Friday, August 28, 2009

Google Poetry

To my knowledge, I have never searched any of these sentences on Google, though I suppose it's not impossible that I asked it why I fart so much, or became seriously curious as to why a movie was called "Bees".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramble, ramble, I empathize with clouds...

On Friday afternoon, I went to see the High Line that everybody is talking so much about these days. It really did live up to the hype: I felt calm, happy, reflective while walking through it, which is the precise combination of feelings I expect all parks to evoke. Presumably, the gardens are carefully manicured, but they are designed to look wild and overgrown. It makes the whole floral element of the High Line the equivalent of a hipster's haircut. And whether you like the brain underneath the haircut or not, it's neat to look at something very meticulously made to appear completely unfettered and out of control. It's like humans going, "Guess what, Nature! We can make this too!" and Nature obligingly raises its eyebrows in approval, allowing us our fun, while marveling at the fact that we have managed to miss the point again. That's why we call it Mother.

The High Line is also good for reminding its visitors that they are in New York City, a wonderful thing that is sadly increasingly lost on me. I've been living here for three years now EXACTLY (I just realized this right now! My immigration documents have "August 22nd, 2006" stamped on 'em). I was hit with such an intense desire to move here in my last year of university that I would have constant dreams about it, waking up severely disappointed to find myself on a futon in East Van. By the way, Vancouver, I now miss you intensely, if that is any consolation for the previous sentence.

Predictably, I have not spent every moment of the last three years aware that I am in the city of my dreams. The first year, yes, I think I was actually conscious of it more often than not. I was pretty bamboozled. I was in total exploration-discovery-adventure mode. Every eccentricity this place produced was delightful. You don't need to have lived here or ever visited to know that that's a lot of eccentricities to be delighted by. I was delighted probably at a rate of 20-30 eccentricities a day.

By the second year, I had already re-calibrated everything (not a testament to my adaptation skills, just a testament to New York being a kind of "get on with it" place to live). I remember coming back from a trip to Vancouver on the 1-year anniversary of having moved, and flying over all the twinkling lights and shiny, dark water and thinking "hello, home". By that point, my circle of friends had gone through the necessary explosion that occurs after moving to a new place, where you are interested in everyone and everything and are generally pretty socially indiscriminate, but it had also already gone through the corresponding contraction, honing in on the people with the same qualities my friends have always had. Curiosity, kindness, a weird mix of competitiveness and supportiveness: I think that might actually be all I look for in a person. These traits have a bunch of stuff bundled into them: curiosity, in my humble opinion, is the most overlooked yet significant indicator of wit and intelligence; being kind betrays a rare ability to properly empathize (which I admit I don't do well always, or even often); a quiet rivalry among friends is what says, "you challenge and inspire me and I respect you for it, but I am confident that I can also challenge and inspire you, and earn your respect back". I hope this isn't totally self-indulgent: I know about the only thing of the three I can say I am all the time is curious. As admitted and as I will admit again, I have been known to let empathy slide when I want to do something selfish that I know might hurt somebody else. I always thought I was really good at the competitive/supportive thing, until last year when I began spending time with a dude with whom I felt I could not compete, right when my confidence was at a trough in the grid. It led me to do and say weird stuff; looking back on specific examples gives me this creepy feeling that I was periodically possessed with gremlin-spirits (retrospectively taking responsibility for my actions = creepier than random gremlin-spirit possession).

So what I think I'm saying is that I'm lucky that people with those traits, whatever the level of functioning they are at in each person, are everywhere, and though they take a while to root out (truffles in Provence; diamonds in Nunavut), they are worth the wait. My friends now are all people who are like, "here's some neat stuff I am doing, what's that neat stuff you are doing? Hey, why don't we do some neat stuff together?", which is everything I could want and more, and I'm really grateful.

Also, fart jokes. They all tell fart jokes; more essential than anything mentioned above. Farts are funny.

Now, at the end of my third year here, I am so settled and comfortable that I very rarely think, "hold up: I live in New York". Maybe when people visit me, but barely ever beyond that. Just last night, I was walking through Union Square and there were these two people dressed like cavemen, sweatily dancing to some guys playing hand drums while a crowd of about thirty people watched, and it wasn't until I was walking past 3rd Avenue that I was like, "that was kind of weird". I fail to notice the eccentricities now. I'm in a comfort zone. It's not bad, but I will admit there is something sad about it.

The High Line is about two stories up. The New York you would expect to see from this angle, elevated by a pretty miniscule amount, should really be about the same as the street-view New York. But it actually looks dramatically different. There's so much new stuff to look at; the old-timey signs on the sides of brick buildings are more evident, you can see the layout of the Meatpacking District's cobbled streets, the Hudson flows by, all sparkles and murk. One of the arches over the High Line is designed to perfectly frame the Statue of Liberty, in a way that makes it look static, almost like it's only a picture of a long forgotten relic. It's kind of intimidating to realize that all you need to do to fall back in love with New York's volatility is look at it from a slightly different angle. And I mean, extremely slightly, if that is not too much of an adverb contradiction.

Speaking of extreme slightness, how about some calculus talk? The next book I'm reviewing is The Calculus of Friendship by Steven Strogatz; I read the bulk of it that afternoon on one of the wooden patio chairs set up along the line. It's about Strogatz's 30 years of correspondence with his high school calculus teacher, and I'll admit, it made me cry. I'm not made of stone. I took a break only to acknowledge that a storm was sweeping towards Manhattan from the southwest, and I was in the exact position to watch it ominously roll in. It looked a little like the special effects of Independence Day, and I half-expected a disc-shaped spaceship to emerge from the swirling cumulus. I mean, I didn't actually go halfway in expecting it; that'd be crazy and would mean Bill Pullman was President. But I thought about it enough that I kind of freaked myself out, because I was in Manhattan, an island I've seen obliterated by aliens in movies many times and the ol' imagination can leak into other parts of my brain sometimes, if I let it.

Anyway, calculus was also weighing pretty heavy in my thoughts right then. By the way, I think this marks the only time the movie Independence Day and Newton's discipline of limits, functions, derivatives, infinite series, et al. (using et al. a lot these days; Infinite Jest) have ever vied for brain-space, and possibly ever will. I was watching this gorgeous thundercloud, and thinking that calculus, a beautiful, sprawling discipline that revolutionized the way we look at our universe, that de-mystified infinity, that holds everything from spiraled seashells to planets' orbits in its hands, is powerless to predict the kinds of chaotic motion that was right before my eyes, in the underbelly of this storm. I don't think it was even until first-year university math classes that I actually registered that some mathematical problems have no proofs, that we do not live in a neat little mathematically consistent world with a big red bow on top. I was honestly bummed out to learn that, and probably still could be now, years later, if I was in the right mood for it. But I was not in that mood Friday afternoon. It was nothing but refreshing to look up from my human book about a human friendship based around a human discipline and see old Grandma Universe saying, "guess what, kiddo - I got more mysteries up my sleeve than any of your kind could ever even begin to fathom".

Another line of masturbatory inner ramblings occurred shortly after, inspired by the thought that myself and the thundercloud were comprised of most of the same materials, on an molecular level, and I started feeling some weird kindred-ness with it. But then my union with the universe (yes, union-verse) was painfully severed, when the bastard decided it wanted to dump rain all over me and my book, which it, to be fair, had been giving me every warning it was going to do for a long time if I had been paying any attention at all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Hey, I'm here with this dinosaur!"

OBSERVATION: While "researching" my last Jurassic Fight Club review, I noticed that a lot of human-dinosaur scale drawings feature this one super-cavalier guy. There he is, waving politely, while a dinosaur threatens his existence less than a meter away. Who is this guy? OBSERVE WITH ME:


"Hey, check out this Majungatholus that's about to scoop me up by my vitals!"


So close to death.


"Hey, just hanging with Eoraptor over here."


Probably the only one I've found where the dinosaur looks subservient. The guy could be doing his standard "What's up?" wave, but it looks more as if he is telling the Styracosaurus to heel or something. Or doing that thing Crocodile Dundee does where he sedates a bull using only his intensity.


Last year, paleontologists confirmed that velociraptors had feathers but I still can't quite accept it. Looks weird to me, all decked out like that. That's my counter-thesis.


The less neutrally-toned a dilophosaur is, the angrier it is.


I mostly added this because it's my hometown dinosaur. Go Oilers!


"Hey, I'm just here with this mind-bogglingly enormous lizard. What's up?"



You would quit your good-natured waving too if you were about to be the victim of a Stego-fart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Review!

Lil' bit o' graphic novel reviewed here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There has been a long delay since my last Jurassic Fight Club episode review. This is not an indication of any lagging commitment to the show on my part. It only represents the period of time that has elapsed between the first season airing and it becoming available on Netflix. Seriously, get this show on Netflix. It's great.

And now for some DINO-WARS!

This scale model is about to be eaten!!!

Episode Title: Cannibal Dinosaur
Time: 70 million years ago; Cretaceous
Place: Madagascar (described by the JFC narrator as a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH")
Battlers: Male Majungatholus versus Female Majungatholus
Stakes: Survival in the prehistoric world; gender identity

Tag-line for the episode: "THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF THE SEXES"
Runners up: "The Most Gruesome Act in the Animal Kingdom: Cannibalism"
"One of the Most Disturbing Discoveries Ever Unearthed"

Quotes regarding Majungatholus:

"The T-Rex of the East."
"The ultimate predator in its community."
"Its teeth worked like a conveyor."
"Its tail was like an oversized baseball bat."
"A Majungatholus had the mass of a baby elephant." (Nothing can be terrifying after it's been compared to a baby elephant.)

Key Pre-Fight Moments:

First of all, I love the idea of setting this up as "the ultimate battle of the sexes". The phrase "battle of the sexes" has a romantic comedy connotation to me, where a girl and guy are in the same field or something, and they're competing professionally while falling in love (I can't believe the only example of this I can think of off hand is No Reservations, which I didn't even see). There is sort of an implied affection to the battle, or at least a mutual respect. I just love that the JFC people took it upon themselves to interpret this phrase completely literally. Two members of the same species, different genders, battle to the death. You really can't argue that as far as battles of the sexes go, this is indeed higher on the "ultimate" chart than like, Alvy Singer and Annie Hall quibbling over the meaning of love and stuff.

Josh was valiant enough to watch this episode with me, and we immediately picked sides. Me - rooting for female. Him - rooting for male. IT'S LIKE MEN ARE FROM MARS AND WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS OR SOMETHING.

As a quick aside, another great thing about Jurassic Fight Club is that the episodes begin with this disclaimer: "The following is a graphic depiction of a violent prehistoric battle. Viewer discretion is advised". Watching these CGI dinosaurs fight could really fuck you up, for real, guys! Trauma alert.

There is a lot of hubbub made by the paleontologists and the narrator about Madagascar being an island, which means adaptation worked differently there. The narrator goes so far as to say that Madagascar forces the Majungatholus to "adapt in ways that other dinosaurs would never dream of". Not only does this suggest that dinosaurs had some kind of conscious control over their own evolution (Pterodactyl: "Uh...I think it's about time I grew wings"; Stegosaurus: "Maybe I'd look more impressive with some plate-like spikes along my spine?), it forces us to confront the existence of dinosaur dreams. What do dinosaurs dream about? I can't believe I've never had an opportunity to ask myself this enormously appealing question. Honestly, I dream about dinosaurs pretty regularly, so it's my genuine hope that when they slipped into their little reptile slumber, they dreamed of me. *Wistful sigh*

The other thing we learn about island isolation is that the Majungatholus is a hideously inbred species. Apparently, they are all brothers mating with sisters mating with fathers mating with nieces. One of the experts, "Dinosaur George" Blasing, posits that this may have been responsible for the Majungatholus' "ugly face". Two things. 1) Does inbreeding necessarily = ugly? Purebred dogs are inbred and adorable. I am never going to deny a puppy a cuddle because it has a redundant set of genes. And I'm positive there have been attractive inbred humans; it can't all be the stereotype of heavy brows and closely-set eyes. (I should alert you that this just led me to Google "inbred beauties", which actually turned up a direct hit: "There is a world of breeding potential in these inbred beauties just waiting for the person who is already breeding sufficient dips to make the right matches". The page is about flowers or something).

Secondly, "ugly face"? It's a dinosaur. What are we comparing it to here? Other dinosaurs? I would posit that the Majungatholus' face is about as attractive as any dinosaur face. Compared to a human face? In this case, yes, I would say it has an ugly face, if we are using a human as the manipulated variable. But this might only be because I prefer to mate within my species and time period.

Final Madagascar point: I feel I must reiterate that Madagascar, although it may seem like a tropical paradise, is in fact a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH".

Stray observations:

There was a weird CGI comparison of a Majungatholus' skull to a hawk's skull and a crocodile's skull. All three skulls were rotating on the screen at the same time. It was so weird. I had no idea what I was meant to be observing.

Re: skulls - one of the paleontologists was talking about how little we know about the Majungatholus. Abruptly, he exclaimed in that desperate nerd voice, "We need more skulls!"

The average day of a Majungotholus was described by one of the dinosaur experts as consisting of the following: "walking around, killing something, eating it, resting for a while". No croquet, for the record.

After describing that Majungatholus had poor binocular vision, the dinosaur experts likened its compensatory fighting style to a professional boxer: they're always moving their heads around to get a better handle on their opponent. The only thing that's weird about this is that it implies that boxers do not have binocular vision.

The first time we see the CGI female Majungatholus (after the narrator exclaims "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FEMALES?"), she appears to be sashaying.

Blasing says something midway through the episode about how humans clear logs out of forests, but imagine if there were no humans to clear logs. It'd be a pretty loggy forest! When weird statements like this occur, you know it is JFC's Foreshadowing Department at work. Probably one of the Majungatholus will trip on a log during the fight, or whatever. Something with a log is going to happen.

There are a lot of qualifying clauses that the paleontologists use to soften the outrageous fight-story, and make it seem somehow scientifically feasible. My favourite in this episode was "It is very reasonable to suggest...". The rest of the sentence was something about how the Majungothulus had a head like a turkey.


A horny male Majungatholus is walking through a (notably loggy) forest. He is following the scent of a female Majungatholus "like a road map", and finds her in a (notably loggy) grove. According to the narrator, "his motive is sex, but she has other ideas". Time out: Again, why have I never had a chance to contemplate what kinds of "ideas" a dinosaur has? A dinosaur roaring "ROAR-EEKA! in the bathtub. A dinosaur with a lightbulb over its head. A dinosaur watching the sunset, reflecting on life. A dinosaur contemplating me contemplating it. *Wistful sigh*

Time in. This female Majungatholus is no pushover, we are informed. She is majorly cranky. "Is this just a lover's spat?" asks the narrator. Time out: At this point, Josh yelled "What, did he leave the toilet seat up?". Laughter, laughter. Time in. We learn that is not, in fact, any so-called lovers-spat. A vital piece of information is revealed: the female already has a BABY. A YOUNG MAJUNG. A Ma-YOUNG-gatholus. Time out: Puns! Time in.

The female is aggressive because she is trying to protect her baby from the male. Apparently, it is a Majungatholus custom for a male to eat a baby if it is not his baby. Time out: here's advice for an inbred species - don't eat offspring! Yes, even if it's not yours! You are already dealing with poor immune systems and mutations due to lack of genetic diversity. Don't throw infanticide in there too. If you are not related to the baby, maybe you will be able to produce un-inbred babies with the baby in a couple years. Ever think of that, or were you too busy thinking of me (*wistful sigh*)? Time in.

Now here comes something amazing. Brace yourself. The male Majungatholus makes his sexual intentions clear by proceeding to dance. He does a courtship dance. It looks like he is trying to take a shit during an earthquake. It is something you can only truly appreciate if you watch the episode. He is swaying from side to side, but also doing an unmistakable shit-squat. It is the weirdest, unsexiest thing this Majungotholus could've done with its ugly-faced inbred body; I don't know what the animators could have possibly modeled it after. No wonder the female is not only turned off, but becomes totally homicidal.

The narrator informs us that "he has no idea he is dancing with the devil". True enough.

The female fails to prevent the male from seeing the baby. And it's all over after that.

What happens is that the paleontologists all excitedly say some variation of "that baby's going down". One says "he knows he's got to get rid of that baby". Another says "He needs to take out the baby". The narrator echoes it almost verbatim: "The male has to take that baby out". It's hilarious. They're all super-stoked that this male has to kill the baby Majung. If he kills the baby, he will be able to mate with the mother, because she'll immediately want to make a new baby upon the death of the old one. Which means in Majungotholus culture, baby-killing is kind of an aphrodisiac. So, I don't know which dinosaur to root for anymore, because it's hard to choose sides after that.

Regardless, how is this male going to get through this warrior of a female to kill her kid? Well, see, there's all these logs around. So he backs her into a loggy corner. She tried to kick dirt in his face (girl fight) but to no avail. She trips on a log and falls down. Well played, male. Well played, JFC Foreshadowing Department.

I guess the female temporarily passes out or something after falling, because there are then many long, protracted, bloody shots of the male killing the baby. He rams it against a tree and shakes it and stuff. It's payoff, I guess. Anyway, the baby dies, so the mother is sure to be all hot and bothered now, right? You wish! The paleontologists belabour the point that when she recovers from her fainting spell (women), she still thinks the baby might be alive, even though it's basically a mashed-up pulp in the male's mouth. She charges him, bites his neck and full-on snaps his spine. He's alive, but paralyzed. Down for the count. MaDONEgotholus.

The female checks the mashed-up piece of pulp's vitals. It's dead. The narrator informs us that the female Majungatholus can not mourn her child (no need to MajungCONSOLEus). Time out: the rules are that dinosaurs have dreams and ideas, but not feelings. Time in: So if you can't mourn your dead kid, why not eat it? Why not indeed, thinks the female, and she goes ahead and tucks right in. She needs to replenish the calories she burned protecting her baby by eating her baby. Gross!

But wait! The narrator tells us that the baby is only "her first course". Just an hor d'oeurve. After all, there is a paralyzed male right next to her; that's an entree. For some reason, the paleontologists make a quibbling point about this being about sustenance, not vengeance. Fine, but she does eat him alive. It just seems like that's making a point about something. Not to mention that she targets the male's liver, ripping it out and making a big show of messily gobbling it up in front of the still-conscious male. The whole thing is so Promethean that it's hard for me to believe she's not at least a little bit doing it because this male killed her baby, even if she is emphatically incapable of mourning it.

The narrator ends the show by proclaiming, "One thing's for certain: One Majungatholus just showed another who's boss".

WINNER: Cannibalism.
Runner-up: Narrator's intensity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Unicorn Box, Please

You know when something really small triggers an explosion of complex emotions? That can happen when you walk by a thing your child self never consciously knew she wanted to possess, but apparently did want to possess pretty desperately judging by the aforementioned feelings-bouquet, in the garbage.

It was one of those times when I couldn't decide whether or not I'd prefer to just be a robot already.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Whenever you see a misspelling of the there-their-they're, your-you're, it's-its (et al.) variety, I recommend trying to make as much sense out of the sentence with its error as possible. Like, take a benign sentence "that's there dog": well, this is obviously a sentence about a "there dog", some specific dog ("that's") which has the uncanny ability to be right there. "Its fantastic": well that fantastic - fantastic being an item - belongs to that "it". As in, "don't touch that fantastic! That fantastic belongs to It!" It's not like they often make sense, but you get to force words to do things they don't want to do; an end in itself.

I was excited to find this one:

I can only imagine what having your very own The F*!king Best! might entail.

PS. I am super-proud of this post's title....even though I think they're actually homophones.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


No bookstore should consider itself complete without this section.