Saturday, December 13, 2014

A nice sunny day in Atlanta, but a Toronto snowstorm jeopardizes my flight home

My wife gave me a heads up that a storm was forecast for Toronto and could disrupt my flight plans home. 

Sure enough, just as I was wrapping up my work in Atlanta the text came in that my flight home was cancelled.   As it happened, I was finishing early and I got on the phone early to Expedia, then Air Canada.  

One small wrinkle was that I had arranged last minute to visit another customer on the way to the airport as I ironically thought I had time.

The next wrinkle would be my rental car.   The extra time it takes to drop off a rental car was exasperated by the many miles between the international terminal and the rental car center.

When I reach air Canada (pleased that it took much less than the predicted 35 min wait time), they tell me I've already been rebooked for an 11am flight the next day.  After some sweet talking, Air Canada confirm that I can get on the 1:35pm (delayed from the morning).  It is about noon and the GPS tells me my ETA is 12:35pm.   That is very tight to drop the car off, check in, go thru security and get to my gate.  

I hunt for the airport Hertz number, trying not to drive off the road.   I decide to call my wife (happy to be traveling with my Bluetooth headset) and see if she could find it and send it to me.   I call Hertz and plead my case hoping someone could meet me curbside at the terminal.  Confusion, unanswered transfers, dropped calls and voicemails.  I arrive at the international terminal as a manager's voicemail greeting is coming thru my earpiece.  Alas, the idea of dropping my rental off at the curb only seems to be a possibility in a stand up comedy bit.

I drive all the way to Hertz and I'm greeted by the typical speedy return team and say I'm in a rather big rush.   I'm quickly offered a valet service back to the terminal.   And luckily my driver, Tenicia was fast and friendly.   She appreciated my advice about marriage and I got to the terminal at about 1pm.

The Air Canada check-in desk was abandoned, but luckily I had printed my boarding pass for my original flight.  I was at the international terminal in the middle of the day so the security lineup was very short and the gate was very close.  

Now the moment of truth, was the Air Canada agent going to let me check in with less than 30 mins to departure...


Thank you Expedia, Tenicia at Hertz and Air Canada. 

I'm heading home. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day 2014

Another year has passed and a new war is with us.  Canada's part is modest, but important and potentially putting Canada in the crosshairs.  But most importantly, it's a day of remembrance for those brave souls who put their country first and sadly paid the price.  And also a thank you for those who survived the horrors of war and those who continue to put themselves in harm's way for our freedom.  

A collection of older reflections and photographs in this blog can be found here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Movie Review catchup

Can't believe it's been over 5 months since the last movie review post.  I hope I have them all. Starting from the most recent (mere minutes ago).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Wonderful storytelling and travel cinematography.  A very pleasant surprise - heartfelt, warm, humourous with spectacular splashes of action.  Beautiful job by Stiller, superb cameos and a lovely performance by Wig.  As a once good boarder, I loved the skateboarding bits.  Oh, and a great soundtrack, incl. Junip and Gonzalez.  


Searching for Sugar Man

The rave reviews were justified.  Wonderful story and music.  Amazed that we still don't hear him on the radio (but then again, it took me a long time to find him too).  Immediately downloaded his original two albums.  All the grit of woodstock era folk, but still sounds contemporary to me. 



A little bit of edge but lots of well rounded tasty goodness.  Fantastic cameos that almost steal the show, but Favreau carries the emotional journey well and we get to enjoy probably one of his real life passions - food. Great music, laughs, locales and not to mention a couple of gorgeous ladies.  


Inside Llewyn Davis

Beautifully acted and produced. Had forgotten it was a Coen brothers' film until the credits ran - and then it made sense. Goodman cameo, weird character interjections, pattern threads and the sobering story.
Subtle, but wonderfully crafted. A time capsule piece that left me a little flummoxed on the appeal of traditional folk music in the very hip village. Loved the reference to Reggio's, a fave of mine that may still be there on McDougal Street.



Interesting premise that got a little silly.   Pretty disappointing actually. 


Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Pretty funny, but not as good as the first one.  Great cameos at the end - nice finish to poke at the state of news on tv.


I'd heard personal reviews about the intensity of this modern day war film, it was was deserved. Wow. It makes you believe that a tough soldier can actually sustain numerous bullet wounds, not to mention the inconvenience of broken bones and shrapnel.  Incredible story of strength and bravery, and not just for the frogmen but for the Afghans fighting the Taliban.  Impressive cultural glimpse into the traditional Afghan code of honor known as the Pashtunwali.


Wasn't exactly blown away.  Much more subtle an experience that I expected.  Experience is a pretty good way to describe it.  And of course it was watching someone grow up and I felt I was there for the little things and the big events.    He reminded me of my son quite a bit, with similar looks and the typical scarce dialogue of a teenage boy.  But there is something very special behind their eyes.  The chapters of years flow beautifully and very naturally.  I can relate, the mix of excitement and sadness as my son leaves for university in a matter of weeks (at the time I saw this movie and wrote this review).

Superbly acted, directed and filmed.

I blogged a little while ago about a life movie, seeing the value of all the moments of a life put into a movie.  Well, Boyhood appears to have done just this.  A life drawn out across 12 years and just under 3 hours has plenty of memorable moments.   You just have to recognize their beauty as it unfolds with you. 


Predictable so so plot with great digital effects.  Horrible accent for foster, plenty of questionable sci-fi details, but Copley was a great baddy.  Over use of the F word throughout and some decent gory bits gave it a R rating, but happy to enjoy the action with my son.


Really enjoyed the fresh twist on the old fairy tale.  Beautifully created, great cast and intriguing plot.  Sure, there were a few gaps and questions, but for the most part, highly entertaining.


Artistic and well acted.   But I couldn't understand a lot of the dialog - have no idea if that's how kids talk or whether it was created for effect.  Very confusing plot.   Almost gave up on it a few times.   Can't really see how these are supposed to be high school kids.  It was off from the start for me.  I have to give it a low score but can almost see what other people liked about it.


Very novel idea.  Why is it all alien invasion happen in modern times ?  Great cast and Harrison Ford was surprisingly good.  Good action, but scarier than the title makes out.  But when it comes down to it, it's a western. I hadn't seen one in a while, I didn't realize I missed the genre. Entertaining for sure.  


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Allsright thanks to Elliott

I'm flying home from Texas on American Airlines. A new Airbus aircraft, but configured into economy cramped quarters. Early in the flight I head aft to ask for a cup of hot water for my tea. The flight attendant isn't impressed by my ad-hoc request and says the beverage service will start shortly. I wait (having discarded a horrid latte from my first flight of the morning).

A different flight attendant serves me my hot water, but my miscalculated gesture (in very tight quarters) knocks the entire cup over. I was lucky to be wearing jeans and no electronics were in the splash path. I'm rather wet and not very impressed by AA.

There is a little boy behind me and I've heard a few comments from his parents - keeping him entertained and comfortable for this 2.5 hour flight.

After the beverage service is over, the little boy is walking up the aisle with his mom. But not just to stretch his legs, he begins handing out goodie bags full of candy. He hands out maybe 20 bags, each one with printed note:

I compose a tweet and comment on the very thoughtful gesture to the parents and write this post.

Just when I think my morning was going to be a disappointing end to a successful and relatively enjoyable business trip, Elliott and his parents restore my faith in the good nature of people.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buying a new car. Part 1

My wife has given me the green light to buy a new car in the next x months.  This is a double edged sword as I do love cars but feel their expense is disproportional to the value they add to my life.  Like past posts, the decision to buy something (especially something so technical, sp expensive and so style focused) is a very complex process these days.

I've been thinking of ways to make the decision, but what would the decision tree look like and where do we start ?

So here are the major decision points to consider.  These are quite specific to our needs and wants but should be translatable to others.

  • Budget ?  Do we lease or buy ?  How much can we afford per month and for how many years ?

  • Type of car ?  Do we want to continue with station wagons (estates as they say in Europe; and the last 3 cars we've had; but very little choice in Canada) or move to an SUV, compromise to a quirky crossover, or squeeze back into a sedan ?

  • Size ?  Can we downsize a little ?  Time to consider a smaller SUV or open up the search to a vast number of sedan choices and top it with a roof storage system ?  Or do we stay with a full size car or more likely an SUV as our children are ready to get behind the family vehicle ?

  • Manufacturer ?  We've had European and Japanese cars and I should add my very first car I partially owned with my dad was a Pontiac (Firebird). So now the choices are Korean, Japanese, European (German and Swedish) and maybe American.  But it's not just the origin (as cars from multi-national manufacturers are made all over the world), but it's the style, the feel and quality of the choices today, better warranties versus pedigree versus value versus handling and performance.  

So, darling, where would you like to start ?  And don't say colour.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Unusual scares

An unusual night.  I woke about shortly after 2am in a bit of a fog.  I got out of bed to go for a pee, but paused at the foot of the bed with a scare.  My eyes weren't working very well yet and I thought I could see a figure sitting next to my wife's side of the bed.  It was white faced and still and I couldn't unscramble my foggy head, nor focus my eyes - was it my wife, one of he kids, a stranger or worse ? A little unbalanced, I fell forward onto the bed onto my wife's legs and gave her a start.  Still foggy, I tried to explain I was having a nightmare, but not really, as I was awake.  She was concerned and worried about by condition.  I said something about the mound of clothes beside the bed looking like a person, to which she dismissed the whole situation with an "oh, please".

(It reminded me a little of the time I scared my Dad half to death when it was just him and I staying in the house.  I heard some creaking in the middle of the night and sat up urgently and said in a very loud and stern voice "who's there".  My Dad answered sheepishly "It's your Dad" and the tension diffused.  Kind of funny in retrospect, but a little scary at the time.)

It took me a while to get back to sleep.

I then had a couple of dreams about ski trips and car rides and the todo of packing the right gear, parking problems, breakfast and traffic.

I later then had a nasty dream about meeting up with my old friend from England. I was traveling to England and my old friend was greeting me with his kids (but not his real kids, incl. a new daughter with the same name as my daughter).  My Mom and Dad were accompanying me and had their own car.  The plan was for us all to visit my friend's mother.  I reminded my parents of the address and location.  But we got separated, I found the street, but a lot had changed. I walked into a house which I thought was my friend's old house and met up with a lady who resembled my friend's mum.  But she didn't understand or recognize me.  I tried to find my way out and met up with a angry stranger who began to come after me.  I got out of the house to find I was in a run down neighbourhood with some rough looking kids milling about.

I woke up.  A rather unsettling night.  Difficult to explain how my mind and subconscious came up with those visions.  Guaranteed, I was extremely fatigued after a hot evening on the ultimate field.  But the only unusual event of the day was meeting my son's girlfriend and her family for the first time earlier in the evening.  I guess there was the right combination of chemistry and thoughts to trigger the nighttime events.

Now I'm up early to wipe away unpleasant visions and begin Canada Day 2014.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This is not a rant

I do not want to attract any negative energy.  But, I have to record this crazy business day trip.  So how about a write this in the third person like a newspaper article or short story.  Let's Tarantino this and start at the end from the first person perspective...I'm here at Newark Airport, NJ sitting in the one place that seems to be open 24x7 and it has free wi-fi - one of my very few visits to a Dunkin' Donuts.  To be accurate I'm stuck here for a few more hours before my flight home at 6:30 am so I have a fair bit of free time to blog.

PJMixer was set for a common day trip to the NJ area. Although he'd had a late night, he was up early and prepared for his business meeting. PJ should have known the gods were against him the previous night when a friendly offer of a lift home after his ultimate game turned into an exhausting hour long side trip to Home Depot for his friend to order lumber for a weekend shed project. A service desk trainee mixed with unhelpful managers turned a somewhat routine order into something far more epic. Under the guidance of his enlightened wife, PJ remained calm and excepted the long wait admirably. 

With a freshly ironed shirt, minimum knapsack load and a early breakfast he was out of the door around 7:30 am allowing plenty of time for traffic and the unpredictable wait times for US immigration, to make his 9:45 am flight to Philadelphia. A beautiful spring morning on the ground and in the air for his short, on-time, uncrowded, US Airways non-stop flight. PJMixer had pulled a fast one on the machinations of the airline industry and booked a reasonably priced flight to Newark via Philadelphia and simply pulled a non-show for the Newark leg (which was unfathomably cheaper that a direct flight to Philly*). PJ lands on time and has a good long look at the Chipotle Grill in the airport terminal as his stomach growls but decides to head straight to his Hertz rental car. He doesn't want to chance Hertz giving away his car like they've done on previous occasions when he's a little late. He checks his watch and decides he'll have plenty of time to eat as he gets closer to his destination.

Although a little later than normal, PJ had reserved his Hertz rental car using his Gold membership with the only unusual characteristic of having a return location of Newark instead of Philly (once again, the mystery of airline pricing had provided him a reasonable non-stop flight home to Toronto from Newark on Air Canada). PJ suspected something was perhaps amiss when he did not get the usual email from Hertz telling him which stall he could find his car and speed away. PJ takes the Hertz shuttle bus to the rental car lot to find a long line of people waiting at the Hertz Gold desk. A so begins the downward spiral of PJMixer's business day. Another customer mentions to PJ that Hertz are out of cars ! What ? How can that be ? Their lots are usually full. But with a quick scan of the steaming hot lot, PJ can tell this was trouble, he could only see a handful of cars which appeared ready for their drivers.

PJ dutifully joins a long line of quietly steaming customers and finally gets to the counter after about a half hour wait. His car speeds up to the curb still dripping from the car wash. And he's away for a 70 km drive to the customer's office. With only a few ugly construction slow downs, traffic was light and  he arrived at the massive New Jersey countryside campus with about an hour to spare. Pretty as it was, there didn't appear to even be a town near by, never mind any decent lunch choices. He decides to find out where his colleague is in her travels and finds out she is only a few minutes away. He figures that a campus this size must have a decent cafeteria so the decision is made to grab lunch on-site. However, they naively think they can simply stroll into the cafeteria without being "badged in". But they are an hour early, so the normally simple task of checking in with security turns into a game of where's Waldo. An abbreviated, but tasty lunch sets up a good customer meeting with only a few hitches along the way.  

PJMixer keeps an eye on his watch as the meeting approaches the end time of 4 pm. His flight home to Toronto from Newark is scheduled to depart at 6:45 pm. He knows that there's maintenance going on at Newark airport and his rental car shuttle to the terminal may be longer that normal, plus he hasn't checked into his flight yet. PJ had tried to check-in the night before and earlier in the day via his smartphone with no luck. He also wonders about late afternoon NJ traffic and asks for advice from some of his local customers in attendance. As is the case when traffic and routes are discussed with more than a couple of people, a variety of suggestions are made, but it appears that they recommend the NJ Turnpike. He thinks he hears a derogatory comment made about Route 1.

As the meeting wraps up shortly after 4 pm, PJ glimpses his smartphone to see alerts from his Expedia app about a 2 1/2 hour delay of his flight. Annoyed, PJ takes his time with the customer and heads out to his car for a leisurely 80 km drive to Newark. But PJ checks in with his wife, notifying her of the delay at which point she professionally checks her systems and says the flight is on time. Confused, PJ rechecks his smartphone and is alarmed to see the earlier alert was for the "no-show" leg to Newark, NOT to Toronto.

PJ has become accustomed to following the orders from his GPS and doesn't really want to trouble himself with alternate routes. Maybe the GPS will take him via the NJ Turnpike. But PJ wasn't so lucky, the GPS picks Route 1 for a large segment of the drive to Newark. One of the features of the GPS that PJ likes is the ETA. Even when driving somewhere familiar, the ETA is a quick and accurate prediction and gives the driver a sense of how long delays really are as the ETA will change when stuck in traffic. When PJ begins his journey, the ETA is approximately 5:15 pm. But as PJ hits traffic, the ETA starts to worryingly increase, an ETA of 5:30 pm passes by and as PJ ironically crawls onto the NJ Turnpike, the ETA is approximately 5:50 pm. Definitely no time to stop to fill up the gas tank ! A frantic drop off at Hertz and a ready bus to Terminal A gets PJ at the Air Canada check-in desk at about 6:15 pm. Phew, he's almost there, 30 mins to clear security should be doable (and there are other people appearing to check in for the Toronto flight too). With a nonchalant look, the Air Canada agent informs Mr. P. J. Mixer that he's checking in too late and they have given his seat to someone else. He makes a small effort to book him on the next flight at 8:55 pm at no charge. But there must be some mistake, PJ had tried to check in ! The agent suggests Mr. P. J. Mixer didn't enter his full name when attempting to check-in. Doesn't PJ do this all the time ?

Saddened by the snub, PJ parks in the food court, grabs an early dinner burrito and sets into doing some work on his laptop. PJ's Flightview app on his smartphone is telling him the flight is delayed, however there's a discrepancy with the terminal monitors. PJ doesn't want to chance anything else, so he goes through security to find out at the gate that indeed the flight is delayed.  PJ learns from his wife that there are some very heavy storms hitting Toronto and the Air Canada gate agent is talking about tornadoes in the Toronto area. And as the hours tick by, the flight is delayed further and further until shortly after midnight the tired and weary are notified that the flight has been cancelled.  

PJ follows the agent's instructions without arguing and heads out to the check-in desk to re-book his flight for the next morning. He gets there early ahead of the masses, but while in line, he begins to realize there's the question of overnight accommodation quickly lurking. PJ is a little tired from his sentence in the departure lounge and would like to get a few hours sleep before heading home even though he has no overnight change of clothes, nor toiletries.  PJ naively calls the on-site Airport Marriott and is rather shocked to find out that they are sold out. Ah, maybe this is a new twist for our seasoned traveler. Maybe there are quite a lot of people trapped in Newark for the night ? PJ sets to using the app and finds some other over priced hotels, but alas they are selling out before his eyes as he hears around him other travelers talking with their travel agents trying to secure a room for the night. There's a cheap Days Inn showing, is that his only hope for a little kip ? Meanwhile, an Air Canada agent hands PJ a sheet of paper with helpful information about finding (discounted) local hotels when flight plans are "interrupted" through a service called Travelliance.  Meanwhile PJ makes it to the Air Canada counter and is lucky that he gets re-booked on the 6:30 am flight without too much more suffering. 

PJ calls Travelliance and he's on hold a short while before a customer service agent pleasantly informs PJ that there's a room waiting for him at Days Inn. It's only a mile away and there's a shuttle bus.  Not quite up to PJ's standards, but it's better than sleeping at the airport so PJ sets on his way, one shuttle bus to another waiting area for the Days Inn shuttle.  A large mob of delayed travelers are awaiting their rides to Mr. Sandman.  PJ's watch is now showing a few minutes past 1 am when the Days Inn shuttle finally appears. A family jumps in and PJMixer grabs shotgun and they're on their way.  

Now the story takes a detour toward the likes of Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the scenery turns gruesome and the travelers arrive at a very shabby Days Inn hotel/motel hidden away among truck yards and industrial buildings. Once again, PJ is greeted by a gaggle of people trying to check-in with a disorganized and disheveled crew behind the counter.  PJ couldn't recall when he'd last stepped foot in such a troubled hotel.  Beside PJ at the desk was a lady distraught by the news that her reservation through Travelliance was no where to be found.  So it was no surprise to find out that there was no such reservation awaiting PJ either.  

PJMixer steps out of the dank lobby into the Newark industrial wasteland night.  A young traveler appears to be in similar situation and feels very uncomfortable staying the night.  At this point, PJ concedes the fight and enjoys some brief banter with a young man on his way to Lisbon, Portugal.  PJ and the young man get back into the shuttle van and head back to the airport. 

And this is where we re-join PJMixer as he uses found time to record a tale of the unfortunate business traveler.  In a small, but effective way, releasing some of the tension, frustration and stress of the day into the written word and not being accused of a rant and spreading bad energy.

* note that this trick will not work on a return fair as the return trip will be cancelled if you're a no-show.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Where I find new music: Part 13 - Shazam

Well, I don't really hear the song first on Shazam, but that's where I go sometimes to find a song I heard when I was out and about and I've forgotten about.  So I just heard The Walker by hear Fitz & The Tantrums on the car radio and I remember I Shazam'd it a while back (Jan 25th), but didn't remember if I'd purchased it.  No I haven't - gimme a sec.

Great vid too.

Also dug up Run Run Run by Celeste Buckingham and the Trentemøller remix of Springsteen's State Trooper (that I heard on an AMC show) - and it was free

Life's too short for a long, mediocre read

I'm not a big reader.  I'm not a very fast reader.   I've had periods of my life when I gobble up a series, but many years of literary indifference and tiring from the written word.  That being said, I rarely give up on a book.   Why ?   Perhaps I feel it's disrespectful to the author.  There was something that attracted me to the book in the first place, maybe it will get better, maybe I should give it a real chance, maybe I'm not settled into the writing style yet.  So many times I persevere through a mediocre read, ending up perhaps with a feeling of accomplishment, but far from satisfaction, nor any gain of knowledge or insight and maybe not even that entertained.   

I occasionally pick up a book that my wife has read for one of her book clubs.  Some turn out to be very good, while others I start, never formally give up on, and they end up being added to the pile of "I'll read it some day" books.  Recently I enjoyed a book called This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes.   So much so, that I thought I'd try some of her other novels.  I signed into the library website and easily found a couple of titles and reserved them.   They quickly (perhaps too quickly) showed up at my local library for pickup.  I picked up Music for Torching and plodded thought it for a while but felt I wasn't really into it.  I started May We Be Forgiven which had an interesting premise, but again, couldn't get into it.  

For some people they simply stick with writers they love.  I've had periods of my life where I have focused on one writer such as Steven King, Lawrence Sanders, Clive Barker and Robert J Sawyer.  But I prefer to move around the genres a little more these days, but the risk is that I won't find something that works for me.

So, Ms. Homes, please don't take it personally, I'm sure a major part of the problem is me.  But I think it's sensible that if I'm not enjoying my current read, I'd like to save a few hours of my life and move on.  So, for me, I think it's ok to give up on a book, life's too short for reading things that isn't grabbing my attention and filling up my entertainment tank.

I find that downloading book samples is a good way to see if you will actually enjoy a book.  I had a little time to spare the other day and browsed around Indigo and picked up a few books that caught my attention.  I noted their titles, then that evening I did a little more research on the books at home and downloaded a sample of Time and Again by Jack Finney.  I quickly got into this classic time-travel story and couldn't wait for a online order and popped back to Indigo to buy the book at full price.  Loving it, review to come.

Combine all your life's little slices of perfect moments and you may have a personal on-screen classic

We all want a perfect life. We often compare our lives to what we see in the movies or on the TV screen. Wouldn't it be nice to be that TV family that all get along with their lives filled with family vacations, valuable life lessons and constant love and humour. Not to mention their perfect home. Or the perfect romantic dinner in the movie set in New York or the stroll through the city streets of Paris. What about the exotic sail or the the calm swim in the crystal clear Caribbean Sea. 

Unfortunately no one's life is really like that all the time. But some of us have been lucky to experience some of those moments in our lives. Some of us enjoy the love of family moments and laughter with friends quite often. Our days may not be full of these moments and we may often feel our lives are quite boring. But if you were able to assemble all those perfect moments into a film of your life, it would be pretty awesome. 

And of course, don't forget your soundtrack (as Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat currently sing "lucky I'm love with my best friend" in the background !)  I, for one, fill my life with music and take tracks I hear from TV and movies all the time. I can't say a have a definitive playlist down to a 2 hour movie soundtrack, but it wouldn't be too challenging - actually a lot of fun.

We can all assemble a life movie in our heads, but is there a more creative project opportunity here ? I have photographs of many, many parts of my great life and some video. Actually, I created a short movie for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. Maybe I should do the same for me (coincidently as I'm in my 50th year of being). Do you need narration or do the photos and videos tell enough of the story ?

And the film themed life doesn't have to stop at the romantic comedy.  Of course, we want to avoid drama if we can, except for perhaps the sports drama.  I remember that rainy Saturday in Calgary playing ultimate trying to get into the top ten bracket...

So we have moments of our lives that can be fair substitutes for scenes from When Harry Met Sally, Modern Family and perhaps even Chariots of Fire.  But I hope you don't have horror or war stories that you want to bring back to memory.  Which leaves a whole pile of movie genres for which we have no parallel in our own lives and that's what makes sci-fi, historical fiction, some of the AMC series and spy action movies worth the price of admission.

So work with me here, picture the opening scene from your personal film - do we start chronologically at your birth with your youthful parents or do you start with a image of your face today in the mirror and tell the story of how you got here or maybe go Tarantino and start in the the middle with a scene from a hospital bed and a story that will be your classic.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Last night I dreamed: CNE, NY and icy sidewalks

Disclaimer: it made sense at the time when I was writing this down with sleep still in my eyes

Special preview opening of the CNE.  My wide walks in holding photos and an Ecuadorean race car driver sees his photos and says we should sell/ donate his autograph online.   

I'm in NY and commuting by train and meeting up with my work colleague (LC).   We end up at a restaurant that has a slot car track.   Mom is there and she has two cars on her lane.   On the train, an old friend is wrapping gifts that she stores on the train.   My brother-in-law (RS or GR) comments about new running shoes.   

From my hotel, I hear Blondie outside, I get to the window and she performing for a crowd right outside my window and notices me.    Debbie Harry offers a sexy pose and I ask if I can take some photos.   But the lighting is very difficult and I take loads of shots before I get the lighting and post-processing right.  But I still can't find the best shot.  

I'm trying to find the NY restaurant to meet my work colleague (LC), and there's a guy bugging me trying to make me take his taxi.   

Earlier, I'm in the neighbourhood and the sidewalks are very slippery.   Old neighbour is walking to work and falls down.   I make it home and find a bunch of work people hanging out, incl. DM.  There's a small dog that is looking for attention.   I escape to a room and watch a tv show  - Blondie is performing, Chris from Coldplay is doing a cameo.   My wife comes home and is disappointed I've watched it without her.   It was also some sports game.    

Monday, March 31, 2014

Steve and Marilyn

I flew to Los Angeles for business in February.  When I checked in I was assigned a middle seat which I wasn't very happy with, especially with my "restless legs" on long journeys (I've heard that restless leg syndrome is a sign of insanity, hope not).  However I managed to negotiate an aisle seat in the last row designated as the crew seats.  As it turns out, the window and middle seat next to me were claimed by an older couple.  We said our hellos and settled in for the long flight.

Another side note is the disappointment of a faulty headphone jack in my new seat.  One of the pleasures of a long flight on Air Canada is the chance to catch up on some new movies, and I was hoping to watch Rush.  So I was pretty pissed off, but a least comfortable.  But what would you know, the gentleman now seated next to me was now watching Rush. 

After a few hours, a few of us are up and about visiting the washroom and stretching our legs.  With the gentlemen in the aisle I overhear his English accident.  I mention it to his wife sitting in the window seat and we begin a nice long chat.  His name was Steve and his wife was Marilyn.

It turns my seat neighbour was from a small town called Nuneaton which is the next town over from where I grew up in England.  We talked about nearby Coventry where I was born and where my dad worked at Jaguar.  Steve loves cars (he was watching Rush after all), and he told me he owned a Jaguar at one point in his life.  He seems to be more into rarer autos and he mentioned Lee Francis Motors in Coventry - I'll have to ask my Dad about that.

Nice coincidence.

Movie Reviews Q1 2014

The internship

Irresistible if you're a fan of Vaughan and/ or Wilson.  Lots of fun and LOL bits.   Pretty amazing Google allowed it to happen.   A few adult moments perhaps ruins a fun family film moment.   Thumbs up Google.   


Now you see me

A few holes in the plot didn't distract me too much from mystery of the magic.   Pretty unique story with interesting cast.   Lots of fun.  Recommended by and viewed with my daughter.  



I'd seen lots of scenes before from trailers and a past failed Air Canada viewing, and I knew the story a little. But, it was based on the events in 1976, I remember the drivers and Lauda's accident (and comeback), but not the details of that year's championship. Was Hunt that big a playboy, and Lauda, how disagreeable was he really ? Neither drivers will perhaps gain any new fans, but the rivalry, drive and sports drama is magnificent. I'd heard this was perhaps the closet recreation of the world of F1 since the old movie Grand Prix, I would agree. However, I'm not certain of how much was digital effects. The set, cars, and tracks were superbly recreated and it took me back to the simpler years of F1 (before big money from non-traditional places de-humanized the once great sport). 



Very dark and well crafted plot.   Lots of very difficult dramatic elements that crosses a lot of territory.  Scary personal reflection for any father.   What would you do in that horrific scenario ?  Very well acted all around.  


Movie Reviews Oscar Edition 2014

Once again, I'm pleased to say I've managed to see quite a few of the 2014 Oscar nominated movies and performances this year.


Flew by. More of an experience than a movie. Why hasn't it taken 45 years since 2001: A Space Odyssey to get this close to the reality of space in film. No sound. No gravity. Massive challenges and risks. Bullock held it all together masterfully. I've seen a lot of sfx but I can't fathom how they created this complete zero G setting.

12 Years a Slave

Beautiful cinematography
Superb acting ( Fassbender and and were terrific)
Very difficult to watch.  Hardly what you'd call entertaining.
But a very important, horrific historical tale.  To perhaps a similar degree as Schindlers list.

The inhuman treatment of the slaves / no recognition of fellow man - (portrayed not just by the owners and traders, but of the ladies of the plantations as well.   Truly shocking. But what would have done faced with this as a passerby like mr x in the south ?

Heart wrenching, so many negative emotions exercised.   But, survival.  Take nothing for granted.

I didn't hear any gasps I the audience, but many deep breaths (mine included).

Forgot my wallet - any connection ?  Drastic irony, ...



Yes, it was the Joaquin Phoenix show - but I didn't tire of him and the massive breadth of character, mood and emotion - superb performance.  The plot walked a very fine line of believability, but I could only few technical possibilities.  


American Hustle 

Like a superb collection of artistic vignettes.  Captivating characters wrapped around a clever plot.  Fantastic cast and I loved the soundtrack too.  


The Lego Movie

I was a big fan of Lego growing up.  M&D say that one of our suitcases was full of Lego when we emigrated to Canada !

I built all kinds of things, from aircraft carriers, toy guns that used elastic bands to fire Lego blue rails, to cars and planes, and even a speedway game.

I saw The Lego Movie with the kids a few weeks ago.  A must see for any Lego fan. Very clever plot with a nice observation of today's world.  Lots of adult jokes. Mesmerizing Lego digital FX and a lot of humour (several LOLs for me).


Friday, February 14, 2014


Just browsing through Flickr Studio on my iPad and a Google calendar reminder pops up (and almost wakes my wife).   The next photo I browse to is titled Reminders.   Weird.   

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My best of 2013 music

This was drafted a few weeks ago, I created the YouTube playlist but forgot to post it. So, on Grammy night I guess this is now more appropriate.

I've posted "best of" lists for many years (although I can't find them all to reference right now), but this year I was a little reluctant as I hadn't found a lot of new material or hadn't found much that I was really jazzed about.  Interesting fun fact that I'm very pleased to share is that the majority of these tracks are getting regular airplay on Toronto's new Indie 88.1 FM.  We have not had such a good station since the good CFNY years.  I'm also not certain it's because I'm hearing many of these tracks on the radio or that I'm hearing them on top 40 stations, but I definitely feel the weight of pop in this year's list.

As a disclaimer and unlike previous years, not all of these tracks were released in 2013 (if it's ok for the Grammys...).  A few 2012 releases but I didn't hear them until this year, so I'm calling this list 2013, best of (incl. newly discovered 2012s).  So why 17 tracks ?  I used to base the list on what would fit on a CD, but unfortunately quite a few of these tracks have been purchased through iTunes (versus past years of grey market downloads), but I'm not certain how many gift CDs I'll be able to burn for family and friends (sorry).  I did some trimming from the original choices and stopped at 17 as it looked like it was about the right amount for a CD, plus my son turned 17 last month.  Of the 17, I've seen 3 live of them live this year (Arctic Monkeys, Stereophonics and Fast Romantics).  And there are many more American artists in the list than past years and there are 3 Canadian artists (Serena Ryder, Fast Romantics and Arcade Fire).

Instead of embedding on links here, simply go to my YouTube playlist for all the videos together.

Daft Punk - Get Lucky
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Empire of the Sun - Alive
The Neighbourhood - Sweater Weather
Cayucas - High School Lover
Django Django - Default
MS MR - Hurricane
Lorde - Royals
Serena Ryder - Stompa
Arctic Monkey - Do I Wanna Know
The Generationals - I Never Know
Valerie June - You Can't be Told
Stereophonics - Indian Summer
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive
Fast Romantics - Funeral Song
Bastille - Pompei
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love feat. Mary Lambert

Movie reviews December 2013 and some forgottens

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Silly and wildly offensive, but still very funny with many LOL moments. Huge cast of top draw comedians.


Before Midnight

Same mesmerizing dialog portrayed by the superb Hawke and Delpy. But much more serious and dramatic than previous instalments. Interesting supporting cast with their fair share of rich lines.


World War Z

Terrifyingly real (for me). Lots of mixed reviews - perhaps too much hype. It was much better than I expected. Superb sfx. Sure, the plot could have been stronger, but the straight up suspense and action were top notch.

Gotta compare to the walking dead. WWZ not as gory, but I thought it was more of a fright. The speed of those WWZ undead was scary.


And some forgotten reviews from months past:

Just Go With It

Very light and silly, but fun for fans of Sandler and Aniston.  I think Swardson's German hilarity beat out Kidman's daft performance.  Sandler and Aniston made a good couple with good doses of humour.  Aniston was simply irresistible.  Good soundtrack too.



I'd had this recorded for quite a while and never found the right time to submit myself to this potentially horrific story.  I watched it on a quiet afternoon and it was much better than I expected. Amazing how gripping it was with its very, very limited cast, sets and scenery.  I was amazed at the quality of the plot contents - superb acting and yes, terrifying.  Very well done and definitely not for everyone.


The Impossible

Horrific and extremely emotional journey. My wife was right - it was a tear fest. Super re-creation that does a terrific job of showing the power and devastation of the deadly force of nature. A real life horror show - frightening, gut wrenching, stomach turning and nerve racking.



Had it all - tech toys were amazing; some romance; great sci-fi plot (although there were a few questionable bits); nicely tied up with a big Cruise bow.  Reminded me quite a lot of the Howey books Wool and Shift.  I think they used the famous Maui mountain Haleakala for some location shots - and I'd coincidently just read about this beautiful location for its photographic reasons.


Witty, aged, very silly in bits, with a few serious scenes, but pretty entertaining.  Fonda, Mathhau and Caine were standouts.


Man on a ledge

A little awkward at times and a few unbelievable plot elements, but great stuff.  Escalates, twists, and surprises.  Very entertaining with solid cast.  Even the closing song was spot on.  I'd heard similar from reviews, but it was much better than I expected.


And yes, I have seen a few of the Oscar nominations, but saving that post until closer to Oscar night.