Cougars and Catwalks

November 8, 2011

Cougar sent me a new pair of boots to talk about: the style’s called Marla.

They’re an interesting combination of practicality and cuteness:
warm, waterproof, cold-weather hiking booties… with 3-inch heels.

I like to combine the practical with the cute, so I chose to model these while trying to take my reluctant cat for a walk.

Please to enjoy.


One thing about cats is that they don’t particularly like being “walked”. This can lead to conflict.

face hit

And/or lots of waiting around.


So, when walking a cat, it’s important to have comfortable feet, since no doubt the animal will stubbornly crouch in the grass and refuse to move for long periods of time.


I’m sure some very complex thoughts are happening in that fluffy head.

I’m talking about my head, not the cat’s head.


Man, my cat is adorable. Ok, look at the boots. The shearling interiors are nice and warm. The man-made, PVC-free outers are waterproof.


The laces are long enough that I decided to try a new thing and wrap them under the boot before I tied them. I dunno, I’m just an innovator, I guess.

My rating on these is a yes.

Mojo pretty much agreed, then wanted to go back inside.


Thanks to Cougar Boots and Matchstick Promotions for the boot hookup!

PS – If you’d like to read about the last time I got boots in the mail, and then made my mailman photograph me, go here.

Million Dollar Baby in 5 seconds

November 17, 2009

PS: this movie was dumb.

Thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Inglourious Basterds

August 29, 2009


(no spoilers)

I really liked this movie. Tarantino makes such gleeful films- there’s a sort of mad mischief in his storytelling, like a kid who ate eleven pixie stixx and then ripped off his pants and ran down the side of the highway with his little pink bum showing, yelling I LOOOVE MAKING MOOVIEEEES .

The movie is visceral, tense, funny, suspenseful and has great performances- fun turn for Brad Pitt, who kicks butt in comedic roles, and Cristoph Waltz’ pipe-smoking Colonel Landa is off the hook, holy crap what a wicked character. Tarantino tends to write really strong female characters, too- Melanie Laurent’s Shoshanna and Diane Kruger’s Bridget are both riveting, unpredictable, and- this is relatively rare in a female character- principled and ideological as well. I see a lot of female characters who care about their man or their children/desire for children, but how often do you see women in movies for whom political ideology is the driving motivation? Nice one, QT. Super-fun to watch.

And, as I discovered today, the screenplay is fantastic. Not only is the story strong, but Tarantino’s technique for telling it is great too- the screenplay is really readable, fast-moving, and exquisitely paced. Supa-good. The Inglourious Basterds screenplay is online. Well worth reading if you’re into that sort of thing. Also highly recommend the flick.

Thanks to Torquil for the tip.

Star Trek

May 20, 2009

Saw Star Trek last night. I enjoyed the movie. In its honour, here are some fun Star Trek links:

Moments later, Shatner dropped the soap

Moments later, Shatner dropped the soap

Tons of candid Trek photos from the original series. Awesome stuff with Shatner & Nimoy posing with their cars, Spock laughing with his mouth open in full costume, etc.
Full post with lots of links to noteworthy candids at Metafilter.

Tea.  Earl Gr-- ah, forget it, I'll make it myself.

Tea. Earl Gr– ah, forget it, I\’ll make it myself.

This man’s wife left him and to compensate, he spent thousands turning his apartment into a Starship. Ummm…. awesome.

A few things I was thinking about after seeing le movie:
(I suppose you could say there are very very mild spoilers ahead)

Loved all the lens flares. Here’s a post Kottke put up a few weeks ago about Abrams’ use of lens flaring.

Luuurved Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto as Uhura & Spock. Great casting overall. Zoe Saldana is super-compelling.

The midwife who birthed Kirk had hella creepy funhouse mirror eyes- cool/scary.

It’s disappointing that of the main cast of Trek, so far in the future, there were only 2 beige people and 1 woman. Come on. I mean I know it was groundbreaking in the 1960s and all, but hell.

Why do all aliens have the same haircut as all other aliens of their race?
Not really enough aliens in this movie, actually. I could have used more aliens.

Winona Ryder is officially a hot mom now, I guess.

Ebert complains that this movie is a fun action romp– but… that Trek has a responsibility, or at least a precedent, of tackling philosophical concerns, which doesn’t really happen in the movie. I think that’s a fair critique. But then again he also makes some weird opaque comment about how Zoe Saldana is “unsuited to her costume”, and that’s such bunk I will totally kick him.

And finally, hey, science fiction, why are all alien ships so uncomfortable? Don’t aliens like being warm and having enough light to see by? The Enterprise bridge is comfy and bright like it was made by Ikea, but the Romulans seem to live in the rafters of my creepiest neighbours’ garage. Why are their ships always a series of scary, slippery bridges spanning endless abysses? Who the hell designs for these people? Do I have to go to Romulus and hold a seminar about the value of laminate flooring? Because I’ll do it.



Obama love

April 9, 2009
Whatever you do, don't touch the Queen.

Whatever you do, don't touch the Queen.

British Bobbies never acknowledge people while at their posts.

British Bobbies never acknowledge people while at their posts.

Diamonds at the ROM

November 26, 2008

Last weekend my friend Jenn & I checked out the blingy extravaganza that is the Diamonds exhibit at the ROM.

It starts with a hallway of background info about the formation and chemical composition of diamonds, although unfortunately, the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder and we weren’t able to read much of it. Our visit coincided with the Santa Claus Parade, so I’d hoped the hordes would be out there instead- but apparently Toronto has more than enough Atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and bachelors to keep the ROM well packed even on that Exmassy day of days. Be warned, the weekends are gonna be nuts there for a while yet.

Next up: diamond jewellery from across the ages. Mughal Indian chokers: strange to see ginormous diamond necklaces that attach with thread cords rather than metal chains. Uncut diamond rings worn by the Romans: pointy! And then, progressively more ornate pieces- turns out the sky’s the limit, design-wise, once you figure out how to cut a diamond. Hint: use another diamond. Or call Nelly and ask to borrow his dentures.

Nelly, now we need to talk about your gums.  They just seem... drab.

Nelly, now we need to talk about your gums. They just seem... drab.

The heart of the exhibit is dominated by a vault in which the really jewel-thief-worthy stuff is ensconced. The centrepiece of the whole shebang is the Incomparable Diamond. I tried to come up with something to compare this gem to, but strangely, nothing came to mind.

It’s a yellow diamond the size of a baby’s fist that was found by a little girl in Congo as she played in the no-doubt delightful playground that is the pile of rubble outside a diamond mine. She gave it to her uncle, who sold it to the jeweller who eventually cut it. No mention is made of the price that Mr. Uncle got for the 890-carat raw diamond, but I’m sure it was totally fair and he gave his niece a generous cut that paid for her University education and her first Honda Civic.

Can I compare thee to a... uh... hmmm.

Can I compare thee to a... uh... hmmm.

elton john diamond shoulder pin brooch

Speaking of prices, actually, one thing that would make the exhibit a bit more accessible/inaccessible would be disclosure of the original & most recent selling prices of the pieces.

I like having financial goals, see, and if I’m gonna buy Elton John’s dangly pavé diamond lapel pin in time for New Years’ Eve, I need to know how many no-whip skinny extra-foam vanilla soy chai mocha macchiattos I’m gonna be giving up.


My favourite piece was this question-mark choker, with its glitzy roses that cunningly draw the eye down into a lady’s magical pillowy area. It was hard to pick a favourite, though- there really are some lovely pieces. A pair of black lacework diamond cuffs stood out, as did some gorgeous corset-brooches, very romantically called “stomachers”.

Linguistic nerd that I am, I was pleased to learn the literal meaning of a phrase I use so often it’s become run-of-the-mill. The phrase I’m referencing is in fact “run-of-the-mill”, see what I did there? I’d never given this any thought, but it literally means the hourly output, or run, of an actual mill- the various uncut diamonds in assorted sizes that a specific diamond mill is able to process in an hour. The ROM showed one particular mill’s run: a heaping palmful of diamonds, ranging in size from “dot” to “pea”. Those are totally the actual gemologist terms. There’s also “gumball”, “junebug”, “nostril”, “nipple”, and “oh my sweet lord put that in your pocket and let’s get out of here before the alarm goes off”.

So that’s my trip to the ROM. The coverage of the blood diamond aspect of the industry is much too thin- it feels weird to be all “ooh pretty shiny diamonds and science” for two hours and then “boo, conflict and dead Africans” for three minutes and then “but ooh so shiny pretty” the rest of the time. Shiny! Then die-y! But then Sparkly! It’s understandable even if it’s not right, though: the exhibit is sponsored by a major diamond company, so while it would be noble of them to go deeper into it, their gentle skirting of the issue is at least predictable. Too much Liberal guilt would probably dampen enthusiasm for sales, and Secular Consumerist Christmas is coming, after all. If anyone’s interested, I’d like a Ring Pop, but with an actual diamond on the plastic part. And a set of Nelly-brand Rapper-Teeth Grillz.

Punch-Drunk Love: Structure

October 7, 2008

Another one in my quest to figure out how screenplay structure works.
Spoilers galore.

punch drunk love

A lonely, pressured, volatile man falls victim to an extortion scheme just as he meets the girl of his dreams.

Adam Sandler as Barry, lonely, meek, constantly harangued by seven sisters, nothing seems to go his way. Meets Lena, a beautiful girl (Emily Watson) and can barely talk to her. At a horrible family dinner party we see he has a depressive anger problem, sometimes smashes things or cries uncontrollably. Begs brother-in-law for access to a shrink. Barry has discovered a loophole where he might be able to get a zillion airmiles by buying pudding.

Inciting incident:
Barry naively calls a shady phone-sex line, desperate to confide in someone. Georgia, the woman on the other end calls him back the next morning asking for money & threatening him.

Amazing scene: everything crashes all at once. Sister brings by the friend she’s been pushing on him- it’s Lena. Interrupted by Georgia calling him back at work, more threats. Sister harasses, knows about shrink, left alone with Lena, co-workers bug him, Georgia calls again, Lena opens up, Georgia again, forklift accident at work, Lena flirts, sister comes back, forklift, sister, pudding, wow.

And reprieve: Lena invites him to dinner.
And crap: Georgia calls back & declares war.

Enter antagonist:
Phillip Semour Hoffman as the phone-sex baron with a hit out on Barry.

More complications:
Great first date- Lena seems to like him!
… but Barry has a freak-out & smashes the washroom.

She seems to like him anyway and they share a lovely first kiss, but…

Crisis / Low point:
… but as he gets home the extortionists appear & terrorize him.
He decides to leave & stocks up on pudding to join Lena in Hawaii
… but can’t get the air miles in time.

Act Three Turning Point:
He bravely & impulsively goes to Hawaii anyway.
Even stands up to sister on the phone.

And has a gorgeous reunion with Lena.

This scene is just... wow.

This scene is just... wow.

Back from Hawaii, and right into the shit: the extortionists hit his car & hurt Lena.
Barry, protective of Lena, attacks & beats up the extortionist.
Abandons Lena in hospital to confront antagonist.
Goes to Utah for revenge.
Faces off against antagonist in store.
Finally stands up for himself because love has made him strong.

Begs forgiveness of Lena.
Lena forgives him.
“Here we go.”

Neat stuff:

The first third or so of the movie is shot like a horror film- lots of left-balanced frames, following handheld, smash cuts, creepy music.

In the entire first scene with Lena, her head is obscured by a lens flare- beautiful. Only after we meet Lena does shooting style change to a more traditional romcom style, in the cuts between long shots where she catches him looking at her bum as she leaves him in the parking lot.

Sound design in the scene where sister, Lena, forklift, and Georgia all collide is unbelievable.

The pudding thing is based on a true story.

Some scenes have dialogue that verges on the maudlin (faceoff agains antagonist; Barry apologizes for leaving Lena at hospital)- but those scenes are shot with obscured faces to take the edge off the on-the-nose dialogue.

First kiss in the apartment hallway has a lovely swooping, sweeping camera move. Strong feeling of melodrama where movement & music match perfectly.

Use of Olive Oyl’s song “He needs me”, leading to the big silhouetted kiss in the Hawaii hotel is maybe my favourite shot in the history of film.

In Magnolia and especially There Will Be Blood, I felt manipulated by PT Anderson’s overwhelming scores, especially up against some of his slooow sloow scenes (When Daniel Day Lewis climbed ever. so. sloooowly. out of the mine at the beginning of There Will Be Blood, to the empty, pointless buzzsaw screechings of a thousand angry violins, I think my brain bled a bit). But in Punch-Drunk, I think the sound design, though big, is fantastic. It’s straight-up melodrama, full-on French Theatre School melodrama, and I love it.

I really like this movie.

Witness – Screenplay structure by the book

October 2, 2008

Witness is one of those movies that gets referenced all the time in screenwriting books because it’s structured exactly like a textbook film.
Spoiler alert.

Setup: Amish people are nice. Look at ’em in their hats and grasses. They call the rest of the world “the English”. A pretty Amish widow (Kelly McGillis) and her little boy embark on a journey.

Inciting incident: Danny Glover, in a fit of pique, stabs a Sean Penn lookalike in a mens’ room. Tiny Lukas Haas looks on with ginormous Amish eyes. He is a witness, you see. This is how the writers got the idea of naming the film.

Please don't stab that man, mister.

Please don't stab that man, mister.

Act One Turning Point: Harrison Ford, assigned to the case, gets a nasty shock when Little Amish Samuel IDs the killer: turns out Danny Glover is a fellow cop. Harrison sequesters mom & son with his sister, Broadway grande dame Patti “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” LuPone, seen here with a super-special haircut.

Patti LuPone.  Someone get this gal a wig.

Patti LuPone. Someone get this gal a wig.

Act One Decision: Uh oh, turns out Harrison’s cop mentor is in on the deal too. Harrison gets shot and flees with the Hot Amish Mom and the little boy. His injury is severe enough that he has to hide among the Amish til things calm down.

Act Two: Harrison sweats out his gunshot wound (uuuh, okay?) and learns about the Amish. He makes wood toys, learns to milk a cow, and gets a tour of the farm and corn silo. Through it all, he casts longing glances at the Hot Amish Mom (HAM), which raises Amish eyebrows all over the village. Grandpa Beard and little Lukaas Haas have a nice expository little talk about why the Amish hate “guns of the hand”. Then Han Solo helps raise a barn in a pointless but fascinating scene. Oh, and looking closely at the other Amish men in the scene, I noticed one who looked a little Elfish for the Amish.

Viggo Mortensen has a tiny role in Witness.

Viggo Mortensen has a tiny role in Witness.

Crisis: Harrison phones home only to discover that the bad cops killed his best friend. Crap. He leaves the phone booth to discover some Pennsylvania townies being rude to the gentle pacifist Amish, who are know for never fighting back. Not this Amish. Overalls-clad Harrison steps in and kicks serious butt, downtown-stylez. When the cops arrive, Harry’s cover is blown.

Revelation: Harrison goes back to the farm and smooches the heck out of the Hot Amish Mom. Finally. He loves him some HAM, apparently.

Smoochin a cop in a field?  Thats a shunnin.

Smoochin a cop in a field? That's a shunnin'.

Climax: The bad cops come to town. Harrison dumps all the corn from the corn silo to suffocate suffocorn one, then ambushes & shoots Danny Glover. Glover’s long legs, splayed akimbo in the foreground of a wide-angle-lens upshot, make him look like a giant spider squashed into graphic red schmear on the whitewashed barn wall. It’s probably the best shot in the film. Then back to Harrison, who confronts his ol’ mentor and, disarmingly, disarms him.

Comedown: Harrison has to leave the Amish and go back to the city. The little boy says a simple “G’bye John Book”. The Hot Amish Mom defies convention, eyes a-flashin’, and embraces the English right there in the field. Even Old Beardie offers an ironic “You be careful out there with all them English” as Indy Jones drives away.

It really is textbook- the only real deviation is the barn-raising, which is clearly just included because it’s so cool. And it is, it’s totally worth it to establish place, although it doesn’t much advance plot. Anyway, textbook works. It’s a solid movie, and even though I knew the plot before seeing it, it still held my interest. It was a pretty big deal in 1985, too- nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, & Best Harrison Ford, and winning for Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing. So, yeah.

Six-word movie review: Stepbrothers

August 27, 2008

Laughed lots; cried a bit: POW!

I keep hoping theyll kiss.

Stepbrothers John C. Reilly & Will Ferrell: I keep hoping they'll kiss.

New Facebook: *click* not *click* a *click* fan *click*

August 13, 2008

New Facebook is the opposite of internet awesome. Basically the redesign splits each user’s profile into 4 or more separate pages: “Wall”, “Info”, “Photos”, and more pages for other applications. This means that in order to see the salient points of a person’s profile (the most interesting are probably their wall, their photos, who they’re dating, and maybe what pop culture they’re into), the user now has to click and open several separate pages. This quadruples the number of pages you need to view in order to stalk learn about a person, which means it quadruples New Facebook’s revenue from its (horribly-misspelled) banner ads. Also, why are mine always about weight-loss products? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, NEW FACEBOOK?

The queen of the bloggers, Dooce, quadrupled her ad revenue last year with a similar trick. She now posts 3 new photos a day- one of her dogs, one random photo (often of her daughter, or a plant in her backyard, or something similarly adorable), and one unpaid feature of a product she likes (Perfume! A shoe! A cute print she bought on Etsy! A chair made by, and of, Scandinavian designers!). This means that for each visit, I read the main entry and then click 3 more times on her blog, once for each photo- giving her 3 more page impressions that day, and generating 3 times more income from the many banner ads on her site. Ka-ching for Dooce. Seriously. I estimate she’s banking $400K off the blog, and that’s not counting the 2+ book deals, or the movie deal that I rather suspect is in the works. (Please, Hollywood, do me a solid and get Night Court‘s John Larroquette on the phone to play her husband).

Lookit that mug.

John Larroquette: Lookit that mug.

So on the surface, what Dooce is doing and what Facebook did are the same. But from a user perspective, Dooce is on a different, much better planet. Sure, it takes a few more clicks to read her site, but the extra clicks lead to new, added content, which has value for the reader and which wasn’t available before the redesign: she’s a great photographer, and by putting each on its own page, she’s able to post larger pics. Plus, there’s written content: she writes a short, amusing paragraph to caption each photo. For the user, each click has a cost, however slight, of effort and loading time. But in exchange for her extra content, I’m pretty happy to give Dooce those extra clicks. It feels like she thought hard about the redesign, balancing her desire for ad revenue against her readers’ desire for content. Her model is user friendly, hurray. New Facebook sucks because it attempts to generate more income without supplying more content- I’m “paying” more clicks to view the exact same stuff. It’s like how my celphone costs way more than my landline even though the infrastructure of a wireless network is much cheaper to maintain. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Bell Canada. I’m gonna blog negatively about you so hard.)

How could New Facebook improve? Not exactly sure. Some way of giving me extra value for the extra clicks, I guess. The game applications do this pretty well- I click to a new page to start a new game, which gives them a new page view. I guess maybe the problem isn’t so much the inefficient interface, it’s the fact that I got used to having an efficient interface to browse, and they’ve made it worse. The new design is a noticeable downturn for me that gives them a financial bonus, and I kind of resent that. If I give you clicks I want something back. Shiny beads, maybe, or a cheese sandwich.

Probably the best solution then, would be simple prevention: make every attempt to optimize the design and revenue model right from the beginning. Alternately, when considering changes in the site’s design, just wait a while, until there are so many addicts that nobody’s gonna leave anyway, no matter what you do to degrade the user experience. Uh, wait, that strategy sounds familiar.