Saturday, September 30, 2006

Weekend tidbits

For a while there, 101 was the top search result for "Borat" at Google Blog Search.

Even more cool, Ben Sheets's six shutout innings have pushed me into second place in the Irrational League, two points up on Frank and a half point back of first with the baseball day in progress.

I have a lot of starts to go: Maddux and Arroyo today; Smoltz, Woody Williams, and Odalis Perez tomorrow. Can we keep that ERA below 4.30? I can't stand the excitment. I need a drink.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I saw "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" this evening.

The Journalism Department gave out free passes to a preview screening. The cleverly designed passes looked like official invitations from the Kazakhstan embassy, photocopied onto cheap gray paper. Brilliant.

Each pass was good for two people. I invited the wife, but she informed me that she'd made dinner plans with a co-worker - actually, co-grad student - and her parents.

So I went alone to the preview showing. In the theatre, I found Simon, one of the Journalism computer lab TAs. We sat and talked, about gossip and movies and music, until the film started.

The movie was hilarious. It was typical Borat, wrapped around a loose plot, but more daring and more hilarious than the TV version. You'd think Borat wouldn't be for everyone, but the older couple on my left laughed as hard as I or Simon on my right did. I offer my fullest admiration to co-star Ken Davitian for his bravery during the hotel fight and subsequent chase scene. That takes balls.

One of the odd things about the movie is the question of co-stars. Borat makes hay out of folks who don't know him. In some of the movie situations, the presence of the camera goes completely unnoticed by the folks Borat meets, as in any standard non-documentary. But the reactions often feel viscerally real, unscripted, unacted. And none of the "real" people Borat meets get credits in the film. How many are actors?

The climax of the film is an encounter with Pamela Anderson. She had to know Borat was an act - I assume. Yet the security guards in that sequence sure do look like they're for real. I can't any revelations online. Anybody know?

There's another noteworthy oddity in the film. Ken Davitian uses a language I can't understand, real or made-up, when he speaks his character's native tongue. Sacha Baron Cohen, however, speaks heavily accented Hebrew! As much as Borat rails against Jews, he's speaking real Hebrew as some fake native language. It was legitimate, too. What Baron Cohen spoke in Hebrew more or less equaled the English subtitles, but even where it didn't follow exactly, the meaning was similar. I enjoyed following the Hebrew, but what an odd choice. Wikipedia tells us Baron Cohen's mother is Israeli, and he may speak the language fluently, but still.

The crowd left happy. Those who stayed to watch the credits saw that Jason Alper was not only the costume designer, which IMDb reports, he also had a credit that IMDb curiously does not list, as the person who supplied the feces. It's that kind of movie.

I have a review of a screenplay slotted for my next blog post. I managed to snag a copy of the shooting script of "Flyboys". I plan to see that Saturday, then read the script and put my thoughts down here.

You know, Sacha Baron Cohen would make a perfect Ezer Weizman in "101". He's got the Hebrew down, too. Call me, Sacha:

Bonus rudeness:

Before the film, I was waiting in line behind two 20-something men at the concession stand. As the nice snack lady served the first, a 20-something female acquaintance ran up and greeted them in a way that indicated she hadn't been with them before. She had unnatural red hair and a jacket to match. She waited with them while the second guy ordered, and reconnaissance vibes started to set the stage for a battle of wills.

Her friends didn't order snacks for her, and she started to use her body to block me out form the ordering station. I outflanked her and got to the counter beside her friend. Her friends left. The counter girl gave the interloper her attention, and she started to order, but I spoke up, "Excuse me, I was here before you. I'd like a small popcorn and small diet Pepsi." Blitzkrieg!

The woman tried to dismiss me. "Those are my friends."

"Then they should have bought you your food. A small buttered popcorn and small diet Pepsi, please."

As the counter girl fetched my order, one of Red's friends let out a "What's up with that?"

I'm fairly certain the people in line behind me saw the merit in my actions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Updates on the downswing

Boy, I'm tired. Those three days in Toronto cost me me more in time than I thought they would. I've been pedaling hard to catch up. I think I'm there, course-wise. I'm slightly behind where I want to be with Reader's Digest work, but a day at it Thursday will bring that up to speed, I hope. I want to turn in a report Friday, but Monday wouldn't be the end of the world.

Of course, what suffers is writing. But there's still some ongoing news there. I'm writing a logline and synopsis for Robert the Director. He's read and given notes on "72 Virgins", and he likes the story and dialogue. he says if we spice up the visual setting, he may want to film it. There's your scoop. You know before my co-writer does.

The meeting with TP (The Producer) was postponed a week because of his crazy schedule, so no news there. That continues to look promising nevertheless.

And to end with bright notes, my range of motion in my shoulder is definitely increasing as I work through my physio. And with six, possibly seven, days to go in the baseball season, I'm in a practical three-way tie for first in the fantasy Irrational League. Go Odalis!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Toronto lies

The wife, the kids, and I are in Toronto to celebrate the new year (Happy New Year!) and we're staying with my sister, her husband, and her two kids. My mom is here, too. The house is too small for the ten of us. Elvi and I are sleeping on a futon, trapped between three screaming kids and an ice-cube maker that churns like something used to lay asphalt.

Given the situation, and the willing-to-babysit grandmother, Elvi and I decided to go out last night. A little Web research turned up some places that played '80s music, so off we went.

Well, Funhaus was alternative, I suppose, but alternative in headbanging, hard-core Husker Du sort of way (i.e. not the good kind of Husker Du). We kept waiting for something with a melody, but we left unfulfilled. Bovine Sex Club (neither, in fact, bovine nor sex club) sounded promising when we first passed by. The DJ was playing the Monks. I thought I was the only one who ever did that. Nevertheless, by the time we gave up on Funhaus and headed back there, a crappy band had taken over.

We were left '80s-less. I'm so discouraged by the evening that I'm not even going to bother putting links in the post.

On the bright side, I'm back to writing. I seem to have returned to "Sheep's End" instead of moving forward with "By the Book", but writing is writing. I may also have a legit film job in the works. I'll be meeting with the producer next week. It won't be script writing, but work is work, and any film work is a step forward.

Bonus Irrational League update:

I was in first for a little while, thanks to some unconscious pitching, but a few mediocre outings have dropped me back into third. There's a week to go, and I find myself relying on a good performance from Odalis Perez, and that can't be good.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Nothing worth a title

The wife and I attended a meet-and-greet cocktail party with parents of other girls in Grades 7 and 8 at Child One's new school, her high school.

God bless Grade 11 girls who don't know how much rum to put in a rum-and-Coke.

Good night.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Arrrr you ready, kids?

Tomorrow, of course, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

In a suprising move of recognition among the mainstream media, tonight's episode of "Wife Swap" on ABC will feature the founding family of this newest of international holidays. It may be worth watching....

Even if you don't tune in, you do need to be ready to set sail at dawn tomorrow. Are you feeling inadequate in your grasp of pirate vernacular? A fine instructional video can help you get up to speed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Four Anglos

(This post may not make much sense to readers unfamiliar with the culture and politics of Montreal, but it's not worth the effort to summarize them. Trust me.)

Last night, the wife and I caught the final show of "Four Anglos of the Apocalypse" at the Centaur. The show is less a play than a revue of political commentary. It stars the musical duo Bowser and Blue, editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin), and writer Josh Freed.

(Josh is my cousin, and there's a cute family story about how he used to nap in mother's drawer. Well, it's cute the first time you hear it.)

My mother was in town last week. She saw the show and loved it. She practically begged us to go see it, but I was leery. Bowser and Blue write and sing songs about Canada ad oppressed anglophones (that means English mother-tonguers in Quebec). Josh has some brilliant moments - above all, as co-writer of "The Anglo Guide to Survival in Quebec", published in 1983.

I wasn't keen on going. I could write pages on this, but my short explanation is that there's nothing new to say about Anglophone life in Montreal. We're here, we're discriminated against, and we live with it. The only people who keep laughing at this stuff are the older generations. Us young folk are either so integrated or so disgusted that we don't laugh at it anymore. Not much has changed in the last 30 years.

And, as I explained to my mom, you see one Bowser and Blue gig, you've seen them all - and I've seen one. You read "The Anglo Guide to Survival in Quebec" and you know what Josh is going to say. Terry Mosher is genius, but what can a cartoonist do on stage?

Nevertheless, my mother bought us tickets. So we went.

We sat in the very last row of seats. As I'd expected, a sea of gray and bald filled the room ahead of us. I doubt there were more than two dozen people younger than us in the audience, and my best friend just turned 40.

The show slightly exceeded my expectations. Bowser and Blue were Bowser and Blue, with some good impersonations of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard. Josh was Josh, mostly. He managed to crack me up with the suggestion that there ought to be a road sign that warns drivers to get out a French dictionary because an incomprehensible sign awaits up ahead.

I appreciated Terry Mosher most. He touched on some of the behind-the-scenes communications between him and some politicians, which was new.

Other than that, it was whining, an explanation of how the whining came to be, and an ending of rapprochement, survival, and jubilation. Pretty much what I expected. All the old people loved it.


My inaugural appearance at the Alex Epstein poker game led to a profit of about $12 after a $7 table buy-in. Screw this freelancing stuff, I'm going pro!

My gambling luck - ahem, skill is proving fruitful in the Irrational League as well. Thanks to two weeks with 1.10 WHIP, 2.78 ERA, and 13 wins, I find myself tied in first place with Frank after last night. That trade for Bronson Arroyo (0.64 WHIP, 0.72 ERA, 3 wins) is finally paying off. The third place team is a half-point back of us.

A number of categories can still swing the final standings. I'm six HRs and 0.03 WHIP back of Frank. (Officially, I'm ahead of Frank in WHIP and in sole position of the lead, but SportsLine continues to refuse to adjust Greg Maddux's stats to the official MLB stats.)

.286 batting average (1st)
256 HR (2nd)
979 RBI (1st)
106 SB (8th)
4.31 ERA (4th)
1.31 WHIP (4th)
87 wins (1st)
30 saves (6th)

Guests have just arrived. The launch of my career as a theatre critic will have to wait until later today.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A House, a gun, and a joke

My scheduled interviewees are not home, so I've got some time. Might as well throw it at the blog.

Consensus seemed to prefer the this week's second episode of "House" to the previous season premiere, but I have to go against the grain.

The first episode showed House running, pain-free, and - gosh-darn it - nicer. Yes, his mobility was generous for a guy who's missing a chunk of leg muscle, but I could let that slide. To me, the episode wasn't about the leg or manifestations of House's personality, but about the personality itself. The episode looked at self-awareness. House had for so long adopted the role of bitter, limping genius. He lost the limp, and had to test himself to learn how he could redefine himself.

Was he healthy, caring genius? Was he healthy, caring, mundane guy? He didn't know until he tried things out. Which definition would fit? Could he do that?

By the end of Episode One, we see that it doesn't much matter what he tries out. The limp and pain seem fated to return. The patients of the week can break free of their prisons - wheelchair guy is reborn without pain and all yoga girl needs to get moving is a glass of orange juice. Not House, though. He grasped emotional and physical mobility for a summer, and now as one slips away so does the other.

This week's second episode was sensationalist, and served only to show off the budget. I could be jaded. As I just commented on Diane's blog, I figured out the medical problem long before anyone on the show did. And you know what they say about audiences who are smarter than the characters - we get bored. What bothered me more than that, however, was the loose end of the metal pin. One throw-away line explains how the pin could enter a vein and wind up in the neck, but another doctor (was it Forman?) says that it;s practically impossible. House says it's the best explanation, and the matter is left there. Now, I know my anatomy, and there is precious little chance that a large object will work its way so close to the surface through the venous system. I'm still waiting for a better reason.

Nor did we learn why the foreign cells in the retina and knee hindered eyesight and motion. Chimeras usually function normally.

I was spot on in my preliminary analysis of the weapon use by the Dawson gunman, now revealed to be Kimveer Gill. His primary gun was a Beretta Cx4 Storm. It's a semi-automatic, which means it loads bullets automatically from a clip. It fires single shots only of 9-mm Beretta pistol ammunition. Pistol ammo is fatter and heavier than rifle ammo, and is slower and less lethal in general. Remember, energy is proportional to mass and the square of velocity, so velocity is the more important factor. If he'd had a true semi-automatic rifle, he'd have done more damage.

Speaking of Gill, most news outlets say he had a blog at, but that it's no longer available. Yet they print Gill's photos and quote his messages. Either the journalists are playing censor or they're incompetent, but you can still see Gill's pages. I'm a believer in the open approach, so I'm going to tell you how to see them, and you can decide to go there or not. It's simple. Go to the Wikipedia page on Kimveer Gill, and go to the links on the bottom. You'll find links to his picture page and a link to the Google cache of his profile page (you might also find that at the Internet Archive).

Lastly, I should fill you in on the results of the Bram birthday prank. I spoke to Bram, and the only thing he mentioned is that he was surprised that my brother sent him birthday wishes. I know that dozens of you sent him e-mail, but he said nothing. He may be trolling for hints or waiting for a confession from perpetrator. The game of wits goes on....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What a strange week

Not for me, for my municipal region. Two general-aviation airplanes land on roads, one more successfully than the other.

And today, you probably know, a man with a gun invaded Dawson College and shot 20 people, killing one young woman.

I don't have anything pithy to add. The incident occurred a couple of blocks from Child One's high school, but I never worried about her. The traffic on my carpool run was only an inconvenience.

Thank goodness the prick was incompetent. He had a long gun that witnesses described as a SWAT-style gun or as machine gun. I'm not sure what that was. I know guns, but I'm no connaisseur. It could not have been a typical assault/automatic rifle, though. The guy killed only one of 20 people he hit. One kid with a head wound survived. M-16s and AK-47s are more deadly. He apparently also had a handgun, or several.

The gunman was firing single rifle shots, which helped the victims. Automatic fire would also have proven more deadly, regardless of the power of the gun.

The gunman's identity or motive remain a mystery, at least to the public.

Montreal is a safe city. We're three million people, more or less, and 1.7 homicides per 100,000 - about 50 a year. I'm not sure why every ten years, someone here goes nuts with a gun. Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant, the Dawson shooter....

The population of the city offers kudos to the Montreal Police, who stormed the school immediately and cornered the gunman. They didn't wait for the SWAT team. The officers went after him with nothing but pistols and bulletproof vests. They probably saved lives and definitely saved injuries. Kudos, too, to the men and women who learned lessons tragically taught by the similar events in the past, and who passed them on in theory and training to the blue line that saved young lives today.

Bonus info on Dawson College:

Dawson College is actually a CEGEP in the unique educational system of Quebec. We go to high school until Grade 11, then do two years of CEGEP, then three years of university. CEGEP is sort of like mandatory junior college. You choose a school of concentration - science, humanities, etc. - rather than a major. In the end, we get the same number of years in school. (I prefer the American system. I went to one year of CEGEP, then attended Rice University in the US.)

Dawson is an English CEGEP - CEGEPS, like all schools in Quebec, are divided by language of instruction.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hard contacts, hooo!

I have in my eyes my first set of hard contact lenses. I now have 20/20 vision in both eyes but, as my brother described it, it feels like I have fingernails in my eyes. The lenses irritate my eyelids. That feeling is supposed to go away in a few days, but in the meantime, the trade-off is a net zero.

There's still a bit of astigmatic double-imaging in my keratoconic eye, but not enough to drop my vision below standard. Cost was $250 (Canadian dollars).

Other than that, my out-of-town family is returning home in drips and drabs. I'm on top of school and freelance work. I'm doing regular bouts of shoulder exercise as prescribed by my physiotherapist. Outside of life as a writer, all is well. That darned writing part is the anchor I'm dragging, however. I need to get something done there, and read Alex's latest, a week after I promised to.

With any luck, by Friday, it all will balance.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Help me play a playful prank

I've been friends with my good buddy Bram since fourth grade. Bram will be celebrating his 40th birthday on September 12.

I'd like all visitors to 101 to e-mail birthday wishes to Bram on his birthday. It doesn't matter whether or not you know Bram or not - in fact, the less you know him, the better a prank this is. I'd love to see him get a few hundred e-mail messages.

You can reach him at bram22(at) Don't tell him where you heard about his birthday. I want to see if he figures it out.

Bonus whine of the week:

Who decides to tear up 700 or so linear meters of sidewalk in front of Concordia's Loyola campus, and eliminate the associated 700 meters of parking, the week that classes start? Genius at work in this city, I tell you what.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More Montreal Film Group

I attended Tuesday's Montreal Film Group meeting with my cousin (the actress) and her latest director. She expressed her surprise at how extroverted I acted, because I'm not that way, and even less so around family.

I suppose that means my schmooze skill is increasing, and as further evidence of that is that I got a message today that someone wants to hire me, not as a writer but as a researcher on his documentary.

Researcher on a movie, hooo! (There's a new Hard Gay video out, by the way.)

Another, more established documentarian complained to me that other filmmakers constantly call him to ask if he knows any researchers. Now he does. I'm rarely optimistic, but I wouldn't be surprised if that contact turned lucrative down the road.

Other than that, the party offered plenty of recognizable faces - and hemp ice cream. I tried the maple flavour. One small half-spoonful was enough. It tasted like thick barley honey gone bad. Bleah. What were they thinking?

Bonus Irrational League update:

I'm going to finish third. I have a seven point cushion over the clump battling for fourth through sixth place and even if my hitters continue their 4-for-September performance, I'll stay ahead of them. Four points ahead of me, Frank and the DJ conglomerate are battling for first. My pitching just never got where it should be, and while the pitching stats improved, a blowout a week is keeping my ERA artificially high. I won't make up four points in the next three weeks.

.287 batting average (1st)
240 HR (2nd)
920 RBI (1st)
103 SB (8th)
4.47 ERA (7th)
1.33 WHIP (4th)
76 wins (3rd)
28 saves (6th)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

We'll MySpace like it's 1994

I promised Will last week that I'd post what I thought about MySpace when I had nothing else to write about, and here we are. My dad and sister have been in town, and my teaching semester starts in five hours - between preparing food and lectures, I haven't had much time.

MySpace is a social networking site, and certainly not the first. It is the most popular, however - it's the sixth most popular site on the Web. Why? Because it's high school all over again, without the books.

MySpace is a huge popularity contest. Whoever gets the most friends gets to show off. You also get to show off your hip tastes in music and images. You can join cliques - er, user groups and advertise - er, blog.

Like I told Will, I understand why people flock to the site. Who doesn't want 384 friends? Who doesn't want to show how with it they are? Who doesn't want to belong to a group of cool kids?

Unfortunately, this quest for popularity leads to begging. About 90% of all MySpace messages are users asking to be added as a friend. I don't see the point. And MySpace is a mess. The pages abandon design principles like there are none - like it's 1994 on the Web all over again. Text appears in a range of colours, and blinks. Music plays. Images overlap or lay willy-nilly over background images. It's a mess. If Jakob Nielsen were dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.

I'll stick with the new-fashioned, uncluttered Web, thanks.

Now, off to turn in a Reader's Digest research report and thence to school.