25 February 2008

got leaks?

those of you interested in the spread and control of information in the age of hyper-communication would do well to investigate the sad soap opera that has engulfed wikileaks. a site that allows corporate whistle-blowers to post incriminating documents in a safe environment, the site came up on the receiving end of a u.s. district court injunction involving that most innocent-sounding of plaintiffs, a swiss bank.

there are a lot of things that a site like this has going for it, chiefly the ability to offer the inside-with-guilty-conscience the chance to come clean in a (reasonably) secure forum.

but the debacle, raises not only the hackles of those who wish to defend free speech, but also some pretty interesting questions about where access to information meets right to privacy.

diet diary, ad infintitum

a while ago, a long while ago, i started posting on this blog about the fact that i'd put myself on a diet. although i didn't know (and still don't) my exact weight, it had become apparent to me that a few years of too much food, too little movement and a certain heavy (pun intended) complacency had moved me beyond the range in which i'd become somewhat comfortable. in fact, even without knowing the starting point, i can still say that my body mass index (the measurement that i've grown to favour as the most rational way of tracking weight) had crept over the dreaded "25" marker. i was overweight.

i'm not going to apologise for being vain. we all are. most of the men i know are as concerned about their waistlines as the women, so, despite the fact that we hear more about the agonies women vest on themselves in the matter of body image, the fact is that people everywhere worry about their appearance and how they are perceived. i'd like to say that the difference for me came from an interest in my health- being overweight is bad for you, after all. but the fact is that it was vanity that made me move ahead, because i simply got sick of feeling sick at seeing pictures of myself.

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not knowing my exact starting point, of course, made it difficult to figure out exactly what the correct end point would be. the first step, i thought, was just to get comfortable again in the clothes that i was outgrowing. second would be to start fitting myself into the sizes i remembered getting into. third would be getting my body back to the dimensions where i remembered being somewhat comfortable. and, over the course of what seemed like an exceptionally long period of time, all of those things have come to pass.

but, as i began the whole process, what struck me is that other things started to change.

first my hair, unchanged in over a decade, developed a new shape

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and then got chopped in dramatic fashion.

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after that, it started to get lighter

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and lighter

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really light

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if you're guessing that my point is that these outward changes are somehow manifesting a type of inner change going on at the same time, you're probably right. without getting into too much detail, there's a lot in my life that has changed in the time it's taken me to alter my appearance.

because i'm a writer and i like to think of such things as being imbued with significance, we'll say that the complacency i wanted to fight when i first decided that i needed to lose a few pounds was not merely a physical condition.

i had assumed that, being a diet, this change in habits would have an end, a point at which i would be able to stand back and say "i have arrived" or "mission accomplished" (well, maybe not that phrase...) and declare myself done. but the way that things have developed, that seems unlikely to happen. of the goals that i set for myself, the clothes i owned at the time i started this are generally too large for me (unless they were very tight to begin with), i'm a smaller size than i was at my previous light weight and my measurements are smaller than they were when i was 15.

and, in terms of outward and inward change, i don't feel like i'm done yet. i just feel like i'm off to a decent start.

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(39.33.39.5-35.25.33-??)

17 February 2008

healthy skepticism?

perhaps it's an innate patriotism, but i really do love debating with neighbours south of the border about the state of health care in canada. it's quite amazing the myths that get propagated.

that said, there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved within canada, and it's sad that admitting to those is often seen as a criticism of the canadian system in itself.

i'm happy to see that someone has put together a listing of facts that actually acknowledges the realities of the situation very well.

a few facts from my own history:

1. i had no trouble finding a g.p. in toronto, although it's the largest city in canada. no one i know has had a problem with this.

2. montreal has a shortage of g.p.'s and, while it's true i didn't have one in my time there, this was not because i couldn't find one. the preponderance of clinics available to the average montrealer means that there is always somewhere you can go for treatment.

3. i did once spend 22 hours in the emergency ward of the montreal general hospital, which was, i'm given to understand, some kind of record at the time. one of the chief reasons for the delay in my treatment was that the one doctor and two nurses on duty were busy treating three american tourists who had been fairly seriously injured in a fight. i do think they did the right thing...

06 February 2008

suffer the children

movie review :: the orphanage (el orfanato)

for a high strung person, i have an inordinate liking for well-drawn, tense, atmospheric films on the fringes of the horror genre. drawing heavy influence from the works of executive producer and mentor guillermo del toro, the orphanage is a beautiful example of just this, navigating the territory between ghost story and psychological drama with aplomb.

the story centres on laura (belen rueda), who has returned with her husband and adopted son simon(who also happens to be hiv positive) to the orphanage where she spent her childhood. her hope is to found a care centre for special needs children, however that is put on hold when simon, his behaviour increasingly bizarre since an encounter at a seaside cave, disappears.

her search for her missing child brings laura in contact with a phenomenally creepy government social worker, a medium, and, as might be expected, the ghosts of her (and the orphanage's) past.

first time director juan antonio bayona uses the tried-and-true "creepy old house" setting, juxtaposed with the rugged, bleak beauty of the catalonian coastline to create a haunted atmosphere for a story that explores different the idea of "haunting" on a number of levels. while the story may at times seem a little predictable, those elements are gloriously tense and, without revealing too much, serve as clever distractions that give the film a later surprise twist.

like a lot of films in this genre, the orphanage makes an unwise turn at the very end. like adding a lot of sugar to dark chocolate... it's not good to tamper with a great thing.

although i usually take it as a bad sign when i notice technical elements in a movie (means i wasn't absorbed in the story itself), i will note that the sound editing in this film is incredible... it builds atmosphere and even contributes in its way to the story.

well worth seeing.

music as catchy as their name...

music review :: niellerade fallibilisthorstar :: skrankwerk
released on dystoniaek

sweden's NFH are a bit of an anomaly. they have, by their own admission, virtually no familiarity with the type of music they've chosen to make, no in-depth knowledge of its history or sub-genres. instead, they're music is purely intuitive, largely improvised, relying on the gifts of particular surroundings for its considerable atmosphere.

skrankwerk is the latest opus from the five member ensemble, who have managed to develop a sort of cult following. the sound, if you've heard their releases before, is a natural evolution from previous releases. the pieces reflect a decaying modernity, using sounds processed from various found objects and locales, resulting in a sound-scape that is both identifiably organic and undeniably alien.

the album ranges from an almost unbelievable starkness to a beautifully thick cacophony of percussive rattles and crashes to eerie, atonal washes. it's difficult at once to describe the sound in a way that will be meaningful without falling back on clichés that don't do the sound justice.

as you might glean, from what I've said, the album will be a challenging one for many. it neatly ignores any established genre boundaries and will prove frustrating for anyone who is used to music that works within defined parameters. that said, it's also exciting, exotic and rewarding in a way that few new artists are.

a particular favourite for me is "spjallmotor", which sounds like a recording of objects being disposed in and consumed by an incinerator.

beautiful and highly appropriate artwork completes an excellent package. available direct from the label.
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