Archive | July 2014

Snowpiercer – a vague review/more like a really enthusiastic recommendation

Snowpiercer poster

The most brutal enemy that we can face is ourselves, and Snowpiercer lays out that struggle bare. Post-apocalyptic class struggle on a moving train with heavy dashes of action, fighting, violence and even touches of (somewhat absurd) humour at times make a package that is hard not to enjoy. There’s no hand-holding explaining of the plot, but instead you’re made to understand as it unfolds with dialogue and metaphors all around. You know enough about the characters to feel for them, root for them or against them. You are caught up in the fight from the tail of the train forward with everyone else.

I went into this movie really knowing the bare minimum other than “generally gritty sci-fi action post-apocalyptic excitement” – which I think helped greatly so I could get caught up in the ride, so to speak. I don’t actually want to spoil the movie with plot points, which is why I’m keeping this review fairly vague (if you’d like to read more specific/spoil-y stuff, then Rotten Tomatoes has all you need, and the Filmspotting podcast has a good spoilerish discussion). Here’s some awesome stuff that might entice you:
– Gritty underbelly of the lower class
– Dystopian future
– Humans fucking shit up for themselves and each other in big ways
– The fight for equality
– Weird protein blocks to chow down on
– How the hell does life on a constantly moving train work anyhow
– Intense and crowded fight scenes
– General ultraviolence
– Getting attached to characters when maybe you shouldn’t
– Set/costume design and direction that make sci-fi a pleasure to watch, and you’re never taken out of the atmosphere that’s generated by that.
If any of this sounds awesome to you, you’ll be enthralled and entertained with Snowpiercer, and I encourage you to check it out on the big screen if you can! It was so, so good and I want to watch it again to revel in the detail/build up of story.

Hello again, Digital Dozen!

Well, I figure if I’m going to start going ahead with the Digital Dozen links posts, then hump day is as good a day as any to get on with it. Let’s start with something whimsical.

Umbrellas canopy over a small street.

When a beagle knows they messed up, they make up for it. Best ever.

Look at these incredibly dreamy pieces of art/jewelry! Like little bits of galaxy all trapped up in some glass.

Earth and moon pendants

Have you ever watched a video of hamsters and a hedgehog eating cake and thought “I bet that’s what I look like when I scoff cake..”? Well, now you can experience what I have gone through.

Absurd and character-based street art are my favourite kinds! I love these captures of some from artist Filthy Luker.

When the Eisners (the Oscars of gaming) announced their digital media nominations, some people felt like there were webcomics that were looked over. io9 decided to compile a list of 51 awesome webcomics and it’s basically a bloody great list of all the great webcomics going on out there. Check it out, especially if you’ve had just a passing interest in comics published online. Many of my faves (Nimona, Girls with Slingshots, Lucky Penny) are on there!

Terrific posters from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s “Know the Line” campaign which aims to prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. I love how basic the graphics of them is, but they hit home nicely. For instance:

That dress was made for you | and your 36DD's

This artist took kids drawings and turned them into finished products. I love it 😀

Child's drawing of a snail turned into a real piece of digital art

I don’t know that I have a multitude of metal objects needing something to be stored in/on, but I would sure try and find more if it meant I could store them on this:

I may have lost it when it got to sound bagels. “Better Names For Things

Some terrifically smarty pants design on this “Resum-ale” package. Chuckle.

And I will leave you with just about my favourite thing I found on the internet this past week. Honestly happy to just watch this over and over cackling to myself.

Fried Crawl – the great eatening of July 2014

A while ago my friend Marissa & I decided “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we tried out a few of the fried mushrooms on offer in vegan cafes/restaurants around Toronto? Or, just generally deep fried foods in general. Yes, yes it would be awsome.” And the ‘Fried Crawl’ idea was born. We narrowed it down to a handful of places in the West End (to make traversing the route easier) and set a date!

First stop was Green’s Vegetarian at the edge of Kensington Market. One of the more decent places in Toronto for vegetarian Chinese food, we knew already they had top-notch fried goods. To pace ourselves, we decided sharing all the dishes would be ideal – so we got an order of the Deep Fried King Mushrooms with Pepper Salt, plus some of their fried soy fritters (closer to nuggets, really). The mushrooms have a great, fluffy/crunchy batter that’s dusted with chili flakes & salt and are incredible. The soy nuggets were breaded and crispy, but nice and soft and proteiny on the inside. Win!

Deep Fried King Mushroom with Pepper Salt, splashed with dipping sauce on my plate.

Deep Fried King Mushroom with Pepper Salt, splashed with dipping sauce on my plate.

Crispy fried soy fritters.

Crispy fried soy fritters, after we’d helped ourselves to a bunch already.

After that it was a short walk on Dundas over to Cafe 668, a place I’d been to a couple of times already and mostly enjoyed. We went for the Mini Taro Wrap, the deep fried dumplings and the deep fried mushrooms. I love the taro wraps (it’s not a flavour/texture I get to enjoy often), and the dumplings were pretty good. The batter on the mushrooms was nice, but they were whole cap cremini (or something similar) and I felt like they were too large/moist once you got through the crunchy batter.

Mini taro wraps on a plate with dipping sauce

Mini taro wraps

Deep fried veggie dumplings on a plate with sauce

Deep fried veggie dumplings

Deep fried mushrooms on a plate with sauce

Deep fried mushrooms

And our little side plates at Cafe 668 were so perfect to lay out a modern art fried piece that I couldn’t resist:

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Fried crawl!!! #vegan #vegansofig #fried

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As a nice halfway break, we’d decided to walk to our next location – Hogtown Vegan up on Bloor. They’d just opened up at their new location a little further west (near Dufferin) and it was great to see the new, larger space. We crammed into a booth (at this point there were 7 of us!) and decided on sharing some tofu ‘wings’, fries supremacy and their deep fried shiitake mushroom ‘clams’. I don’t know what the hell a clam tastes like but I could care less, because the shiitake are awesome. – I think the thinner type of mushroom is just nicer deep-fried, and their batter is a good ratio of covering and crunch. I loved the fries, as always, but was disappointed in the ‘wings’ that night – we’d asked for Buffalo and there was nary a spicy taste to it in my opinion (but the crunchy breading was terrific, which was a positive).

Fried tofu in a basket with sauce and carrot/celery sticks

Tofu ‘wings’

Deep fried shiitake mushrooms with sauce and celery/carrot sticks

Deep fried shiitake mushrooms

Basket of fries with 'cheese' sauce, a creamy sauce and green onions

Fries Supremacy

We lost a good few people after that, as many had reached peak fried levels or had other stuff to get to. We soldiered on to the nearby dive bar, Disgraceland. They have a surprisingly vegan-friendly menu – I’ve been mostly for brunch, so it was great to try some of the apps late in the evening. Fried mushrooms were naturally on the list, and we also got the deep-fried pickles and popcorn tofu. Again, these were whole cap cremini-ish mushrooms which meant I enjoyed them a little less even though the batter was pretty good and a nice spicy soy sauce to dip in. The deep fried pickles were terrific! They had a crunchy breading and some vegan mayo for dipping – I was not sure I’d like hot pickles, but it was terrific. The popcorn tofu was ‘KFC’-style, so in a herby breading which was delicious and crunchy. It came with some gravy (a little watery) for dipping and coleslaw (sad and disappointingly unflavourful) too.

Fried mushrooms with spicy soy dipping sauce on a plate

Fried mushrooms

Deep fried pickles with mayo on a plate

Deep fried pickles

Popcorn Tofu with gravy & coleslaw on the side

Popcorn Tofu with gravy & coleslaw on the side

I made it to the last bite without feeling too overwhelmed with gross greasiness, and I think getting the limited number of apps to share amongst us all really helped with that. It meant we all got nice variety out of it! After it all I felt pretty fine, maybe just a little food hungover in the morning but honestly no worse than any other rich meal I’ve had before. But I’m not sure I’d do it all again in one go – maybe pick a couple of places in the East End to try next time but keep it simpler and smaller. Thanks for the fun vegan junk/comfort food outing though, Toronto! You’re good to us.

“Yoink!” – my quirky photo taking series.

Today’s post will be a little lighthearted for the sake of amusement and escapism. A while back, when I worked at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, we had a massive inflatable shark up on the roof to promote an exhibition. And one day I was all, “Hey, it’d be hilarious if I snapped a photo that made it look like I was picking up the shark.”  And then..

My hand reaching out to 'steal' a large inflatable shark from the Queensland Museum

Your giant shark! IT IS MINE.

So a tradition was born! It’s been a while since I’ve added to the collection, but there’s over 60 images I’ve taken over the years. I was reminded of the series thanks to the ‘wayback machine’ app Timehop that brought up the photo of me ‘stealing’ the London Eye back in summer of 2010.

I should start it up again.. find some steal-able things around Toronto that aren’t the CN Tower 🙂 Or get some good ones in Halifax when I go in September! Until then, here’s a few of my favourites for a laugh. You can view the rest in a set on Flickr, as I migrated them over there from my original Facebook album a few years back (I keep my photos etc locked down and private there now).

Me reaching out to pick up Glasgow's 'armadillo'

Your Armadillo! IT IS MINE. (Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow)

Me reaching out to pick up Stonehenge

Your mysterious stone monument! IT IS MINE. (Stonehenge, Salisbury England)

Me reaching out to pick up one of the great pyramids

Khafre’s Pyramid! IT IS MINE. (Cairo, Egypt)

Me reaching out to grab a t-rex skeleton

Your famous T-Rex! HE IS MINE. (American Museum of Natural History, NYC)

Me reaching out to grab Mount Rushmore

Your rock Presidents! THEY ARE MINE. (Mount Rushmore, USA)

Me reaching out to pick up a tree made of traffic lights.

Your traffic light of confusion! IT IS MINE. (Isle of Dogs, London UK)

Me reaching out to pick up the statue of liberty.

Your frenchy lady! SHE IS MINE.

I hope you enjoyed that little diversion from regular photo updates. Have a landmark/thing/place to suggest for this series? Comment!

Feminist frustrations – how even the smallest things can overwhelm you when you’re under-represented.

I am happy to proclaim myself a feminist – I am an advocate of increased women’s rights, striving for the equality of sexes/genders. So it can get tiring when you speak out in favour of something that will benefit women where it hasn’t before, and there’s the cry of “you women want everything your way!” and claims that if women strive for increased rights/representation that somehow the feminists will have taken over and men will be lying weak in the gutters everywhere.

Nope. We just want a little more. To bring the levels to equal. To see ourselves represented well in media, politics and the like. This is still a struggle – surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, it’s hard to tell some days. Although they may seem like ‘unimportant’ issues, I think these few of recent examples of inequality of women’s access and representation are interesting. Looking at inequality in terms of these issues can be useful, and can help in understanding much broader, more serious issues in women’s equality in the world (for instance the ratio of actual rape cases vs false rape accusations and the weight/importance placed on the latter vs the latter, etc..)

Simon Pegg (English actor from Spaced, Shaun of the Dead et al) recently promoted the Everyday Sexism project on Twitter as he felt, quite rightly, it’s an excellent expose of the daily shit that is thrown the way of women. Unfortunately, someone decided to take offence at him promoting this highlighting of street harassment while women are raped elsewhere. Ultimately, his remark of “You start where you can make a difference” really hits home. The scale of issues like this is not the issue – nor is someone’s caring about both at the same time impossible. But street harassment can lead to much worse things, and starting at a point where you call that out is an excellent place to start, because it can change the way people are treated entirely, hopefully removing the progression of street harassment to rape.

Next up is a bit of an ongoing issue with the the International eSports Federation and their male-only Hearthstone tournaments. Women have a lot of barriers to access, and this is no exception when talking about eSports and gaming. The article on the Mary Sue that I just linked to covers the eSports Federation opening up their leagues to women, and also specifically creating women-only leagues too. Knee-jerk reactions about double standards will come out in response to this, but I think this article presents the necessity of the women-only league perfectly: “Women-only events help this slightly by both removing some of those barriers and fostering a community for an under-represented group to help find their place in the scene and establish a sense of togetherness for the people that fall into that group.” Ideally, when women don’t face barriers to access, then we can look at evening out the playing field. For now, these are excellent solutions that mean people are recognising inequalities.

Comedian/actor/writer Paul F Tomkins came up against some trollish business on Twitter (ah, Twitter – a minefield of misunderstanding and trolling) regarding one user’s response to a post from a woman somewhat sarcastically calling out the latest Planet of the Apes film for failing at the Bechdel test. You can read the exchange at the link there – mostly I find it super annoying and that’s kinda what most trolling leads to. What I find excellent, however, is his summary at the end of the post about women’s frustrations about representation in media – here’s a quote from it: “Guys, instead of  thinking, “Hey, not everything has to be politicized,” try thinking, “I wonder what it would be like for me if the situation were reversed, and how I’d feel if in the vast majority of the entertainment I consumed, the male characters were few and far between and then mostly used as talking props & plot devices. I wonder if I’d get kinda tired of that and occasionally I’d say something, even a little joke, just to ease the annoyance a little.” I encourage you to visit and read the whole thing there at the end of his post, because this is exactly what I’m getting at with feminist discussions overall – I’m calling stuff out not because I want to have a total 180 and make women dominant, but I just want to have things make sense in rights and representation seeing as women are, y’know, 50% of the planet and all.

To me, these ideas aren’t radical. They’re ideas that will ultimately allow women and men to be more equal, to experience society at the same level. I don’t want women to have more or better opportunities than men – I just want us to have the same. And we’re not there – yet! So when someone in your life brings up feelings related to issues like the ones highlighted above, realise that to them it could be really important. It could be a way in which they feel like they’re being held back or underrepresented. Listen to them, and take that on. Talk about it with other people who might not see these issues as important either, and then we can create the seachange that we need.

Now, to end on a nice humourous note – here’s a couple of cosplayers who are taking a poke at Ubisoft for their recent claims of women characters being too hard to animate. I love them ❤

Two women cosplaying as Ubisoft's 'too hard to animate' women characters.

Things I Love Thursday: Podcast Edition

A good while ago, I asked friends on Facebook to send me their suggestions for great podcasts to listen to. I got a huge, fantastic response that really boosted by list of podcasts subscribed to in BeyondPod. Because I don’t have a commute to speak of, I really only get to listen to podcasts while I’m out walking Jake, or while I cook (our Sony bluetooth speaker has been so helpful for this!). I still have podcasts that I’ve added that I haven’t made much of a dent in (In Our Time) or started at all (Welcome To Night Vale – yes, I know!!! I’ll get there..) but there have been enough that I’ve added that I’ve enjoyed, in addition to what I was already listening to. This is a handful of my ‘goes to the top of my playlist’ podcasts. They’re kinda all over the place, but maybe you’ll find something to love, too!

NPR’s Planet Money / Freakonomics – I’ve kinda lumped these together because they’re both pretty interesting (and on the shorter side) podcasts about broad economic topics. I really enjoyed recent stuff like discussing how no ‘free appetizer’ like bread or tortilla chips is really free when you dine out, or the way the NBA salary system works.

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour – Along with the associated blog, PCHH is a show all about pop culture offerings like TV, movies, books, music et al. There’s regulars, plus they pull in other NPR folks as guests often which really helps keep the discussion and perspective fresh and fun. Usually they’ll have a broad topic to discuss that can encompass any number of pop culture formats, they’ll often have quizzes (like trying to guess clips of regrettably awful tv shows, or all about Batman comics), and they wrap up with What’s Making Us Happy, which I always love!

99% Invisible – I’ve not yet been bored by this fantastic, bite-sized podcast all about design. From urban ruins, to how uniforms are worn in baseball, to the history of hijacking.. this really encompasses everything about how design touches our lives in many ways.

Good Job Brain – This is really up there as maybe my favourite podcasts. A group of four friends who love going to pub trivia nights decided to start a trivia podcast of their own. Most of the episodes have a theme (for instance, the 90s, board games, cheating and stealing) and every handful of episodes is an ‘all-quiz bonanza’ where each host will pick topics of their choosing to talk about/quiz co-hosts about. Fun times, offbeat trivia, laughs! It’s got it all.

The Dice Tower & Ludology – Again, I’m lumping a couple of similarly-themed podcasts together for ease. The Dice Tower is a fairly general show about board games – reviews, discussions, top 10 lists themed to stuff like best children’s game or best worker placement game etc. There’s also segments from contributors that are generally on the interesting side too (although I admit there’s a few that I will skip every so often). If you’re even casually into the hobby, I think this is a good, well-rounded podcast to check out. Ludology (part of the ‘Dice Tower Network’ of podcasts) would be something I’d recommend for people already well into the hobby – they discuss a lot about game design, game theory, the development of gaming etc. Thoroughly nerdy and wonderful – I support them on Patreon!

Star Talk Radio – Who doesn’t like to hear Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk about space?! He’s got a comedian co-host each week, and Neil answers listener questions about all sorts of things. It’s always interesting and very wonderful. SPACE!!!

On top of these, I have so many more in my queue that are just such a huge volume of output that I can’t keep up, or else I haven’t really gotten as much enjoyment out of them as I thought I might. Just to begin with, there’s Snap Judgement, This American Life (yes, I know, I’m the worst person in the world), NPR’s Ask Me Another, Stuff You Should Know, How to do Everything, Stuff You Missed In History Class.. even falling back on keeping up with the Nerdist podcast of late. I tend to cherry pick from all these ones because they’re great when I go in fairly sure I’ll be interested in the topic/who’s being interviewed etc. But they’re all terrific, and you should check them out too if you have more time to listen to podcasts than you know what to do with 🙂 Get your ears ready!