Friday, October 30, 2009

Cashing in on tomorrow

Predictions and puff

With the upcoming end of the world flick 2012, I'm sure every bookshop will dust off their Nostradamus and Doomsday shelves. What will happen? Probably not much. Unfortunately we are all more likely to perish at the hands of mankind than anything else. And yet we all wish we knew a bit of our future, horoscopes being a staple section in all newspapers.

First known as tarocchi, it's a pack of 78 cards used from the mid 15th century. Similar to playing cards, there are four suits: pentacles (diamonds), wands (clubs), cups (hearts), swords (spades). The tie to mysticism and the occult didn't catch fire until the 18th and 19th centuries, when secret societies and mystics began to practice the art. There's even a Vertigo Tarot deck, with John Constantine from Hellblazer as the role of The Fool.

In fact if you're ever arranging a party and scared stiff it'll be a bore, just hire a tarot reader. People who are shy, loud, boring, arrogant, brash, drunk and idiotic will all beg to get their future read and eventually climb out of their shells.

Palm reading (Palmistry/chiromancy)
Consisting of reading a person's life line, heart line and head line, Palmistry is another form of divination that is associated with the Gypsy culture. With a fate line, sun line, travel line and so forth, it can be rather confusing. One particular trait I've heard of that sounds rather creepy is the "murderer's thumb" or "potter's thumb". It's a real genetic physical trait, Brachydactyly Type D, a shortness of thumb that is especially wide at the knuckle. Hmmm.. makes you wonder about what happens if you have a sixth finger, good luck perhaps?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paranormal acts

Everyone loves to be scared once in a while. With Halloween on the way, it's always fun to see if there are any interesting places in your area to visit. If you have any Irish and Gaelic roots, this particular day has its origins from the ancient festival known as "Samhain", roughly meaning "summer's end". Seen by some as a festival of the dead, ancient Gaels believed that the border between the "otherworld" and our world became thinner during this day. The tradition of wearing costumes and masks was to ward off harmful spirits by appearing as one of them.

Ten things to do on Halloween depending on your age

1. Create a haunted house
2. Go to a haunted house
3. Visit a cemetery
4. Hold a seance to talk to your great-great grandparent for money tips.
5. Make a slasher flick with friends and post it on youtube
6. Take your kids out for Halloween
7. Go to a fantastic costume party
8. Watch the Shining (hopefully with a friend/partner)
9. Go to a corn maze
10. Give out candy to sugared up monsters on Halloween

Ouija Origins
Ouija is actually the mix of the French word "oui' and German word "ja", both meaning "yes". Although a lot of people believe the Ouija board comes from ancient China or Europe it was invented by Elijah Bond in 1880 and patented in 1881. There is however, evidence of an object resembling a Ouija board found in China dating back to 1100 B.C. along with sources that claim the Greeks also dabbled in occult practices. The popular heart shaped "planchette" was created by a French spiritualist as a more preferable fortune telling method (resembling the three legged table that was popular in seances).

I've only tried it a few times, and it was when I was a young child. With crowd of relatives looking for a bit of fun, we snuck over to another room to give it a whirl. A bit bored, I secretly pushed the "funny heart shaped thing" to and fro the entire time. It's been years since I played the game but I do remember that with the right crowd and questions, it's funny as hell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Behind the mask

There have been many imposters who have disguised themselves to gain wealth, fame and in many cases to simply escape the monotony of their daily lives.

Anne Bonny, the female pirate. To escape a life with her husband James Bonny, Anne started afresh by pretending to be a man among a ship of pirates. The only give away was her "ample" breast size reported by other women.

Deborah Sampson the soldier. Bored and likely hampered by the restraints of being women in her time, Deborah enlisted in the army at Worcester in 1782. Fighting alongside her male compatriots she would serve 18 months and continue to dress as a man for another year after her discharge. Although she would later marry and have children, she was granted a government pension.

Fred G. Thompson the stage performer. Born in 1888, Fred always desired the beautiful attire of women. Unfortunately when not careful, his five o'clock shadow tipped off investigators during the Tesmer murder case. Suspected as the women killer, Thompson was arrested in 1923 one summer night in his nightdress and kimono. Later released, he would continue his sexually unorthodox lifestyle, as a bigamist. Creating a ménage à trois he lived with his wife and his husband Frank Carrick. Wowza!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Travelling Treasures

A case of sticky fingers...

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Very early on the morning of March 18, 1990, two men in police uniforms managed to lift several irreplaceable works of art. How? By simply cutting the paintings out of the frame! Among the stolen artworks were Vermeer’s The Concert, Manet’s Chez Tortoni, and three works by Rembrandt, including his only marine-themed painting,

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. The two men also made off with five Degas drawings, a painting by Govaert Flinck, and a bronze beaker from the Chinese Shang Dynasty. Value? About $300 million. The $5 million reward offered for return of the artwork remains unclaimed.

$4 million Stradivarius violin stolen in Germany

Why would violin be worth $4 million!? Here's why:

Born in Italy, 1644 Antonio Stradivari is believed to have been an apprentice of Nicolo Amati the reknown family of luthiers of Cremona. The particular techniques of construction have long been debated and exactly what makes his instruments create a richer quality of sound is also controversial. Nonetheless, many maintain that the best Stradivariuses are superior and it doesn't hurt that most of the most gifted and talented violinists have them. A Stradivarius isn't the only thing worth a pretty penny, an Amati, a Guarneri del Gesú or a Vuillaume can also break the bank.

In case you've suddenly decided to hunt through your granny's attic for an old violin that you saw lying around, the likelihood of finding one is miniscule. To this day there are very few Stradivarius instruments (cello being particularly rare) and even fewer created during his "golden age" 1700 to 1720.

Inverted President Richard Nixon stamp

President Richard Nixon surrounded by scandal yet again, but not by his handiwork this time. Clarence Robert Robie claimed he bought 160 copies of this 32 cent stamp only to be caught red handed for theft. Arrested on December 12, 1996 for stealing the stamps from the Banknote Corporation of America where he worked as a postage stamp cutting machine operator.

The Sancy Diamond

A beautiful pale yellow 55.23 carat diamond with a colorful history of intrigue and greed. I won't even go into details... if you're interested read below.

The hellish trials of moving

Boxing your life away, 10 things to not forget when packing.

1. Don't forget to label your name/address on every box
2. Use a clear glad garbage bag on the inside as a lining, in case of water damage.
3. Don't over pack your boxes, fill half with books and pick something light or stuff paper so nobody throws out their back.
4. Contact many, many moving companies for good quotes. See if they are in good standing with the BBB.
5. Write a list for yourself (not on the box please just label them 'A, B,C...' of what's in EVERY box, so that when you need something quick you can find it quickly.
6. Use Fragile stickers, saves you time and dollars.
7. Book the elevator or tell your neighbors that you're moving. No need to piss anyone off.
8. Make sure your company is clear on how they'll charge you. Weight? Space? Hidden fees?
9. Make sure they have liability insurance.
10. Anything very important, passports, jewelery etc... You should have with you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How green can you go?

I recently stumbled across the popular novelist John Twelve Hawks, of the popular series the Fourth Realm Trilogy. Reading up on his bio he's known to be "off the grid". He's stated to have never met his editor and communicates through an untraceable satellite phone with a voice scrambler. All I could think was... this is a character straight out of the movies!!

Recently I've found some friends describe their dreams of being "off the grid", making their own house of bale hay and buying solar panels. A few are even in the process of creating a house that's completely energy independent by building it from scratch.

It made me wonder... How hard is it to really get off the grid?? Completely? There seems to an endless number of sites about the subject, all to varying degrees of course. Many challenge the reader to learn to move against profiteering, capitalism, and paying taxes. Some have useful information on making your own water source, energy source, gardening,farming expertise.

It's a pity there's no book on how to create a Mennonite community from scratch because aren't they absolute pros at this? I did find a few links to recommended Mennonite cookbooks from Amazon however.

Going Green can also lose you Green if you aren't careful

As some of my friends become more energy conscious (which is certainly a good thing) they rely more on email, internet, and satellites to make money and stay linked to the community. But even as you take steps to become more energy efficient you can fall into a con. According to, Magniwork was swindling gullible buyers with a $50 do-it-yourself guide to building a magnetic power generator claiming to produce free energy. Not to mention many ads that promise free power for $200" or "build your own solar panel for $200". I find this comical since some of those very ads appear on the site (which they readily warn you off).

Unfortunately I'm not a saint, but I do try to remember that every dollar I spend is a representation of what I support.

The sixth sense

Voyeurism has become more prevelant than ever. Noisy neighbors, celebrity news, reality tv or youtube, the public curiosity of the unknown will always be insatiable. People watching is a favored pastime when I'm waiting for a friend at a particular spot. Occasionally my gaze will focus on an unusual individual, and if I feel I'm at a safe distance, I will observe longer. Yet sometimes for whatever reason, the person becomes aware they are being watched, even if I'm standing three floors up high. Hackles raised, they will scan those around them, hunting for the source of their unease. All this is explained in a book I recently stumbled upon by Rupert Sheldrake, The Sense of Being Stared At. An interesting dissection of the human mind and what we are subconsciously capable of. From animal sensitivity, human perseption, to a dog's strange ability to sense epileptic seizures, his research questions things that have been swept under the rug by skeptics.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Anybody love the small cucumber sandwiches? Bite sized chocolate treats? Strawberry covered scones with a healthy dollop of Devonshire cream? I first had my taste of high tea during my youth when I made the scones from scratch. Since then I try to visit any acclaimed hotels that serve high tea. So far I've only visited a few, but here a few worth visiting.
1. The Howard - Edinburgh
Even with the exchange rate the cost is comparable to any Fairmont. I absolutely LOVED the food! Be sure to make a reservation. It's definitely a nice break if you visit during the colder months.
2. Pennisula - Hong Kong
First of all, even if its scorching hot, remember there is a dress code. Sandals, shorts and other inappropriate wear is not welcome. The legendary Pennisula is not cheap, but it's certainly well made!
3. Fairmont Empress - San Francisco
Similar to the Pennisula, smart casual is a requirement for dress. All the Fairmont hotels have a high standard for high tea but this location is better than most. You can also enjoy a glass of California wine if you want to splurge, but isn't the point of high tea... the tea?
4. Fairmont - Vancouver
I personally hate raisins, but if you call ahead you can have your freshly made scones made raisin free! Be sure to make a reservation, since this is a popular location. The Vancouver location is surprisingly a cut above the acclaimed Empress Hotel in Victoria which has a habit of serving cold scones and not particularly great desserts.
5. Park Hyatt - Toronto
I actually think the Annona is equal to the Fairmont in Vancouver but perhaps its missing the traditional setting normally associated with afternoon tea. I've always wished Casa Loma started serving high tea in their garden/solarium.

Nerding out. Trek talk.

I have no shame, I proudly admit I thoroughly enjoyed the Star Trek the Next Generation series and was blissfully unappreciative of the hype surrounding the original series. I don't think one of my friends would've been caught dead liking either series, but I'm overjoyed to see the series getting a much needed face lift of 'cool'.

Is it just me? I've always wondered why the creators haven't introduced a half Vulcan half Romulan main character. Especially after all the... (not to spoil anything for those who haven't watched it) stuff that happened? It would be an interesting character to say the least!! It would open the doors for a wealth of issues that resonate in society today between similar countrymen. The Irish and English... Japanese and Chinese...(I could go on and on..) How differences in culture, history, ignorance, geography, and prejudices over a long number of years perpetuates the cycle of separation and resentment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The golden rule

Water cooler pit stop. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I take a person's word for truth, and unknowingly regurgitate the info like a broken telephone.
A friend claims we are all attracted to the opposite sex parental figure in our lives.

Mom and Dad complex (Oedipus/Electra)
Is Freud and Carl Jung correct? Do we just date/marry our parents?
A study published in an issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior indicated that women are more likely to be attracted to partners who look like their father if they had a positive relationship with him. Vice versa if they did not. If that is true I suppose the statement that we date or are attracted to people who look like us is rather accurate.
Even people who are of different skin, eye, and hair color tend to be with people with similar body/facial structure.

Here's another argument.
Beauty is mathematics.
Proportion is attraction.
The Golden Ratio is determined beauty.

The Golden Ratio, or Golden rectangle, is a mathematical proportion that many artists and architects have applied to their works (especially during the Renaissance, Da Vinci) believing it to be aesthetically pleasing. Approximately 1.6180339887, it applies to science, musicians, sculptors, art, and nature. It's everywhere.
Hip to waist ratio 0.75 (or lower) is considered the female ideal, where as the male "V" torso (shoulder to hip ratio) is also 0.75. Both sexes are measured by this standard, a reason why we vault the beautiful on high pedestals. Beauty icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Salma Hayek, and Jessica Alba are all claimed as the ideal "perfect ratio", approximately 0.7.
Symmetry determines what we find attractive, even in purchasing an apple from the grocery store. Do we base beauty off an unnatural and unhealthy standard that's perpetuated in the media? Studies say we begin to discern beauty even when we are young as a baby.
Pheromones How much does scent factor in? More than any of us know. According to an article in "Psychology Today" our body odors are perceived as attractive to another person whose genetically based immunity to disease differs most from our own. The long term benefits produce stronger and healthier children.
A good deterrent against inbreeding.

After all this... one would think economic backgrounds, religion, timing, personality and many other circumstances are major factors, but I guess no one can deny the importance of physical appearance. Thankfully not all people follow these rules or it would make for a very bland world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The hollowed maze

They don't just make crop circles, now it's all about having your very own labyrinth. Popping up all over Britain as a cost saving and publicity opportunity, these dazzling designs showcase an incredible pool of imagination. Giant roosters, ancient American Indian designs, spacemen and more. They even have an official organization - The Maize Maze Association to help you find one.

I have been in one myself, in a small town east of Halifax for Halloween. It was a bit of a disappointment unfortunately. The crush of people, loud giggling gossiping teenagers, and brightly lit flashlights ruins any possible fear one could have. I don't blame them however, staring out momentarily into the occasional dark corners of the maze played merry hell with my imagination. If ever someone were to suffer an accident or heart attack we all know who would be liable. I guess I'll just have to get my set of thrills like everyone else, in the movie theatre.

Know any cool destinations with rather devilish stains from the past?

For maze info visit:

Turkish Delight

Ever been given a "Tashir" ... a Turkish shave? Done the traditional way with an open blade it is considered to be the male equivalent of a fantastic facial.
It starts with soft brush lathering a thin layer of shaving soap on the face. The blade expertly glides across the skin, leaving a surprisingly impressive shave without a hint of razor burn. After removing the remaining soap with a warm towel, the traditional technique of 'singeing' begins! A small long match-like stick burns away the fine hairs around the ears and cheekbones with a controlled flame. Moisturizer is generously slathered onto your face followed by a hot towel to calm and relax.
The final touch comes with the shave serum (or aftershave) along with a much needed face, neck, and shoulder massage.
If they are really traditional, the whole process will be followed by a smoke and a Turkish coffee. A spectacular present to yourself or your loved one!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A jar of wishing Stars

In Asian culture they are given to loved ones, usually to grant the receiver a wish. I've tried making a few and by the time I filled half the jar, I gave up and lazily filled it with stuffing instead. If you're lucky enough to receive one, be thankful, their effort is a good beginning to whatever the heart desires.

Naming a star...
Want to permanently ink your name into the heavens? Think again. And more over, these "star registries" aren't even affiliated with the International Astronomical Union, the only legitimate authority. Even the Library of Congress doesn't want to be affiliated with any of these bogus companies.

The best bet is to go camping on a clear sunny weekend, and spend an evening camping outside looking up toward the stars with a cup of whatever makes you happy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

green doesn't always mean go

Like little soldiers we're taught to follow directions. Taking my part in the whole carbon footprint movement, I try to walk home from work if I can. As I made my way to cross the green light a driver hit me taking a right turn. Luckily I jumped fast enough, and although he tapped my kneecaps I landed on his hood. I can tell you that with the two other pedestrians who were watching, everyone was horrified, including the driver.

Fortunately I was okay but this is the worrying part...
I had actually made eye contact with the driver and I was "sure" that he had seen me. But with cellphones, life stresses, and whatever else was muddling his brain that day he wasn't actually paying attention to what he was doing, DRIVING.

5 ways to hibernate

1. The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay
The only depressing thing about this series is that it's only two books. Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors
2. Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
Written in a fresh multi-POV perspective, these books are like crack. Literally. A thousand page paper brick full of nothing but naughty fun. My biggest beef with this series is that it's far from complete and you need to wait patiently for the next book.
3. Firefly Series
I got this as a birthday present and what a gift!! Unfortunately it didn't last longer than one season, but it has an impressive production value and solid storytelling. In a way it reminds me of the anime Cowboy Bebop.
4. Mad Men, Sopranos, Dexter are all riveting dramas that I felt the need to watch once... and only once. Horatio Hornblower on the other hand is a heart warming series that takes you to another time and place, especially when all you want to do is escape.
5. Audiobooks anyone? The 1981 BBC version of Lord of the Rings was done exceptionally well. Frodo was even voiced by a younger Ian Holm. A great adventure to relive while you finally do a bit of spring cleaning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BBB is better

To follow up on my mishap from the cellphone company, I gotta say, the Better Business Bureau are on top of things. As I barely managed to surpress my frustration to the employee, I managed to be partially reimbursed (since a family member is using the phone). I could've raised all hell, but I'm reasonable, it's certainly enough to satisfy me.

Previous post

I certainly recommend going to the Better Business Bureau when you're swindled.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

80s lost

Leisure Suit Larry
Ah.. anybody remember those primitive choppy images of prostitutes, pimps, cliché bars, taxi rides and hotels? Originally considered a soft porn adventure, Sierra On-line created a world for Larry Laffer, a balding loser in his forties to... get laid. I remember laughing with a lot of my friends, easily cracking through the questions with a notepad until we were permitted into his sleazy world. That was then. In recent years the gaming industry has progressed far beyond our expectations or nightmares, where murder, theft and whoring are the next generation norm for entertainment. Released in Japan in 2006, a "hentai" rape-based game "RapeLay" made close to $100 million. Although it's now banned from shelves in Japan and pulled from Amazon, the domestic Japanese market is unlikely to fade anytime soon. I won't go into details of the sheer perversion and indecency but it makes me wish for the days of Leisure Suit Larry.

Multi-million toy commercials
So far only Transformers and G.I. Joe have been churned into action packed candy cotton. Can't Hollywood think of anything fresh? They probably can but it's a heck of a lot easier to just make a blockbuster that already has a set market. My question is... what do kids watch? The Saturday morning time slot is a pale comparison to the packed programs of the past. Sure there's Spongebob, but one show can't compare to the explosive creative burst of the 80's where the Smurfs, Voltron, Thundercats, the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock ruled the waves. I guess the most we can look forward to is the onslaught of remakes coming our way.
Fashionistas & Hollywood
The part of the 80s that I sometimes think... why why WHY BRING IT BACK? The colors, thick theatrical makeup, leggings, jewelry, hair, shoulder pads, neon, silver and acid washed jeans ... it makes my head spin.
Although little kids can get away with wearing absolutely anything... hope to see a few little David Bowie and Madonna outfits this Halloween!

10 best train trips worth taking

I personally love train travel. I've even stayed in one of those "inns" that are more of a collection of abandoned train cars than converted private cabins. I have heard a lot of horror stories about American train travel but I found my trips to be quite satisfying.
Here are two economical trips that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The San Diego to Los Angeles ride looks out toward the ocean along the western coast line. It can be a much needed break from the hustle of a convention or business meeting and a first class ticket guarantees you a seat.
The overnight journey along eastern Canada from Montreal to Halifax during the autumn months is another superb sight. If you're lucky you can book a private double berth at the occasionally offered discounted price (1/2 price) that's comparable to a plane ticket cost. The ride boasts a gradual turning of the leaves from a rich ochre into a vivid shade of crimson, a comfortable and not-overly expensive dining car, and night sky views from the observatory car.
My only train warning is the trip from Paris to Italy. I'm a non-smoker, and although all compartments are non-smoking it really is a smokers paradise. You could easily avoid this by getting a private berth, but this was years ago when I didn't have the $$ to spare.
I've hunted for recommended lists of train trips worth taking... The Orient Express among them. I've made my own list however, based more from a North American perspective... namely excluding what I've seen and what I find familiar. Please pardon my omission of the Canadian Rockies, Alaskan and Californian routes.

The fool's 10 most wished for journeys by train in the world
#1 Eastern & Orient Express, Southeast Asia
Venice Simplon Orient Express Signature Journey 6 days/5 nights.
Paris - Budapest - Bucharest - Istanbul. Price $9190 (2009) Ouch!
Although it's one of the most expensive routes, and not the original company in Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express', (the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits) the very name and destination is synonymous with intrigue and luxury travel. Hey... it's a wish list so why think of $$$?

#2 Rovos Rail, South Africa
These trips are annually planned. The luxurious 'Pride of Africa' takes you on a 14 day incredible expedition through some of Africa's most stunning locales. Cape Town - Dar Es Salaam - Kimberley - Pretoria - Kruger National Park - Beit Bridge - Bulawayo - Victoria Falls - Lusaka and through Tanzania.

#3 Hiram Bingham Train, Peru
Although this is a rather short trip, I chose this above others because Machu Picchu is a place that I'm dying to see. Considered one the unofficial new seven wonders of the world, the Hiram Bingham train journey is a spectacular passage through the Andes toward the ancient location. Wow. You could do it a lot cheaper, but this trek includes meals and live entertainment and it's one of the most affordable.. around $300 (one way).

#4 The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Russia
Winter Wonderland westbound. Vladivostok - Mongolia - Lake Baikai - Irkutsk - Novosibirsk - Yekaterinburg - Vladmir and Suzdal - Moscow. There is also an even more extensive 19 day trip to St. Petersberg. Okay..okay.. it's all snow and ice, but you have to factor in the historical lure of this location.

#5 The Royal Scotman, United Kingdom
The Grand West Highland 6 day journey stops in Spean Bridge, Arisaig, Bridge of Orchy, Wemyss Bay (for Isle of Bute), Edinburgh where you can sight see. Then you rejoin the train for the route to Dalwhinnie, Boat of Garten, Rothiemurchus, Nairn and Dundee.

#6 Palace on Wheels, India
A few people have complained about the smell, heat, cockroaches in this country, but I couldn't care less. What do expect, a Starbucks or Macdonalds?
A mystical 8 days /7 nights from New Delhi through Jaisalmer "Desert Fort", Jaipur the "Pink City" and of course the Taj Mahal in Agra. I especially love the name. Ha.

#7 Eastern Orient Express, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore
A very different sort of Thai experience. 4 days/3 nights from Thailand, toward the infamous River Kwai (For David Lean lovers!) and onwards to Malaysia, Georgetown before crossing the causeway over the Straits of Johor to finally arrive in the metropolis of Singapore.

#8 The Ghan, Australia
A 3 days/2 nights trip across endless sun baked terrain, beginning in Adelaide - Alice Springs - Darwin, travels twice a week.

#9 The Bergen Line, Norway
The Oslo - Bergen ride is a seven hour trip normally listed high on the lists. For me it looks a bit like Canada, but the cultural depth of Norway and gorgeous architecture in the local towns and cities are remarkable to say the least.

10. Tokaido Shikansen, Japan
Osaka - Kyoto - Nagoya - Tokyo. Bullet Train. Enough said.

Friday, October 16, 2009

into the wild

Where the wild things are

As an adult reminiscing about my childhood I have mixed feelings. Loneliness, impotent rage and blind jealousy are all subjects addressed heavy in this fascinating adaptation of Maurice Sendak's book. I went to see the first showing with two indie film geeks who absolutely loved it.
A tale of childhood disappointment and inner turmoil, it had many moments that made vivid memories feel like yesterday. Although it was filled with exceptional life like puppets, gorgeous scenery, sets and superb performances, it was missing something. It's more of a film about childhood rather than... a kid film. It runs (even with the trailers) less than two hours and there were a few brief flickers of time when I wondered if I was watching a clever music video or a child's temper-tantrum spread rather thin.
Will I forget this film? No. Was it a good experience? Yes. Would I take a child to see it? It depends on the kid.
I'm curious to know if a younger audience will experience the elated excitement that I felt as a child at the movies.

The Asian Invasion

I may have missed the boat (no pun intended) on the whole Korean Wave thing but I've always found it interesting. On this side of the world we occasionally get a peppering of Asian actors (Ken Watanabe, John Cho, Chow Yun Fat) or the mixed brood of celebs (Keanu Reeves, Moon Bloodgood, Lindsay Price). But only recently have I delved further and found some interesting tidbits.

Like all countries, they all have their shiny beautiful people in over the top dramas (American can't throw stones.. hello Baywatch, Grey's Anatomy, Melrose Place). Have no fear however! Seething beneath the plastic wrappings are a growing number of worthwhile stories begging to be watched. Oldboy, a potent tale of rage, 1st shop of the Coffee Prince, a Shakespearean cross dressing comedy of lies (above), and riding the Twilight wave, the up and coming vampire film Thirst are among a few shining stars.

Manga (comic) translations continue to be a common source of storytelling in Asia. For the past decade the west have picked up the habit of translating paper pictures to celluloid. Persepolis, A History of Violence, Batman, and American Splendor are among the best adaptations to date.

Anime is a commonly misunderstood genre that has typically been associated with the perverse underground yearnings of Japan. Prejudice against the medium is finally fading with the momentum of popular kids shows like Avatar the Last Airbender (which is actually animated in Korea) and quality films like Spirited Away.

Want to watch something off the beaten track?
Check these out: Mushi-shi, Samurai Champloo, FLCL, The girl who leapt through time, Graveyard of the Fireflies, Hunter x Hunter, 5 cm per second, Tekkon Kinkreet and My Neighbor Totoro.

It's not just us obsessed with youth pop culture

Try an Asian television show or movie?

A Penny Fool

Better Business Bureau.

I never heard of it until I was royally screwed by my cellphone provider. First of all I'm a bit of a sucker for fancy new gadgets, then I'm a bit of a fool when it comes to deals. I won't go into details but all I'll say is that I signed a contract and quickly discovered I was sold a 1 year old refurbished phone for what should have been a spanking new one. Somehow or another I was fined a heck of a lot of money for deciding to cancel my contract and now I'm taking it up with the BBB. From what my sister in law says... it works. Who knows? Just make sure to cool off and explain your case in a calm and orderly manner.

I'll find out sooner or later.

For legitimate complaints...
here's the link

Female Dracula

Is the movie worth watching? A 2008 version of BATHORY starring Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) has been quietly released.

I haven't been able to get my hands on it yet but it's a bit of a welcome change after the non-stop swinging door of robot, alien and bromance films that have engulfed us. I always wanted to see a film version of the scandalous lives of the Borgias, but this will have to do.

More on the most Notorious "Blood Countess"

Born in 1560 Hungary, Erzebet" Báthory is the prolific female serial killer and commonly remembered as the "Blood Countess" for her fabled penchant of bathing in virgin blood. Born to a privileged position, the renowned Báthory family was rumored to have a taste for dabbling in various hedonistic "dark arts" for leisure. With access to many scholars, the young beauty was taught Latin, German, Greek, with an extended interest in science and astronomy. By age twelve she was betrothed to Ferencz Nadasdy, a likely political union between aristocratic circles.

After twenty-nine years of marriage and five children (only three surviving) her husband died, reportedly due to injury in battle, leaving her to her own devices. Between 1602 and 1604, rumors of Bathory's increasingly alarming habits reached the ears of Lutheran ministerIstván Magyari. His public complaints of the atrocities done by the Countess and the escalating accounts of missing women would force King Matthias to look into the matter. Assigned to investigate the reported heinous crimes of torture and the malicious killings of local girls and young women, Juraj Thurzo the Palatine of Hungary was initially reluctant to publicly proceed with a trial. On December 30th 1610 Bathory and four of her servant accomplices were arrested. The final tally can never be certain however, but some sources estimate that there were over six hundred victims. In the end she was convicted for eighty counts and would spend her last days imprisoned in Cachtice Castle until her death three to four years later.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

English roses

I've always been a fan of British television.
Whether it's Poirot, Marple, Foyle's War, or Horatio Hornblower, I can't get enough of it. Oh and you can even watch a few episodes on youtube if you can't get a hold of them! I'm still on the fence about the new Sherlock Holmes flick, but I'm sure Guy Ritchie will at least smoother us with snappy action bits when the story lags behind.
For now, I'm anticipating the pilot of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice of Fire series, starring Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey. (HBO isn't British, but it's shot in the UK). It's a promising start, especially since the writer takes years to finish each novel.
If you haven't started the series give it a whirl (Game of Thrones being book 1). A delectable tale that's filled with all the deadly sins we all know and love.