Gratuitous and Meaningless

Gratuitous and Meaningless

I watched Outlaw King for Chris Pine’s peen.

There, I said it.

I’m sorry, but if a big part of the buzz surrounding your movie is that its lead actor drops trou and goes full frontal, that’s going to be the main reason people will flock to see it, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn’t care about a band of scrappy outlaws fighting to regain control of their own country. Like me. To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies. There’s only so much men, muck and dying that an easily bored consumer like me, up to my ears in possible content to watch, can stomach.

So yes, I spent most of the two hours and one minute runtime waiting for my reward. I don’t know what it is about movie star peen, but an episode of Bojack Horseman does come to mind. In its latest season, Bojack plays a noirish PI a la True Detective McConaughey, who, through a series of machinations gone awry, somehow ends up doing a scene where he is required to be stark naked as he changes a light bulb. It’s supposed to represent an honest look at the character, flaws and all but instead is obviously gratuitous and meaningless. Which is where Chris Pine’s peen comes in. Thank you for your bravery, Chris Pine, but it is gratuitous and meaningless. Not that I don’t appreciate it, or the guts it took to let it all hang out.

And yet. And yet. When the benchmark for a medieval Scottish highland fling such as this is Braveheart, the seminal Mel Gibson-helmed movie that masterfully combines romance, catchphrases, fantasy, shady backroom deals and noble men with stout hearts riding forth for glory and honour, expectations are going to be high. It’s got to be more than a Chris Pine peen (Chris Peen?) movie. It’s got to encapsulate the wonder, the magic, the determination of early Scotsmen and one man’s drive to unite the warring clans of Scotland.

What we get are bad haircuts, duels staged for unknown reasons – just as gratuitous and meaningless as random peen – and (for me, anyway) a distracting cast. As a hardcore Thronie, the sight of Stannis Baratheon, Jeor Mormont and Brynden Blackfish Tully in medieval Scottish drag is jarring. I know, I know, actors are more than the parts they play, but HBO succeeded in pushing these actors to inhabit their parts so well, it’s difficult for me to separate them from the characters they have played in Game of Thrones. Pine, Taylor-Johnson and Pugh do give powerhouse performances and it’s hard to look away when they are on screen.

While Netflix’s Outlaw King has manliness and nobles riding out for glory, it is sadly short on the romance and the backroom deals aren’t so much shady as they are desperate. It’s unfair to expect real life events to always be glamorous and fantastical, but too many things go unexplained. Why are there so many pointless duels? Why do all the old kings dying take place so suddenly and with barely any lead up? Why aren’t the Scots sufficiently shocked when their future king kills his rival in a church? Why does the hair on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s beard not match his hair? Why are all the wigs so bad? What does it mean to raise the dragon and why does that sound like a euphemism for getting a boner?

Netflix gets a few things right – the quartered body of William Wallace nailed to a post in the town square, for one. It’s such an effective prop, it makes you believe the sight of it is enough to raise the ire of the Scots and incite riots. I had heard of the phrase “hanged, drawn and quartered,” but I’ve never really seen a fourth of someone’s body on display and I thought I had plumbed the depths of gore with The Walking Dead. There is also a scene that involves the swift punishment of Robert the Bruce’s younger brother c/o a sadistic Prince of Wales, which turns the stomach. Unlike Braveheart, which focused on Mel Gibson’s facial expressions and let the viewer’s imagination do the heavy lifting, this particular scene, scored by the wails of frightened women and children, is a searing punch to the gut. Lastly, the Battle of Bannockburn is claustrophobic, messy, chaotic and amazingly shot, giving the Battle of the Bastards a run for its cinematic money.

Still the story of Robert the Bruce and his fight to regain Scotland is too complicated by far for a two-hour movie. While the cast is able and the premise honourable, ultimately it falls far short of the standards set for movie epics. Too many questionable decisions and not enough concrete answers, and events that obviously took years and could’ve lent a lot more gravitas to the piece are skimmed over or compressed into minute sound bites. The performances are good, and the backdrop of Scotland is beautiful, but a movie is not based solely on crazed performances and an exotic locale, no matter how convincing the madness of the Black Douglas is. Neither can it be carried on the strength of one man’s peen, unless the peen belongs to Ron Jeremy, but that is another story.

Thirty Minutes on the TTC

Dear Elly G,

I just spent the past half hour sitting next to someone, first on the train and now while waiting for the next bus, fighting the irritation I often feel when someone I don’t know persists in staying beside me. I don’t know exactly why I get irritated about this – for a city dweller, it’s an irrational sort of reaction – but I feel it anyway.

I particularly dislike it when the train empties, freeing other seats and the person beside me continues to linger. Nothing suggestive, no looking down my cleavage, nothing like that. They just stay on, ignoring the obvious other options. It makes me feel crowded, hemmed in and irritable, and this  probably makes me an asshole, but I like commuting with my bag on the seat beside me.

It made me remember last weekend’s road trip and the feeling of dread when faced with a vast expanse of grass and no human in sight. I don’t particularly enjoy too much solitude either. It’s almost as if I can’t stand being around people for too long, but I need them about me, milling around, creating that unique sort of hum that I crave, the way I sometimes turn on the TV just to have something playing in the background. It’s the comfort of white noise.

I moved to Toronto to escape the relative stillness of suburbia. But my attempts to reach out and connect have been half-hearted because I like having my own space, and as you know, I have little patience for bullshit.

I know we can’t have everything. I suppose when it comes right down to it, I’m happier in a big city than I would be in a small town. But who knows? I might surprise myself and end up owning a vineyard out in the middle of nowhere.

I’m rambling,
Nikka

The One Constant

The One Constant

“You can’t beat death. It’s un-fucking-defeated. And if you fight it, it will humiliate you. It’ll chain you to a bed and make someone have to wipe your shitty ass. It’ll make you forget who your own fucking kids are. It takes your dignity and it whips its’ dick out and pisses on it. When you’re younger and it comes for you, it’s worth it to fight it and suffer through the humiliation. When you’re older, what the fuck does it get you to go through that?”

Justin Halpern, All That’s Left When You Die

My Grandma’s been reminding me she’s ready every chance she gets, and has done so for the better part of the last fifteen years. She’d probably have put it this way if she was a grumpy old coot with a gutter mouth and absolutely no filter, but she’s a retired teacher and a dignified lady, so she settles for “I’m already eighty-seven, you know.”

They say the best guests know exactly when to leave the party.  If that’s true and life is a party, then you’re looking at the worst party guest ever because I would be the weirdo peeling herself off the wreckage on the floor of your apartment the morning after, helping herself to whatever is left in your refrigerator.

Being absolute crap at math worked in my favour a few days ago. I’d just come from one of Toronto’s many downtown parks, having taken a few prerequisite selfies and was in the process of deciding whether or not to share them on Instagram, when the reality of it all hit me. I would never be as young again as I was in that photograph. November is looming, and with it my birthday, and the number thirty-eight was flashing on and off. Illi, who is better at math than I am (and actually used his phone to ensure accurate calculations), said the number was thirty-seven. I felt slightly better. Like a stay of execution had been granted. I then realized I’d been living this past year thinking I was older than I really was, which is complete bonkers.

Still, forty is now within shouting distance which is such an intimidating idea. I always thought that I would, I don’t know, be a confident, self-assured other person I wouldn’t recognize. But the truth is, I feel like I am fundamentally the same person I was at sixteen. I might have a bit more experience and have picked up some emotional bruises and scars along the way, but why don’t I feel any different?

Maybe it takes having children – a step I never took – to become someone else, to be different, to evolve. But this isn’t about biological urges and my strange lack of them; this is about death and my strange inability to face it head on.

As each year passes, and a layer of cynicism (and fat, shut up) gets added to my slight and dainty frame, I can see how some have gotten to the point where they’re so sick of humans and the sick, sad world we’ve created, they’re willing to cast off this mortal coil. Not that  everyone who’s ready to go is sick of humanity. They could also just be sick and tired of being sick and tired. Or they could also be graceful about the whole thing, acknowledging they’ve lived a full life and are ready to get off the train whenever. Whatever the reason,  I think a person needs to be at a certain age and a certain point in life to really hunker down and accept the inevitable.

So here I am, still clinging tightly to life the way Kate clung to Leo in the middle of the Arctic. Although some days are darker than others, the world isn’t nearly sick or sad enough yet for me to want to leave it for the great unknown, not even if it sometimes feels like common sense doesn’t exist and humanity is a ball of entitlement and fakery. Living still feels good. I’m still aging disgracefully, and this whole breathing thing beats the not knowing.

 

Means to an Endy: Jeepers Keepers

Means to an Endy: Jeepers Keepers

I had originally planned to chronicle my experiences with the Endy mattress a lot more regularly than I actually have been. Oh who am I kidding? That was a dream that died before it could ever really become reality. We’ve had our Endy for a bit now, and I spent more time sleeping on it than doing any actual writing about it, which should tell you how much I enjoy using it. So to answer a solicitous e-mail from the company wanting to know “how have you been liking your Endy?” I like it. I like it very much.

The whole process – from purchase, to receipt, to unboxing, to watching it puff up like a lovely souffle, to being able to use it within half an hour – was quick and easy with none of the pain of buying a regular mattress.  There was no need to troop to Sleep Country and spend an hour lying on different beds with varying modes of softness, feeling like an urban Goldilocks with no idea if a 2-minute test on a Serta would work out in our favour.  A big part of the appeal of buying an Endy is how streamlined and simple the process is. It’s a mattress in a box with a one-size-fits-all approach, with a money-back guarantee and a generous trial period, which gives a lot of leeway to the customer.

It’s not the answer to world peace, but I found myself actually missing our Endy at the end of August, when we went off on a two week vacation. Nothing against hotel beds – they’re still the jam – but its cool, firm support is  something I longed for. I found myself consciously comparing the hotel bed to that of the Endy, and found there wasn’t that big a difference. I actually like the Endy more, because I’m a fan of firmer mattresses and a hotel bed can be quite plush.

The hubs has liked it so much, he went all-in on an Endy pillow. The goosedown ones that I use have so far done the trick, so he volunteered to be the crash test dummy of the pillow experiment. He is a mite heavier than I am and very picky about pillows so I figured if he likes it, I would take the next step. He’s had the Endy pillow for about a month and a half now and claims to happy with it so far. While the trial period for a pillow is shorter than that of the mattress, Endy very kindly lets you return a pillow after 60 nights if you’re not satisfied with it.

The only thing keeping me back was its price point – it’s not a cheap pillow by any means. At $80 a pop plus tax, it’s an investment, but I’ve found myself bogarting Le Hubs’ pillow whenever he’s not in bed, so maybe I might just take that next step after all!

Random YouTube K-hole: … Baby One More Time

Random YouTube K-hole: … Baby One More Time

… Baby One More Time recently hit the big 2-0 (we are O-L-D!) and I’ve lost track of  the number of think pieces I’ve read about current times being so dark it’s left us all yearning for a happier, seemingly more innocent era. Can’t disagree with that, those days did seem a lot happier. Back when the hole in the ozone layer was still a tiny tear in the stocking of the atmosphere, everyone was buying McMansions, the Antarctic ice shelf was still for the most part frozen and polar bears were healthy, the ascendant music was pop, unapologetically bright and almost aggressively cheery. And why not? The internet hadn’t yet ruined everything, trolls were ugly little dolls with weird hair and social media was more about glitter fonts than data mining. The 80’s-90’s were awesome. Even New Kids on the Block, Anne-Marie and Charli XCX very biasedly say so.

80’s Baby – New Kids on the Block feat. Salt-n-Pepa, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Naughty by Nature

Things I would do if I’d won Lotto Max:  I would hire NKOTB to sing this to my grandma on her birthday. I’d want her on a a chair in the middle of the dance floor in Bethel Guest House with this blaring on the speakers, serenaded by the biggest boyband of the 80’s while the rest of us on the sidelines scream with delight.  She’ll be 88 next year. It’d be perfect.

ps. What’s a Sky Pager?

2002 – Anne-Marie

Aww, the early aughts! A charming mash-up of the era’s most recognizable lyrics,  Anne-Marie’s ode to dancing in the woods on the hood of a car with a plastic cup hits all the right notes. Bonus points for period-specific lip gloss – remember when the girls had mini oil slicks on our lips? MAC Lip Glass, Lancome Juicy Tubes? It’s a love letter to adolescence and everything that came with it. The stuntin’, the weird shades, the crazy bucket hats, the dawn of the midriff. Say what you will about Ed Sheeran, the little ginger Hobbit is responsible for some of the sweetest, catchiest tunes out there right now.

1999 – Charli XCX feat. Troye Sivan

The flashbackiest flashback of them all is brought to you by BMW, Lyft, Beats by Dre and the iPhone X. Charli XCX’s latest is a pop culture time capsule that has everything that ruled the 90’s: the iMac, Nokia, Casio Baby-G, Hanes, Skechers, the dancing baby and Justin Timberlake’s ramen noodle hair. But wait, there’s more! American Beauty,  Titanic, The Blair Witch Project, The Sims, TLC’s Waterfalls, the Spice Girls, bullet time, BSB… it’s like the 90’s partied till 3AM, mixed all sorts of alcohol and threw up in the gutter. Like I said, awesome.

Bonus: Check out Lauren Alaina’s Ladies in the 90’s if you’re want your throwback with a little more country twang!

Internet Sausage Links

Internet Sausage Links

I keep thinking we’ve reached peak insanity, and every day proves I truly have no idea how crazy humans can get. This sounds like a rip-off from the Naruto Shippuden arc where the baddie decides the only way to bring peace on earth is to control everyone by creating a moon he can utilize as an extension of his hypnotic eye jutsu, clearly a ridiculously overwrought fantasy. Enter China, giving that arc a run for its money – Esquire

Hate to be that person, but this guy was kiiiiinda asking for it. Green screen, anyone? – HuffPo

This guy was not – The Globe and Mail

Nope. Nope. Nope. – Buzzfeed

All this really needs is Scott and Tessa doing one of their smoking hot ice dance routines while we gape and marvel at their technical expertise as well as the almost perfect rectangular iceberg – Gizmodo

Being too cheap for cable, I really only get to see The Voice whenever I get to see it. I would advise you not to do this unless you have the rest of your day to spare, because watching Adam and Blake get their competitive bromance on amidst a backdrop of talented singers in one of the best reality TV shows out there is deeply addictive. Kelly Clarkson and J Hud bring their status as Idol alums to bear with some major chemistry this season, which makes it even more fun to watch and if – like me – you love reading TV recaps and watching the mentioned clips, I can’t guarantee you’ll ever emerge from this particular k-hole intact – Rolling Stone

Weed the North

So pot is legal in Canada now. Yay? It feels like a foregone conclusion. Kind of like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; they’ve been together for so long, if they ever got married, it would be anticlimactic (and about damn time). That’s pot in Canada.

A major peeve of mine is following behind someone who happens to be walking while smoking like a chimney, the human traffic equivalent of being stuck behind a car smoking black exhaust. Gross. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, so anything from a cigarette to B.O. is capable of causing a splitting headache. (Axe Body Spray is nasal assault and battery. Please stop.)  So my main gripe about smoking in general is that it literally stinks. It sticks to clothes and hair. It’s also kind of like fireworks – lit up for a brief moment of enjoyment and gone forever. It’s burning money, which to me is  the definition of absolute lunacy.

Anyway, I girded my mental loins as I exited the subway, expecting hordes of long-suppressed smokers toking up all over in joyous celebration, enveloping Toronto in a big, stinky mushroom cloud of weed smoke. Didn’t happen. There was a bud drop, and they went a bit nuts in the Bellwoods yesterday, but at least they weren’t spilling out into the streets smoking like there’s no tomorrow. Again, yay?

In Ontario, storefronts have yet to launch and legal weed is only available for sale online but Canada Post is threatening to strike, etc, so people may not yet have gotten the weed they ordered.  I don’t smoke, but I know people who do and appreciate the ones who make an effort to ensure their smoking doesn’t affect other people. It’s too soon to tell how this is gonna go, it’s only been a day. Here’s hoping Canadians live up to their rep of being polite, well-mannered and considerate. If not, it’s time to consider investing in face masks.