Wednesday, 19 February 2014

EUREKA! ......

..... no, not Richard's Italian friend suggesting that his underarm deodorant isn't working, this post is about inventions.




I'm a bit of an inventor. Which bit I'm not sure but I've come up with some pretty neat ideas.
The Old Girl doesn't have a lot of confidence in them though. She usually falls about laughing when I tell her about them. That's a bit deflating really and maybe is the reason that I don't take these inventions to the patent office.

An example was:

The boiler suit wardrobe.

Choosing clothes to wear is such a hassle. My idea is for everyone to just have a half dozen boiler suits (zip up overalls) each with a pattern to suit whatever the day demands. One with a suit and tie pattern for office work, special occasions and funerals. One with a Hawaiian shirt motif at the top and shorts for leisure and BBQs. One with an open neck shirt and chinos design for casual wear - you get the picture?

Anyway, I've got a new one.
I've noticed that drivers in Toronto beep their car horn incessantly. This makes for a confusing cacophony of noise on the streets.
My idea is for the government to make it compulsory for all vehicles to have a special horn mechanism fitted (my patented design of course) that has three different and distinct tones:

1. The Warning Tone - to say "Look out. Danger. Take care"

2. Greeting Tone - to say "Hi. How's it going. See you later"

3. Angry Tone - to say "Fuck off. You tosser. I'm going to punch your lights out you wanker"

Each steering wheel will have three colour coded buttons at the top to press when needed. The Angry Tone will be red of course.

What do you think?



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

PICTURE THIS .....

.....I go to the gymn in our apartment this morning. As I start my half hour on one of the exercycles the woman who was on a treadmill in the row in front of me gets off and wanders away. She leaves the big screen TV in front of the treadmill on and blaring out advertisements with the occasional (minimal) coverage of the Sochi olympics. I wait to see if she is coming back but no, she heads off to the weights room so I dismount and go over and turn the TV off.
 The woman comes back and says "sorry I was watching that".
 I raised my eyebrows and she amended her response to "there's something I want to watch".
 She went further down the row of treadmills and turned on a TV further away from me and sat in a corner doing some stretch exercises..



I resumed my pedalling.
About 5 minutes later another woman came in. She selected the treadmill right in front of me and turned on the TV. She turned it on to the exact same channel (Sochi olympics) as the TV that was blaring 3 machines away.
I called out to her "excuse me but why don't you use the treadmill by the TV that's already going?" A reasonable request I would have thought.
"It's too noisy" she said.
"What" I said, "the TV?"
"No" she said, "the treadmill".
"Bugger me" I thought, "how the hell could she hear the squeaking of a treadmill over the blaring of the TV?"
I just waved a hand and said "turn it on then".
She said "I'm going to".
Bitch.
I looked at both of these women. Late 20's. Part of the Me, Me generation.




I stopped the exercycle, wiped it down and stormed, walked outgiving them a significant look.





Thursday, 13 February 2014

YOUNG AND EAGER





We live in the Yonge-Eglinton area (an intersection of two major Toronto streets). It's an interesting area kind of like Ponsonby at one end and Dominion Road at the other and has a nice mix of demographics. Like Ponsonby though it is becoming more populated by the upwardly mobile younger set hence we call it 'Young and Eager'.

There are lots of cafes and restaurants and many small shops (clothing, craft, homeware, speciality) which is good and long may they last before they get swallowed up by the large format malls that dominate in other areas.

Walking around the area is always good in any weather. Some highlights are:
  • Toronto's 'Blanket Man' a guy who goes about in all weather with very few clothes and has a blanket draped around his shoulders. Last week he was walking through snow in old sneakers with no socks saying "Ooo, ooo, cold, cold".

  • The blind guy who hurtles along the footpaths on a mobility scooter waving a white cane furiously out the front. You have to jump out of the way.

  • Today overhearing two young women dressed trendily. I was expecting the "..you know like, he was like. wow, omygod, like I didn't know what ...." kind of conversation but no, one was saying to the other "..I just finished reading Kafka's Metamorphosis and it was really good .."

  • Crossing the road at any non-controlled intersection. The drivers stop and let pedestrians endlessly cross in front of them. On main roads they also stop to let the odd fool pedestrian cross. I put it down to fear of litigation as they don't have an ACC system here.

  • The buskers in the Metro stations. Apparently they are paid/supported by the council and have designated places to play. Tips are a bonus. Generally the quality of music is really good.

  • Jamaican pasties. In a city that has no sandwich bars and little opportunity to buy any savoury food like pies these Jamaican stalls are great. They sell little meat filled pasties of varying spiciness.



  • Apartment dogs that wear little boots, hats and jackets in the cold weather.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

BEING OBSESSIVE

Richard's been getting a bit obsessive in his posts recently. Something about 'tone'. I guess it's OK if he just did a post or two about it but bloody hell, he's been banging on about it for ages now. I hope it's not symptomatic of something else. Let's hope he doesn't adopt a liking for licorice like this chap (a double bass
 player I think).

Monday, 10 February 2014

LABOR PAINS

When The Old Girl and I go to the pictures we generally take it turn about for the choice. If however one of us chooses a diabolically bad film then he or she loses the next turn. Often The Old Girl chooses some romantic comedy or dreary love story which I remonstrate over but never seem to win.
Today, as The Old Girl had work to do I went off to the pictures on my own.
I looked at the offerings at one of our local cinemas and chose Labor Day.



I knew nothing about it but quickly scanned that it was about an escaped criminal who takes a mother and her son hostage. Some reviewer had given it five stars so, without making further investigations I went.

Boy was I wrong. As I said to The Old Girl when I returned, if she had chosen this load of bollocks then I'd claim a free choice for the next twenty films.

Here's the synopsis:

An escaped murderer holds up a woman and her 12 year old son in a supermarket and makes her drive him to her house where he holds them captive. Over the course of a holiday weekend:

  • she falls in love with him
  • he cooks for them and cleans the house
  • they pack up the house with the intention of going to Canada tro make a new life together.
Now remember this was all over the course of a holiday weekend.

I understand the existence (whether true or not) of the Stockholm Syndrome where captives can, over time, empathise with their captors but hell, this was over a few days.



Utter bollocks and horseshit!

The guy was a convicted murderer.
He was inside because of supposedly murdering his wife....... and his child.
OK, the 'flashbacks' try to suggest that the death of his wife and child were accidents (two separate accidents that just happened to occur at the same time. Mmmm) but the stupid woman who decides to run away with him, with her son, didn't know that and didn't ask.

Sheesh. As if the story wasn't already crap, the execution of it was frankly dire. The film was made up of long and dreary scenes of cooking, baking, house cleaning, dancing, car repairing and other mundane events. All the while the son looks on with a gormless expression and the mad woman starts to take an interest in this 'sensitive' male.

Of course he gets recaptured before the silly tart and her idiot son abscond across the border but Jeez, what a waste of bloody time. Kate Winslett and Josh Brolin must be out of their minds agreeing to act in this.

FASHIONABLE



Living in a country that has extreme weather variations is interesting in many ways fashionable dressing being one of them.

In Summer and Spring Torontians pride themselves in the way they look when out on the streets.
Now that the snows of winter are here in force and, in force in a much more extreme way than is apparently normal, the elegant Torontians throw fashion to the winds (fortunately not as bad as Wellington winds as the wind chill factor here takes average daily temperature down from minus 6 to minus 26) and fit them selves out in clunky boots, fur-lined coats and hats with flaps.

After going out a few times in shorts and tee-shirts we decided to join them.







Dressing like this is essential when going out anywhere in the city.














Friday, 7 February 2014

CRUMBS! .....

..... and you thought the Prowses were unusual.
I've just watched Terry Zwigoff's documentary on Robert Crumb  which told the story of his upbringing from memories of ex-wives and girlfriends and his very strange brothers Charles and Max.



All three were/are gifted artists but had a fair share of madness mixed in with the talent.

Robert is the creator of Mr Natural and Fritz the Cat and early creator of the underground comics of the late 60's and early 70's that depicted psychedelic San Francisco and the hippie counter culture.
I remember seeing his cartoons in university magazines like Craccum. They were always a bit crazy and risque - a lot of fun.



This documentary is very well made and, it's old (made in 1990/91). I'd never heard of it before.



It's one of the pleasant discoveries I've made by borrowing DVDs from the library.
As we haven't subscribed to cable TV and cannot get free TV reception we only use the TV for watching videos on. Toronto has a lot of libraries with several being very conveniently accessible from subway stations so every week I visit and borrow (free for 7 days) as many DVDs as I think we can watch. Apart from interesting films (and there is a great selection of foreign films that are not in general release) I borrow TV series like Justified, MadMen, Third Watch, Dexter, Frost, Wallender etc and also documentaries and reality films. That's how I discovered  Crumb and I'm glad I did.

When we return to NZ I doubt that we'll subscribe to SKY TV and will just continue doing what we've been doing.
We catch up on news via the Internet anyway.

Monday, 3 February 2014

SO, ARE THEY ANY BETTER?

I went to see Lone Survivor today. This was a highly rated American film based on a real story of a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan that turned to custard.



The Wine Guy didn't go saying he thought it would be crap. He went to the opera last night so was still on his high horse. See:

Cosi Fan Tutte

Unfortunately he was right. It was crap.

The film started with depictions of  the Navy SEALS training. It is brutal, exacting the highest standards of endurance from the trainees - sort of like ultra commando training.
The film then tracks the same group of guys in Afghanistan on a live mission. They fuck-up basically: their ultra-modern communications fail; they make poor decisions; they set up in a bad defensive position and, they get their arses kicked by  the Taliban.

The Taliban are really Afghan hill-billies who are fitter, faster and smarter than the gung-ho, over trained, over outfitted and (initially) over confident Americans. The American's helicopters, satellite communications, radio communication with high-flying planes, sophisticated combat gear and modern weoponry were ultimately no match for old Kalashnikovs, machine guns and grenade launchers manned by the locals.

The lone survivor incidentally wasn't rescued by the US Cavalry but by some Afghanistan villagers who stood up to the Taliban because their local tradition dictated that guests (the wounded soldier they found in a stream) has to be protected. (whether this 2,000 year tradition would stretch to double bass players has yet to be proven).

What all this is leading me to though is this. In most films and television programmes with a war or military theme we are subjected to we almost always get the American 'gung-ho' marines, special forces. SEALS. - "we are the best" stuff. Video games distort history and show American 'heroes' saving the world from Nazis, Communists and all sorts of bad guys. Even good films do this. Think  Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and slightly mediocre films like Avatar and Aliens (interestingly both James Cameron films) show the 'gung-ho' marine mentality  - (but in both of these films the marines get their arses kicked. Maybe old James who is now a NZ resident doesn't like all the gung-ho stuff).

I know that most countries in the world have elite armed forces. New Zealand has the SAS which has a great reputation (an uncle of mine was a founder member). What I'd like to know though is who is best?
We have all sorts of reality TV programmes pitting everyone from fashion models to cooks against each other. Why not armed forces? There was, some years ago and maybe still running, an international competition between firefighters. Wouldn't it be good if the elite forces of the world met for combat games to see who is best. Certainly this would be better than them actually shooting at each other.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN


Canada can't make chips. Or, at least Toronto can't. They are disgusting. Shrivelled, soggy, funny tasting things are passed off as french fries. What's wrong with these people? You'ld think that someone would travel and try a decent french fry in another country and come back with some better ideas.

I like to make my own version of oven baked chips. I par-boil potatoes, slice them thickly, sprinkle them with a good oil and bake in a hot oven for half an hour. In New Zealand the result is exceptional. When I try to do it here the result is very ordinary although not as bad as the take away bought chips.
The problem is in the available potatoes. In New Zealand I use Agria potatoes. These have a slightly yellow flesh and a beautiful flavour that suits all methods of cooking - baked, roasted, mashed or boiled. In Toronto we cannot get Agria. I've been using what they term yellow flesh potatoes but these are not Agria. They are better than the white and red skin potatoes which are basically crap but still a far cry from what I'm used to.

I'm looking forward to coming home for some decent chips.


Saturday, 1 February 2014

BELLISSIMO? .....

.....No. more like Bellshit Bullshit.



I've had some issues with my cell phone and internet provider, Bell.

HERE

When I got back to Toronto from Scotland I went through the 'contact us' rigmarole (certainly doesn't live up to that final promise below) and then the complaints procedure that turned out to be a never-ending loop. The 'accessible' managers at Bell hide behind this 'firewall' because they don't really want to deal with customers issues. No. they'd rather spend money in advertising how wonderful they are and making false promises about service .

I looked up their service promises on Bell Canada website and found the following:

Delight.


"Yes, delight. Simply put, that’s our mission: To delight you with the products, services and customer support that we provide to you every day.

"It’s more than just talk. It comes with a commitment. Here it is:

"We will bring you outstanding products and services that can help you in your daily life;

(Well, as far as I can see they provide cell phone and internet service just like …well, every other provider.)

"We will strive to provide you with the products and services that you want;

(Yes, OK, I want cell phone and internet service. So?)

"We will remember that technology can be fun, and excite you with creative and useful new product innovations;

(This is the kind of crap that mediocre marketers write. What’s fun about slow broadband, poor cell phone reception and TV accessibility that’s not yet accessible from the building we live in?)

"We will strive to ensure that pricing information is presented clearly;

(Mmm. I think that there are laws stating that they have to do this.)

"We will be helpful and courteous in your dealings with us;

(What? I’ve yet to discover this.)

"We will strive to be accessible to you through the medium of your choice, whether it be online, in-store or by phone.”
           (I've found it very difficult to get in contact with a decision maker and end up in an endless loop   trying to go through their customer complaints procedure)
  I've got another 18 months to run on my contract with Bell and will move to another provider as soon as this runs out.

BOTHERHOOD

Well Richard seemed to like my music suggestion in my previous post. I guess that means that he's open to suggestions and recomendations...