Monday, August 29, 2005

Snail's pace

Right. It's set. I will be moving into my new, dingy, fabulously shitty apartment come the 31st after the current beach bum tenant vacates the hell out of there. The rent's about a hundred dollars more than my current shindig and I lose a room out of the deal. Location, location, location people! At least it's convenient -- movies, munchies, and maintenance.

***

Parents in town to help me disassemble (-member) my furniture. You know that thing some people do where asking questions becomes not an act to retrieve information, but to re-affirm that, yes, they've still got it, a voicebox? Yeah ... that times two:

"I say, how much?"

"$XXX"

"We go now, what floor?"

"6th."

"This 6?"

"No. Lobby."

"Now we go where?"

"6th floor."

"For how much?"

... and the beat went on for 30-minutes. It was like a contemporary update of "Who's on first?" in immigrantnese caught on a long-suffering security camera. Gotta love my garden variety folks.

***

Swiss Alps just got back from Switzerland yesterday and called to meet up for dinner later tonight. But first, a movie (or two). "Saraband" by the great Ingmar Bergman and/or "The Edukators" by Hans Weingartner. Maybe the former, but probably the latter just 'cause it has a love-triangle (as opposed to a morose-square) and, so says the New York Times, some anti-sweatshop protest action. And you know how much I love those. (That's a joke. Stupid hippies. Why can't they sit around and do nothing like the rest of us?)

Friday, August 26, 2005

This is funny, yes?

Leave it to Slate to publish light-hearted satire -- What if Christ spoke at a Republican Party fund-raiser? by Tom Peyer.

Also on Slate, Seth Stevenson is wondering if he should move to Amsterdam (an idea I've seriously considered soon after my trip to the Netherlands).

***

Signing the lease to my new apartment has proved more problematic than anticipated considering it requires my driver's license and Banana Chic is painting the town red with it.

Montreal!

Back and house-hunting a mere 24 hours after a 13-hour flight and 5-hour train ride. Exhaustion barely covers what I'm feeling right now. NorIda found me a beautiful place for cheap. Heading there after I check out something else I found across the street from the downtown campus. Mom called 7 times wanting to ask me whether I'm interested in joining high officials in celebrating a national holiday in ... North Korea. Dude! Who wouldn't?! Sign me up, Kimchi.

***

Back to my old habits: Buying books and watching movies -- the activities of the non-active. Bought Naomi Klein's "Fences and Windows"; Darian Leader's "Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing"; and "Sideways" by Rex Pickett. (I watched the movie, might as well read the book.) Sat at Indigo reading the Salman Rushdie interview in GQ. That man is great; we both think Batman is so much better off without his emo-listening, second-hand shopping, skinny sidekick, Robin.

Caught "Hustle & Flow" in a theatre packed with kids dressed in oversized fly netting meets disposed Christmas garlands. Rudest crowd I've ever had the pleasure of sucking air with. I don't want to sound presumptuous (even though that's what's coming), but I should've known what to have expected when 90 percent of the audience were attired in sleeveless mumus and hair done up like a country corsage. Maybe I'm old-fashioned and a conservative busybody, but I've always found inappropriate laughter excruciatingly irritating. These kids (more likely my peers) laugh when a man cries, when a stripper walks by, when a white girl shows up on screen in braids. The beauty of the script was the way it evoked complexities in laymen's terms. It was met with immature chanting during key scenes where I couldn't even concentrate on the movie because I could hear people dropping F-bombs like it was Def Jam for the deaf and retarded. If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs ...

Crunch, crunch, crunch went the loudmouth in the terrycloth bodysuit as she tore into her Frito-Lays.

It was art imitating life imitating people with futures fixing their kneepads and lipstick.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Crying Game

Other than the A+ I received in film studies, this entry will consist primarily of self-pity and whinership. I am desperately seeking an apartment for when I return from Commie Central. The airline is booked solid until the end of the month, so I have a better chance at contracting herpes from a six-year-old than be given early passage home. Luckily, I'm not as nervous about finding a place since NorIda offered to help. She said she's going to look around for me and agreed to handle all the necessary transactions.

I informed my mother of my present budget last night. "How low?" she asked. "It's reached negative figures," I calmly clarified. The phone went silent for a brief, yet not-so-awkward, moment. "Only now?" came her reliable response. The weather here has been shite. Hot one day, cool the next: serving suggestions for breakfast beer. I can't emphasize how humid it is; I'm ready for another shower no sooner after I've reached the sidewalk. It's so freakin' hot, even my grandma has given up on her woolly summer long-johns. (Don't ask. I think she keeps them on even in the shower.)

And seriously, do they ('they' being those kinky bastards on the censorship board) really think showing another movie starring Steven "The Lama" Segal fetishizing an unemployed Asian porn star will actually help with national patriotism? There's nothing else on TV! Okay, I'm exaggerating. Korean soaps here are pretty awesome ("No you didn't just steal your step-sister's boyfriend of five years and married him only to realize your feelings are true, but your mother-in-law now hates you and refuses to eat your dumplings"). And infomercials. I've sat through them all. Over here, the competition is so fierce, they don't even try to cover-up obvious flaws in their marketing package. Like that weight-loss cream featuring the "Before" picture of a Chinese pockmarked schlub and the "After" image of a model taken from an Armani ad. That was plain weird.

Anyway, the point is, I ran out of money so I can't partake in my favourite pastime. And due to my relatives' "safety concerns," I can no longer mindlessly wander. I miss home! And I need an iPod case! Preferably a Miyabi "Kimono" in yellow or teal! Damn that currency exchange! ... Steve?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Proactively Rambling

Apparently, doing the robot while singing to Avril Lavigne-doing-a-bad-impersonation-of-Billy-Joe-Armstrong and teasing a thin-skinned shopboy for his Edward Scissorhands-haircut will cause a ruckus unless you drop a whole lot of chink and change (predictably and inevitably).

***

Being with my cousin, bickering with him, telling him he should shave that crab grass from his chin, I realize just how much chance had to do with our wildly different lives; genes, our similarities. By any definition, this man lives near the bottom of the economic ladder, yet our deep connection is as tangible as the moth in his wallet. So I don't buy it. I don't buy my excuses for avoiding the beggared and broke. ("Unless," Readerdroid corrects, "they're a certain dirty hippie you have a soft spot for." Pfft, thanks for bringing him up.) My snooty-nosed interior is due to my inability to connect with reality, with the simplicity of being downtrodden. The way I lead my life relies heavily on theory and assessment -- which says much of my idleness. Asking what the meaning of my life should now undoubtedly be replaced with the Marxian maxim: How might I contribute to my society's survival along with my own? I feel like two decades of fate has separated my cousin and me in such a way that makes seeing a cross-section of globalization possible. His career opportunities lie in the invisible hands of the few, continents away, while my future -- and my peers' -- consists of creating those opportunities. This discrepency of dependency and control makes me angry. When the proverbial village has grown to an unfathomable size, the traditional approach to government should be re-examined. Why are the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer? The trickle down effect doesn't look like it's working. Admittedly, Western optimism is not for nought (there is no lack of American and Japanese investors populating the Chinese market). But due to this, native entanglements aren't given the proper attention it deserves. The United Nations writes that well over a billion people live above the poverty line here, yet the income gap is clearly illustrated on a busy street corner littered with the tattered and tailored. When I see the contrasting images of smoking bums and Gucci-clad professionals, I ask myself why only the rich are capable of multiplying their money exponentially, while the rest of us live off their droppings and calling it progress? (*Update: Math Judas informed me this is called the GDP vs. Gini coefficient debate.) I ask myself why rural bigots are being let off the hook even though their prejudices cause impoverishment which is detrimental to any nation's overall health? And I ask whether China is being steered into the arms of long-term economic reliance by depleting its homegrown resources in exchange for immediate wealth (i.e. Saudi Arabia)? It's not much of a stretch to say I'm worried. A free market doesn't work when not everyone's free.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Vegetation

I'm still recovering. This past week, I've just been schlepping around the apartment, watching movies and raiding my uncle's gigantic collection of bootlegged DVDs. His garbage bags contained the usual suspects, like Top Gun with Chinese subtitles, some rare finds like Russian Ark (highly recommended), something starring Tom Hanks with the film description of Scarface written on the back, Korean porn and this: "Virgins of Sherwood Forest. Featuring the winner of Survivor: Thailand." So that's what he's been up to.

I finally relented and watched Fahrenheit 9/11 (have I mentioned my dislike for hype-induced conversation? I'm willfully behind the times that way). My 13-year-old sister sat beside me as I paused and played, paused and played, in order to fill her in on background material (you try to simplify a hundred years of American history into something remotely digestible). When the credits rolled, she rubbed her eyes a little and asked me, quite nonchalantly, "So who's the current president?"

I know I shouldn't have shamed her, but I couldn't help myself. She's an above-average student, completes her homework on time, thoughtful, polite, an all-'round antithesis of me. But what she said made me cringe. Oddly, I think she deserves a lot of credit too. Who among us is still immune to the effects of media saturation? Perhaps our nose for propaganda is nurtured by the acceptance of the encounter and not a skill acquired naturally or adaptively. Or maybe -- just maybe -- her country has failed to provide her with an education deemed more than satisfactory. Why can't more adults shed their romantic view of childhood innocence to help their children escape the burdens of ignorance and superficiality? It's like a cultural safety blanket: reliable, comfortable, vast and fake.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Memoirs of an Opium Queen: Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven: The (Possible) Conclusion or A Witty Title

This time around, I have -- almost -- absolutely nothing to work with: simply an on-and-off twenty minute conversation where not very much was shared. My fault, of course. It was due to my long pauses as co-workers gathered around my cubicle to listen to one of the most nostalgia-inducing albums ever created (and you must all follow the below link and download this album if you ever owned an SNES -- a recreation, in approximate order, of the entire Super Mario World soundtrack, using various instruments and amazing artistic ingenuity -- I would suggest the 35.7M VBR ZIP format, for those less computer-audio-inclined).

Missing Canada terribly, she's currently in Beijing with a horrible foot malady of some sort. The sheep are retaliating. One second you're eating a lamb kebob, the next, your foot is the size of a fine cut o' mutton and, just to piss you off, the elevator operator asks you if you're alright -- I'm sure she just slept on it the wrong way -- as you limp your way through the hospital.

Unfortunately, being bedridden forces one to sit through Jessica Simpson videos ("Where rubber rests not in the tires she's washing"), gape at the "muppet slit" that is Julia Roberts's mouth, and watch Tom Cruise "poo through a tube." On the upside, she has possession of her brother's Japanese PSP, which should be able to kill time before she, against all odds, grabs an early flight home on the 14th -- not sure whether 'home' is Montreal or Hamilton; didn't get a chance to ask.

Sidenote: anyone who will be actually seeing Lily in the near future, be sure to compliment her new glasses, which were, miraculously, purchased the same day I got some new shades. Best part? They're both the Burt Reynolds porn set special.

As I leave you all until the next time Lily bails the country, I ask you all to look into the following musical acts that you may not be aware of:
Bloc Party, Atom and his Package, Against Me!, Refused, Bedouin Soundclash, The Reason, Randy, The Junction, Tegan and Sara, and The Vulcan Dub Squad. From Lily: The Tears suck. Here come the whiners.

Until next time,
-Steve, guest blogger


Postscripts
Oh yah, thanks for the praise Ray, but Lily is far too territorial. I have the teeth marks on my ankles to prove it.

And sorry Liz, but I only read the comments to my first post today ... never meant to neglect!