Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chalk one up for Dr. LaHaye...

It was a night that Armageddon lovers dream about. Days earlier, all hell had broken loose in the Middle East. Israel's response to Hezbollah had not been approved by the rest of the world. The correspondence with biblical predictions was obvious: the End will begin with a war, and with the world turning against Israel.

Then, as if to embody God's final wrath, one of the worst storms in recent memory passes through northeastern North America.

Picture this: you're sitting in your living room around 7:30 p.m. watching the tube. It's still daylight outside. But in a span of mere minutes, you notice that the world outside your patio door has gone black as midnight.

You rush to the window to see what put out the sun. There above you roils a grey apocalyptic sea. Angry clouds the colour of ash spin like an otherwordly whirlpool above your house. Eerily, there's not a breath of wind on the ground.

You try to remember what you've learned about tornadoes from shows like 'World's Most Amazing Videos.' Sit in the bathtub? Hide in a doorway? Cling to the rock in the basement and weep?

Just as you're calling the dog to the basement door, you glance outside once again. That's odd. Had your husband installed red lightbulbs in the outdoor security lights? No, wait. THE SKY IS BLOOD RED. Forget clinging to the rock. The big J is coming back and there is nowhere to hide, people. The freaking sky is BLOOD RED. You run to the windows on the other side of the house, just to see if your eyes have betrayed you. They haven't.

Then the storm unleashes itself. Thunder shakes the very foundation of your home. Whizzing carpets of sheet lightning tear the sky apart, driving rain and hail to the quivering earth below. You back away from the window and sit quietly on your darkened bed, wondering when it will end.

As the flashing sky assaults your retinas with negative images of tall pines and maples, you think about the families you know--Canadian families--who went to visit their relatives in Lebanon a few days earlier. Their sky is red too. Lights flash all around them. Their homes shake under the impossible powers that dwarf these everyday men and women. And children. You think about the Canadian family of seven who died, terrified in their blackened holdiay home, as the red skies rained down on them. Your mind tries to un-see, tries not to imagine.

You thank God, or life, or the universe, or whatever may be out there, that the worst that could happen to you is that your tomatoes will get flattened or a branch will fall on your shed. There are fates so much worse.

And you wonder, once again, how any sane person could crave Armageddon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Of sewn-together fingers and hermetically sealed shelf pegs

Well, the masochism continues.

Lest this start looking like an Ikea Sucks blog (which it isn't--I owe the bulk of my worldly possessions to Ikea), let me say that I think it's a great store.

It's not you, Ikea, it's me. Somewhere between your flatbox- contained- self- assembled- cartoon- explained- sustainable- wood- scandinavian- uber coolness and my spazmodic uselessness, you hurt me. I know you don't mean to. But you do.

I decided that I really need a sewing/painting centre in the spare bedroom. So me and the husband took a trip to the local Allen key mecca. Four hours, three trips, and one broken cell phone later, we were on our way home with my new IVAR activity centre. (Cell phone was dropped when trying to pry shelving unit into back seat of Toyota Echo that is same length as shelving unit.)

Here's how bad the IVAR instructions are: there are none. There are side rails, some shelves with runners on them, and some hermetically sealed steel pegs that I guess you're supposed to use to prop open your eyelids as you work frantically into the early hours of morning. Don't even get me started on the cross-brace.

The really ironic part of this self-imposed torture, though, is that once I finally succeed in assembling this unit, I will use it to operate a machine with a large needle capable of puncturing surfaces (like fingers) hundreds of times in mere seconds. If you don't hear from me for a while, send bandaids and a stitch-remover.

p.s. Wanted to post a photo of IVAR the Terrible, but blogger's photo tool is all pooped up again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mid-Sky Meadow Chic

What will those quirky Manhattanites think of next? This couple (he's a developer, she's a writer) was visiting some country folk a few years ago. The country folk had a porch overlooking a lake. The Manhattanites decided they love porches--so they built a porch--and a meadow--on the roof of their building overlooking the Empire State Building. Six stories up.

Looks serene in the pic, but I wonder whether they can actually escape the noise of the streets below, or whether they just have to imagine that they can actually hear the meadow birds chirping...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Heart Land of Talk

Love, love, love this band from Montreal. My husband, who is probably the best prospecteur of not-yet-well-known music I know, and who has the best ear, and whose poseur-bullshit-filter is fully tweaked, found them on MySpace or something.

He picked up their disc, and I'm freaking out. The songwriting is rock-solid, the music rocks. I mean, it has melody--oh how I love melody--oh how I miss melody. And lead singer Elizabeth Powell sounds like the love child of Edie Brickell and Chrissie Hynde. In fact, there's definitely a punk-meets-Pretenders feel to this awesome band. In case you missed the header, they're called Land of Talk. The album's called Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. You can listen to them here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New LF

Enjoy my new, much easier-on-the-eyes blog template.

Now it's slightly easier to slog through my meandering logic and endless ranting.

Also, I've updated my links. All killer no filler baby!

Monday, July 10, 2006

You win, pink IKEA storage box.

Aren't you a clever little box. With your razor-sharp edges and deceptive cartoon-like instructions, building up false confidence in the feasibility of putting you together without life-threatening blood loss.

I would have thought it was excessive to need a screwdriver, mallet, wrench, tensor bandage, and roll of first-aid tape to put together a cardboard box. But the wrench did come in handy when I was unravelling the extra spatial dimension built into you, you devlish little hypercube.

And you've also helped me learn some Swedish, my little pink box of pain. For instance, I now know that 'KASSETT' is Swedish for 'suffer, pathetic North American fool.' Or does it mean 'one box, twelve hours'? I'm sure it's all in the accent...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Three cheers for Armageddon!

Okay, I'm going there. I'm going to the Politics and Religion place. Just a day-trip, mind you.

Had an eye-opening experience recently when reading an old Vanity Fair article on Politics + Religion. It was about the Left Behind series--you know, that 12-book young adult series about Armageddon. The action-packed damnation saga you just can't put down!

So the article was talking about the ins and outs of Armageddon. What the Good Book says about it, how the far Christian Right has interpreted this (hint: by denying that there's any room for interpretation), and--most interestingly--the impact this is having on world politics. Cuz it is having an impact.

The jist of the article was that some far-right Christians are droolingly eager for Armageddon to happen. (This is something I've suspected for a long time from my own experience with the church.) And, ironically-self-servingly, these extremists have developed a strong bond with other far-right groups in places like Israel because they (the Christian extremists) believe that in order for Armageddon to happen, Israel must have control over a particular section of Middle Eastern geography, as outlined in the Good Book. Don't forget, these are extreme literalists. If you don't believe me, read this. (Of course, not all Christians feel like this.)

In fact, if you've got a few minutes and are at all interested in the sociology of religious extremism, read this. Fascinating stuff. It explains why the most seemingly symbolic and whacked-out parts of the Bible must be read literally, whereas there is room for interpretation in phrases such as 'and Aaron begat Jacob.'

It's especially important to read prophecy literally. Because lots of people wrongly see prophecy as a symbolic or allegorical warning meant to convey an important spiritual truth. When really we all know that the final Kingdom palace will reside in Israel and will be 40 X 40 cubits wide. Don't be a pesky preterist about it. Or an amillenialist. Or, God forbid, a postmillenialist. Shudder.

So the co-author of the series, Dr. Tim LaHaye, has a whole bunch of books on the subject--on top of the 12-book Left Behind series. I know this because he mentions all of them in every article on this site, and it's the first thing he mentions on his own site too.

One might even start to suspect that the good Dr. is a tad bit obsessed with the subject. (I wouldn't be so pessimistic as to suggest that he's a tad bit obsessed with selling books. No, not that.) But what with his more than 25 books on the subject, movies, and even a thrilling new video game ("In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the world disappear!"), you can tell that he's a big fan of Divine wrath and hurling the damned into the Lake of Fire.

What fascinates about all this is not Dr. LaHaye's obvious eye-lift, but rather the fact that he and his colleagues and possibly a network of well...maybe even millions and millions of building a reality that is entirely different from the one in which you and I reside. You've heard of the Matrix? Well this is...uh...the Crucitrix...

What frightens is the thought that these denizens of Armageddonville may be deliberately working to bring about the literal fufillment of a prophecy that describes the destruction of billions of people and much of the planet. (I prefer the slower destroy-the-planet-through-global-warming approach, but I'm fairly lazy.)

There are other interesting strings of thought in the tightly woven fabric of these extremists' fictional reality. Like the whole section of the site dedicated to exploring why America is not mentioned in the Bible, when it is the world's only superpower and will obviously play a key role in Armageddon.

The possibilities: 1. America will be destroyed by terrorists prior to Armageddon and will lose its superpower status; 2. America will be destroyed by the abortionists and gays; 3. Most of America will be Raptured and that's why America wasn't metioned in the scriptures written thousands of years before anyone even invented the word America; or 4. God chose just not to mention the U.S. (deemed least likely option).

How about 5. You've gotta be kidding.

This subject is an easy target, I know. But consider the fact that something like 25 per cent of Americans self-identify as evangelical Christians.

...Think about the impact on our everyday lives in North America if even a small fraction of these people are the extremists I describe above--and the number is said to be growing.

...The effect it has on public policy, on foreign policy, on priorities when it comes to spending public money.

...The effect it has on the planet when mass swathes of humanity believe that what really matters in life is what happens to the dead--not the generations of living to come. They don't believe there even are generations of living to come.

...The effect it has on human society when one group believes that the other is the walking damned, beyond salvation and beyond hope--and in some deep dark corner of their hearts, may even look forward to seeing them destroyed in some final 'I told you so.' (I think we've all seen that attitude displayed, around the world, for long enough.)

So I guess what I'm saying is, if you're looking for some light reading this summer, steer clear of Dr. LaHaye.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Damn it to hell

As I write this, crazy-dark storm clouds have gathered ominously above my house. Deafening thunder roils like a hungry beast, blocking out the click-click-click of my keyboard.

Electrical storm, or vengeance of the Wraith, Anna Wintour, enraged that this damn movie is being mentioned yet again?

Either way, if they knock out the power I’m screwed. I hate retyping.

First of all, to our American cousins: Happy 4th! I would like to point out that it is also my 3rd wedding anniversary today. That’s right, we got married on Independence Day. Cuz that’s how we like our irony.

Now on to business

Dragged the husband to TDWP on Sunday night. Clearly instructed him not to sigh heavily throughout a movie that he would inevitably find ‘stupid.’ Offered him the alternative of staying home. Sent him to fetch popcorn in obnoxiously long popcorn line-up. He still managed to make it back to his seat before the second preview.

The theatre was packed. We found a couple of empty seats between two other couples: one middle aged, the other teenaged and completely lip-locked for the entire preview portion of the evening. These people will become important later on.

I like the way the film opened. Great opening scene. And that’s where any significant artistic deviation from the novel ended, until the end of the movie. Which is my second biggest criticism of the film. My first is the casting of the lead. I’ll get to that.


As a video novel, this film was FANtastic. Unfortunately, the novel upon which it is based wasn’t fantastic. Ergo, as a movie, it, well…kinda sucked.

What didn’t suck

Meryl Streep. I hate to sound like a lemming, but the woman’s a great actress. She was the (only?) art in this film. She played the Miranda Priestly character with subtlety and depth, filling in some of the gaps in this character from the novel. She didn’t go hog-wild, nor did she underplay it. It was perfectly balanced, given the context of the book. If you didn’t read the novel but saw the movie, you’d still hate this character. But if you did read the novel, you get a nice extra serving of character development.Bravo, Meryl.

The screenplay. I think overall they picked the right scenes to recreate. It gives non-novel-people a good sense of the drudgery and humiliation, without the godforsaken repetitiveness of the novel.

Stanley Tucci. Fantastic. Every scene he was in was significantly better than most of the rest of the film. He is the king of the humour/emotional depth/humour transition.

Emily Blunt. She did a really good job in this film. Good timing, good delivery, great bitchiness.

What did suck

Anne Hathaway. What can I say? For me, she just does not pull off a lead actress role. She’s stagey and artificial and, frankly, stays frumpy in spite of her ‘makeover.’ I don’t buy her as sexy, either. Except in that one scene where she’s…well, let’s say it’s the morning after the night before. And she’s a little rumpled. My husband agrees that that was kind of sexy. Other than that, too puppy-doggish. Poor casting. Elisha Cuthbert or Kate Bosworth are possible alternatives. Gwyneth Paltrow?

The boyfriend and other friends. I just didn’t care. They didn’t make me care. There was no real sense of connection between Hathaway and Grenier (the boyfriend character), or among the four friends. When they steal her Blackberry and threaten to tell her boss to piss off, you’re supposed to side with them, but somehow all the sympathy lies with Hathaway. In fact, that’s a big shortcoming of the movie—they don’t really answer the ‘why’ question very well…why is Andy Sachs staying in this horrific job? Why should I care? Why am I nodding off?

The clothes. Ugh..blechh…ick. I have to agree with all of the fashionistas on this one. The costumes are WAY too costume-y. This movie could have been so much cooler with the right clothes!!! Especially terrible was the wardrobe for Streep’s character. There was no edge to it at all. She looked like a corporate attorney with a penchant for $2,000 purses. And that leather thigh-high boot/Chanel blazer outfit on Hathaway? Gag. The stylist (shockingly, from Sex and the City) should have trusted the audience more. Instead, she went for obvious. And it had a huge impact on a movie that hinges on the wardrobe.

If the stylist was going to go for the “great old standards” thing, she should have done something really cool and stylized, like a funky modern-retro Jackie O-type look for Streep, and maybe some cool take on the 'girl Friday' look from the 40s for the Andrea Sachs character and the other office girls. Those are just random ideas, but you know what I mean: Forget the designer labels and just create an amazing, cohesive wardrobe for the film from scratch. Now that would’ve been cool. But other than the opening montage, the characters never screamed ‘chic!’ to me—and they should have. I'm angriest about this shortcoming, because it robbed me of my vicarious shopping experience. (Arms crossed angrily, frown creasing brow, pouting furiously).

They left out the Hermes scarf storyline. This was, to me, an important symbol in an otherwise soulless novel, and I think they should have kept it. The white Hermes scarves. So important.

So that’s my basic summary. I’ll end there because my fingers are getting sore and we have to go out for our anniversary dinner now…Mmmmmm. But I’ll end with the mystery of the two couples beside us:

The middle-aged couple beside me had very weirdly intense reactions to this film. My first thought as I looked at the greying, bearded, Grizzly Adams-looking man when I sat down was, ‘Great, I’m going to be sandwiched between two heavily sighing, snoring males through the whole thing!’

But no. He tsked. He giggled. He guffawed. He laughed as though it were the funniest film he'd ever seen. He whispered, ‘no!…don’t do it!’ at Anne Hathaway. At one point, he actually grabbed his head and shook it in despair as the Andrea character was reprimanded by her evil boss. He laughed, he cried, he lived it. God that was weird.

As for the teenage tonsil-hockey champs beside my husband, I think they were mostly confused by the film. There was a lot of wise-cracking and question-asking. They seemed not to understand what was going on; then again, maybe they had other things on their minds...