Sunday, September 18, 2005

Happy 31st!

Jerome & Agnes

Happy b-day Jerome!

If I ever get my act into gear, you may receive a b-day present in the mail. A more likely option, however, is that you will receive it via In-Person either at Thanksgiving (if you're going to be in Toronto) or Christmas (ditto).

High-brow / Low-brow

My parents are in town for the next few days, so Randal & I met them (plus my aunt and uncle) today at the Chateau Laurier for High Tea. (Click on that link - it's a great review from the Xpress here in Ottawa.) We were a little skeptical before showing up - High Tea's not really our sort of thing. We like food, and fancy food is nice too, but there was something a little pretentious about the whole concept of "High Tea". Well, I guess there still is, but it was lovely nevertheless. We had little smoked salmon sandwiches and roast beef sandwiches, more cheese than you could shake a stick at, scones which were oh-so-deelish with Devonshire cream and jam, and some dainty desserts. Plus, of course, the tea. There is over a dozen to choose from - the waitress came by with a large trolley full of tea. She puts some in a bowl and you can smell it to see if that is really the one you want. I tried Margaret's Hope Darjeeling - it was nice and a little strong (which I like), but didn't wow me over. My dad's (Maple Maple) smelled lovely, though I didn't taste it. Mom took the Jasmine Butterfly #1 (the existence and/or nature of #2 remains a mystery). My aunt and uncle both had Berry Berry - it smells similar to Lipton's Mountain Berry. Randal had what I personally thought was the best one - the Lapsang Chu Chong, a Chinese tea. It was very strong and smokey smelling, like burning embers on a fire or an incense stick slowly smoldering. It was very nice.

We were home by about 8:00 or so and I had started to do dishes when Randal came into the kitchen and said we wouldn't be able to see The Aristocrats because it was only playing till Wednesday and I am busy every evening this week. But it was playing in 15 minutes. So I left the dirty dishes in the sink, threw on my jacket, and we ran out to grab a cab to the Bytowne Cinema, arriving about 5 minutes late but thank goodness for previews - we hadn't missed much.

Now, this is not normally my sort of humour, but after one or two renditions of the joke, I was totally into it.* The movie is well done - I had understood it more to be various comedians' version of the joke one after the other, but it is more a fusing and intertwining of tellings and reflections on the joke. No one can really tell you where the joke originated, and there are many theories as to why it keeps getting told. Bottom line: every comedian knows it, every comedian has done it at some point. Some were successful, some were glorious disasters. In the film, a couple of the tellings push the joke way too far, and a few others only provide lame observeations that don't add much; for the most part, however, the comedians seem to really have thought about why people react to the joke in the ways they do and why it has become a rite of passage of sorts for comedians.

If you haven't heard about it, here is a slightly scathing review (but it gets the premise right) and here is a slightly better one, plus here is a reviewer (the first member review on that page) who seems to have really "got it". (No, that is not a biased opinion in any way whatsoever...)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

But you can call me "Pipefish"

Recent ways in which my blog has been found online:

The other day I searched Google for pixxiefish myself, and Google asked me if I meant pipefish. Which, if you don't know, is an incredibly cute, long and skinny type of fish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The weird small world that is my life...

Recently, I've been running into people whom I haven't seen in a while. Yesterday, at work, I am helping a student when I suddenly look up and see a prof I had at Dal. I first met Anne when she was doing her LLM at Dal. That was when I was in first-year law. In my second year I took one of her courses, Law and Technology (and wrote, I am afraid, a somewhat mediocre paper (at least I thought it was) on the feasibility of enforcing publication bans on the Internet). She has just started her doctorate in Law at University of Ottawa, which is pretty cool.

Today I had just finished doing a tour of the library with some students, when I turn around and see a girl who I also knew from law at Dal. Josephine was doing her LLM when I was in my first or second year of law, and has actually been at U of O doing her doctorate in Law for about three years now.

And finally, someone un-law-related!!! I am taking a course in Art History at the U of O (as an employee, I get to go for free!), and the first class was tonight. It's an introductory-level course (2000-level), and at least half the students there were in their first year. I was not the oldest person there, but pretty darn close. Anyway, during the break, I'm waiting to speak to the professor (I needed to ask her about the course book) and I realize the person she is talking with is someone I know. Anna is the girlfriend of a guy I know who is a first-year lawyer at the federal Department of Justice. She herself is a teacher (high-school, I think). It was nice to see a familiar face (especially one in her mid-twenties rather than 17).

At any rate, the Art History class is going to be interesting and fun ... plus I don't think I've ever taken anything so approximately equating a "Bird Course". At least it will be for me. The readings are moderate and hey - they sure do beat both library school and law school readings in terms of interestingness. (I know, I know: you're shocked to hear it.) We have two in-class exams worth 35% each (memorization of terms and selected works of art, short answer questions, etc.), plus a take-home that we have a month to do which should be about - are you ready for this? - 3 pages long.

Let me make this clear: I have no desire to recreate my law school or library school experiences in any form whatsoever. I have written 25- to 30-page papers worth at least 70% of my final mark, taken exams worth anywhere from 80-100%, and completed complex computer multimedia projects worth at least 60%. I really don't need to do any of that again, at least not at this point in my life. And I'm sure when I was in my undergrad, I had smaller assignments that made me squirm then, at which I would likely laugh now. This Art History course is going to be very interesting, I will find it enjoyable, and I am taking it for credit as well as interest, so I do plan on putting my "all" into it, so to speak. But I doubt it will keep me up late at night with worry. Right now, however, that is OK with me. (Besides, I can't stay up late anymore - I have to work in the mornings!)

The only "bad" part about the course is that, despite a number of chapters on it in the textbook, we shall not be touching upon any East Asian art. I'd been looking forward to that. If I take the second introductory course next semester (which I am planning on doing), maybe we will then.

Oh, and on a sad educational note : last night was supposed to be my first Japanese Level 2 class. But it was cancelled due to insufficient enrolment. So now I must learn Japanese on my own. Any budding Japanese speakers out there who'd like to set up an online study group???

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


In a most unusual move, I have seen TWO movies at the theatre in ONE week. (Those of you who know me well will know that I don't even usually watch two rented movies in one week, let alone make it to the movie theatre.) About a month ago, Randal started posting reviews to the website of the Xpress, which is a weekly entertainment news guide in Ottawa-Hull. He has posted a number of movie reviews (he has seen many, many more than me), since Xpress doesn't limit the reviews to just new films.* For each review, he gets a certain number of "tokens". Then, if his review gets rated highly by other Xpress readers, he gets more tokens. You can use your tokens in online auctions to win stuff - everything from CD's to tickets for sneak-preview movies, concerts, operas, and more (even a weekend getaway at a spa & resort - ooh! - but I think he will need a lot of tokens to win that one).

Anyways, so last Wednesday we went to see A Sound of Thunder and this week, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Allow me to proceed in reverse chronological order.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

I don't normally go in for horror flicks, at least not at the theatre. At home in the safe confines of my living room, sure. But, well, what the hell: the tickets were free. Though I did a bit of reading on the movie to prepare myself and I'm glad I did. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is (loosely) based upon the true story of a 19-year-old girl in Germany (her name was Anneliese Michel) in the 1970s who started exhibiting bizarre, strange behaviour, and was determined to suffer from either some form of psychotic epilepsy (as her doctors thought) or demonic possession (as she, her family, and her priest thought). The premise of the film is that Emily has died following a failed exorcism and her priest is being prosecuted with negligent homicide in her death (since he counselled her to cease using her medication).

I have seen enough horror movies to know they can be incredibly schlocky, but this one was well done. Told as a series of flashbacks by involved persons at the trial, a device which was not nearly as clunky as some critics seemed to feel, we see how quickly Emily progressed from a normal teenager, away from home for the first time to attend college, to a very sick girl. We are shown just enough to suggest that while there was likely a rational scientific explanation for her "possession", there are just enough strange elements to also suggest otherwise.

Before going to see the film, I read at least one review which likened The Exorcism of Emily Rose to an Asian horror flick, rather than an American one. I can't remember if the reviewer's tone was complimentary or not, but often that is not a flattering comparison. My sole experience with Asian horror films is Ringu, which I saw on video earlier this summer. A week or two later, the American version The Ring happened to be on TV and so I got a chance to compare (though I must admit, I lost interest in The Ring quite early on because it was so mediocre). The Ring pulled out all the proper punches in terms of showing scary, horrifying things. Ringu did not - but it did something much more horrifying - it showed you just enough to leave the rest to your imagination. And THAT was where its powerfulness lay, by deciding to not walk you through all the horrifying things but letting you fill that in yourself (which, if my mind is any indication, is probably worse than what the director would have come up with him/herself. A scary movie shouldn't be just punch after punch of scare, gore, and fright - it is much scarier with tense buildup and dread.

Of course The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not airtight. There is some fine acting (and some bad screenwriting at times) - it stars Laura Linney as the lawyer defending the priest, Father Moore (played quite well by British actor Tom Wilkinson, who has been in way more movies that I've seen than I realized). Jennifer Carpenter plays Emily Rose and was quite good (though you never really see her as, shall we say, normal). However, you must remember two lawyers went to see this movie (a courtroom drama). I know that court procedures are slightly different between Canada and the U.S., and while I won't bore my dear readers with a list of things that you would just never see in a courtroom, suffice it to say that (a) trial by ambush is a big no-no, (b) whipping out a big blown-up photo of the victim and leaving it in full view of the jury for the bulk of the trial is also a no-no, and (c) there is such thing as disclosure. Then, of course, Randal is also trained in psychology so the entire time Emily Rose is displaying various "problems", he is giving me the whispered diagnoses: "catatonic schizophrenia", "sleep paralysis", "psychosis", "hey, why hasn't anyone suggested multiple personalities?" Heehee.

Recommendation : Go see it, but bring a friend with more courage than you, and even better if it's a friend you can spend the night with afterwards (to keep you safe, of course).

A Sound of Thunder

Based on a short story by Ray Bradbury, the premise was intriguing: In 2055, big-game hunters can pay big money to get big-time thrills by travelling to the past - the way distant past, about 65 million years ago, and hunt a dinosaur.

Ben Kingsley does a fine turn as the tycoon who has financed and runs the operation of the time-travel hunting operation, despite the fact that the character is one-sided and a caricature, nothing more. The other characters are fine, and do the best they can under the circumstances, but nothing really stands out.

The plot is contrived. You know someone is going to either leave something behind, bring something back, or change something. Aaaaand, hmm, let's see how the film develops - oh yeah, there you go, one of the Golden Rules just got broken. Oh sh*t - now you've gone and done it.

There are a few dinosaurs and many monkey-cum-lizards. There is a weird tsunami-like time warp wave that hits the planet every now and again, and every time this happens - yup, you guessed it - something gets changed. Plants burst out of nowhere. And somehow, in all the chaos, Our Brave Heroes battle through, with liquid nitrogen bullets and plucky courage, and despite the fact that the state-of-the-art facility with time machine has been flooded and damaged beyond repair, Ms. and Mr. Scientist can remove a hard drive (thankfully, stored above the flood line) and then reinstall it in a monkey-infested physics lab across town and - boom! voila - we have a new time machine. Dang - if only computers were generally that easy to fix.

Recommendation : Save the $10 and stay home to watch Ringu. If you absolutely must see this, I guess a late-night video rental is OK, but have some fun with it: buy lots of beer first and play a drinking game - Everytime something impossible happens, or a piece of hokey dialogue spoken, take a sip. Lightweight drinkers should probably stay far from this one. (Then again, it may make the movie way, way more palatable.) Better yet, read the short story and leave the rest to your imagination.

*ps. I will add links to Randal's review(s) of the movie (he's reviewing Emily Rose for sure, and maybe A Sound of Thunder) if his review is accepted by Xpress.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Blast from the past...

Today I went on a "field trip" at work - went to visit the Health Sciences Library with a few other librarians. It is on a different campus from the rest of the U of O.

The best part of the whole trip, however, was walking through the Health Sciences Building on our way to the library: the walls were lined with photos of graduating classes. We stopped to look at some old ones, then I said, almost joking, "Hey, I should see if my parents are up here!" They met at U of O Medical School and both graduated in 1972 (they married in 1971, though I note that despite my mother's declaration that she graduated under her married name, her maiden name is actually hyphenated to the married one).

And we found them, on the wall on the way to the library (it's like they knew where their daughter would end up someday):

It was pretty cool. I was told that my dad looks like a total hipster (he probably was at the time, and he still is, though in different, unexpected ways) - especially with his way-cool long sideburns - and that my mom also looked cool with her glasses and long, long hair. Plus, what I already knew and shall likely never escape: that I look like my mom - hi Mom! love you! ;) - though I pointed out that I have my dad's nose (at least, a more delicate, girly version thereof).

I don't know if this was the same building they would have actually attended Med School at; I think it is a "newer" building (though not in the true sense of the term "new", judging from the bright orange carpeting throughout the library).

Happy 4th...

It is my brother Jerome's and Agnes' fourth wedding anniversary today - Happy Anniversary, guys! When I get home tonight, I may stick a photo of you two up, so beware... :)

Jerome is actually not in Vancouver with Agnes celebrating his anniversary today, but in Hull, just across the river (literally) from me in Ottawa, working on some project (he is an engineering consultant) for the weekend. So he and I will, at some point in the next few days, be toasting his four years of married bliss. Which will be nice since, considering geographic realities of Canada, I don't get to see him very often anymore.

* Added 11:15 p.m. As promised:

I always liked this photo as one of my favourite from their wedding; they both look very natural and happy.

Also just got back from having dinner with Jerome - we ate and ate and talked, and it was good fun. Tomorrow we will likely go out again.