Entries from December 2003

Hable con Ella (Talk to Her)

talktoher.jpgThe movie opens and closes in a theatre. In it, female dancers evoke deepset emotions while a man, watching, cries in empathy. Later, two men each tend to women lost to the darkness of coma, quietly sacrificing a part of themselves in service to love. Part way through the film is a strange little film-in-the-film, where a man, destined to slowly shrink into nothingness from a nutritional potion gone wrong, gives himself up to his female lover by crawling into her vagina.

Hable con Ella (Talk to Her) is the movie that writer / director Pedro Almodovar won the best writing Oscar for this year. Here, the feeling is one of composed sadness; Almodovar is known for his wildly flamboyant, sexualized films (Live Flesh, Tie me Up! Tie me Down!), but Hable con Ella almost seems conventional in comparison.

This isn't a bad thing here. Almodovar has never been afraid to allow his stories and characters room to expand into strange and unexpected directions, and that holds true here still. But the ludicrious, which is usually no stranger in Almodovar's work, is kept at bay, allowing his characters to express an emotional depth that has started to become a bit of a theme in his last few films.

Like his previous movie, Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother), Hable con Ella is deeply felt, well-acted, and lingers in the mind long afterwards. Highly recommended.


Last night was the coldest night of the entire year. The temperature was around -30 degrees. Not a very good night for a fire.

Renée and I were sitting in the living room last night, working on school stuff and studying. Renée had a Spanish exam the next day that was worth a fair portion of her final mark, and I had some work-related stuff I needed to get through.

We originally thought that the smoke smell was from our radiators. When we first turn them on we can usually smell a slight woody, smoky smell as the pipes warm up. The sight of smoke pouring out of one of the wall power outlets, however, soon made us realize that this wasn't going to be a normal evening.

With the level of smoke streaming out of the outlet alarming both of us, I called 911 and pulled the fire alarm for the apartment. We hustled our cats into their carriers, put on our jackets, and were just about to leave when the firemen arrived. It took them just barely a minute from when I called 911 to when they arrived at the front door - pretty impressive.

About six or seven fire fighters came upstairs and asked where the problem was. I brought them to the smoking outlet, and the lead fireman called for an evacuation of the entire building. We scurried out into the frigid evening, cats in tow.

» Fire continues...

Vacation from Myself

Today was the last day of classes for the first semester of the year. Can you hear me heaving a sigh of relief?

This year was crazy, but went rather well, considering that the number of students that I directly teach tripled from last year. I was scared to give assignments, as that automatically meant hundreds of assignments to crit, troubleshoot, evaluate, mark, and potentially deal with.

One of my students commented earlier this week on how us teachers have it easy. I had to hold myself back from guffawing out loud in his face.

There's still final semester assignments to mark, which is going to suck up the next week, but after that we've got a couple of weeks to relax, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and enjoy the season before it's back to the books in January. I for one am looking forward to putting some juice back into these rather anemic batteries.

I enjoy this, but I look at teachers who have been teaching for fifteen or twenty years, and I marvel at how they manage to avoid burnout, while still being enthusiastic, passionate teachers. It really is mind-boggling.

'I see nobody on the road,' said Alice.

'I only wish I had such eyes,' the king remarked in a fretful tone. 'To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too!

Why, it's as much as I can do to see real people by this light.'


On the bus coming home after work this evening, the bus driver was humming Silly Long Songs, as a malcontent brunette glared angrily out the window, mad at nothing and everything all at once. The iPod played a cheery song by The Shins.

Approaching the Donald Street bridge traffic slowed to a crawl. Row upon row of cars snaked their way over the bridge and beyond the horizon. Victim to years of poor traffic management, and the inevitable rush of vehicles streaming out to the suburbs, the bus slowed.

Out of nowhere, the bus driver stopped the bus completely and opened the front doors. Is he okay? he yelled out the door.

Looking out my window, I saw a man sitting on the concrete, knees drawn up to his chin. Blood curled away in a meandering river from where he was sitting to a nearby gutter. A man wearing a Santa suit stood, bent over, hands on knees, over the bleeding man. At the sound of the bus driver's voice the Santa looked up. The bus driver repeated himself again.

is he going to be okay?

A woman at the front of the bus started laughing loudly, in this braying, lurching manner that send shivers up my spine. A young guy sitting in front of me told the woman to go fuck herself. The sullen girl beside me looked over and muttered, there's no fucking way that's really santa. The sound of car horns filled the air.

The man sitting behind me leaned forward and whispered in my ear,

this always happens to me when I take the bus.

The bus driver closed the door, put the bus back into gear, and slowly pulled away, as a small group of people gathered by the Santa. Going home after work.

Finally: Towers


So as if to prove just how incredibly un-hip and not-with-it I really am, I finally saw The Two Towers yesterday. Finally. The problem last year at this time was that I just couldn't spare three hours out of my life to watch a movie, no matter how much I had been looking forward to it. 'Tis sad, really.

As expected, it was good. Very good. The battle sequences were just amazing, and Gollum really did live up to the hype; I think this was one of the first times that I almost forgot that I was watching a CGI character. They've still got to work on how crisp CGI work sometimes can be, but on the whole, the seamless integration of reality and computerized effects was really amazing.

With anything this good, however, the flaws become that much more apparent - at least to me, Mr. Picky-Movie-Man. Things I could have lived without (or could have been improved) in TTT:

  1. Legolas "shield-surfing" down the stairwell in the Rohan battle sequence. Just plain dumb.
  2. Gimli the Fall Guy - why is it that short, fat people always play the patsy in movies?
  3. Sam's "we gotta keep going because there's still some good left in the world" speech at the end of the film in Osgiliath. Someone give me some wine to go with that cheese, please.
  4. How the film was building, Building, BUILDING! throughout, and then suddenly within fifteen or twenty minutes all of the various plotlines wrapped themselves up. I was especially annoyed by how the Rohan battle sequence (which was totally ass-kicking) ended with this Monty Python-esque, "Oh, there's the calvary. We won!" abruptness.
  5. How there was almost zero character development. It's telling that we learned more about a role created by a computer in this film than any of the flesh-and-blood main characters.

That said, this was still pretty damn fine filmmaking, and I'm looking forward to see Return of the King sooner rather than later. I'm trying very hard not to read too much about it, so that I don't get pulled into the hype bubble that always seems to follow these eagerly awaited sequels. (Revolutions, anyone?)

The Office

office_sm.jpgI've been really enjoying the design-related posts and discussions over at Speak Up lately. One of the things they've been talking about is how designers seem to be obsessed with other designer's office space, and previously, what's on designer's desks.

I'm not immune to this, either, so I ask: Where do you do work? What does it look like? What kind of crap do you have piled up (or not) around your workspace?

To kickstart the process, I offer this recent photo of my home workspace. Feel free to post links to images in the comments, or if you don't have a web site to post to, get in touch with me and email me your image(s) and I'll add 'em.

Update: How could I forget? If you're looking for more office space porn, head over to The Desktop Project. There's hundreds of offices for you to gawk at. Jason Perkins also has a really nice selection of office space photos collected in his Workspace Exhibit.


Update 2: Here's a hastily assembled office panorama - my desk is on the right. I'd like to pummel whomever chose green as the colour for everything in our office with a big, heavy book on colour theory. Blech.

Home for the Holidays

fruitcake.jpgSo, another Christmas comes and goes. This year's holidays seemed extra anti-climactic, as school finished (for me, at least) on December 23rd. With school work sucking up the majority of my energy right up until Christmas Eve eve, there wasn't a lot of time to whip myself into a festive froth.

On Tuesday, after submitting my marks, I went out and attempted to start my holiday shopping. Yes, start. With exhaustion high and mental focus non-existent, my feeble attempts to get swept up in the wild, consuming orgy that is the holidays was futile. I took the bus out to one of the bigger malls in the city, walked in, took in the screaming children, the wide-eyed hysteria, and the stench of unadulterated panic, and walked right back out.

This year, everyone is getting Happy New Year's gifts, traditions be damned.

So: Christmas was a blur of food, relatives, and the sudden stillness that follows the crush of semester-end marking and assignments. It was also dominated by the "run into people I haven't seen in ten years" game.

When your physical, mental, and emotional states are about as robust as an overcooked rice noodle, attempting to cope with the question, "What have you been up to for the past ten years?" is a recipe for conniptions and intestinal spasms at the best of times.

» Home for the Holidays continues...

Sometimes It’s Winter


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