Thursday, January 28, 2010


This post has been inspired by events here in Toronto but it would relate to a lot of cities and a lot of people, I suppose.

Toronto has just announced approval of 29 more off leash areas in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). These were granted under the new system where a group of locals petition the city, it goes through community vetting, having to meet certain pre-determined criteria, like size, proximity to playgrounds etc.

I'm of two minds about off leash parks. Obviously, you are free from the threat of being fined for owning a dog; yes I know that technicality it's for dogs off leash, I'll address that later, but come on, you own a dog it has to be off leash to be happy and healthy so it's all part and parcel.

The other benefit, is that you find dogs here; sure that sounds simple but it's a big city and some days I can go to my local park, which is on leash and not see a dog. If I go to Cedarvale Park, my closest off leash, I know I'll find dogs. That's important. My dogs are social, all dogs are (or should be) social and they love to play with other dogs. Hayley likes to herd them as sheep and Terra likes to use them to practise her Brazilian ju jitsu.

But there are downsides as well. Principally, a lot of people seem to think an off leash area, particularly a fenced in area such as Cedarvale, means they can give up their responsibility for their undisciplined, unbalanced dogs. I've seen people let their dog into that area and stay on the other side of the fence, with their back turned to the enclosure .. So now you have this strange dog running around, and its owner is paying no attention to it. Due to this kind of behaviour, I've actually broken up fights between dogs that don't even belong to me.

There are people who don't have control of their dogs, they normally can't let them off the leash due to this lack of control. But because they see this fenced in area, they feel they can let their dog go, not having any control, and let it basically run wild. I once had a situation where a dog kept stealing my ball and I couldn't get it back, which meant my girls weren't getting any exercise. I kept moving the girls further and further away and this dog kept hunting them down and taking the ball. Finally I asked the owner (who had been ignoring the whole thing) if she could just keep her dog over on that side of the park. Her response: She didn't want to tell her dog what to do, that's why she was there and if I couldn't handle that perhaps I should leave .... That was a Steely Dan, a bit of pretzel logic.

Some off leash areas work. There are ones here like parts of High Park and Sherwood Park that are trails inside fences where you can walk your dog. You actually have less interaction between dogs, people tend to walk and not hang out and let the dogs play. Which is the antithesis of what I want for the girls; I can walk them anywhere, on a leash, I don't need them to be off leash for that. I can leash walk them on the nearby Beltline all the way to downtown. What I'm looking for is a place where there are victims, I mean dogs, for my border collies to play with.

I have other opinions about off leash areas in public parks. (Yeh I know, me having an opinion, what are the odds) My question is: Why do we even need separate areas to play with my dog in a park? A public park. Isn't that a kind of segregation? After all, I'm a public, and so are my dogs. I mean, can't we all just get along? As I mentioned, the park a block from my house is not an off leash park and it's not particularly large but I take the girls there, meet other dog owners and even with a tennis court, baseball diamond and play ground, we find a space where we can keep out of the way and let the dogs play

Of course, I understand the logic here, the very points I made earlier, about people having no control over their dogs, and not particularly caring. I've seen dogs jumping on kids, raiding picnic basics and shitting at will, with an owner who has no clue and little interest in stopping them

You'd think the off leash law would help curtail this bad behaviour. It would be nice if the bylaw officers could target these irresponsible dog owners and fine them to the point they never let their dogs off the leash so the rest of us could. I've found that if dogs are controlled (which you can do without a leash) and owners are responsible and respect others, we really can get along. Everyone can enjoy their public parks

Unfortunately, the enforcement of the off leash bylaw never works this way. I would wager that the majority of fines handed out aren't for dogs running crazily around without supervision, or dogs behaving badly; most of them are given to people whose dogs are within a few feet of them, perfectly under control. Your dog doesn't have to be ill mannered, or dangerous or out of control, it just have to be off leash. So our erstwhile defender of public safety just has to walk up to a group of good owners with perfectly behaved dogs and begin writing tickets. This doesn't make parks safer, it doesn't change bad behaviour, it just makes the city richer.

You can't legislate behaviour and that's the issue. There are just too many irresponsible dog owners who have no control over their dogs and that makes it difficult for everyone else. This winter I've been disgusted with the amount of dog shit I've seen in the area, there is no excuse for that. I can't blame people, really, for demanding dogs be kept behind a fence. The problem is, I don't want to be behind that fence with their owners.

So I'm basically happy there are more off leashes but it makes me feel it's going to be more and more difficult to run my dogs in any public area I want, no matter how behaved they may be and how responsible I am. I feel limited to enjoy these public spaces and honestly, I don't think it's fair. But I don't see it changing any day soon.

So enjoy your public parks and areas, don't let bad dog owners off the hook, but don't paint us all with the same brush. And to the dog owners: Smarten the fuck up. Your dog is a huge responsibility. When in public you and your dog need control, and you need manners. If you can't hand that, buy a treadmill for poochie or at the least, keep him on his leash.

Maybe I'll make my own signs for the off leash areas: Dog area. Leashes not required. Common sense, definitely

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Yes a movie list that will NOT include any westerns. Of course, with me, you never know, so pay attention

What are my criteria for a memorable movie sword fight?

Choreography & stunt work: You have to have both. You have to have stunt people/actors who are nimble, athletic and look like they've at least spent a few hours in a fencing salle. The choreography is key. As a rule, two guys facing each other in rigid fencing postures, foils at the ready and barely moving their wrists is hardly entertaining. I want to see some thought put into the scene, some creativity, but at the same time, something that isn't totally out of character or beyond the internal logic of the movie. For that reason, the Chinese costume sword epics that depend on wire work, will be ignored, with one notable exception.

Context. The sword fight has to mean something to the movie. It just can't spring out of nowhere, it has to related to the characters and mean something. They have to help advance the plot, and advance the realization of the characters. The best movie sword fights are conflict resolution. Why discuss the issue when you can pick up a piece of steel and carve your opponent a new perspective . Hmm, suddenly I feel a need for raw meat.

Historical accuracy. OK, I can give a lot of leeway on this but it's still important, at least to me. Recently I've seen a lot of "historical" movies based in the European middle ages where everyone is using samurai-like sword techniques ... a fantasy film can get away with this, but let's not get silly. I can be forgiving but if the weapons and fighting style seems representative of the time period, it gains points. Again, there are exceptions. One of the movies on this list has two guys with broadswords handling them like epees ... but everything else in the scene works.

OK, on to the list. I'm not numbering it. Entries are pretty much random. There will, however, be honorable mentions.


Errol Flynn vs Basil Rathbone. For me, this the archetypal sword fight scene. First you get a conflict set up deep in the movie's core, you know this duel is coming, you understand its significance, and you hold your breath, waiting for it.

You also have two of the best fencers in the movies. . My understanding is, that Rathbone had an actual fencing background. I'm not sure if this is true and I didn't want to research it. Some myths I don't want shattered

OK, the weakness of this scene is how these two guys wield their broadswords like fencing foils but it's forgivable. There's a lot of action here. The duel itself occurs during a larger battle, so the two duellists are moving through a lot of chaos. Both men stay in character for the duel and their athletic ability is evident.

Great directing here as well. I'll never forget, as the two men move around this giant pillar, we see their shadows on it before they move into frame. Dashing indeed.


Sean Connery vs Robert Ryan. Well, since we're talking Robin Hood .. this is the sequel to the story, 20 years after Rob goes off Crusading and returns to home to find Marian now a nun and the Sheriff (Ryan) still a bad guy, sort of.

This sword fight pretty much meets all my criteria. The stunt work and choreography are excellent. I'm sure stunt men were used, but the transitions are seamless. And you have two really strong actors here in their prime.

This duel is deeply entrenched within the story; we know these two are going to meet, on one hand they're reluctant to do it but on the other hand they both acknowledge that it's something that must be down.

It feels extremely realistic. Director Richard Lester was one of the best at staging accurate fights, from the weapons, to the armour, to the fact the duellists weren't all flourish and flash, they were fighting for their lives and they kicked and spit and cheated. And they got tired. Until his version of The Musketeers, I never saw a cinematic fencer get tired.


Mandy Pantinkin vs Cary Ewles. "My name is Indgio Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die" This duel could very well be a number one as far as I'm concerned. Certainly in terms of choreography and stunt work, it is way, way up there. The world's greatest swordsman (Pantinkin) vs the world's greatest hero (Ewles)

The staging is stunning. It may lose points on realism, but this is a fairy tale. Still, the leaping, spinning, changing of hands, it's pretty breathtaking. All the while these two talented actors firing off some very snappy patter. A sort of traditional fencing with flourishes from another dimension.


Patrick Swayze vs Christopher Neame. Are some of you saying "Huh?" OK, this may be a tad obscure. It's a post apocalyptic sword and sandals epic, and I use epic in the sense of mildly entertaining cliche riddle B movie. But we all love B movies don't we? If you don't, brother, are you reading the wrong blog.

So the future: bleak, barren, technology smashed, the poor good folks scratching a living out of the desert, terrorized by evil land barons seeking to control the only viable wealth, that being water. Until a mysterious stranger strides out of the wasteland, his sword across his back, his past semi hidden, ready to right all wrongs ... It looks like Mad Max but it plays like Shane.

Swayze is, of course, the hero. And so effective is he at thwarting the bad guys they bring in a hired gun, not Jack Palance but British actor Neames. Their duel to the death meets a lot of the criteria: It is essential to the plot. Swayze must best the slinger in order to beat down tyranny. It is also a test of his resolve, which is questioned in the movie. The choreography is good; this is essentially a fantasy movie but the fight looks gritty, the duellists get hurt, they get tired, they resort to street fighting when need be. And you have two athletically gifted actors, who manage to stay in their lightly sketched characters and bring a touch of gravity to the whole silly thing


Liam Neeson vs Tim Roth. OK, back to the good old bloody past. This is a good movie, well made, with some bucks behind it and it shows. Leeson is great, he is so big and graceful and quiet you just know you shouldn't fuck with this guy. But Roth does. His performance is one of my favorite villains in any movie. On the surface his nobleman is a total fop, but on the inside he is a stone cold killer, one of the deadliest fencers in England, apparently based on a real character.

It's an important event in the movie. On one hand, this duel is integral to the advancement of Rob Roy. On the other, Roth is the scum bag who raped his wife. Oh yeh, he's going down.

One of the things that brings it to another level, is an historical point; Roth is a fencer who fancies the rapier and he has a balletic skill with the weapon, quick and nimble and cunning. Rob Roy is, like, 9 feet of chiselled muscle and uses this behemoth claymore, what is referred to as a "Scottish tool" It's a match of weapons of styles

We see both men in action before the fight, we understand what each brings to it. Roth literally runs circles around Neeson, his nimble weapon striking him with pin point accuracy. But what Roy lakes in agility, he makes up in tenacity; yeh, he's freaking John Wayne (see, Westerns will always make an appearance) and he wins the day with his courage, his heart and his just plain toughness.


Michelle Yeo vs Zhang Ziyi. OK, here is the exception to the "no wire work" rule but let's face it, this is just an exceptional movie. Even with the obvious wire work, both actors here display an exceptional level of athletic ability and the wire work itself is deeply embedded in the construction of the film.

This is another scene that easily could be another number one. Athletic, beautiful, powerful, suspenseful, the fight, like all the fights in the movie, is used to help tell the story. We learn about the characters as they battle each other, the fight is a kind of a dialogue, much like the scene from Princess Bride. Both these women are powerful actors as well as stunt people and they do as much with their expressions and body postures as they do with their dialogue.

This is also the only female vs female on the list. I love watching women do fight scenes but quite frankly, I can't recall many of this quality. Zhang Ziyi has done other sword fights, like in House of Daggers, but this one is truly the stand out

I'll give Honorable Mention to the fight in the bamboo forest between Ziyi and Chow Yun Fat. A lovely, fluid, fantasy sequence, it's as much chase scene as sword fight. For me it lacks the emotional impact of the the two women, but it takes your breath away.


Kirk Douglas vs Tony Curtis. I mean, do you need much more info than that? Douglas, Curtis, Vikings, done deal.

This scene is on here for two reasons: Staging and context. The context is what makes it. This is another scene that the entire movie builds up to. The relationship between the two characters is established throughout the entire movie and we see the fight as inevitable. The fight will be a mistake, if one of these one men dies it will be a tragedy for the other yet it's going to happen, their own personalities and the circumstance make it inevitable.

The staging is breath taking. The fight takes place on the steep steps at the top of a Norman style tower; not only could each man die from the sword, the environment itself could kill them. Lots of emotion here and two physically gifted actors holding nothing back.
Each of these actors have movies that deserve honorable mention here: Curtis in The Great Race, and Douglas in Spartacus.


Russel Crowe vs Jaquim Phoenis. Lots of great sword fighting in this movie of course, and most of it emotionally correct for the story. This is another big show down and it's good vs evil with little equivocation, unlike The Vikings.

The context and the acting carries it but the fight choreography throughout this movie is of a very high quality. It's a movie where fighting is central to the plot but it's more about one man bashing each other; be it gladiator or soldier, Crowe's character is fighting for something, and often fighting the system. Yup, Caesar is the man. The Spaniard sticks it to the man. Literally.


Michael York vs Christopher Lee. The Three and Four Muskeeters were released as two movies but I'm considering them as one, as that was how they were created. Picking a single fight from them is difficult, these two movies contain some of the most entertaining and dazzling fight sequences ever filmed

A couple of my favorites are the courtyard sequence where York agrees to fight each of the musketeers separately then they all face off against the king's guard, and the laundry room scene. But these are fights between groups and for the purpose of this list I wanted to stick to mano et mano

So, here we have a man to man duel that, like many on the list, is set up throughout the story. York and Lee are going to fight, they're going to fight to the death. It's good vs evil but it's also naivete vs cynicism, it's youth vs experience. As noted before, Lester was the master of staging chaotic, comical, realistic fight scenes. While both characters display grace and skill with their weapons they are human; they pant, they slip on the floor, they throw stuff at each other. It's funny (the movie is essentially a comedy) but it also helps us to relate to them

That's it for the list at this point. I'm sure I've forgotten some entries, perhaps there are some you disagree with, let me know on either count, but here a few honorable mentions


THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Luke vs Darth. Pretty well staged, Mark Hamill can't act his way out of a sack but you can't deny the significance of the duel to the movie "Luke, I'm your father, en guarde"

TOSHIRO MIFUNE: One of my favorite actors of all time and he had many many noteworthy duels in his movies. Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Samurai Trilogy, The Hidden Fortress. A powerful actor who knew how to use stunt work to give us insight into his character.

HIGHLANDER: One of my favorite B movies. Some of the actual choreography and stunt work is, to be honest, a bit dodgy but it's the staging that deserves note. The sight of two men in contemporary clothing duelling in an underground parking lot does send a little shiver up my spine.

CAPTAIN BLOOD: A great pirate movie with great duelling, featuring another plot-stabilizing duel between Errol Flyn and Basil Rathbone

BUCANEER: A contemporary pirate movie featuring another good duel starring Robert Ryan, this time against evil-oozing Peter Boyle

At the risk of making this post a Gone With the Wind of thrust & parry, I'll end it here. What duels have I missed? Which ones don't belong on the list? Don't be shy, speak your mind. I'll put down my katanna and back away slowly.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Holy crap, has it been a year already? Well no, it hasn't been a year, it's been a year ... Oh stop spinning in circles, let me explain ...

It's been a year since Terra was born down there in Guelph, but it has not been a year since we've had her. That date will happen in March and I'll make a more detailed retrospective blog at that time. You don't take a puppy home the day she is born, well you could but you'd be an idiot and mamma dog would probably bite your ass

I've posted before about doggie birthdays and how my dog trainer buddy John doesn't think "dogs have birthdays" as in, they don't celebrate them. Well kids don't celebrate their own birthdays at first, we celebrate for them and eventually the gift-hungry little buggers learn on their own ....
So did Terra get a gift? She did indeed. Her very first taste of dried liver. Beef liver is the puppy equivalent of Vic getting a Porshe for his birthday, apparently. Happy happy.

Needless to say, Terra has come a long way in a year. Physically, from this ...

... to this ...

I know, scary eh?

Terra is now taller and longer than Hayley and almost equal in weight. The coat still has some growing out to do , I feel, and maybe she'll put on another pound or two, but the physical growing is pretty much done.

The two of them have gone from this .. this ...

Terra's the one on the left, by the ball, I know it's getting hard to tell. If I walk by them on the couch, I often need a second to figure out which dog is which.

The non physical changes are more important of course. Although Terra is still very much a puppy and still has a lot to learn, it's pretty remarkable how far she's come. Again, I'll leave some of this to her "year anniversary" post but besides the basic obedience commands she's learned, Terra has definitely matured, from a dog that was terrified of a bus coming towards her at night, to a dog who happily rides any form of transit from car, to bus to subway train.

It's been a journey longer than the TTC can take you, and longer than I can dedicate to in this post, but stay tuned in March for the full Terra retrospective.
But until then .. Happy Birthday Terra!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Over the Christmas holidays, Collette and I saw Avatar. We actually saw it twice. I wasn't going to blog about it, or not at this juncture but some recent media articles have sort of forced my hand (yeh, like I need to be forced to express my opinion or rant a little, just shut up about it)

My review of Avatar, if you could call it that, is that it was a highly enjoyable popcorn movie, a movie whose plot was derivative, "message" simplistic but was very well acted, particularly Sam
Rothwell as the main protagonist, the disabled marine assigned to the extraterrestial avatar and Zoe Saladana as his alien love interest. James Cameron stalwarts Sigournie Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez show up doing what they do so well and Wes Studi does stand out work as the alien chief. The actors who play the villains in the story get let down by the weak script, they are basically presented as evil ciphers, with no redeeming qualities. Still, the overall quality of the acting is quite outstanding.

But let's face fact, millions of people are not going to see Avatar for the script or the acting, they are going for the visual experience and let me tell you, its pretty spectacular. Lately I've been tiring of CGI in movies, I think its way over done, and I think most of it looks pretty sad. I particularly dislike extensive CGI in movies like the last Fast and the Furious and the last Die Hard movie, to me it seems a cheap and cheesy way to use a computer to simulate what older movies would do with real cars and actual stunt men. Quantum of Solace was not my favorite James Bond movie, but I did appreciate the fact that most of its big action set pieces, like the opening car chase and the airplane battle, were done with very little CGI, or computer effects so good, they seamlessly blended with the action.

Science fiction movies of course are a different matter. You have to resort to effects to render aliens, space ships, etc. I still don't often like sci fi movies that are solely dependent on effects. Forbidden Planet is a 50 or so old movie that still looks good but is more memorable for its story. I enjoyed JJ Abrahms take on Star Trek, the effects looked great but it was the story and more importantly, the characters that made the story for me. I disliked 300; not only was the story incredibly moronic (I'm a history buff and yes I know the source was a graphic novel but I don't understand why mythological monsters are more captivating than real flesh and blood humans) but I thought the green screen effects just looked cheesy. A B movie without the necessary humour.

And this brings me to Avatar. I did enjoy the story though it wasn't strong, the acting made up for a lack of written depth in the characters but damnit, this is the best looking movie I have seen in ages. Hands down, the greatest and most effective computer generated characters I've ever seen. It wasn't long before I forgot that these aliens weren't real. The details are incredible, from hair follicles in their ears, to the the vertical striations on their thumbnails. Even the eyes, where CGI characters usually fall down, are liquid and expressive. And the scenes where the CGI characters interact with the flesh and blood actors, are the most seamless I've ever seen.

You get to a point in the movie where the effects and the world created, are so effective, you forget they are indeed effects. And yes, I really enjoyed the digital 3D. It's not like the cheesy 3D with which I grew up and Cameron resists (mostly) the urge to throw objects out into the audience The 3D effect is immersive, in one scene, where the forest is burning down, I found myself trying to brush floating ash off my face ... And yes, the glasses gave me a mild headache, but it faded pretty quickly. If you can see it in IMAX 3D do so, it's pretty amazing.

So now, what prompted me to write this Avatar post now? In short, its the stench of over amped, opportunistic political correctness that's hovering over this movie like smog.

Be advised, the rest of this post may involve spoilers (oh get over it, even the rock you live under has heard about this movie)

For those of you who don't know, the plot of Avatar is like a retelling of the Pocahontas story, with a big fat slice of Dances With Wolves. As I've said, it's derivative. Big bad corporate, profit minded humans come to alien paradise Pandora and want to exploit it for its mineral wealth, natives be damned. Human marine takes control of an alien body to help with said exploitation, becomes entranced by the alien paradise, turns his back on humanity and all Hell breaks loose. He uses his human tactics and hoo-raw jarheadness to help fight his own kind.

While watching the movie I was very interested in the fact that the marine is a paraplegic, injured in war, using a wheelchair. In a future where we have faster than light travel and giant robots, they can't repair the man's spine? It's explained that as a poor jarhead, he isn't rich enough to get legs and there is some bitter truth to that, disabled veterans do seem to go to the back of the line. As the alien avatar, the marine has a fully functional body and it struck me that maybe he would rather live as an able alien than a disabled human ...

But that's not the PC brush being used to paint this movie.

The card being played here is the race card. The movie is (rightly I feel) being seen as a parallel to the white man's oppression of Native Americans, as I said, it is more than reminiscent of Dances With Wolves. The fact that the fine Native actor Wes Studi plays one of the aliens was not lost on me (no one ever accused James Cameron of being subtle). The criticism here is that its the white man (or the human) who rescues the Natives (or the ET's) who otherwise would be unable to write their own destiny.

Let's put this in context. What were are talking about here is a difference in cultures (human capitalism vs alien cooperative/natural living. The natives of Pandora live in a natural world, where existing takes up a great deal of their lives, they don't need tech because the planet itself provides then with what the need. No need to invent flight, we have dragons to fly us around. Humans are dependent on tech. They need it just to survive on Pandora (the planet's atmosphere is poisonous to humans) and they need it to exploit their capitalistic needs

So the aliens are faced with two wars; a war of ideology and a war of technology. Like the Aztecs and the Plains Indians The natives of Pandora are not stupid or backward or primitive, they just literally live in a different world. Our human history is peppered with a race of people being overwhelmed by another race because of these kinds of differences; not just the advanced tech, but the different mindset behind it. The American Revolution and the Boer War are examples of a larger, better equipped army being defeated by a smaller army due in large part to a difference in tactics; farmers and hunters using those skills as guerrilla fighters to overcome large professional armies.

Yes, the human in Pandora uses his knowledge of human behaviour and human technology to help the ET's in their war Not because he's superior, but because he just has the understanding that the aliens cannot access. On the other hand, the aliens use their form or tech (some kind of planet wide biological symbionce) to aid the human.

But there are humans on this world who are seeing Avatar as racist, a prime fantasy of white man's guilt .. well fuck, we better have a lot of guilt about how our ancestors ran rampant over a good chunk of this planet. And if we have fantasies of how we wish we could have better handled those past events, what's wrong with that

One of the criticisms is how the human in this movie is portrayed at the superior savior of the poor primitive aliens Again, I view the marine's advantage not one of racial superiority but just a better understanding of his own culture. And of course not all the humans are saviors No doubt about it, the bad guys here are all white .. I mean human .. to the point where they approach parody And we never see a truly evil alien. So most humans evil, even the good humans are damaged by their own culture and can only become good by, literally, becoming human and none of the aliens are truly evil... um, wait .. isn't that sort of racist?

It isn't lost on me that some of the more vocal dissonance of this movie is coming from ethnic actors and movie makers, the old "why did Kevin Costner get to make a movie about Native Americans, when the Natives themselves don't have that kind of access to the movie making machine .." A very very fair question indeed

But I'll wait to hear from the giant, blue skinned alien forum to pass a judgement here

I'm a fan of Westerns (gosh Vic really) and I find a lot of them difficult to watch now, the racism is pretty terrible. As a rule, I don't buy Westerns where its cowboys vs Indians because they just make me puke So movies have a lot to answer to in the way our history is portrayed

But lay off Avatar. Yes, I know, its not a move that exists in a bubble. It may be science fiction but the parallels to human history are out there in your face. So comments are warranted. But is this the cross you want to die on? Or is it just because this movie is so huge any comment made will likely be picked up by the media, especially disparaging comments. Its called an opportunity, just as the humans in Avatar use opportunity to exploit that planet ...

Oh golly, can we say "irony"?

By the way: How DO disabled people feel about this movie and how the crippled Marine is portrayed? I was impressed on how his legs looked so thin, a nice attention to detail. The first showing we went to, there were three people in wheelchairs in the audience. I'm very curious how those people viewed the film

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


So our duly elected federal gov't officials have decided to take a couple of months off, not during a recognized scheduled break With legislation pending, including a budget, and an investigation into the treatment of Afghan prisoners.

The gov't's response to these issues? Take a break and hope they go away.

Now this is a minority gov't at the federal level. So what do our three (only three, sorry Green Party, you barely qualify as comedy relief) opposition parties decide to do .. filibuster? Lock the House of Commons doors? Garner support of their constituents by contacting them and informing us who in the sitting gov't we should contact? Gosh no. What we get are TV attack ads. Like, This is so stinking wrong, I'll just whine about it! How Canadian.

Of course our elected representatives are fully aware of their responsibilities to us, they recognize the fact that are indeed our employees, that they only have their jobs at our written (or check mark on a ballot) bequest. And since I don't recall being asked if I approved of this suspension, there is only one way our fair gov't will do ...

While they stop working for us, they'll suspend their own pay ......

Won't they?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010



I guess I should really pay more attention to my own blog. I happened to be going over some older posts and noticed that comments have been recently made, comments upon which I did no comment .. er, that is, to which I didn't respond

Firstly, for any genuine comments I thank you very much. Its nice to know people are actually reading this thing (I won't ask why, we'll all just keep that to ourselves) and when you choose to take the time to leave a comment, well, it is very much appreciated. I'll try to do a better job of keeping track of the posts and responding to comments as they come in

However ...

(Did you see that coming?)

There is a lot of spam coming in. And no, I don't mean the calcified toxic waste they sell as luncheon meat, I mean unsolicited advertisements. I am so not impressed. Read my post about YouTube and you'll see how I feel about profiting from a non profit enterprise, as is this blog

So I may have to put on Comment Moderation, which means I'll be vetting all comments. Don't worry, any sincere response, whether or not I agree with it, will be posted, any cheezy advertising or unsolicited links will be flushed with the dog vomit.

So please, if you've read something here and want to respond, want to agree or disagree or simply say "what the fuck" go ahead. Any bots looking to sell their game hacks or teen sex vids, welomce to my circular files.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This is not another move list post, but rather a post about movie lists. Yeh, you may need a coffee for this one, or a glass of wine, or an iron lung.

This post was inspired by the passing of movie (or should I say film) critic, Robin Wood. Wood was a well respected teacher, author and critic. At 78, the man saw and reviewed and studied a huge amount of films from all the world. Before he passed, he sat down to finally write out his top ten list; big news, apparently in the "film" world as this guy's writings were into God's

Some of his picks were no real surprise; Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, La Regle du jeu, Code inconnu and Sansho dayu or Sansho the Baliff. This latter film is truly no surprise, Wood once described this movie as a candidate for the best film ever made. So was it his number one? No it was not, and his actual choice has sent flittery little ripples throughout the snobby matrix of the cineaste (is that even a word? like, they have to make up their own word to separate themselves from the rest of us movie going plebes)

So what did this Film Critic Deity choose as his number one movie? Rio Bravo

Gasp. Sputter. Quick Mildred! Get the smelling salts!

Yes, Rio Bravo. A Hollywood film, not film. Movie. A Hollywood movie. A western. A western starring John Wayne. Oh choke, sputter, faint .. the horror of it all!

Mr Wood was ill at the time he wrote out the list and some have suggested that perhaps he wasn't in his right mind and made some kind of mistake. Or maybe the selection was intended as a joke. Yes, Mildred, that must be it, old Robin was just having one over on us, wot wot?

Give me a minute here, I may need to heave ...

What the hell is wrong with people? Rio Bravo is a great movie. It is damn close to being a perfect movie. My number one movie of all time tends to shift around more than a fat set of buttocks in a pair of tight spandex shorts, but Rio Bravo has always been comfortably ensconced in my top five. It is, simply, a great movie.

Director Howard Hawks began his career in the silent movies and it shows. The opening sequence in which the film's essential relationship, between stoic Marshall Wayne and drunk gambler Dean Martin is established, as well as the film's most important plot hook, the jailing of big bad Claude Atkins, is done entirely without dialogue.

And while there is dialogue in the rest of the film, and its a snappy almost film noire private eye pattern, Hawks makes great use of his lens and the physical presence of his actors. John Wayne lounging in a doorway, acting casual but ready to draw down, doesn't need to say anything; his face looks like stone but the way he holds himself, the cock of his hip, the fingers on his gun belt, the tilt of his head all tell you Don't be stupid son, you try and you're dead. Claude Atkins is another actor who knows how to tell a story with few words. He looks huge in this movie, he stands erect, hips thrust out, his lip curled, as haughty and dangerous as a lion that only lets you keep him in a cage because he's bored.

Most film critics would think that if you were going to have a western at the top of your list it should be High Noon. Pardon me, I just lapsed into a brief coma. Come on, High Noon? I have never made it all the way through this snooze fest, its an incredibly effective soporific. I like Gary Cooper, I do, but he pretty much sleep walks his way through this movie. You want a good Cooper western, try Vera Cruz.

High Noon is a "message" western and wow, do you know it. Its freaking solemn which may be a good word for boring. Rio Bravo is also, in a way, a message western. Hawks actually made it in response to High Noon. He hated the notion that the cowardly town folks abandon Cooper to face the incoming bad guys on his own. He didn't see the Western mythos that way, he saw it as a cooperative venture, people united to fight a common evil.

That is exactly what happens in Rio Bravo. A group of rugged individuals unify to fight off what everyone agrees to be an unnecessary evil. In doing so, they leave their individualism behind, to the point where all the characters have nick names: Dude, Stumpy, Colorado, Chance .. yes, Wayne's characters name is actually John T Chance but the sobriquet is used more like a nick name in the movie.

Rio Bravo is a simple movie. Directors like Hawks and John Ford eschewed the camera trickery of other great directors like Orson Welles and Hitchcock. No cameras flying through the giant letters of a hotel's name (Citizen Kane) or perspectives shot through a rolled up newspaper (Marnie) for Mr Hawks. Just perfectly composed and framed shots, understated acting, and an ability to build tension with music, movement and pin point editing. You can add Kurosawa to this list of directors as well

So, the actual point of this post (yeh yeh Virginia, sometimes I have a point, its just blunted and mouldy) is not to review Rio Bravo but rather this wave of outrage that a respected film critic would pick it as his number one movie at all time. We shouldn't be too surprised, Wood actually wrote a whole book about the film, though I haven't myself read it

Is it the genre that upset the cineaste (or cineasses) applecart? Can people really not understand that the Western movie genre is just as respectable as any other? Rio Brave, Shane, Red River, how can you ignore these movies simply because they involve gunfights and cowboy hats. The answer of course, would be snobbery.

It does amaze me that the gaspers had no issue with Seven Samurai being on Woods list. I mean really, this is a western. How else would it be able to be so seamlessly adapted into Western form as The Magnificent Seven. The Seven is another movie about a group of individuals banding together to fight a common enemy, just as is Rio Bravo. And like Hawks, Kurosawa uses silence, movement inside still frames and perfect composition to tell his story, rather than a lot of flashy camera work

Citizen Kane is one of the greatest movies ever made. Its cinematic verisimilitude is breath taking to this day but its story and powerful performances help it to stand the test of time. Rio Bravo, to our modern eyes, veers towards corniness, especially the singing scenes with Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson; though let it be said that cowboys often entertained themselves with music, so this scene does have an authentic touch.

I think Bravo's simplicity is what makes it great, and what helps it to stand out to this day. I love Hitchcock, I loved his technical innovations, but some of his fancy camera work has not worn well with time and I love the Cohen Brothers as well, probably the most innovative camera people of their day but when the artistry is not tied to a compelling story, it just looks like visual masturbation.

A lot of people are dismissing Rio Bravo on Woods' list as a guilty pleasure, as if the film isn't "important" enough. Well hell, its a freaking movie, relax and chew some popcorn and I certainly recognize the artistry in films and even their power to create social change but let's not make them important, ok. There are a lot of B movies I really enjoy that may not make my top ten but not because of guilt factor but simply because I acknowledge that, while entertaining, there are other movies that are simply better.

A Boy And His Dog is the B movie of all B movies but it makes my top ten, not as a joke but because it is an incredibly effective, original movie that from the first time I saw it, I could recite to you frame by frame. Low budget doesn't always mean B and B doesn't always mean bad. But having said that, Rio Bravo was certainly a A movie, with a big time director and some of the biggest stars of the day

The cienasses shouldn't be recoiling in horror, they should clear the over educated gunk out of their heads and acknowledge the fact that this Hollywood Western is simply a great movie. Best of all time? I dunno, I can't even really think about that. But if you can have a movie, pop it into your DVD player and still enjoy it almost 50 yrs after it was made and the 20th time you've viewed it ....

"Let's make some noise, Colarada"

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