Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Coffee Breaks and Solitude

I have noticed that loads of people turn down the suggestion of a coffee break fairly often, which leads me to the conclusion that loads of people are far better at tolerating solitude than I.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jane Eyre

I said here that I was going to try and review all the movies nominated for Best Picture this past month so I could award my own Oscar, and I'm still going to try and do that, but they're mostly out of theatres so it may take longer than expected. So far, out of The King's Speech, True Grit, Black Swan, The Social Network, and Inception, I'd give the thing to True Grit. For today, though, onto a movie that's playing in theatres now.

I've noticed that the human race, or at least the hipster human race, seems to be divided into two camps: the ones who have never read a book in their lives and the ones who, apparently under the impression that it is not possible to have completed a Bachelor of Arts without having ever read a book, can come up with a Shelley quote to befit occasions as diverse as a friend's breakup and a new haircut.

Being a hipster-in-denial, I naturally think I am the one who is different from everyone else, so I have been working hard my entire life to avoid falling into either of these groups. It is for that reason that I admitted here, not without a touch of pride, to seeing Barney's Version without having read the book, and that I will proclaim now with an equal touch of pride that I was not in that situation when I recently saw Jane Eyre.

I don't know who I think I am to criticize a novel that has sat comfortably at the top of the bestseller list since before my great-great-grandmother was born, but I'm going to anyway. It seems to me that the story of Jane, the impoverished and long-suffering orphan turned romantic and kind-hearted woman, suffers from the same plight as almost all Victorian literature: it wraps things up into too neat a package, where people are confronted just as they should be and die just at the right time. I quoted a bit from Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses here that expresses this idea far better than I ever could, so I'll reproduce the quote again now:

"When you read Dickens you're reading a long ballad from a vanished world, where everything has to come together in the end like an equation."


Jane Eyre isn't by Dickens but you get the idea. Why oh why does Jane, woebegone and cast off by all who should have loved her since she was a child, grow up to love the right man the very first time around, even though he is brooding and secretive, even though he flirts with other women, even though he seems, as Jane herself says, that he is "not to be trusted"? Because it's a Victorian novel, of course!


Anyway, the (latest) movie version had beautiful shots of the Yorkshire moors and a gorgeous classical soundtrack, but the story was a bit of a mess, perhaps because of the filmmaker's attempt to scramble the narrative and generally make the too-perfect story seem a little less so.


Of course, there is ultimately no messing with the Victorian novel. You have to take it as you find it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Kitchen and the Heart

This, I think, is the relationship between the kitchen and the heart: when the heart is well, the kitchen is used frequently. When the heart is not well, the kitchen is used infrequently, if at all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Avatar

I know this movie is well over a year old, but seeing as it's sort of the King's Speech of 2009/10, I figured I'd post a review of it anyway because naturally my feelings about it are strong.

Like many of my reviews, this actually isn't a review so much as a kvetch about the people who like the movie in question. Whenever I have a discussion about the merits of Avatar with such a person, I can almost always get them to admit that the plot was asinine and the character depth was nonexistent. Once that's done, the conversation generally proceeds as follows:

Me: So you're saying that a movie can have an asinine plot and nonexistent character depth and still be good?
Person who likes Avatar: Well... yes.

Guess I can't argue with that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

I would like to pay tribute to the actress, who just passed away, by posting my grandmother's favourite joke, as it will hereafter no longer be relevant:

When I was young I used to wish I looked as good as Elizabeth Taylor. And now I do!



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Urban Dictionary

I have kind of strong views about Urban Dictionary. Basically I'm thinking it's what Wikipedia would be if Wikipedia were really opinionated and not that funny.

To illustrate my point, the following is an Urban Dictionary definition of "oral sex":

The act of two persons using their mouths to perform sexual intercourse. These two persons can be of the same or opposite sex but they are rarely a married couple.


Get it??????????

Now don't even try to say that I'm really opinionated and not that funny.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nursery Rhyme

I realized far too late that I may have given the mistaken impression in my last post that I actually wrote that nursery rhyme about cabbage, when in fact I just found it and it was written by Mother Goose or whomever it is that writes nursery rhymes. I'm thinking it's probable that none of you is terribly disappointed by this, but just in case you are, I did write a nursery rhyme for today's post to make up for it. Once again, please remember that if any hipster asks you next year (when it will surely be trendy) who was writing nursery rhymes this year, it was me.

My secret dream, my fantasy
has all the world adoring me;
but truth be told I'd be as glad
if true love in my life I had.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Really Really Ridiculously Good Coleslaw

Wait til you see how easy this is. You will need the following:

1 bag pre-chopped coleslaw mix or 1 head green cabbage
1-2 limes (depending on how much coleslaw you want to make)
honey

You can get pre-chopped coleslaw mix anywhere they sell lettuce. It looks like this:


If you want to buy a cabbage and chop it up, be my guest, but I know you don't. Anyway, just take as much chopped up cabbage as you want, squeeze lime over it, drizzle honey over it, then toss and eat. Yes, this is tasty. No, coleslaw does not need to be all heavy and disgusting.

As a hipster-in-denial, I am always trying to predict what will be trendy next year so I can like it this year. Right now I predict nursery rhymes because they made a Little Red Riding Hood movie which means fairy tales are trendy, and nursery rhymes sort of seem like the next step if you know what I mean. So here is a coleslaw-inspired nursery rhyme that I found for you. Remember I was into these in 2011.

I wonder if the Cabbage knows 
he is less lovely than the Rose;
or does he smile in smug content,
a source of noble nourishment?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As Easy As Empathy

What I'm thinking about is the way you can sit for a while with a friend who has been "going through a tough time," as they condescendingly say - a breakup or a lost job, maybe - and give a hug and buy a drink but then go home and say to someone else "what a shame" and forget about it, even as you feel the slight swell of superiority.

And then I'm thinking about the way it is when it's you who has been going through a tough time, and how you have to sit and live with the crunch of your insides all by yourself, after everyone has gone home.

I'd like to live a life that's as easy as empathy. I'd like my superior self in the future to buy drinks for my inferior self in the present.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Social Network

I know this movie came out ages ago and to be honest with you, I saw it before this blog existed, but I'm going to review it here anyway as part of an endeavor to tell you what I think of every movie that was nominated for best picture. This is so I can award my own winner by way of a shout-out on this blog. How's that for a consolation prize, huh?

I sort of can't believe this myself, but I don't have a terribly strong opinion on The Social Network. It wasn't awful; it wasn't fantastic. It was okay. I guess.

I hardly ever feel that way about movies, especially the ones that are trying to be good (as opposed to like Letters to Juliet or something, which there's no point in criticizing because it was sort of trying to suck). So go see this thing if there's any chance you haven't yet, if only so that you can find a way to better articulate its vague aura of lameness than I can.

I do have two actual things to say about The Social Network: 1) if there was an Oscar for Fewest Number of Likable Characters in a Movie, this should for sure win, and 2) even so, Mark Zuckerberg deserves to be a billionaire for inventing the ingenious website that wastes all of our time.

I also have a super banal anecdote that is not really about this movie but related. Because I obviously read AOL news (don't you?), I saw here that MZ has had the same girlfriend since he was a student. Whenever I mention this to anyone they're like "What?! So that Erica girl from the movie isn't real?????!!!!!!"

Don't believe everything you see on TV, folks. Believe it if you see it on AOL news.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The New Oddest Mainstream Commercial Product Ever Invented

I was thrilled to receive a very wide variety of odd products in response to my last post asking you to name the oddest mainstream commercial product ever invented, and was even more thrilled that every single response named something that is at least as odd as clamato juice (which is what I said is the oddest product), so well done. In light of this, I was going to just put the entries into categories without actually choosing a winner, but I figured that would be a bit Mr. Rogers of me, and in any case once I thought it over I realized there was a clear winner after all. But really you're all winners so no need to get upset.

The entries were as follows:

Disgusting Meat Products
Cheeseburger in a can and Hákarl, which is apparently some kind of smelly fermented shark that they like to eat in Iceland, were the entries in this category. As was pointed out to me, clamato juice is mainstream only in Canada, so if this shark thing is mainstream only in Iceland, fair enough. As for the cheeseburger in a can, I am not sure how mainstream that actually is, but if you told me it's what they use at McDonald's I'd believe you.


Bizarre Clothing
Push-up underwear, Snuggies, and Pajama Jeans were the entries in this category. While I concur that push-up underwear (intended to make your butt look bigger) is certainly as odd as clamato juice, I am not sure it is any odder than a Wonderbra, which is significantly more mainstream. 


For those who do not know, Snuggies are blankets with sleeves and Pajama Jeans are pants that look like jeans but feel like pajamas. I guess both are odd, but let's be honest, they are also both amazing ideas. In fact, I'm going to invent the Pajama Business Suit. If you do it first I'll kill you.


Weird TV Shows
Teletubbies and reality shows where brides compete over who has the best wedding were the entries here. As to the latter, I guess it's a little weird but not really any weirder than watching the royal wedding on TV, which is not essentially all that different though it seems classier. As to the former, it's true that a kids' show about different-coloured aliens who speak in baby talk and have televisions in their stomachs is odd, but it's not really odder than most other kids' shows, like Barney or Bananas in Pajamas. Or even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Actually, a show about giant turtles who fight bad guys, eat pizza, get taught ninja moves by a rat, and are named after Renaissance artists sounds pretty weird if you think about it.

Just Plain Odd
Silly putty, bottled water, and mustard (because of its curious dual ability to spice up one's burger and kill one's foe) were the entries in this category. Silly putty and bottled water are both entirely pointless though quite mainstream, and mustard has utterly unique chemical properties. So yes, all odd.

Too Random To Go In Any Other Category
Ashley Madison, God, and a book called How to Avoid Huge Ships were the entries here. The first entry is a website that exists in order to assist people in cheating on their spouses. Odd? The side of me that is cynical says no; the side of me that is anti-things-that-are-cynical says I hope so.

As for the second entry, the aforementioned two sides of me were duelling over whether it should win, with the latter finally overtaking the former. But I have to admit it gave me pause.

The third is definitely odd, but I can't say I've ever heard of it before, which is kind of the method I'm using to measure whether or not something is a mainstream commercial product. Not terribly scientific, I know.

And the Winner
is dairy products of all types, but specifically yogurt, which were two separate entries. It was pointed out that we would all consider it utterly creepy to drink human milk into adulthood, yet we don't bat an eye at drinking the milk of another species. I have to agree that is pretty darn odd, particularly in light of the fact that unlike meat eating, I believe this is not very commonly done in nature, and milk has the benefit of being nothing if not a mainstream commercial product.

As for yogurt, I just read in this cookbook I have called The Ottoman Kitchen that it was probably invented by an ancient shepherd or something who was carrying around milk in a sheepskin bag all day. When he looked at it he realized it was all chunky and nasty since the bacteria from the sheepskin had combined with the milk but he decided to drink it anyway (weird) and was like, "Mm, tangy and delicious!" Naturally, it is now one of the most mainstream food products in almost every country in the world.

We're all weirdos, guys.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Oddest Mainstream Commercial Product Ever Invented

I'm thinking it's clamato juice. I can only imagine that the business meeting or focus group or whatever they use to develop new products went something like this:

"How about tuna juice and orange juice?"
"Gross!"
"Okay then, what about caper juice and fruit punch?"
"No way! Disgusting!"
"Pickle juice and grape?"
"Oh my God, that's ridiculous. You're not getting paid for this."

And so on, until they came up with clam juice and tomato which is ingenious, obviously.

I'm going to do the same thing as I did in this post, where I asked you all to top what I claimed was the most awkward word in the English language. So please top my oddest mainstream commercial product by leaving a comment, oh incredibly insightful individuals. I will be giving a shout-out on this blog to whomever I think comes up with something odder than clamato juice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fellow Blogger Jane

I was utterly astonished and completely flattered recently when I was contacted by a lovely fellow blogger named Jane who asked if she could ask me some questions and post the answers on her blog as part of an interview series type thing she is doing with other bloggers whom she likes. Obviously I was mucho into this because I am a shameless self-promoter, and also because if you say you like me you could probably get me to clean your bathroom for free. You can read my answers to Jane's questions here.

This had better not happen too often, or else despite my poor posture, sexual frustration, chronic laziness, probable steady weight gain as a result of eating cookies late at night, paralyzing fear of romantic rejection, and tendency to consider blogging as social interaction, I might start to get a little full of myself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

These come from a site called "101 Cookbooks" and are super nice, although I had to adjust the baking times because it didn't totally work the way they said to do it. Anyway, this way works. To make them, you will need:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius. Mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Then add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix until combined. Grease a cookie sheet (I had to use two) or, for really easy cleanup, just put a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet instead. Then put tablespoonfuls of batter onto the cookie sheet and stick in the oven for 15 minutes or so. They're done when they're a little browned on top but still soft in the middle. This makes about 18 cookies, depending on their size.

Because these things contain no processed sugar, I made two batches, one of which was with whole wheat flour, to see if they could actually be made completely healthy. The whole wheat ones came out as expected (i.e. semi-tolerable). Let's be honest, if the only way to avoid getting fat is to eat loads of whole wheat things, I guess I will just have to get fat.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More on He's Just Not That Into You

I received a couple of comments on yesterday's post requesting more on what I actually like about He's Just Not That Into You, since what I mostly gave you was a list of what I don't like about it. What I've already said is that I like how the authors advise readers to stop seeing someone who is not meeting their needs. More than that, however, I was pleased to see that, unlike most dating advice guides, this book does not tell you to change anything about yourself because you are having relationship struggles. Although I take issue with its inaccurate language as well as with some of the points it makes, it essentially tells you to get rid of the unworthy person you are dating, which is good advice.

One comment I got yesterday said the advice contained in He's Just Not That Into You seems obvious, because it pretty much just says that your relationship with this person is not going anywhere if he behaves as though you and he are not in a relationship. The truth is that we lie to ourselves when this is happening to us, so while it may seem obvious on paper, it is not that obvious in real life. What I would have thought was far more obvious is that you cannot adopt unnatural behaviours or change yourself in a way that will make a greater number of people want to be with you, but books and articles that suggest this is possible are popular, so I have to assume people believe it can be done.

That is why I was pleased to see that at least one book that has topped the bestseller list takes as its starting point that it cannot be done. In dating, as in everything else in life, you cannot be anyone besides yourself. If you despise your job, what will have to change is your job, not you. If you despise your roommate, what will have to change is your apartment, not you. If your significant other is a jerk and you do not have a lineup of suitors at the ready, what will have to change is your relationship status, not you.

I know it's a lonely world out there. But the fact of the matter is that if you are unique, you will never have a lineup of suitors. A lineup of suitors will not be able to appreciate a person who is unique.

Friday, March 4, 2011

He's Just Not That Into You

In my quest to tell you what I think of all popular dating advice, I figured I had better include this book since it's popular enough to have inspired a terrible movie. If you've read this or this, you will know that I am not a fan of either The Rules or the rules of the game, so I was fully expecting to thoroughly hate He's Just Not That Into You as well.

Well, I have some issues with this book, and I will tell you what they are presently. That being said, the main point of it, which will be described below, is excellent. And although the target audience of this book is heterosexual women, it is quite clear to me that the principle transcends gender and sexual orientation.

But of course, I've got to give you my list of grievances:

1) The title. Here's how I would have put the aforementioned main point of the book, which I just said was excellent: "Do not waste your time dating or attempting to date someone who has already demonstrated to you that he/she will not meet your needs." Here's how the authors of the book put it: "He's just not that into you." Now, I know the way I said it wouldn't sell shit, but I don't like the way they said it because it suggests that the problem is with you personally, or at least with the person's interest level in you.

Perhaps he's not that into you. Or perhaps he's a jerk who would mess with anyone. Or perhaps he is obsessed with three different girls. Or perhaps you and he are just not right for each other. Or perhaps... well, who cares? He (or she) won't meet your needs, so that's all you need to know. Walk away.

2) The first chapter. The first chapter in this book is "He's Just Not That Into You If He's Not Asking You Out." The following is a direct quote from this chapter:

"Many women have said to me, 'Greg, men run the world.' Wow. That makes us sound pretty capable. So tell me, why would you think we could be incapable of something as simple as picking up the phone and asking you out?"

That's absurd, in my informed opinion. However much you may like your would-be boyfriend, he does not personally run the world. And even if he does, that does not mean he would just call you up and ask you out. He would wait for the opportune moment to talk to you. He would try to hang out alone with you without being too obvious about it, whilst you are doing the same thing. And then, when it was clear that it was there, it would happen! You would be together!

As you can see, I have no real expertise, only an incredibly elaborate fantasy life. But even my fantasy life doesn't care who asks who out. My fantasy life cares that we like each other. That's all.

3) The ninth and eleventh chapters. The ninth chapter is called, "He's Just Not That Into You If He's Disappeared on You" [i.e. without telling you the relationship was over] and the eleventh is called "He's Just Not That Into You If He's a Selfish Jerk, a Bully, or a Really Big Freak."

I have a different take on this. If he's disappeared on you without actually breaking up with you, the problem is in fact that he's a selfish jerk, a bully, or a really big freak. So forget him because of that, not because he's just not that into you.

4) Other things, but this post is already really long. Anyway, Do Not Waste Your Time Dating Or Attempting To Date Someone Who Has Already Demonstrated To You That He/She Will Not Meet Your Needs. Coming soon to a bookstore near you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mingling

I'm going to add to the ever-growing list of things people actually like a lot less than they think they do. So far the list consists of lettuce, clubbing, and now mingling.

You don't feel ambivalent about mingling, as you may think you do. You actually hate it, because the entire time you're doing it, you're pretty much thinking something like, "Nobody here wants to talk to me, and I guess I have to admit that the feeling is sort of mutual." The moment you stop feeling this way is the moment you stop mingling.