Archive | October 2013

Things I love this rainy Thursday

There are few punk (/post-punk) bands I love more than Fugazi. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my holy grail bands live – I saw the Saints not long before moving away from Brisbane, and a few years earlier had gotten to see Joe Strummer play (I knew it was never going to be the Clash, but it was still amazing). Fugazi are my #1 holy grail band that I would FLIP the fuck out and probably travel to see multiple shows for. One day..

I love being able to make a cup of tea right here in my office, because for some reason there’s a kettle in here. Proximity to caffeine = higher than ever.

Really love finally having my permanent residency card. Makes me feel like it’s properly real, now! And now it’s just a month or so til my provincial health insurance kicks in. Woo!

Finally got my official card! I can flash my permanent residency all over the place, now.

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Horror movies! So good. Well, the good ones are really good (there’s a lot of bad ones). I love the genre, though. But before I was old enough to be allowed to go and rent all the 15+ rated horror movies, this was my go-to. I still love this movie to this day, don’t even try to tell me it doesn’t hold up.

And more than ever I really flippin’ love my mister. He’s a good ‘un.

 

What I read – Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals

I finally got off my slack butt and read something so I could attend a meetup of the Toronto Animal Book Club! Hosted by vegan gadabout MeShell, we sat down at the Bickford Flexitarian to chat about Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals by Jonathan Balcombe. Examining scientific observations, Balcombe paints a picture of the capability of animals to experience life, emotion and their capacity for intelligence.

Much of what I’ve read about how animals can feel will often focus on non-human primates – it makes sense, as much work has been done on their cognitive abilities and social nature. In this book, Balcombe does cover that ground, but also uses quite a varied spectrum of other examples. Insects, rodents and other small mammals, marine life, and more. It’s fascinating seeing that broad amount of observation laid out to examine the depth of animal life beyond basic biology (not that any of it is mutually exclusive to biology, but it’s still nice to see discussion above and beyond).

The first half of the book generally deals with the types of capacities for living and experiencing that animals display. Sensitivity, emotions, awareness and intelligence. It’s important to examine these in the context of the non-human animals, and realise expecting the same level of emotion, intelligence and language in non-human species is unrealistic, and understand that not every act of an animal species is based on instinct. It was fascinating to consider that animals experience grief like us, when depressed they might favour water drugged with anti-depressants, they have not just self-awareness but awareness of others, can deceive, can communicate, can learn and can have a surprising capacity for selflessness and empathy.

There’s a lot of information going on in this book, so it can be a bit of a slog, but it all comes together to portray the importance of recognising the lives of animals as unique in their own right, but sharing many aspects with ours. I think this is a great quote to share from the book’s conclusion:

“As we’ve seen, fishes and other vertebrate animals have inner lives. As individuals with sensations, perceptions, emotions and awareness, they experience life. Having the capacity to remember past events, and to anticipate future ones, animals’ lives are not merely a series of now moments; by showing that animals have ambient emotional states, we show that their lives play out like a moving tapestry, and they can go better or worse according to their circumstances. As active participants in dynamic communities teeming with other life forms, animals benefit by being on the ball, and learning from their experiences. Many live in rich social networks, where individuals benefit by forming friendships and by cooperating with others.

These capacities endow animal with interests of their own. They are not just living things; they are beings with lives. And that makes all the difference in the world.”

We had a great, ranged discussion about the sorts of things that came up in the book. A lot of us were surprised and delighted by the variety of information and what we learnt about the unique behaviours of certain animals. It stirred discussion about the catch-22 of understanding animal behaviour better through examples resulting from lab research (although many of the examples are from wild studies also). I brought up the question “is is hard for people to accept examples and capacities for emotion/intelligence etc in animals because they’re not at the same ‘level’ as humans”? This book makes the argument that getting past that issue is embracing our Second Nature – coming out of the era of the First Nature, where we use and abuse animals, into a period where we understand the individual animal as just that, and make a connection to beings that are living and deserve to do so, to leave behind our deep-seated prejudices that humans are better than non-humans.

If you’re interested in animal behaviour, society and intelligence, this is worth at least a skim-read! You could also watch Balcombe’s webinar on the subject – MeShell linked it for us in the book club’s group, and she said it covers a lot of the ground the book does. So if you’re into seeing the movie rather than reading the book, perhaps this lecture is for you!

Digital dozen, get it while it’s hot!

  • Because dogs are wonderful, especially when caught in a strange pose: SHAKE, the book, is a collection of photographs of dogs caught at high speed while shaking off water. I mean, come on:
    Shake
  • Do you love Sriracha hot sauce like I do? Read a little about the company and CEO behind it. Keeping it nice and simple, I like it.
  • Platypi are awesome creatures. I saw one in the wild once! It was so quick and nimble. I’ve never seen footage of one enjoying playing and belly rubs though. It’ll make you grin.
  • These illustrations are kind of a mixed bag, but I particularly enjoy the post-apocalyptic and surreal ones.
  • Would you like to be terrified? Enjoy! (In particular, the tongue biter will give me nightmares.)
  • When crowdsourcing goes very right – Alternatives to the Singularity, where “a bunch of funny people, futurists, and weirdos created 80+ variations on the theme of Singularity”. It’s worth going through the whole slideshow linked, but I particularly enjoyed the meta-ness of the Collabularity.
    New Picture (2)
  • It’s a shame that the studios churning out Batman and Superman movies won’t take the time to get their shit together for Wonder Woman movie. Look at this terrific short that some folks put together, and how even something not big budget can look exciting and feature badass ladies!
  • I am baffled by ‘The Fox’ by Ylvis, but I am delighted when Cookie Monster asks what the fox says, and the fox follows up by asking what Cookie Monster says. Sesame Street ❤
  • More for superhero nerds.. The trailer for the upcoming Captain America sequel has been released, and it looks rad! I’m also interested in how film companies are starting to use Instagram to tease upcoming stuff, like this snappy little X-Men Days of Future Past morsel.
    http://instagram.com/p/f1nxeADozp/
  • Just look at these sweet-ass caffeine molecule coffee/espresso cups. I miss the caffeine molecule mug I used to have that mysteriously vanished from the sharehouse I used to live in here in Toronto 😦
  • When Adam watched this the other night, he immediately decided he wanted an adult-sized one – and who can blame him?
  • Artist Isiah Stevens has done a series of Disney Princesses dressed up as other characters for Halloween, and it’s pretty ingenious, looks amazing. (And he’s starting to do male Disney folks too!)

Toronto After Dark 2013 – 3 film reviews

I attended a few screenings at this year’s Toronto After Dark film festival, now being held down at the Scotiabank Cineplex rather than up at the Bloor (a bummer, as the Bloor is walking distance for me!). I was a little underwhelmed this year, unfortunately – but ended up on a high note with the film I saw last night, Willow Creek. Read on for my thoughts on what I saw (remembering these are my own thoughts, and I’m not a professional film critic, thanks).

Odd Thomas

This is a sort of the Sixth Sense meets Dead Like Me with a dose of Supernatural mash-up. Yelchin is a fine lead, and Dafoe made a great straight man. Addison Timlin, cast in the romantic partner role of Stormy, seemed to have fun with the sassy, care-free character. And there was a nice surprise cameo from Patton Oswalt.

As far as story and flow, it felt a little like extended TV episode in its scope – stretching a little too far for its own good, this would have done better in the arc of a TV show. Script-wise, I was disappointed in the role and portrayal of women, overall – it got worse the more I pondered it. Young, beautiful and scantily clad in general, no spectrum to show me it wasn’t just a male gaze operating, and there was something real and important going on with these women. Female characters weren’t shallow, but still defined mostly by their relationships to men in the film, which genre films sadly often lean toward.

3 out of 5

Last Days on Mars

The casting and production behind the Last Days on Mars was really strong. The writing was pretty solid even, with a nice balance between characters (male and female). There was drama, action and suspense, none of it trite or really boring. But the story just wasn’t anything groundbreaking – alien life infecting humans, it just happened to be on Mars. I suppose a change of scenery was nice, but it didn’t make the movie really pop out for me. The cinematography was well done, despite some dark & confusing moments in the fight scenes (I felt that was pretty realistic though – I don’t expect well-lit disasters as the backdrop to a fight, in this instance).

What frustrated me more than anything, and actually impacted my enjoyment of this film more than anything else was the terrible, terrible sound mix. Sound effects and score were very often mixed louder than the dialogue which meant that I missed out on a lot of little details of conversations and the marks were missed when it came to the emotion and gravity of some moments because of it. So, despite strong casting and terrific acting, those people were let down by a technical failure. If it was just this particular copy of the film, I hope it’s going to get fixed if this gets a wider release.

2.5 out of 5 (it’d be just 2 if it weren’t for the strong cast)

Willow Creek

Although this is another found footage film, I was interested after watching the trailer, and the idea of them searching for something that’s so pervasive in cryptozoology – everyone knows of the Bigfoot myth. In his introduction, director Bobcat Goldthwait actually spoke about his initial intention to make a Christopher Guest-like comedy surrounding it, but after visiting the area and meeting the locals felt that a suspenseful found footage movie would work far better.

It’s got a slow burn – you see the couple arriving up at Bluff Creek/Willow Creek where some famous sightings have occurred. They interview locals (many of them actually real people, not actors) , drive around and visit locations on the road and in town and generally give you a sense of the setup of what they’re getting into. Some people don’t believe at all, there’s some quirky locals who do, and then there’s some sinister undertones of don’t go out there, it’s dangerous (and not just because of bears/mountain lions).

Eventually once the couple heads out into the more remote areas, the tension starts building. Even though it’s ‘found footage’, the edits are done pretty well and there’s a particular scene in their tent that is focused on just them and their emotion/reactions. There was one point where I was SO tense I had my hands up to my face, and the look on the two main actors faces was amazing, pure terror. (It helps that Goldthwait actually had them out in the middle of the bloody forest in the night – I’d have peed my pants.)

It leans heavily on the imagined terror – not actually seeing any monsters – and it does it well, especially with sound. (Incredibly well in the frightening climax at the end). There’s a little humour in the film (moreso in the earlier parts, but still present), which balances things nicely. The scenery is beautiful, and the shaky-cam effect isn’t too problematic as with most of the found footage genre. I’d say if you like to be scared, you should see this film! It’s not terribly unique but it’s a good watch.

4 out of 5

Time to TILT.

The wind is cool and the leaves are all almost turned. It’s weather for hats and scarves and rugging up, toting a cup of tea or coffee around to keep your hands warm. I love wandering around in the autumn weather! It’s so beautiful out there, and still no sign of snow.

Being able to have a later start morning meant I could spend some time with Jake, and go for a good long walk in the ‘hood with him. We’ve had a busy week which means he’s been a bit lonely, poor little bud. I had the evening at home last night with him too, so that was nice – especially for him scoring scraps while I cooked! Little dude LOVES kale. Who knew.

Little dude loves kale xo #jakethedog

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I’m excited to see all the new board game releases coming out of the Spiel game fair in Essen, Germany! It’s like San Diego Comic Con for board games, and as exciting as hearing about new Apple product releases. So far there’s a couple of things that look awesome – a tile version of the great cooperative game, Hanabi, and an expansion to the terrific city building game Suburbia. Keeping my eye out on Board Game Geek daily to see what the buzz is!

Remembering the trip I took to Paris/London with Adam last year after he’d attended Essen. This was taken at the British Museum, almost a year ago to the day. Adam was a sweetheart and surprised me with a ticket to meet him there, and it’s legit the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Daiya have been rolling out a lot of new products in the past 6 – 12 months. Cheese blocks, cream cheese, slices.. and now PIZZAS! All gluten-free and vegan. Swoon. I’ve tried the fire-roasted vegetable and the roasted garlic and mushroom, and they’re awesome. Texture of the crust is great – crispy but not tough – and the topping/cheese ratio is just right. My only complaint is they could stand to be a little bigger (especially when having to share with Adam!). But a half a pizza plus sides is a great meal. I’ve only seen them at Noah’s (Bloor/Spadina) so far, but I’m hoping to see them pop up in the wider array of health food stores I visit regularly.

Daiya PizzaDaiya Pizza

Nicole’s Dead-easy Bean Salad

Full of beans! (And veg, and colour!)

Full of beans! (And veg, and colour!)

Sometimes when I want a more fulfilling salad than just something heavy on green leafies, I’ll go for beans (or potato.. but this is more veg heavy thankfully!). But I like variety and texture rather than just all beans, so here’s a kinda thrown together recipe for a well-rounded bean salad that’s pretty easy to customize and tinker with (strongly encouraged!). Dress it however you like! Creamy tahini-based, a vinagrette, something garlicky and packed with umami.. anything really works here.

Nicole’s Dead-easy Bean Salad (vegan and gluten-free) – Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side.

Ingredients

  • 1 15oz can of cooked beans (I used navy beans this time, but I like chick peas or a 5 bean mix, too!) – or whatever the equivalent of home-cooked beans would be
  • Around a dozen grape tomatoes, sliced into thirds (to make small discs)
  • 1 bell pepper (or capsicum, if you’re Australian) diced
  • About a cup of diced green beans
  • One large head of broccoli, cut up into the smallest florets you can
  • A half a bunch of kale, torn into small pieces and massaged (the instructions for massaging kale, here, are great)
  • Freshly cracked salt and pepper, to taste

Note: You could also add diced cucumber, finely sliced red onion or scallions, corn kernels, edamame etc.. Any veg that is or can be prepped to be bean-sized and that’s delicious in a salad! I’ve even thrown in lightly steamed diced sweet potato before.

How to get to the part where you end up eating delicious bean salad

Massage your kale, if you haven’t already! Set aside. Next, blanch the broccoli & green beans until just tender. Rinse with cold water and set aside.

Take a large bowl (or a large container you’ll be storing/transporting this salad in). Rinse your beans and throw them in. Next, add the diced veggies – here, tomatoes & bell pepper. After that, add the cooled broccoli & green beans, then the kale. Toss everything together with freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste.

Dress with your choice of dressing and serve! I often like to just add a little more lemon juice and olive oil, to keep it light complement the kale.

 

Lazy, late-ish Digital Dozen.

This is later than I usually get around to posting my link wrap-up for the day! So if you’re browsing through over a night cap, or you’ve found this to peruse over your morning cuppa, enjoy!

  • Great Showdowns are always wonderful, but these recent ones pushed special buttons for me: The Goonies & Serenity.
  • Straw sculptures: they’re a thing, and they’re more awesome than sand sculptures. See? (This one especially great due to dog cameo.)
  • Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but small victories can matter. Keep it in mind when it’s a struggle to have people understand where you’re coming from, like fighting to have people understand stuff like rape culture is shitty.
  • Bad lip reading is pretty fun at the best of times, but they outdid themselves with the Game of Thrones “MEDIEVAL LAND FUN-TIME WORLD” trailer:
  • Oreos are like drugs! The more you know.
  • The patterns of how people name is so interesting to see! Check out this shifting look at lady name trends in the USA:
  • And in more demographic statistical mapping that is possibly not really real but great anyhow..
  • Some folks can really be truly deluded in ridiculous things, like that homosexuality can be cured. Stephen Fry interviewed one of them.
  • Urge to somehow own a home just so I can wallpaper it with awesome prints, for instance:
  • And maybe some pretty awesome glow in the dark sheets to complete the magical wonder of decor?
  • I am extraordinarily fond of these newly suggested additions to the German language. Plauschplage, always.
  • Long exposures have always been a favourite photographic technique of mine, but I don’t get a chance to take advantage of it often (especially due to lack of tripod & SLR). These are hauntingly beautiful long exposures of couples sleeping that look so ethereal.