Waiting

Waiting

I know, I know.

I said I was leaving Netflix.

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t.

Yet.

I feel like one of those female friends we all have who keep complaining about their boyfriends and yet never get up the guts to truly leave. Netflix is like the bad boyfriend you can’t seem to shake, the one who’s given you every reason to leave and yet you can’t seem to keep giving chances to. I kind of hate myself for it, because I’m still seeing Crave on the side. Actually, I’m seeing Crave on the regular, and sorta/kinda neglecting Netflix, while paying for both, which is kind of a dumb scenario to willfully be in.

Still, there’s been nothing from them addressed to me personally about hiking my subscription up, so I’m going to hedge my bets. I read that they’ll hike the prices on the ninth of February, but am waiting for an official e-mail. So no, I haven’t pulled the plug. I’ll pull it when it’s official.

Update: There. I did it. It feels like the end of an era… and the start of another one!

A Less Wasteful Kind of Joy

A Less Wasteful Kind of Joy

 

Marie Kondo is a sweet little bird of a woman. I had somehow imagined that the best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was a Michiko Kakutani of sorts. I expected her to look stringy, rigid and exacting, not be a tiny slip of a girl with a smile that stretches from ear to ear, who wears prim, feminine outfits and seems to be the human embodiment of the sunshine emoji.

Marie Kondo is the celebrity of tidying, hired to make sense of one’s life by helping one weed out, sort and organize the detritus that can accumulate simply through existing. She currently has a TV show on Netflix, where she helps people decide what to keep and what to throw out, and teaches them how to arrange the things they have decided to keep to spark the maximum amount of joy. Joy is her raison d’etre. The gist of her method, called KonMari, is to keep only the things that give you joy, and to honour the things that no longer do before casting them aside and donating them to charity.

What makes the KonMari method special is that she believes each item that you have in your home should bring you joy. She also believes that every sentimental item has a sort of life, one that needs to be respected. It sounds ridiculous and I suppose on the surface, it is. Inanimate objects are just that, objects. Because I subscribe to the notion that my things turn into the cast of Toy Story whenever I’m not looking (which is why one moment they’re missing  and the next, they’re lying under my nose waiting to be picked up) the KonMari method and the philosophy behind it doesn’t strike me as particularly outlandish.

I like her philosophy on tidying up. One of the things Le Hubs does that drives me up the wall is whenever he forgets to put a thing back where he got it. (He does this fairly often. It’s a source of everlasting frustration.) The control freak in me loves the idea of organization, of knowing what goes where, the empowerment of knowing where everything and anything is at any given time.

The method may seem simple, but it is devilishly tricky and in some cases, unrealistic. Book lovers in particular, myself included, bristle at the notion of only keeping the books I am likely to re-read (she recommends having no more than thirty) and giving the rest – the unread ones, or ones I’ll never read again – away, as the KonMari method says to do. Please keep your happy, well-meaning paws off my books, Marie Kondo. All my books bring me joy. Everything else but the books!

It’s impossible to only keep the things that spark joy. Not everything I own does. Not everything has to, and that’s okay. I may not have a meaningful relationship with my spatula, but it’s not getting thrown out anytime soon.

To be fair, I don’t believe she means for people  to start throwing everything out willy nilly in the pursuit of carving out a space in which to breathe. If anything, I see the KonMari  method as a good way to re-evaluate the reasons we have for buying the things we do.

It’s helpful to have perspective when buying things, something that, in our mad dash to accrue, very often gets muddled. Sometimes we find ourselves buying things for the sake of buying things, stripping them of their meaning in the process, and the cycle of going out to buy things simply because it feels good to buy things becomes a vicious one that’s hard to break. Before you know it you’re surrounded by things  that have no meaning beyond the initial impulse you had to buy them in the first place.

When it comes to acquiring movies and books in particular, I like to make sure the ones I get are ones I really enjoy. Either I’ve seen it at a theatre and loved it, or I’ve borrowed the digital version of a book from the library and have decided it deserves a spot on my bookshelf. This way I know I’m almost never going to throw it out, and they will never go unwatched or unread. Be selective. Aside from asking if something you already own brings you joy, it’s also a good idea to ask if something you want to own will bring you joy. It’ll help you ensure you’ll never have to throw anything out.

 

What Books Did You Read in 2018?

What Books Did You Read in 2018?

Some people set goals for themselves, like reading fifty books a year. I don’t have a set number, but I would like to average more than three a month, which,  based off of my Overdrive history, was what 2018 was for me book-wise. This year, I want to read things more than I watch things –  a resolution that may be easier to say than to actually do, so crossing my fingers, knocking on at least two different types of wood and throwing a little salt over my left shoulder.

Anyway, here are all the books I finished last year. Because I have the same maxim for reading as well as eating – i.e. finish everything you put on your plate – I still feel guilty about not being able to finish a book. I am incapable of reading multiple books at any given time, preferring to finish one before picking up another. I’ve learned that life is too short, and if something fails to hold you in its grip a third of the way in, it’s best to just put it down very gently and move along.

As you will soon see, my choice of reading material doesn’t follow rhyme or reason, although I do have a weakness for books about historical figures, particularly royal ones. The following may hopefully give you ideas for what to read next, and I read them all through Overdrive, the digital arm of the Toronto Public Library. I do list three books that are an absolute punch to the gut – books I liked so much, I want the real thing on my bookshelf! To get to the  ones I would definitely recommend, skip to the standouts section.

Royal Pains
That Woman – Anne Sebba
Nicholas and Alexandra – Robert K. Massie
Catherine the Great – Robert K. Massie
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch – Sally Bedell Smith
The Hollow Crown – Dan Jones
The Shadow Queen – Rebecca Dean
Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart – John Guy

Guilty Pleasures
Upon a Wicked Time – Karren Ranney
The Bride and the Beast – Teresa Medeiros
Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann
Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan
Queen of the North – Anne O’Brien

Now Major Motion Pictures (and one lush TV show)
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg
Molly’s Game – Molly Bloom

I don’t care what you say, I’ll still read kid things
The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge
Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs
The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

Mythic Proportions
Norse Mythology– Neil Gaiman
The Song of Achilles – Madeleine Miller
The Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks
Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) – George R. R. Martin

Autobiographically Yours
Sick in the Head – Judd Apatow
Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher
Meaty – Samantha Irby

Everything Else
We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Mrs. Fletcher – Tom Perrotta
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Dutch Wife – Ellen Keith
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules – Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother – Danielle Teller

Maybe I’ll try again someday
Fear of Flying – Erica Jong
I couldn’t finish Fear of Flying, that seminal female-centric novel of the late 70’s.  There are moments when we as humans start flailing, but this one’s been in therapy since she was a teen, and is now conducting a flagrant affair right under her second husband’s (also a therapist) nose. Her paramour – who doesn’t bathe, calls her a c*nt, walks around in some weird Jesus-y man-dress and treats her like shit (which she kind of likes) is also a therapist. That’s as far as I got. Fear of Flying is erudite and intelligently written, but I found its heroine self-indulgent and tiresome.

2018 Standouts
Circe – Madeleine Miller
This had been floating around the edges of my social media feed as a hot read, and for good reason; Madeleine Miller is a Greek scholar who plucks a relatively obscure mythical figure from the background of the great Greek myths and gives her beautiful life. Read this if you need a little magic.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life – Samantha Irby
Oh the joys of finding a new favourite author in a used book store! I would normally never pick up a book featuring a bedraggled kitten on the cover, but something about this book just made me pick it up and boy am I glad I did. Samantha Irby is a descriptively hilarious tour-de-force, who lays her own life on an operating slab, vivisects herself and exposes all her gnarly insides to the world, tongue fully in cheek. Read this if you need a little humour.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup – John Carreyrou
If you think a story about Silicon Valley maneuvers is a boring premise, John Carreyrou is going to prove you oh so wrong. A book about former Silicon Valley darling Theranos and the people, events and broken promises behind the startup that imploded so spectacularly, this one was un-putdownable for me. Never mind why you need to read this, just do!

2018: The Rundown

2018: The Rundown

I’ve been using precious holiday time to rewatch all the episodes of Downton Abbey. It’s rather silly  for me to revisit something that I’ve seen before, with all the new material out there to watch, but right now watching Downton Abbey is the closest I can come  to a getaway, to being in a place where everyone has manners and life is a lot slower. I always come out of a Downton Abbey haze feeling like I suddenly am a bit more of a priggish, ladylike creature as if the show itself had performed a tricky bit of osmosis and I suddenly have qualities I don’t think I have at all. I like to pretend I’m soft-spoken and elegant and have a clipped British accent, even if I’m not and I don’t. Of course, this is all in my head, but it never hurts to have fun with it, even if the hubs calls Downton Abbey a “total snoozefest.”

So, in the spirit of revisiting the past, and also because I hadn’t gotten to start my usual year-ending video, I thought it would be fun to review everything that’s happened in 2018, as trivial as it may turn out to be.  I always like taking a moment to think about the past for a little bit, before the new year and  2019 comes barrelling in, so here goes nothing!

January  – in hindsight, this wasn’t the best way to start 2018, what with idiots eating Tide Pods, the rapid rise and sordid stories behind the Me Too Movement, and the funeral of my aunt, but it did get a little better in…

February – when the Winter Olympics came around, along with Black Panther and my glasses, even if we did still have people who need way more attention than the rest of us, something I believe is not going to go away, just like the inundation of choices we now live with, that I tried coming to terms with in…

March – where I began feeling particularly paralyzed by choice, although I did rise above it to see the Shape of Water. At least I like to know I have more choices food-wise than voluntary vegans do, anyway. I’ve nothing against their self-imposed dietary restrictions, but I’d be a lot more receptive if their movement wasn’t defined by so much self-righteous preaching.

And then all of a sudden, it was April – where I decided to at least make something about my forays into YouTube with the first Random Youtube K-hole. At least that was something I liked sharing about, although I really don’t share that much otherwise.

It feels like 2018 went by in a blur, and no more so than May – but at least I found a bit of time to document all my excuses (and alibis) for not writing as much,  amidst the excitement of the Avengers: Infinity War trailer being released, which was a good thing, unlike lettuce, which – in May, anyway – turned out to be very bad.

June as a halfway point had me birthing Internet Sausage Links and battling FOMO. In retrospect I feel quite grateful that this was all I was battling with. Others had heavier things to fight, a struggle not all of them won.

July was when we finally took the plunge and got a new bed-in-a-box, trusting that it would all end well (which, happily, it did). Trust seemed to be a theme, along with my trust that Marvel wouldn’t disappoint. It didn’t, not really, although, Ant-Man and the Wasp could’ve been better…

Anyway, August rolled around and I have to say it and September were my favourite months this year, what with our dear Rafa Nadal making everything better at the Rogers Cup and us finally going on our annual trip. The high school reunion was a highlight along with getting to see Hong Kong, which I never got around to writing about. I did get footage though, and you never know, I might just put that together! Still, travel is something I feel is always worth doing.  I love flying, including the challenge of  staying alive in an airbus cattle car. I even gave tips!

The rest of Canada agreed with me about flying, because October was when the North finally got the go signal to fly high without fear. November came with the promise of Chris Pine peen, forced me once again to face the prospect of middle-age, and proved idiocy in 2018 was alive and thriving, by reminding us all again that people will throw parties for the most ridiculous reasons.

And, finally, December. Not much happened, although I did decide to break up with Netflix in favour of Crave and not Jason Momoa, as many might surmise.

Finally, if you’ve made a habit of coming here to read my silly things, I want to thank you for it. I hope your year has been eventful in a good way, and I do hope 2019 will be good to all of us. Now all this remembering has really given me an appetite for putting all the year-end footage together in time for NYE, so maybe I might just do that after all!

Khal Drogo Goes to the Beach

Khal Drogo Goes to the Beach

The problem with Aquaman is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Half-hearted environmental PSA on the hazards of polluting our oceans? Showcase for all the kaiju that could be unleashed if given a higher budget? Tomb Raideresque adventure quest for a mysterious gold trident? Ridiculous over-the-top fantasy epic, à la Lord of the Rings? The answer shouldn’t be all of the above, but that’s what we’re getting, and we’re getting a LOT of it. At a runtime of over two and a half hours, Aquaman gets pretty hard to sit through, Jason Momoa’s rippling physique bedamned.

You’d think I, as the obvious target audience, would love all the swaggering braggadocio of Jason Momoa letting loose, but I didn’t. Aquaman sucked.  One of the reason’s Momoa’s turn as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones was so effective, was that there was so little of him. He was spread out through seven episodes; here, it’s two and a half hours of nothing but machismo. That’s all very well, and I have to hand him points for being enthusiastic, but the dude seems to have embraced his Khal Drogo character a little too tightly, and is unable to let it go. It just gets… painful, after a while.

Surprisingly, no one in this movie can act, and there are quite a handful of established actors in this piece who come with cult and  Oscar cred. Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson – often found in more highbrow, award-worthy work – as  Queen Atlanna, Vulko and Prince Orm, seem almost embarrassed to be in a superhero epic, and act accordingly. I expected more out of Patrick Wilson, who at least got to showcase a lot more of his skills as The Owl in Watchmen, but nothing can help his performance in this particular movie. The CGI is far too distracting, and perhaps the effort of trying to keep their faces straight began to tell.

Being an Oscar-winner is not a hindrance to doing a good job in a movie with a silly premise, as Robert Downey Jr. has demonstrated so often. It requires a sort of insouciance, and self-awareness, and without it the performance becomes tedious and flat, as Kidman, et. al., demonstrate. You have to really embrace being part of a superhero flick. There is no slumming it. Everyone knows the actors are in it to make money, but they need to project a sense of fun, which none of them end up doing.

Except Jason Momoa. That one is on the opposite end of the spectrum, having waaaay too much fun, like the drunkest guy at the party, capering about while everyone else awkwardly looks on. It might even have been fun if he wasn’t so aware of why he was cast to be Aquaman instead of some blonde, milquetoast boy scout. Do you know how many times he looks flirtatiously over his shoulder at the audience?

Thrice.

Do you know how  many times he goes shirtless in Aquaman?

Too many, and I can’t believe I’m complaining.

The truth is, relying on that body can only take one so far.  It just isn’t enough to distract from the reality of things: although the movie is beautiful and the underwater scenes are a marvel (my favourite visual is of Aquaman and Mera diving into the trench with a red flare, pursued by a thousand sea monsters), it’s  still a disjointed, bloated mess with cringey dialogue, needless backstory and unnecessary exposition.

I’ve had it with these DC movies. They’ve had so many chances to get it right, and they still keep sucking ass. I have decided this will be the last time I voluntarily pay for a DCEU offering. Unless it’s by Christopher Nolan, I’m out.

 

Random YouTube K-Hole: Aughty by Nature

Random YouTube K-Hole: Aughty by Nature

To me, 2001 feels like yesterday, not a space odyssey. If nothing else makes you feel old today, check out these younguns and their music video homages. So nice of them to respect their elders! And to think millennials get so much flak.

Lost in Japan – Shawn Mendes feat. Zedd

Confession: I barely remember Lost in Translation. This is a solid effort, but will Shawn Mendes’ fanbase even get the reference? It’s likely they’ll think it’s just him having fun doing Japanese karaoke, even with that total giveaway of a title. Hell, it took me about a minute into the vid to realize what I was seeing, but I’m like, old, so what do I know?

Fancy – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

Unlike Shawn Mendes’ ode to Sofia Coppola, Iggy’s oeuvre is pretty clear from the get-go. It technically shouldn’t be included in this post because the movie came out in 1995, but whatever with a capital W and if you don’t get it, you’re Clueless. That’s all I got.

Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande

It’s a video homage en Grande! Not one, not two, not three, but four movies get referenced, in a very legally-bringing -it -on-the-mean-girls-going-on-30 kind of way. While I don’t usually go for Ariana’s 24/7 sex kitten schtick (still don’t) this video is worth watching, if only for the part where Kris Jenner gets all meta as an overly excited stage mom. Bonus points for getting some of the actual stars to cameo, plus a little more for the sheer shade of leaving Lindsay Lohan completely out of it.

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Dear Netflix,

You were the one.

You were the scrappy upstart, the daring pioneer, the one who put established movies, TV shows and  unique content together, showing me that life without cable didn’t have to be all about streaming movies and shows off of dicey websites and downloading files under threat of jail and insidious malware.

You were the one. I went legit for you.

Oh, you delivered. Some of my happiest times were spent on the couch with you and take-out food. We were good together, you and I. We were happy in each other’s company. You were a part of me, knowing what I wanted before I did, keeping a list for me. You never forgot anything and were always solicitous, suggesting things I might want to see based on something I’d already seen before. We were perfect. We were beautiful.

Netflix, I’m leaving you.

It’s the bajillion movies and TV shows you’ve come up with in the past two years, 90% of which are kind of … garbage.

It’s all the comedy specials I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to see.

It’s the suggestions that make no sense.

It’s the enthusiasm for auto-play, which I didn’t mind at first, but slowly began to resent.

It’s my dwindling attention span.

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s inflation.

It’s the unjustifiable price increase.

Netflix, you put She-ra in shorts. Shorts.

It’s not me, it’s you.

It’s both of us.

Netflix, I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Crave. Crave has HBO, and movies I want to see. Movies I want to see right now, anyway.

Thanks for the memories, Netflix. Le Hubs thanks you for the complete seasons of X-files (before you pulled it) and the complete seasons of The Office. I thank you for the complete seasons of House, M.D. (that I never got around to watching again, damnit), the first three seasons of Orange is the New Black, the awesomeness that used to be House of Cards, the first season of Daredevil, the gloriousness that is The Crown,  and finally, for introducing Jo Koy to the world.

In closing, we both thank you for Black Mirror and Stranger Things. It’s been fun, and a helluva lot of bandwidth. I have no regrets.

All the best,

Me