sleekly evil Taye Diggs can only fill out Preston's shadow -- though he is an excellent antagonist: wily, relentless and motivated.

Visually stunning, the movie is a real gem and shouldn't be missed just because it wasn't released in Canadian theaters.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I don't mean to go off on a rant here, but who the fuck does Debbie Travis think she is? How did this pantsuited peacock accrue so much credibility? I'm driving home from work, listening to CBC and idly pondering supper when this pompous jackass starts spouting off about the laziness of youth.

From what I gather, this kind of malicious generalization is part-and-parcel of the whole "Debbie Travis" public persona: she's made demographic-bashing into some kind of cottage industry. The arrogance of this jerk is unreal: disingenuously prefacing her remarks with a, "I'm not suggesting twentysomethings are lazy," she then launches into a haphazard indictment of a loosely-defined group's "lack of a work ethic."

First of all, she never really clarified whom she's referring to, beyond basically anyone between the ages of 16 and 35. Secondly, she didn't cite a single source for this inane generalization -- not one. Now, if this is some anecdotal shit, then fine -- so be it. But she's getting taken seriously and people are listening to her randomly defame an entire demographic without any kind of justification at all.

I've met a ton of bloated, self-righteous, moralizing, pass-the-buck fortysomething wastrels in my life, but you wouldn'tsee me paint a whole generation with that brush.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Scouting the opposition.

Partly because it looked like fun, light fare and partly because we feel an obligation to start sniffing out what's being marketed to young 'uns, C and I rented Zathura: A Space Adventure a while back.

Nominally the sequel to 1995's Jumanji, this Jon Favreau-directed "boys' adventure" is a polite romp through space and time that imparts a few easily-digested lessons on kindness, karma and courage. Very white, very middle-class and very boy, it didn't exactly impress us. Worth the price of the rental, but not much more than that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The hills come alive.

So we took the weekend off to have a little fun: an old friend of C's was in town with his band and we decided to shelve our projects for a couple of days so we could spend some time with them.

They swing through Montréal about twice a year and always stay with us, crashing on whatever accomodations we can rustle up for them. This time they lucked out: we borrowed a queen-size mattress from some neighbours and laid it out in the baby's room... definitely a step up from the couch. Usually they just blow through town -- dump their gear, play the show, stay up late with us drinking tea and shooting the breeze -- but this time they stayed a little longer and we got our visit on.

They're a good bunch of guys and we always have a fun time when they're here. Plus it's pretty cool to be on the guest list for a really, really good band. Their new record is pretty amazing and comes highly recommended.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

I'm happy -- nay, ecstatic -- to report that, with the help of a friend, we got the baby's room painted last week. Two thick coats of a beautiful, soothing pale lavender turned a stark, empty room into a really welcoming space for a newborn (or anybody). We assembled the changing table and moved a few items in, so it's starting to actually look like a habitable space in there.

Last night I went to pick up the crib and mattress and hopefully we'll get that assembled and set up some time this week. After a bout of real anxiety over the progress of our plans, everything's been coming together these past two weeks and I think we're feeling better about where we're at.

* * *

Now, I know there are some polls out there saying [George W. Bush] has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

If you hadn't heard about Stephen Colbert's brilliant détournement at the White House Correspondents Dinner last week, here's your chance to catch up. Editor & Publisher magazine is carrying the complete transcript and you can watch a video recording of the bit right here (will launch a new window).

Lorraine Carpenter has a quick puff piece on Colbert over at Maisonneuve's site and she links to a detailed analysis of the post-event coverage over at Media Matters: "Media touted Bush's routine at Correspondents' dinner, ignored Colbert's skewering." Seems that the mainstream media deliberately omitted any references to Colbert's performance during their coverage of the events; hardly a surprise, given that they were targets as well. From the Media Matters article:
Colbert also fired on the Washington press corps. "I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country," Colbert said, "except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story -- the president's side and the vice president's side." He expressed approval of the media's repeated failure to hold the administration accountable: "Over the last five years, you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out." Further, he urged the White House correspondents in attendance to "[w]rite that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Grab bag.

The chain reaction of "fetus kicking -> C waking up six times a night -> me waking up three times a night" has wreaked havoc with my energy levels and turned me into a morning person against my will. It's like, if I'm wide awake at 5:00 anyway, I may as well do a couple loads of laundry and mop the kitchen.

* * *

Seduced by a deceptively beautiful trailer, I suggested we rent Zu Warriors a couple of weeks ago. Big mistake; we got about fifteen minutes in before looking at each other and going, "ummm... no." With special effects on par with Power Rangers and an utterly nonsensical plot, this flick really doesn't have anything going for it.

* * *

I'm totally not a hockey buff, but a friend insisted I watch an Alexander Ovechkin highlight reel the other day and I was floored: the degree of athleticism and professional skill this kid's got is just sick. An incredibly graceful skater with insane puckhandling skills who hits like a ton of bricks... what's not to love?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hi-ho, hi-ho...

Between the two of us, we've made some progress here: the floodwaters of bric-a-brac are receding and we're starting to be able to see our furniture again. C's been chipping away at the piles while I'm at work and she's been able to get a surprising amount of organizing done.

With any luck, tonight we'll be able to actually paint the baby's room -- I never get tired of saying that -- and by this time next week our labyrinth of detritus will have vanished.

* * *

Now Playing magazine has a long interview with Ron Moore and includes some musings and hints about the forthcoming third season of Battlestar Galactica.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Seven Minutes past Midnight.

At the request of Ann Spam, I thought I'd plug The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book I received as a thank-you gift from an acquaintance last year.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the book, as I apparently missed all the hype about it. What I found was an old-fashioned whodunit entwined with a fascinating character study. Given its unique voice, charming cast and unusual dénoument, I'm not surprised this book was a popular darling. It's a breezy read, but the characters are so compellingly drawn that they stayed with me afterwards. Beyond an unusual and unforgettable protagonist, the story features an assortment of plausible, sympathetic friends, neighbours and family members. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of the parents' corroded marriage: Haddon manages to convey both the complexity of a very adult (and somewhat tragic) relationship and the block-simple interpolation of that relationship in Christopher's mind.

Although criticized by some for the simplicity of its language, I think that's one of the book's strengths: by framing the events in a clear, unadorned prose, Haddon retains a transparency and sincerity which reflects Christopher's own crystalline perspective. The trick -- and the wit-- is the way in which the author also manages to communicate the between-the-lines subtleties to the reader.

All told, one of the better novels I read last year.