Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sorry about the Road-Raging Pirate Trivia Team Attack...I Blame it on Chernobyl!

Apologies to My Readership

...If you still exist, somewhere out there...

It has been roughly a month since my last post, and although this is not the first time I have gone so long without posting here, this time stands out for one simple reason: things happened. A LOT of things happened, and I haven't been able to eke out enough time to do any of them justice, at least not until now. I should be able to have nigh-on-daily posts, depending upon how I divide up the information to be presented. I apologize if these narratives end up a little disjointed: the passage of time, and the desire to type at the speed of thought can have such an effect upon my writing. I think that's all, so HERE WE GO!

Civic Pride

Heh, that's actually a clever title, because it has a dual-meaning for me right now. First, I did indeed promise to write up a little something about the flak directed at Ottawa (now VERY old news, sadly), and Second, I am indeed very proud of the Civic which I presently drive. I'll write about 'em in that order...

I should hope that by now most of the Ottawans reading this are aware that our city was not so long ago lambasted for sqandering its greatest assets, and other conduct not fitting of a “world-class capital”. Readers of the Citizen will have noticed the great number of pundits both attacking and defending decisions, people, and organizations which have shaped our home for better and for worse. It has just occured to me that the whole fiasco has provided a number of people with a soapbox from which they can push their own “city improvement” plan, from light rail redux to community gardens. The bottom line is that this city is, on average, average. It sounds inane, but if you look at the best of anything in Ottawa (ie. Comfy seats on the O-train), and then pit it against the downside (ie. Nowhere to go on the O-train), the result is decidedly average. The issue shouldn't be “is merely average OK?”, but instead “do we care if we remain so?”. Personally, I've been known to accept mediocrity, however I'm not one who enjoys it greatly. Ottawans, I ask you: is the effort of changing a greater burden than the tolerance of averageness? If not, then we do indeed have our work cut out for us.

One of the first things that ought to be done – in my opinion – if we are to raise ourseves steadily and triumphantly from the mire of the mundane is to undo the bone-headed decisions of Ottawa past. There is a former railway station in THE MIDDLE OF DOWNTOWN, and yet it is now a conference centre. Thankfully, a recent proposal did indeed include the re-instatement of that building as a transit hub. Sadly, the proposal is alleged (by a Citizen columnist, if I recall correctly) to be a shoddy affair indeed; a vaguely-budgeted mish-mash of self-service by the committee members. I'm not even sure how to address this, because it does not stand to reason that the capital city of such a proud country would allow itself to be abused by its own government. It might not be so bad if the complainers were fully competent, but the columnist who so savaged the poor proposal defended instead the North-South rail line. Points for “we could be building one now”, but remind me again why we ought to do such a thing if the urban spread in Ottawa is predominantly EAST-WEST!?! It can be called “rapid” if it is fast, but to affix the name “transit” to an end product, someone has to ride it!

I've read snippets here and there about transit in Ottawa: stories about our high downtown parking fees, opinion pieces about how great or terrible it was that the rail line got cancelled, letters arguing either side... I think it's safe to say that this city can't and won't make up its mind about what will best serve our needs. This would be fine, if we were an ordinary city of ~1 million. It wouldn't matter in the slightest that we couldn't get around: it would be our own fault, and that would be that. One problem is that we aren't just any city. Another is that we cannot swallow our pride and admit that we are wanting as a city. We defend tooth-and-nail our “good”, our “solid”, our “quite decent”, for no other reason than it belongs to us (see: the “Montreal Food Snob Incident”). I doubt I'll stay to find out if that pride can be swallowed; even if public opinion could be changed, I imagine the entrenched bureaucracy would not be unseated by anything short of a full-scale revolution. Hmmm, maybe I'm on to something with that...?

Commentors, I'd like to know what you think would be effective as a solution to Ottawa's transit issues. Personally, I think that the top 3 steps would be (least important is 3, most is 1):

3) PLAN AHEAD, and PLAN SMART. The trains(?) SHOULD NOT be waking people up at unholy hours, etc.

2) Don't use track because it is there, use it if and when it makes sense. Duh.

1) Build the city UP or DOWN, instead of OUT!

Ok, this is just one little bit, more is on the way!


Ok, time for the first (of many, with any luck) updates to this post. It's rather unfortunate that it has taken me so long to get around to this, because much of what I will end up writing would have been current and topical if it had been posted when the words were fresh in my head. Instead, I'm left typing up thoughts which have long passed their "best before" dates. Eh, those things are just for planned obsolescence, anyhow.

I saw Pirates of The Carribean 3: At World's End at Silvercity's advance screening, the Thursday night before I left for the Reach for the Top national championships (which get a write-up later, fear not). Somewhere, I have the beginnings of a review, which I started writing on the flight to Calgary, but since it isn't getting later any slower, I'll have to rely on memory.

I'm going to assume that anyone who would care enough to read a review of PotC 3 has already seen it by now, and I shouldn't have to tell you just how epic it is. To be on the safe side, however, I will give those readers who have not seen the movie yet something of an idea:


Are we good? OK!

Most everything which is good about the film is more or less related to the above: PotC 3 starts by pulling out a few stops here and there, and then proceeds to pull just about every single one you can imagine (and some you can't) before it ends. And Cap'n Jack wonders why the Rum is all gone? Come to think of it, PotC has come full-circle: the first was a movie inspired by a theme park ride, and now the (hopefully) final installment is a film rather evocative of a thrill-ride experience.

You might be wondering why I hope that PotC 3 is the final movie in the series, when it is so good? The most compelling reason is that the ending of this particular volume needs no extension; the stories that we, the audience, need to see...we have seen. Leave the remainder of their lives' exploits to imagination, and resist the temptation to ruin the franchise by allowing it to become more of a cash cow than it already is. Of course, this is Disney I am talking about, the same people who brought you Cinderella 3: A twist in HOLY FUCK WHO GAVE THESE DIPSHITS THE IDEA THAT TIME TRAVEL AND A WATERED DOWN VERSION OF A BROTHERS GRIMM STORY WOULD MIX WELL?!?! I may not have seen Cinderella 3 - as this would validate its existence, and I cannot bring myself to do that - but it has all the hallmarks of a cash cow.

I should attempt to remain on-topic, for fear of this post devolving into the sort of stream-of-consciousness ranting which so characterizes my "conversational" speech (some would argue and substitute "monologue" for conversation). Back to what is good about Pirates 3. I enjoy how plot threads are tied up, and yet the ending is left open. While it does leave room for the sequel I so dread, it is such a good ending, because the characters you've grown to love don't end: they continue on forever through good and evil, with the imagination left to decide in what proportions. This being said, I think that the mark was sorely missed on a few counts in the movie. Nothing which detracts from the viewing experience, but as I reflected upon the movie in writing my initial (lost) review, careful thought brought these minor flaws to light.

The first of these is that for a movie about Pirates, there is very little piracy. There IS plenty of betrayal - the likes of which would make Judas cringe - which allows the filmmakers to continually raise the stakes by having alliances shift on the fly. With a running length such as it has, the movie desperately needs these shifts to keep the audience from settling in too much. It remains a mark of shame upon the series, still, that there has been only one scene in which a pirate crew loots, pillages, and burns (all the way back in Pirates 1) for the acquisition of booty. Even then, their true cause was to retrieve Elizabeth's piece of cursed Aztec Gold, with the Piracy thrown in for good measure. It would be excusable if Pirates 3 focused solely on the established characters, who are generally preoccupied with supernatural matters more than financial gain...but Pirates 3 goes so far as to introduce NINE Pirate LORDS, a keeper of the code (Keith Richards FTW!), AND a Pirate KING! Their bickering and general narcissism goes a long way towards creating a piratey atmosphere, but it's something of a letdown that they are never seen pillaging. I suppose I shouldn't complain, given that such scenes are unnecessary in such a long movie, but [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER] the fact that they're not even heavily involved in the final epic battle [/SPOILER] is just TRAGIC!

The second minor flaw in the movie was that it required perhaps one too many suspensions of disbelief, and yes, I mean past the obvious ones, such as the existence of supernatural creatures, etc. I mean Jack Sparrow's impeccable use of the laws of physics to move, fight, and do Important Heroic Things in the movie. The writers redeem themselves a bit by poking fun at his apparent ability to escape any conundrum in spectacular fashion ("Do you think he has it all planned out, or does he just make it up as he goes along?", I think the line goes), but it's placed just a little too early, long before some of the good Cap'n's most outlandish moves are seen. All these stunts work when you're watching the movie, but they don't really hold up afterwards.

My overall recommendation is that you see Pirates 3, because it's far better than 2, and because you will just be blown out of the water (Harr Harr) by it.

And now, if I may be partisan, it would be nice if Science Fiction could get a few epic film treatments, now that the fantasy genre has seen more than its fair share of the action (LOTR, Pirates, Narnia, Golden Compass). And no, I don't think the new 'Transformers' movie is going to herald anything big on this front. A proper (read: NON Sci-Fi channel) treatment of Philip Jose Farmer's 'Riverworld' series would be a good place to start, for many reasons. The basic premise is that in the far future, unknown Aliens have sculpted a planet into one single flowing river (it coils from one pole to the other, I believe)...and proceeded to re-create every single human being who ever lived to over the age of 5 (with their memories at their time of death) in a permanently 25-year-old body. It's a FANTASTIC concept, and the books (I have read 1 and 2. I should eventually read the third and fourth, but the former hasn't "caught" yet) do it more than justice. While I don't suppose the books are too well-known, I think the premise could be mass-market-friendly; as Farmer wrote in an aside, everyone reading the books is SOMEWHERE in the cannon, just waiting to discover their own story. While it would be impossible to deliver on that promise in film, the potential for cameos is impressive, to say the least.

Speaking of novels with titles starting with "Ri" and ending in "world", Larry Niven's 'Ringworld' would also make a pretty kickass movie. Kzin for the Win!

I'd like to be excited about Star Trek XI, which will eventually "beam down" to theatres, but..ehhh. Nemesis was hyped up, and most people found it generally disappointing. To be honest, I didn't hate it; I was young enough to enjoy it when I saw it. I may...ok, who am I kidding, I will go see it when it comes out, but it's just not weighing heavily on my mind at the moment.

Children of Men was a spectacular movie (I'll post a review in an upcoming post, or tack it on to this one in an edit), which I urge people to see. If you want me to decide which is better between CoM and PotC 3, I'd give you the "apples to oranges" speech, and then tell you that either will give you goosebumps-a-plenty. In the end, I have to recommend CoM, though. The after-pirates experience is by no means bereft of conversational topics, but the intellectual landscape of the discussion is a salt flat to CoM's Himalayas. I'll save detailed praise for the review, so suffice it to say that CoM is a masterwork.

PS. Points to CoM for featuring the impeccable Chiwetel Ejiofor

Looking ahead at the next few weeks, there is also "Sunshine", which could have been good...but a while back I read a New Scientist opinion piece on how poorly the science in that movie had been treated. I think I'm turned off of this one, although I might end up seeing it anyways.

Who in the hell thinks that even a nuke the size of Manhattan would have the slightest hope of re-igniting the fucking SUN!?!? I think that film schools should start mandating that students take some basic science courses!

1 comment:

Evey said...

I, personally, love the idea of a rail transit system in Ottawa. All the fanciest, coolest cities in the world have some form of LRT. So I think it'd be a great idea.

As to what you said about building up and not out, I think you are unforunately too smart for most of Ottawa. Developpers around here say "hey look! land! let's build many big houses that are all identical and give it a silly name!" We in Ottawa are big on our suburbs. And that's one problem we need to face in order to fix up our various transit woes.

I think Ottawa has tons of potential to be so much more than average. I myself would call it more than average, but not much more (the green spaces can only do so much) and I hope Ottawa realizes its potential. Maybe then I'd stick around.

Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.