Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I'm going to visit the newly opened Holland Marsh farmer's market fairly soon - hopefully to write a feature on it. For now, there's this in today's Star. Important, especially, for the locavores among you.

Monday, April 28, 2008


AHG 19 – The “Green” Issue.

So, to celebrate Earth Day, we decided to do our part. We threw away all our non-environmentally friendly trash bags, lightbulbs and everything that looked even remotely nefarious and bought all new “green” things. It was about a truckload of stuff – both coming in and going out. But we felt pretty virtuous by the end.

And, for that actual “Earth Hour?” Well, we put away the remote control for the night. We cracked open some organic wine from Australia, ate some nice Chilean Sea Bass ceviche, pulled out candles and a board game. It was very lovely and serene – like it must have been in the days before the internet.

About ten minutes in though, Al managed to place his score sheet on a lit candle and start a small fire. He then started frantically waving a lit piece of paper all around the room – little pieces of it breaking off and scattering and starting new little fires all over the room. Al then started to run around, picking up the newly lit things and waving them about. Within seconds, there were about half dozen
little fires.

After stamping out all the little fires with my bare feet, the obvious question had to be asked: “Where did he ever learn that oh-so effective technique of fighting fire with oxygen?

Al: “I was trying to snap it out. Sometimes you can just snap it out.”

Anyhow, at that moment, I did several things. First, I made plans to buy a fire extinguisher. Next, I turned every light in the house back on, got some good old non-organic champagne and put on a movie - There Will Be Blood. Then I swore we’d never do another “Earth Hour” stunt again.

Now, it could have been the previous near-death experience (or the fact that I kept shaking my head and replaying the phrase ‘snap it out’ in my head) but, I have to say, I don’t think this movie lived up to the hype. For one thing, it was way too long.

158 minutes of non-stop Daniel Day-Lewis, mind you, is not even a record. It was a merciful eight minutes fewer DDL minutes than Gangs of New York was, for example. But still. So we stopped and watched Blind Date. We tried to watch it again the next day. Even with a fresh outlook it seemed long, slow and kinda pointless.

Next was No Country for Old Men. You’ve all seen it, so I’ll keep it brief. Way better than that P.T. Anderson film – even if it’s kind of artificial and forced to compare the two. Pretty good for a Coen Brothers thriller – I usually prefer their comedies.

Anyhow, after that, we were pretty much done with the new releases and on to looking for hidden gems. And, at first, when he kept picking Billy Bob Thornton movies, I thought this was going to be Al’s worst month ever.

Then, I think Al was really trying to make up for nearly burning down the house (and Mr. Woodcock) and so he rented Inside the Smiths. I’m pretty sure it was to make me happy. First of all, the day before I’d taken a break from non-stop Peggy Lee and listened to a little Violent Femmes and, to Al, I’m pretty sure any bands from the 1980s who aren’t Steely Dan sound pretty well all the same.

At any rate, even though I did listen to the Smiths in high school andcould name at least two and a half band members, Inside the Smiths was way, way, too far inside, even for me, let alone Al. You’d have to start that movie with a working knowledge equal to or better than, say, Johnny Marr’s. And don’t expect to ever actually hear any Smiths songs in this doc, either. Our Smiths needs are a little more basic
and pop-y, I think. The Smiths for Dummies is probably about our level.

So we moved on to a great doc about a slightly less obscure genre: Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. “Ann” had actually recommended it some time ago and, I must say, she was dead on. Lots of Motorhead. And, thanks to an ex who was obsessed with that group, I have a certain soft spot for Lemy.

Another good doc (which Al actually picked all on his own) was My Kid Could Paint That. It’s about a little kid who supposedly painted these abstract masterworks. Sounds dull, I know. I thought it would be some schmaltzy feel-good crap about elephants, cats and small children with paintbrushes who Oprah likes. But it was actually a truly excellent film about art, narrative, celebrity, savant-freaks, the limits of journalism and even a bit of Heisenberg.

Then was King of California, which was kind of slow but had some nice themes about prospecting and mass culture. It also had a really nice ending. Or at least a really nice Billy Bragg song at the end. I can’t remember which.

And last, but not least, was Wristcutters: A Love Story. The premise is great. If you kill yourself, you don’t get to go to heaven, hell, purgatory or any of the good places like that. Instead, you go to an afterlife where things are pretty much the same, only a little worse.

Probably a lot of Billy Bob movies there.

It was really pretty funny, starring that kid from Almost Famous (who isn’t a kid any more) and, officially, this month’s hidden gem. There you have it.

Al’s Corner.

Just what we need – a fire extinguisher. Another energy-sucking
appliance.

And it wasn’t anywhere, like, six fires. Unless you’re one of those who thinks six is near, like, four.

And it wasn’t just any board game but the Simpsons version of “Clue”and those scoresheets take some thinking ’cause the weapons aredifferent from the original – the poisoned donut, for instance, and, of course, the extend-o-glove. The rooms are pretty much the same, though. You know, The Kwik-e-Mart, Barney’s Bowlarama and so on.

Christine always insists I be Smithers and when I ask why, she keeps
saying, “Don’t you know?”

And it wasn’t a piece of paper, it was a paper towel and they burn a lot differently than a piece of paper. With a piece of paper, you can just snap it out. Nine times out of 10.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Interested in the cultural side of Florida? Did you know Florida even had a cultural side? Either way, you might want to check this out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008



Will be at the Beaver tomorrow evening at cocktail hour - testing out a few concoctions to see which one gets to go to New Orleans. Come out if you're thirsty.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


When we were in Puerto Vallarta, Senor Descompuesto and I were waiting for the rest of our party so we could check out and enjoying the sun on our shabby little hotel balcony. Descompuesto observed two little kids playing on the rooftop across the street. There were no railings or parents supervising.

"Good to see safety regulations haven't taken over the world," said Descompuesto.

He was so very right. And he knew he was talking to a sympathetic friend - we have had many conversations over the years about our disdain for bubble wrap. For the rest of the trip, though, I made note of the many times we ate food in places which a Toronto health inspector couldn't even begin to understand, climbed up slippery steps with no "Pelligroso!" signs, were exposed to second-hand smoke, traveled in boats with no life jackets and were served to the point of intoxication - to name a few of our freedoms.

It was lovely.

At any rate, there's a woman (who is clearly after my own heart) writing about this sort of stuff here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Time to get Al's Hidden Gems up on the blog, I think. Here's issue #18. If you want to subscribe, let me know.

AHG 18

Truth is, I was hoping I'd be writing this to you from sunny Florida.

Instead, I'm writing from frigid Toronto where, like Dorothy in Kansas, I eagerly go to sleep every night hoping for the colours to change from dingy grey to Technicolor. No luck so far.

Now, it's not as if I think Florida is anything like a reasonable sun destination. Rather, that's where Al must spend a certain portion of March every year because that baseball team "works out" (strenuously, I'm sure) in Dunedin. And, I like Dunedin. There's at least enough to do to fill a good hour there. But Air Canada wanted, like, a thousand dollars or eleventy million points to take me to Tampa Bay during March break and I have a rule that I don't spend cash money to go to Florida. Even in the tail end of Toronto's absolute worst winter ever.

Good thing. Al told me it was about 54 degrees F (12C) the first few days. That's still about 50 more degrees than we had here, but not nearly enough to be enticing.

So anyhow, I did what I usually do when Al's somewhere good and I'm not, namely, bought a side of beef, two cases of gin and sealed up the doors and windows. The only problem was: Who was going to get the movies?

You'll be happy to know, I came up with an ingenious solution. I sent the cat. Not the fat, stupid cat. Let's be reasonable. I sent Vinnie. The results, I have to say, were about the same as when Al goes to the store.

He got the Jane Austen Book Club, which (no surprise) was pretty bad - even to someone who studied all those books repeatedly in school. Next, he got that Darjeeling Limited film about a never-ending train ride in India. And I do mean it, the train ride seemed pretty well interminable. I've really never understood the appeal of that Wes Anderson fellow. Rushmore, okay. But the Royal Tenenbaums? Really? Or that Life Aquatic crap? And, turns out, he was the producer of the
Squid and the Whale. Call me old fashioned but I like my films to have a point.

Then Vinnie picked Bernard and Doris, which I really enjoyed but probably mostly because I'm sort of fascinated by Doris Duke.

Finally, he rented Two Days in Paris, which I actually have to recommend fairly highly. It's practically a hidden gem. Quirky little comedy about a rabbit's head, Jim Morrison's grave and a disintegrating relationship. Good stuff.

Then Al came home and took over the rentals again. I think he was really trying to prove something at first - you know, like, that he was better than the cat, after all. So he went way out on a limb.

First was Romance and Cigarettes - a musical with James Gandolfini and, wait for it... Steve Buscemi. I had to appreciate the fact that they didn't try to write songs to fit in with the plot and simply used existing songs to express the plot. That was kind of neat. The other good things, well, there were none. If I ever sit on a plane with John Turturro (director and writer) again, I'm going to have to have a chat with him about this effort.

Then Al rented The Draughtsman's Contract. Now, the thing is, I really do sort of like Peter Greenaway, but you gotta be in the right mood. And we just weren't.

Finally, Al stopped trying so hard. He got The Kite Runner, which was absolutely terrific but not exactly hidden. Plus, something really neat happened with that film - I realized how blind I really am.

See, one of the neat things about Al is that he'll rent anything. As I've mentioned before, he doesn't just look to the new releases. He'll get avant garde art house flicks, low budget films about New Jersey, gay coming-of-age films, documentaries about well, just about anything and EVEN films with subtitles. Which, my friend was really envious of, since her husband refused to read his entertainment. It's like that Slice poster says, "If I wanted to be Smarter, I'd Watch a Book."

Anyhow, over the last couple of years, I started to feel my enthusiasm for subtitled films wane. When he brought them home, I kind of shrugged them off and looked for the Steve Carell or Will Ferrell flicks at the bottom of the pile.

I wondered (in a Carrie Bradshaw voice): "Am I becoming really dumb? Like dumber than before?"

Evidence for this was mounting, too. We'd been watching more and more reality TV. When Al came back from Fla, he was brimming over with excitement about That's Amore, which is arguably the worst thing ever to hit the screen. And I watched at least a whole episode and wanted to watch a second one, even though I wasn't sure whether to be more offended as a woman or an Italian.

But then I really enjoyed The Kite Runner and, about 20 minutes in, I was right back to where I was a few years ago - not realizing I was reading at all - thanks to my new glasses. Turns out I wasn't getting dumber after all, just going blind. (Well, my IQ may well be dropping, too; I almost certainly lost ten points just watching That's Amore.)

Anyhow, then came the hidden gem. This one is courtesy of John and Mary, who had actually recommended it to us way back in the fall. It's called King of Kong and it's a terrific documentary about the competitive video gaming world.

It's full of scandal, controversy and questions of performance enhancing drugs, just like the real sports world. It was terrific.

Thanks guys for this month's hidden gem. Vinnie would never have found it on his own.

Al's corner

Okay, it's not so much the cat, okay? Vinnie can be trusted with certain things, although has never been great about counting his change. And backgammon! Well, because he's got the attention span of, maybe, one half peanut, he never wins more than one of five. I got to hand it to him for his film selection, though, and, remember, he's limited to the bottom two/three shelves.

No, my issue is with my sweetie's reference to "brimming over with excitement about That's Amore." This was in Florida. I'm pretty sure the remote was stuck on that channel. And I was only excited because Christine needed to know about the greatest collection of idiots ever assembled. I mean, the most memorable line was, "C'mon girls, I'm-a really hungry! Getta all of da meata-balls inna your mout!'' When
Vinnie heard that, he had to go stare at a dust-bunny for 15 minutes.