Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Would Jesus Do?

Hire a hit man, apparently.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Canadian Living Quiz

Calling someone a “Newfie” means that they are:

A) New to Canada
B) From Newfoundland
C) A female newt

Instead of states, Canada is made up of:

A) Parishes
B) Provinces
C) Leftovers

The Canadian dollar is known as “the Loonie” in honor of:

A) Canada’s first prime minister, Sylvester Loonie
B) The bird featured on one side of the dollar coin
C) Those who accept it as money

Which of the following Las Vegas entertainment staples did not originate in Canada:

A) Cirque du Soleil
B) Celine Dion
C) Elvis wedding chapels

Indigenous residents of Canada’s northernmost provinces are called:

A) Sammi
B) Inuit
C) Elves

Prime Minister Paul Martin was given a nickname by the opposition based on what popular comic strip character:

A) Mr. Boffo
B) Mr. Dithers
C) Luanne

When a customer at a coffee shop says “double double,” he or she is telling the clerk:

A) That they want two coffees and two donuts
B) That they want double cream and double sugar
C) How to figure out the sales tax

The term “milk bags” refers to:

A) What cars in Saskatchewan have instead of air bags
B) A common and economical way of packaging milk
C) Pamela Anderson’s least favourite nickname

There are more NHL franchises in the U.S. than in Canada because:

A) Hockey is just that popular
B) Small town American mayors will pony up more dough for a sports franchise than small town Canadian mayors
C) Southern parents need a way to show their children that ice comes in a form other than cubes

"Cottage Country" describes:

A) Those parts of Canada where residents can't afford full-size houses
B) Semi-rustic vacation areas in Northern Ontario
C) Canada's national mosquito-feeding program

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wrong Key Donkey

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest daily (and my principal Canadian outlet), has a regular feature called “Your Morning Smile,” a reader-generated parade of jokes apparently meant to ensure Canadians get their daily dose of corn. Today’s, courtesy Lloyd Candow of Pasadena, Nfld, reads: “A C, E-Flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Sorry, but we don't serve minors.’”

The joke, of course, is that the musical notes C, E-flat and G comprise a C-minor triad. Hence, “We don’t serve minors.” Ha-ha, right? But being an early-morning literalist, I looked at the joke and thought, “Wait a sec — A, C, E-flat and G is a diminished seventh, not a minor.”

Maybe that's why there aren't more music theory jokes...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Toronto Story

Last week, my wife and I went to a screening of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 family drama Tokyo Story (東京物語). That this is a touchstone of Japanese cinema goes almost without saying; its standing, both in terms of influence and audience affection, is comparable to that of Casablanca or Citizen Kane. One could go on at book length trying to plumb its depths or savor its subtleties, looking at everything from the low-key way Ozu frames his narrative to how its depiction of the city life/country life dichotomy reflects the division between “old” and “new” Japan.

What struck me, however, was the universal family dynamic underlying Ozu’s story. At root, Tokyo Story is about expectations — what parents hope for in their children, and how distant that can be from what those children hope for themselves. Some of that is standard enough to be the stuff of cliché, as when elderly Shukishi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu), in from the country with his wife to visit their grown-up children in Tokyo, sits with old friends over sake and discusses his disappointment with his children. But the sly, heartbreaking conclusion shows that parents aren’t the only ones who are disappointed with the way life turns out.

That resonated in unexpected ways the following evening, when I spent my first night as a parent. Exhilarated and exhausted, I found myself thinking of all the possibilities that stretched before my newborn son, and — like most parents, I suppose — began to think of things from my own life that Hugh (with the benefit of my guidance) could do better or more successfully.

And then I flashed on the final image of Noriko (Setsuko Hara), Hirayama’s daughter-in-law, from the film. Noriko is in many ways the film’s most admirable character — sweet-tempered, generous, considerate, forgiving and wise. And yet she, too, is weighed down by expectations, feeling like a fraud and failure because she can’t quite reach the bar she has set for herself. Seeing the tears on her sweetly smiling face in that scene is quite literally heartbreaking, and in remembering it, I suddenly became acutely aware of the burdens a parent can unwittingly inflict on their spawn. I was left chastened, and slightly ashamed.

I don’t imagine any parent can completely banish selfishness in trying to guide their offspring into adulthood; parenthood itself, after all, is deeply connected to the selfish desire to keep one’s genes replicating. But I hope that, as the years pass, I can keep Noriko’s tears in mind, and make whatever burden I impart as light
as possible.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Idle Questions

• Aren’t Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff just the Bobby Rydells of contemporary pop?

• What is the logic behind movie remakes of TV shows that went off the air decades before the movies’ target audience was even born? Seriously, what?

• Isn’t it a bit racist for white writers to refer to 50 Cent as “Fiddy”? Or is the literary equivalent to blackface somehow excusable in hip-hop?

• Have you ever met anyone who thought “Marmaduke” was funny?

• Am I the only person who thinks of Mohawk-wearing teen punks as rock’s answer to Civil War re-enactors?

• Considering that any kid smart enough to have run the Hot Coffee mod on GTA San Andreas would likely have also been able to download several gigs of internet porn, isn't it a bit silly to worry about the adverse affects of a few badly animated sex scenes?

• Why hasn’t there been movie of The Simpsons?

• Now that Nirvana, the Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins have attained nostalgia status, isn’t it time we gave up the fiction that their music is in any way alternative?

• What does it say about the current state of literacy that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a children’s book, is a more demanding read than The DaVinci Code?

• How could Lemmy from Mötorhead have any hearing left?

• Who will be the first idiot politician to propose a bill banning the sale of acetone?

• At the moment, the members of Mötley Crüe range in age from 42 to 49. How many years must we wait before their “babe magnet” act becomes officially embarrassing?

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