Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Day In The Life Of A Dog

8:10 AM. Awake. Feeling quite rested. Time to get the day started. Where is the human? Is she awake yet?

8:12 AM. Curious, very curious. No trace of her in her room... the bathroom door is open. I wonder where she is....

8:14 AM. Coming into kitchen. The human is sitting having a cup of tea. Human, how did you manage to get downstairs without waking me up? This is most irregular, you know...

8:17 AM. The human is most kind, and pours me a big bowlful of kibbles for breakfast. Yummy!

8:20 AM. Out the door for my morning constitutional. Running like a lunatic, as usual, barking my head off.

8:45 AM. Running through the back fields, on my rounds. No trace of anything amiss. I wish there was a deer or two around, something that I could chase. That would be ever so much fun.

Maybe that cat from down the road that doesn't like me for some reason is around....

9:05 AM. Have encountered odd looking little critter in field. It seems to have all sorts of  grey and brown quills instead of fur. I wonder what it is. Bark at it to say hello. Come a bit closer to sniff at it...

9:06 AM. Ow ow ow ow ow!!!!!! Why didn't someone tell me these things pierce the skin???

That hurts!

The critter just glares at me in a sullen way.

All I was doing was saying hello, and now I've got these things embedded in my snout!

9:07 AM. How do I get these things out? I've tried moving them with my paw.... 

I'm going to need help.

9:20 AM. I have crossed paths with Spike The Magnificent, Tormentor of Squirrels. He takes one look at the quills in my snout and shakes his head. He informs me that we're supposed to give such creatures a wide berth when we encounter them. Contact with those quills tend to result in, well, what's happened to me. He also remarks on how rumor has it the critters can actually throw these quills, but he chalks those up to old wives tales, saying that from bitter experience, it's just getting too close to the quills that makes this happen. The humans call them porcupines, and they tend to be a bit cranky. That, and those quills hurt.

I know the quills hurt, Spike! How do I get them out?

9:21 AM. Spike advises me that the best thing I can do at present is to go to my human, who will be able to remove the quills. Spike suggests I not be seen by any cats on my way home. Cats have a way of rubbing misfortunes of dogs in their faces, for some reason.

9:23 AM. Bidding farewell to Spike. I must have these quills removed from my snout as quickly as I can.

That's the last time I ever mess with a porcupine.

It's not quite as obnoxious as that time with the skunk, but still...

9:40 AM. I am home. The human opens the door and frowns at me. Human, by chance can  you remove these quills? In a way that doesn't involve that demonic arch fiend you call the vet?

9:45 AM. The human is carefully removing quills, admonishing me for carelessness. She says something about this teaching me a lesson. I hope so, human, I hope so. I promise, in the future, I will always give such critters a whole lot of space.

9:50 AM. Yet another quill removed. The human tells me to be patient as she works. She's using scissors and a plier for some reason. Please hurry, human. Each time you do that it hurts. 

I find myself whimpering...

9:53 AM. I wonder how much more of this I can ta... owww!!!

9:57 AM. The human tells me she's done. Gives my snout a wash with soap and water to clean it up. 

Human, I will never, ever, ever again bother a porcupine. I swear on my next bowl of kibbles.

What a day it's already been... and here it's not even noon.

11:50 AM. Waking up from nap. Snout sore. Oh, yes. Right. Porcupine quill removals will do that.

12:05 PM. The human is having lunch. Hello, human. My snout might be a bit sore, but I'd feel better already if I could just have a bit of something to eat....

12:07 AM. The human gives me a smoked beef and cheese sandwich. 

Yum yum yum!

12:25 PM. The noon news is on. For some reason there's no mention of just how dangerous porcupines can be.

I think human news directors have their priorities completely mixed up.

2:10 PM. Waking up from another nap. I think aside from any business I have to conduct, so to speak, I'll just spend the rest of the day indoors.

I don't want a repeat of this morning, after all...

6:10 PM. The human is making dinner. Smells great, human. Is that spaghetti I smell? Can I have some? I promise, I'll be very tidy.


Oh, right, she remembers last time.

6:25 PM. I just have to make do with a couple of dinner rolls, along with my usual bowl of kibbles. Well, the dinner rolls do taste good, but it'd be even better with a plate of spaghetti. 

Come on, human, it was cute in that movie about the lady and the tramp.

9:00 PM. The human is turning on a movie. What are we going to watch tonight, human? Something with a dog as a hero?

Um, what is Sunset Of The Dead? Would you explain that to me? 

9:25 PM. You know, human... watching this film, I must say... I do find the zombie genre of movies to be, well... rather confusing. Here we've got ourselves a cast of strangers, all filling a role. There we've got Kirsten Dunst as the ingenue, Shia LaBeouf as the doofus we all hate, Ving Rhames as the tough no-nonsense cop, Jon Voight as the grandfather, and John Hawkes as the paranoid isolationist from the backwoods.

And for some reason, rambling zombies chasing them all over the place.

Would you explain to me why this genre is so popular?

I hope Shia LaDoofus dies first.

To Be Continued....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Critter In The Machine

I don't usually post twice in a day, but Blogger isn't playing nice today. I've published a review for the new Wolverine movie (head on over to that link for the published blog). Yet the blog itself won't turn up on the blog reader. So I'm trying this out to see if it works. I had something similar a few blogs ago when I wrote about Lac-Megantic, but reverting that blog to a draft and then republishing it got it to actually turn up in my blog read. It's quite annoying. Kind of like when you have to put up with the presence of someone you don't like annoying (my idiot ex-brother-in-law Mike comes to mind).

RDJ knows what I'm talking about, right? 

Last Confessions Of A Drunken Hobbit

Quite peculiar... it seems this is my five hundredth published post. I believe that's a milestone. Five hundred posts of mayhem, chaos, and tomfoolery....

And how better to mark it than to review a film based on a character I despise?

“What they did to me, what I am, can’t be undone.”
Full disclosure: for the record, I am most certainly not a fan of the mutant Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s take on the character is the only version that I can tolerate. The comics version is a short, squat, foul mannered booze hound who I derisively refer to as the Drunken Hobbit. For some inexplicable reason, Marvel feels compelled to have him turn up everywhere. If he’s not on a team already, he’ll be guest starring in a book inevitably. It’s quite annoying when you think of the character as fingernails on a blackboard. In the movie universe, however, Jackman has been playing him now for some thirteen years, and makes him compelling. Had producers originally cast the character along more close to physical realities of the comic, they would have had to have cast Danny DeVito as Logan. Instead we got ourselves a handsome Australian passing himself off as a Canadian who the audiences thought was an American.
This is the second solo outing for Jackman in the role, after the prequel X-Men Origins Wolverine. Director James Mangold replaced Darren Aronofsky, who was long rumoured to helm the film. It’s an improvement on the last film, which did of course get rather convoluted at times in retelling the origin of the Drunken Hobbit. The screenplay is drawn from an early 80s graphic novel by Chris Claremont, one of the giants in comics writing, whose history with the X-Men is considered a definitive creative run.
We find Logan alone in the wilderness, haunted and isolated. It’s been awhile since the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (a film we might all like to see retconned out of existence) and he’s haunted by dreams of the woman he loved, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who went all end of the world Phoenixy and died at his hands… well, at his claws. Logan has withdrawn from the world, broken by his grief, but the world seeks him out.

At the request of a wealthy old man whose life he once saved, he comes to Japan to pay his respects. Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is dying, and seeks some of Logan’s healing power. Logan views his power as something of a curse, making him potentially immortal, and warns Yashida against it. He also crosses paths with others, familiar to comics readers, particularly in the form of the treacherous Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), the courageous Yukio (Rila Fukushima), and the sympathetic Mariko (Tao Okamoto), granddaughter of Yashida. We even get- in a manner of speaking- the Silver Samurai, a perennial Marvel character, looking rather different than the comics reader might have expected. Logan finds himself at the center of a story in which he is put to the limit, in a part of the world he doesn’t really understand, his life and future at stake. It’s a more grounded story than the last solo film, and less convoluted. This is a good thing. Plus we don’t have to put up with a messed up rendition of Deadpool, let alone thinking he can act.

We can only imagine what kind of film Aranofksy might have made had he stayed here. Mangold’s a rather interesting choice as a replacement, in that he’s had some up and down previous work. The Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line is one of his films, as are Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted. On the other hand, he did helm Knight and Day, but we can probably blame that fiasco on a certain egomaniac (coughTomCruisecough). He handles action scenes (of which there are plenty, particularly a bullet train sequence) quite well here, moving the story along in a brisk way. The story itself draws on the sense of a man who’s run away from the world, weary of loss, who has retreated back into himself, and having to find his way again. By making that the cornerstone of the film, Mangold works from that point and gives the story depth. The special effects serve the story, rather than distract, and the production team brings us squarely into this part of the world.

Jackman has been doing this awhile, and he knows what makes Logan tick. There is a world weariness in the man, and because of that, Jackman can find new elements of him to play, and this gives him depth and makes him compelling. He gives the character much needed humanity, something lacking in the irritant that is the comics version. Jackman has good chemistry with Okamoto, and a sparring partnership kind of energy with Fukushima. The film gives us a different Viper than the comic book version would remind us of, but Svetlana Khodchenkova does have the ruthlessness of the character about her, plus some really good lines to play with.
The Wolverine is a story that stands on its own. You don’t really need to have seen previous films in the series to appreciate this one. Its leading man makes the character compelling and sympathetic (unlike the comics version, who I’d like to see tossed into a black hole). Jackman is slated to return again as Wolverine in the next X-Men film, a time travelling caper drawn heavily from other comic storylines. How long can he play a grouchy mutant who doesn’t age? Who knows? Still, he plays the role well, and makes Logan tolerable. Even if he’s a lot taller than Logan should be.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Maestro, It's Time To Kill The Wabbit

Business to see to first. Have a peek over at Norma's blog, where she's showing off some of Collin's memes. He's done these with regularity for her Facebook page, and she's showcasing some of his humour on her blog. And check out our joint blog, where we've set up a series of funny pics following up on that whole royal birth thing. 

Now then, onto today's mischief...

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." ~ Ludwig von Beethoven

"Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them." ~ Richard Wagner

"Classical music has been based on works people love and come back to for aural comfort." ~ Leila Josefowicz

"I just can't listen to any more Wagner, you know. I'm starting to get the urge to conquer Poland." ~ Woody Allen

"The classical musical world is so snobbish." ~ Andre Rieu, conductor and tormentor of anyone with good taste

"Andre Rieu should be cast back into the seventh circle of hell from where he came." ~ William Kendall, miscreant and scoundrel

My paternal grandparents were not musically inclined. I think their musical appreciation was, to put it mildly, extremely limited. The story goes that my grandfather wondered what the purpose of a conductor was. "Anyone can go up there and wave a stick around for an hour," he'd say. So it was a bit ironic that my dad ended up playing four different musical instruments (unfortunately, not one of them was the bagpipes). Though like his parents, Dad has something of a limited range of musical appreciation. Aside from hymns, he likes march music, Strauss waltzes, and for some inexplicable reason, accordion music (accordions should be cast back into the seventh circle of hell along with Andre Rieu). And speaking of Rieu, Dad does like his concerts, though from my point of view, the Smiling Idiot makes a mockery of the music, has his audience acting like trained seals, and turns everything into a sideshow. He calls his orchestra the Johann Strauss Orchestra. The ghost of Strauss needs to sue him for slandering his name.

Mom, on the other hand, had a pretty well developed appreciation for music, mostly through exploring the world of classical music on her own. She could also appreciate other genres, of course, but classical music was what she loved. I think I picked up quite a bit of my own fondness of it from her over time. I like the sound of a fully developed orchestra, so the earlier works from the Baroque period don't particularly appeal to me. But the full blooded sound of Beethoven and onwards, now that's music.

Mom mentioned the conductor Seiji Ozawa from time to time. Born and raised in Japan, he's conducted orchestras all over the world. He came from a culture of emotional restraint, and over time he learned the value of emotional expressiveness. So you see a difference in him from footage early in his career to late in his career, a full range of expression in his face during a concert. It's one of those things I've been thinking about as of late... perhaps it's been the sheer amount of classical music I've been listening to while working...

On Canada Day here in Ottawa, the National Arts Centre plays host to a concert each year, open freely to the public. It's a mix of classical, choral, and traditional Canadian music.  This year the concert was held in one of the other halls in the complex, and my seating was on the far right... close enough to the bass players to read their music notes. That is, if I were able to read sheet music.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra performs this annual concert along with massed choirs and a solo musician as of late. Last year it was the fiddler Natalie MacMaster. This year it was Sarah Slean. If you haven't heard of Sarah before, she has a sultry and playful voice, and a rich storyteller's talent in her writing. Her music also lends itself well to orchestral accompaniment, and she and the NACO played together. 

The orchestra has more than one conductor. Pinchas Zuckerman is the primary conductor, one of the best in the world, and a renowned violinist in his own right. Since he started with the NACO, he has taken the musicians across the country and the world regularly, into classrooms, engaging youth, building up the talent base of young musicians. On Canada Day, the conductor of the day was a Canadian, Alain Trudel. I watched as he conducted the orchestra, the concentration on his face. One of the other works being played that evening was the final movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony. Again, my grandfather would have watched him conduct, and said, "Well, anyone can do that." Sorry, Grandfather, but that's work.

I can listen to many different kinds of music and find something to appreciate in most of it (with the exception of hip-hop, rap, and metal). It's still my mother's influence that gets me to love the sound of classical music though. So I can watch something like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and say that it's the closest to perfection any human being has ever gotten to.

It's been said that if you can listen to Rossini's William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, then you can count yourself as an actual classical fan, as opposed to someone who saw way too many westerns as a kid. Since that show was before my time, I don't particularly associate the two together. Incidentally, that music does turn up in Hans Zimmer's score for the movie remake. Go figure.

Though yes, I will admit to it... too many viewings of Looney Tunes cartoons has had its influence. When I hear the familiar bars of Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries, I inevitably find myself thinking, Kill The Wabbit, Kill The Wabbit, Kill The Wabbit!!

Benefits of a misspent youth, I know.

So what about you? Do you listen to classical music? Or is it fingernails on a blackboard to you (heathen!! Heathen, I say!)?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Royal Anklebiter And The Yorkshire Terrier Of The Baskervilles

Before I get into today's usual brand of nonsense, have a peek over at Norma's blog, where she took a page out of my book with A Day In The Life Of A Soap Opera Actress. And check out our joint blog, where we have a Without A Word blog on exhibitionism. And check out our Authors For Oklahoma Update blog. We've extended things by a week, and we're looking for people to donate to the Red Cross to participate in the raffle draw of book bundles. It's a good cause, so get to it!

Vigil For Royal Birth Continues Amid Three Ring Circus

London (Reuters) As the world waits for the impending birth of the child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a growing throng of reporters and the public are gathering in the area around St. Mary’s Hospital. There is much speculation as to the name, gender, and looks of the child of William and Kate, who will one day inherit the throne as monarch of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. And there are endless amounts of sideshows in the streets of London, from tourist vendors offering up souvenirs to commentary from anyone and everyone with an opinion on the matter. Bookkeepers are taking bets on all sorts of options, especially the name. George, Charles, Arthur, William, or Philip lead the list for boy’s names. Elizabeth, Diana, Victoria, Charlotte, and Alexandra rate as tops among girl’s names. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, unlikely names include Albus Severus, Damian, Delilah, Aslan, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Britney, Ashton, Katniss, Moon Unit, Saddam, and Apple.

Celebrities are weighing in on the name of the impending royal heir. Gordon Ramsay, the foul mouthed famous chef, was reached for comment. “You know, I ****ing think the little **** could be named Gordon if it’s a boy. Or Gordona if it’s a girl. Hell, let’s just have Queen Liz enact a law handing the ****ing monarchy over to me, and I’ll be His Royal ****ing Majesty King Gordon ****ing Ramsay.”

The media of the world continues to hold position, eager for the first news or a glimpse of the Royal baby before the official announcement is made. They’re being kept out of the hospital, behind lines, and watched carefully by the police as they swelter in an unusually warm English summer. As reporters jockey among themselves for the best position and speculate as to when the Royal Infant (trademark pending) will actually arrive, there is much talk in the ranks about the look-alikes who had everyone fooled, and a growing impatience. Among some of the more reckless reporters, there is an urge to find a way into the hospital and take pictures of the Duchess giving birth. The rumor that Rupert Murdoch is offering five million pounds to the photographer who captures that image has not been confirmed.

Comedian and brain damaged drunkard Russell Brand came by this morning, stumbling as he joined the crowd of reporters, a suitcase close at hand. “You know, I’ve got this great idea for a television special, if Will and Kate are willing to indulge,” he told the reporters, opening the suitcase, taking out three baby dolls. “See, what we do is have me juggling three babies that look just alike. One of them will be the Royal Rugrat.” At this point he started juggling the dolls. “Two of them are not. And when I’m done, Will and Katie have to figure out which one’s theirs. In a very real and legally binding ma… ooops!” The baby dolls plunged through the air, hitting the pavement. Brand looked at the gathered journalists, who were looking at him in a wary manner. “Obviously that won’t happen during the real show.”

Brand seemed to be looking past the reporters now, his gaze strangely focused. For those familiar with Brand, focused is not a quality one tends to associate with him. He pointed beyond the press, and called out, “Hey! You! I know you!”

The reporters turned, watching a man passing by. It was a policeman from overseas, in a working uniform, a man familiar to many of us. The legendary Mountie, Inspector Lars Ulrich of the RCMP, had been rumoured to be in England for the last two weeks, assisting in what’s being called the Yorkshire Terrier Of The Baskervilles case. Scotland Yard has said in recent days that Ulrich was pivotal in ending the yapping threat of the fearsome Yorkie while uncovering the true mastermind in a criminal case that harkens back to Sherlock Holmes and casts a sad history on the real Baskerville family, which lost the most recent Earl, Sir Ringo Baskerville, after his mysterious death. Police have yet to offer details on the case.

Ulrich turned, saw the press… and rolled his eyes, as if faced with something profoundly unpleasant. For those of us who know his disdain for reporters, this is entirely understandable. Brand charged through the crowd, shaking the hand of the Inspector, smiling like a gleeful idiot. “Great to meet you!” he proclaimed. “I’m a big fan, really. Huge fan, Lars, and it’s a pleasure to say hello,” Brand told the Inspector, clasping an arm around his shoulder.

Ulrich seemed to be looking for the nearest way out. Entertainment reporters on the scene converged on the pair. Real reporters looked on; a patented Lars Ulrich beating of an entertainment reporter is always a good deal of fun, after all. “Lars! Lars!” one of them yelled. “Max Summers, Entertainment Tonight! One question, Lars! Are you and Russell Brand going to be working together? Will Metallica be doing the musical score for Russell’s next film?”

Ulrich glared at him, as if deciding the best way to start breaking every bone in his body. “Are you really that stupid?

Summers looked confused; it’s a common reaction for entertainment reporters. “Well, what about the Royal Baby? Any comment? You think Lars would be a good name if it’s a boy? Maybe Metallica could record a heavy metal version of Brahms Lullabye.

Ulrich started to step forward, as if to prepare to clobber the offending idiot… that is, the offending “reporter”, when Brand spoke up. “Now just a minute. This man isn’t that Lars Ulrich. This guy isn’t in Metallica, and you know, I can see that it really, really annoys him when you ask him questions that don’t matter to him. I mean, I know the other Lars Ulrich. I’ve gone on drinking binges with the whole band, and this Lars Ulrich isn’t that Lars Ulrich. Look, Lars, when I said I’m a fan, I mean it. I love the way you kick these entertainment reporters around… and that whole saving the day thing you do and solving the crime thing is just smashing. I heard about that whole Yorkshire Terrier of the Baskervilles thing, and I just want to suggest that we get together and hammer out a movie deal. Can you just see it? Me, playing you, in a movie based on that story? I’ll look great in red serge.”

Ulrich glared at Brand. “Are you drunk?”

“No!” Brand replied. “I haven’t had a single drop of booze since ten this morning.”

“It’s ten forty five,” Ulrich informed him.

“It is? I’m running behind on my drinking…” Brand shrugged. “So what do you say, Lars? Can I be a Mountie?”

Ulrich tensed up, as if to hit Brand. Summers interrupted. “Wait a minute, wait a minute… just for the record… you’re sure this guy isn’t with Metallica?”

Ulrich turned his glare on Summers. Then he hurled Brand at him, and started chasing them both. At last report, Ulrich had pursued both to Tower Bridge, tossing them into the Thames. Both men were pulled from the river by local dockworkers, soaked but unharmed. In the opinion of this reporter, that’s a real shame.

Palace sources informed us that the Queen was not amused by Brand’s antics. Don’t Use My Name was quoted as saying, “She wished she could still send him to the Tower of London for a side of things the tourists never see. For about twenty years.”