Thor: Ragnarok

   22 February 2018, early morning

I skipped the last Thor movie, it didn’t seem that interesting. I had heard many good things about Thor: Ragnarok, so it was the first thing I watched on my plane ride to Sydney. Directed (the very funny) Taika Waititi of New Zealand, the film feels like a refreshing change of pace from your typical Marvel fare. The movie is genuinely funny. A comedy first, and a special effects spectacle second. The story follows Thor as he meets his evil step sister, played by smoking hot Cate Blanchett, loses his hammer, gets banished to some middle of nowhere planet, finds the Hulk, and needs to come back and save Asgard. The highlight of the film for me—and I suspect most people—is Taika Waititi playing a rock man. It’s a fun film, thoroughly enjoyable.

The official Thor: Ragnarok website.

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Hidden Figures

   20 January 2018, early evening

Shima and I watched Hidden Figures last night, a film about the Black women who helped get American astronauts into space through the power of mathematics. It’s a nice feel good film, for the most part very well done. (Criticism of the film and its making Costner a bit of a White saviour seem fair, but that’s really such a small part of this film. I enjoyed his role as a crotchety scientist.) The three lead women—Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe—all play their parts very well. Also, the movie has a solid sound track.

The official Hidden Figures soundtrack.

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Bright

    3 January 2018, early evening

I watched Bright tonight, Netflix’s take on a buddy-cop Shadowrun film. Will Smith stars as a hardboiled cop. His partner is a well meaning Orc, trying to make it in a racist (literally, I suppose) police force. The world building in the film is pretty great, though all the commentary and parallels to our world are a bit too on the nose. Still, it seems to work well enough. The film doesn’t shy away from how silly its premise is. There are some parts of the film that don’t make much sense if you think too hard about them, but it’s a fun movie all the same. If you read a review of this movie that talks about Tolkein and not Shadowrun you can safely ignore it.

You can watch Bright on Netflix.

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Kong: Skull Island

    3 January 2018, early evening

The last film I watched while travelling to and from England last month was Kong: Skull Island. This movie follows a crew of scientists and soldiers who are off to investigate Skull Island. It’s a motley crew, and of course it all turns to shit and there is a giant monkey in the mix. It’s a pretty solid action film, and likely the spring board for some ridiculous multi-movie extravaganza about giant monsters. I think i’m down for that.

The official Kong: Skull Island website.

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

    3 January 2018, early evening

Guy Ritche does a fantasy film about King Arthur and it’s more or less exactly how I pictured a Guy Ritchie take on British fantasy. It’s so over the top. The pacing is manic. I liked the film well enough. It was panned by critics, but if you’re on an airplane i’d say you could do worse than watch this film.

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Wonder Women

    3 January 2018, early evening

DC’s superhero films really have been mostly dreadful, so this Wonder Women film was quite refreshing. The film is an origin story of sorts, set during the First World War. Gal Gadot plays Wonder Women, and does a wonderful job. Chris Pine is an American spy who draws her into the larger conflict taking place in the world. By no means is it superlative film making, but it’s well put together and coherent, and that’s more than I was expecting. The ending of the film is a bit weak, but on the whole this is a fun film to watch. Also, Gal Gadot is so hot it’s crazy.

The official Wonder Women website.

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War for the Planet of the Apes

    3 January 2018, early evening

The emotional weight of this movie about monkeys. “This wall is madness. It won’t save him like it won’t save you.” A jab at trump? War for the Planet of the Apes is the most recent of the new Planet of the Apes films. These movies are really well done. Surprisingly so. The special effects for these monkeys is really quite remarkable. Serkis’s performance as the monkey in charge, Ceaser, is excellent. This movie follows him and his band of monkeys as they try and survive while avoiding the Humans who are trying to kill them. This may be the plot to all the new Planet of the Apes movies.

The official War for the Planet of the Apes

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Alien: Covenant

    3 January 2018, early evening

The airplane probably wasn’t the best place to watch Alien: Covenant. The film is the sequel to Prometheus. The film opens up with a colony ship full of people in cryosleep waking up because of an accident. They redirect their ship to a nearby planet and it all turns to shit from there. I fear the directors took the criticisms of Prometheus a bit too much to heart. This film tries very hard to explain everything that’s going on. There is no mystery. It’s also less visually interesting than Prometheus. It’s still an Alien film though. There are lots of blood and guts and cool Alien shit, but on some level it all felt like something I’d seen before.

The official Alien: Covenant website.

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The Mission

   27 October 2017, early afternoon

I got to see The Mission again, but this time on the big screen. TIFF is doing a Johnie To retrospective, and had a 35mm print of his film. Amazing. The Mission is a real classic of HK cinema. I think it’s one of his best works, and one of the best things to come out of Hong Kong. It’s such a quintessential Triad film. A group of guys need to protect their boss, whose being targeted by killers. As the film progresses they go from defending him to finding the killers to dealing with the aftermath of the whole affair. The film has a stellar cast: Simon Yam, Andy Chau, Suet Lam, Roy Cheug, and the one and only Francis Ng. (Serious: Francis Ng is such an amazing actor. I feel like he’s so underrated.) The Mission is probably most famous for it’s slow, methodical, shopping mall shoot out. The film oozes style. Watching it again I noticed how terrible the film’s score is. You can’t win them all. This film is great.

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Bladerunner 2049

   23 October 2017, early evening

I used to be good about writing about every single movie I watched, no matter what or when. I’m behind: I watched two films at TIFF this year I haven’t written about. And they were both great. Anyway, this is about them. I watched the new Bladerunner film with Mezan last week. I had high hopes for the film. It looked like it would be amazing, but a sequel is a sequel. The movie opens with Ryan Gosling, playing another bladerunner, retiring a replicant played by Jose Bautista. (I think it’s amazing Bautista is this legit actor now.) The opening of the film is really strong, and sets the stage for everything that follows. The films score is incredible. The films visuals are even better. It’s been shot beautifully. It’s a long film. I wish these things were edited more aggressively sometimes. I don’t think they needed the two and a half hours to tell the story they wanted to tell. Regardless, this is a film to watch. I saw it in IMAX, and think that’s the way to go.

The official Bladerunner 2049 website.

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Housing in TO ... circa 2011

   12 July 2017, lunch time

I wrote the draft of a blog post below on June 29th, 2011. I just noticed it now. It’s funny to look at the numbers I was complaining about back then. Funny how things change in 5 years. And also don’t. The numbers are all bigger now, but the problems are all the same. In 2011 it was still feasible for me to try and buy a house. The house I ended up buying was one that wasn’t taking offers, that I paid less than asking for. Does that happen anymore? I’ve been priced out of the neighbourhood I currently live it. I could never buy this house now.

The housing market in Toronto is always a little bit crazy. I had thought that since we’re currently recovering from a financial apocalypse, the real estate market in the city might have calmed down: wrong! Here are two stories of woe.

Shima and I saw a nice a nice small semi-detached home just off Dundas St. West near Bloor. It was listed for a very reasonable $459,000. (If you asked me what I thought was a reasonable price for a house a year a two or go, I promise you that wouldn’t be the number that came out of my mouth.) A houses price depends solely on what people are willing to pay for it. The agent didn’t pick the price he listed the house at out of thin air. Houses on the street sold for $430,000 (or less) the previous year. Based on how much units in my condo were selling for now versus last year, I guessed that the house probably should have been listed at $464,000. I assumed the house would sell for a bit more than that because there are only so many houses downtown, while there are plenty of condos and they continue to build more. It was also reasonably nice as houses downtown go. In the end Shima and I decided to bid $482,000. For those keeping score at home, that’s $23,000 over asking. (Wait, i’m getting ahead of myself. We had to ‘bid’ on the house because the sellers had decided to ask for all their offers on the same day. This is a classic ploy to drive up the price of a home. It’s a sellers market, so it’s a reasonable thing to do.) On the day we were to hand in our offer, we learned that 8 other people were also interested in the house. We decided we’d just offer ….

Shima and I saw a nice old house on Saint Clarens that was listed at $460,000. It was very beat up. We would have needed to fix the wiring, the roof, the cracked plaster walls, etc. It was clear though that if we had a bunch of money we could turn it back into something quite nice. Since we didn’t have a bunch of money we didn’t bother bidding on the house. Turns out that was a smart move on our part, since it sold for $200,000 over the asking price.

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No taxation without an extensive LRT system!

   28 March 2017, early evening

Clearly arguments need to get far stupider if the city is going to avoid building this Scarborough subway. (Well really, there is no way this thing is going to get built because at some point some level of government is going to actually have to write a cheque and is not going to want to spend that much money on something that’s clearly a boondoggle. Presumably, anyway.)

My cousin has started writing slogans. Get these plastered on bus shelters and we’re golden.

A rail network for Scarborough! From Victoria Park to Pickering! From Markham to Lake Ontario! A rail network in every pot! Light! Rail!

Buses are for school children! Subways are for elitist snobs! Scarborough deserves a full light rail network. Real transit for real people.

Get Scarborough out of buses and into trains. Scarborough deserves a fast, modern light rail transit system.

Why should hardworking people of Scarborough pay billions plus spend more time on buses so Town Centre elites can have their own personal subway?

That last one is my favourite.

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Ocean's 12

    2 March 2017, early evening

Ocean’s 12 was a film I don’t think i’d have looked up if I wasn’t on a plane. I loved Ocean’s 11, but did it really need a sequel? I guess they had a great cast of people and that’s a good enough reason to get the gang back together for a second film. Like the first film Ocean’s 12 centres around a heist. Terry Benedict (Andy García) has discovered the locations of the original gang and threaten’s them all if they don’t pay him back his money. So they all get back together so they can start committing crimes again. Catherine Zeta Jones and Vincent Cassel make foxy new additions to the story, playing a hot Interpol cop and a handsome thief respectively. The movie was better than I thought it would be. Certainly far less compelling than the first movie, but still a lot of fun to watch. At the end of the day Steven Soderbergh is a good directory. Certainly a solid airplane film.

Reviews of Ocean’s 12 on Rotten Tomatoes.

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The Hangover

    2 March 2017, early evening

On the flight to Paris I watch The Hangover. A group of guys get black out drunk at a bachelor party and lose the groom. They spend the next few days trying to find him. (Having your bachelor party days before your wedding seems like a bad idea: who does that anymore?) The film’s quite funny. The characters slowly piece together their weird night. It’s a silly fun film. Ken Jeong has a small part in the movie and is particularly great. (And Heather Graham shows up as well, who is lovely and i’m going to marry her.)

Reviews of the Hangover on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Dheepan

    2 March 2017, early evening

Before leaving for Paris a week or so ago I thought I should check out Dheepan, so i’d fully understand the experience of a Tamil person in France. The film is about a former Tamil Tiger who claims asylum in France along with a women and an orphan: the three pretend to be a family. We watch as they struggle to adjust to life in a crime ridden suburb of Paris. Antonythasan Jesuthasan does a great job playing the title character, Dheepan. (All three leads are fantastic, really.) It was weird watching a film that acknowledges the war in Sri Lanka. I really loved this movie. You should watch this film. It’s a gritty crime drama with a Tamil dude at it’s centre: how could you not?

Reviews of Dheepan on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Carding in Toronto

    2 February 2017, late afternoon

Word on the street is there are new regulations in the city around carding. When they were discussing this stuff last I emailed all the Toronto Police Services Board. I got replies from Shelley Carroll and John Tory’s office. I did not get a reply from Chin Lee or Sandy Murray.

Here is my exchange with them:

My understanding is that the Toronto Police Services Board is meeting to discuss carding tomorrow.

I have been carded twice. Both times I was probably 500m from my parents house. Both times I was drinking bubble tea with my friend Rishi in a park. Both times I was home from the University of Waterloo. The police shouldn’t have asked for my information then. They shouldn’t have my information now.

I shouldn’t have to email the group of you asking that my information, along with everyone else’s, is purged from whatever computers the police use.

But, here we are.
Ramanan Sivaranjan

Shelly Carol replied first. She is Shima’s old councillor, and easily one of the best councillor we have. She should have been mayor after Miller. Her response was still disappointing.

I am very sympathetic with your position on destroying the historic carding data. Unfortunately, there are pending civil litigations that require its retention at the moment. These are important cases that could finally illuminate the effects of carding before the Courts. The Board’s legal advice is that the evidence is key.

At today’s TPSB meeting, we will be recommending that all historic data be segregated and stored in a separate and secure database. Access will only be possible through the Chief or his stated designate. Every three months the Chief will report publicly before the board on all requests for access, the requests that were honoured and why and how many requests were denied and why.

I know this doesn’t get us as far as you would like, however, I will be moving a motion requesting that a Judge determine the Board’s right to have the historical data destroyed once the cases have been dealt with.

Sincerely,
Shelley Carroll

I replied, because I wasn’t that happy with her answer.

Is it common or uncommon for the police to respect the recommendations made by the police services board? I’m still confused why the police would need access at all, even if the data needs to remain alive while legal cases are before the courts. Would their access be in support of these legal proceedings?

I appreciate your reply. (You are one of my favourite city councillors.)

Ramanan Sivaranjan

Our conversation ended there. John Tory’s office replied next.

The Mayor welcomes the Toronto Police Services Board’s revised policy on Regulated Interaction with the Community and the Collection of Identifying Information.

This policy is part of the important work Chief Saunders has been leading to modernize the Toronto Police Service and rebuild trust between our communities and our hardworking police officers. This change includes increased training to address bias, restricted access to and oversight of historical data, and the introduction of a ‘Know your Rights’ public awareness campaign.

The Mayor advocated for the deletion of the historical data that has been compiled through the process of carding. The board, however, received compelling advice related to the legal and practical rationale against deletion, including legislative provisions and the data’s relevance to civil litigations and active Charter challenges. The data has therefore been put in restrictive access and there have been considerable increases to accountability and transparency around its use.

The Mayor strongly believes that our police can do their jobs and can keep our city safe while at the same time protecting the rights of our citizens. The best investigative tool the police have is the trust of the people they serve and protect.

If you have not been able to read the policy, please click on the link below for it.
http://www.tpsb.ca/images/agenda_nov17_public_main.pdf.

Thank you again for contacting the Mayor’s Office.

Sincerely,

Kevin Moraes
Policy Advisor
Office of Mayor John Tory

And that was that. Stop and frisk Toronto edition lives on. No one can I say I didn’t try, though.

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“What of this? This bed is soft and fine.”

Cugel voiced a question: “What is the reason for the massive iron grillwork above the bed? What if it fell during the night?”

Cugel, this is sheer pessimism! You must always look for the glad things in life! Have you noticed, for instance, the vase of flowers beside the bed!”

— Cugel’s Saga, Jack Vance.

Green Room

   28 November 2016, evening time

What a crazy movie. Green Room feels like something they’d screen at Midnight Madness. (I’m willing to bet they did.) The less you know about the film the better. There is a punk band. There are some neo-nazis. Shit gets real. There are lots of familiar faces in the cast. (Most notable for me was Alia Shawkat who plays Maeby on Arrested Development.) I really liked the film. You should watch it.

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America is Fucked: Fuck America

    9 November 2016, mid-afternoon

There was a time when the underlying theme to my site might be best described as, “Fuck America”. Bush was in power and the country was consistently terrible. Obama was elected and things were better, but the country still sends robots to kill people in Pakistan and has 100s of people suffering through Kafkaesque imprisonment in Guantanamo.

When Bush was elected I decided I’d never visit the states again, which I kept up until my trip to New York 11 years later in 2011 to visit my friend Mezan. That was the last time I went back. I had no desire to go back before the election. I have even less so after the election.

There is lots to say about last night, but at the end of the day we learned that if you put full on racism on the ballot Americans will support that whole hog. I really underestimated how far you could get running as a white supremacist in America. Foolishness on my part, really.

If there is one thing in this world
That you can depend on
That you can bet your last dollar on
It’s the ignorance of the American people
The Sign by Nujabes feature Pase Rock

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Deadpool

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

Holy shit: can you go a whole year only watching superhero movies? Probably. Deadpool was a strange film, a nice change of pace from your typical superhero movie. In many ways it’s a send up of those films and a very formulaic repetition of those films. The film is probably most notable for being so aggressive about breaking the 4th wall. (There’s a joke in the film about how it breaks the 4th wall so much.) The film is very violent and crude. There is nudity and swearing and all of the good stuff. The hot courtesan from Firefly plays the love interest in the film. This movie is well worth watching.

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The Wolverine

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

The Wolverine was far better than I thought it would be, but ultimately a pretty stupid movie. I love the X-Men stories that touch on how long lived Wolverine is. This one begins in World War II: Wolverine saves a Japanese soldier from the bomb in Nagasaki. The story then jumps to the present, where we learn this same fellow is now dying and requests to say goodbye to Wolverine in person. Things go downhill from there. The first half of the film is far better than the second. The film as a whole is far better than the first Wolverine film. Hopefully this means the next one will be amazing. Should you watch this one? Maybe!

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X-Men: Apocalypse

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in the 80s, and follows the X-Men as they fight against Apocalypse. The visuals in the movie are quite stunning. The story somewhat less so. (Like the last film, the scenes with Quicksilver are probably the best.) Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise has been great. Though the films never hit the high notes of X2 i’ve found them all quite enjoyable, and they all make up for the terrible X-Men III. This X-Men movie is no exception. The cast is stellar. Singer is good at cool comic book action sequences. The opening for this film in ancient Egypt is really great. If you’re on an airplane this is a must watch.

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Captain America: Civil War

   13 October 2016, late afternoon

On the one hand it’s probably nicer to watch Captain America: Civil War in a movie theatre or on a fancy TV rather than on an airplane. On the other hand the film is almost 3 hours long and that certainly helps kill time on a long flight. I am probably as surprised as everyone else that the Captain America films are the best of all the Marvel movies. This movie feels very much like what people probably hoped the Avengers sequel would be. Marvel has gotten quite good at jamming lots of characters together and giving them enough screen time where it doesn’t seem forced or weird. This film is very loosely based on the comic series where the government wants to regulate superheroes. Captain America and Ironman get in a fight and things escalate from there. It’s got some heart to it, like all the Captain America films, while still sticking to what feels like a formula for these sorts of movies at this point. The premise of the whole film seems a bit stupid if you step back and think about it, but it’s a fun film nevertheless.

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If Beale Street Could Talk

    6 July 2016, early evening

I’m making my way through James Baldwin’s later novels now. I read Tell Me How Long the Trains Been Gone earlier in the year, and just finished If Beale Street Could Talk today. I have to take breaks between reading his books. They make you a little bit angry. Or they should, anyway. His career spanned 30 odd years, and though his stories aren’t all the same, they are. Whether set in 1950 or 1970 not enough changes for Baldwin—or his brethren.

My countrymen impressed me, simply, as being, on the whole, the emptiest and most unattractive people in the world. It seemed a great waste of one’s only lifetime to be condemned to their chattering, vicious, pathetic, hysterically dishonest company. There other things to do, there people to see, there was another way to live! I had seen it, after all, and I knew. But I also knew that what I had seen, I had seen from a distance, a distance determined by my history. I was part of these people, no matter how bitterly I judged them. I would never be able to leave this country. I could leave it briefly, like a growing man coming up for air. I had the choice of perishing with these doomed people, or of fleeing them, denying them, and in that effort perishing. It was a very cunning trap. And a very bitter joke. For these people not change: the very word caused their eyes to unfocused, their lips to loosen or tighten, and sent them scurrying to their various bomb-shelters.

American police murdered another Black man today. Well, at least one.

Now, Fonny knows why he is here – why he is where he is; now, he dares to look around him. He is not here for anything he has done. He has always known that, but now he knows it with a difference. At meals, in the showers, up and down the stairs, in the evening, just before everyone is locked in again, he looks at the others, he listens: what have they done? Not much. To do much is to have the power to place these people where they are, and keep them where they are. These captive men are the hidden price for a hidden lie: the righteous must be able to locate the damned. To do much is to have the power and the necessity to dictate to the damned. But that, thinks Fonny, works both ways. You’re in or you’re out. Okay. I see. Motherfuckers. You won’t hang me.

You should read more James Baldwin.

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Ant-Man

   19 April 2016, late afternoon

Ant-Man was an enjoyable comic book film. I think Marvel has got pretty good at churning those out at this point. This one was funnier than most, probably in part due to Edgar Wrights script and early role in making the film. (I’d be curious to see what the whole film would have been like had he stayed on to direct.) The film stars Paul Rudd, Evagaline Lilly — hells yes — and Michael Douglas. The later plays the original Ant-Man Hank Pym, who hires Paul Rudd playing Scott Lang to help him do a big heist to make sure the Ant-Man technology doesn’t get into the hands of super villain arms dealers. You know how it is. It’s a fun film. It’s a bit goofy. All the shrinking stuff is done really well. The final fight scene feels right out of Wright film, and pokes fun at the big explosions and spectacle of most action movies. It’s probably on better than average when you compare it to the other Marvel films.

The official Ant Man website.

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