Sunday, March 29, 2009

Slow Month

Excuses, Excuses And More...

It's been a slow month for blogging mostly because it hasn't been a slow month in everything else I've been doing. That doesn't mean I have nothing to write, but that I just need to find the time to write it.

That means some writing is forthcoming, including:
  • What I've been reading lately
  • The difficulties and joys of reading Pynchon
  • The Maple Leafs lost season
  • U2's latest album
  • Other Music I'm listening to
  • And baseball
All of that, I hope, I will address in the next seven.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cu-jo Cu-jo

Another Night of Classic Joseph

In case you missed Curtis Joseph's great performance - six minutes (five in overtime) and the shootout - you can watch it all here.

As much as this season has been a lost one for the Leafs, there have been some great nights and great moments. Last night was one of them.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Putin's Power

Could it be waning?

So long as Russia's oil-fueled prosperity soared, people accepted Putin's implicit bargain: government corruption and constricted civil rights in exchange for rising living standards. But today, with Russia's economy in shambles, this social contract is fraying. Ordinary Russians are already taking to the streets demanding the type of change Putin is unlikely to deliver. He epitomizes the KGB old guard who got Russia into this mess. Sooner or later, he will become the Russian financial crash's most prominent victim.

Medvedev, a lawyer by training and instinct, offers perhaps the only realistic hope of turning Russia around, but he can't operate freely while Putin is still effectively in charge. Seemingly aware of this, Medvedev has, in recent weeks, taken steps to distance himself from his mentor and might be setting the stage to force him out of government.
Certainly an intriguing development. The economic crisis may have more consequences than originally thought.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Natural

Sugar vs High-Fructose

From the Times:
Sugar, the nutritional pariah that dentists and dietitians have long reviled, is enjoying a second act, dressed up as a natural, healthful ingredient.

From the tomato sauce on a Pizza Hut pie called “The Natural,” to the just-released soda Pepsi Natural, some of the biggest players in the American food business have started, in the last few months, replacing high-fructose corn syrup with old-fashioned sugar.
But the truth of this is much more simple:
Most scientists do not share the perception. Though research is still under way, many nutrition and obesity experts say sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are equally bad in excess. But, as is often the case with competing food claims, the battle is as much about marketing as it is about science.
I used to think what many people do, that high fructose corn syrup is an evil ingredient that needed to be avoided but then I read Lyle McDonald's comprehensive research review of high-fructose corn syrup and learned that high-fructose was simply the latest of many fabricated enemies used to explain why many people are obese.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tony Gilroy

The New Yorker Plays Vanity Fair

It's not very often you see a Vanity Fair-like article in the New Yorker but with ad sales down, I can understand that the New Yorker is trying their best to lure more readers, and thus, more ads, to its pages. It's a good thing though that when the New Yorker plays Vanity Fair, it offers a fun article still worthy of its own pages.

The article in question is D.T. Max's profile of director Tony Gilroy, which can be read here. Gilroy is, of course, the director of the fantastic Michael Clayton, and has a new film out next Friday, Duplicity, which will likely force me to end my moratorium on seeing anything with Julia Roberts in it. Yes, it makes me sick but a guy needs to be entertained.


Watched Watchmen

My Thoughts on the Film

I'm a bit late writing about the film adaption of Watchmen as I saw it in (iMax no less) last Saturday. To say that it didn't impress me to the point that I had to write 1,000 words about it as soon as I came home would be... Well accurate, because I didn't write any words about it then and I'm not even going to come close to a 1,000 now.

Zack Snyder is a good director. Or can be. His remake of Dawn of the Dead is my favourite zombie film from the most recent crop of zombie movies. I thought 300 was awful and I'm not wavering from the assessment today. Going into seeing Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen, the man was 1-1 in his efforts. After sitting through the near three-hour film, Snyder is 1-1-1. That's right: a draw.

Watchmen, the movie, isn't awful. There are many fun parts - enjoyable action and effects - and scenes that ring true as much as they can to the unmatchable comic book source material. But Snyder's film is not great. It's not must see, but not mustn't see. It's on the screen, there, and for people who can't be bothered to read the comic, it's an OK Cliff Notes-version.

Would I recommend it? Sure but I'd recommend the comic first.


Foreign Correspondent

The Romanticized Past

In today's Times Anand Giridharadas writes about the change in the reach of a foreign correspondent's work. Though it seems a bit obvious, Giridharadas makes the point that today's foreign correspondent can't rely on telling a source that their story won't be read in their home city. The writer of the piece also provides a nice, romanticized view of the past:
I rang up Roger Cohen, a veteran foreign correspondent-turned-columnist for The New York Times, to get a feel for the world now vanishing.

Mr. Cohen began with Reuters in 1979. Correspondents would roam for days; editors didn’t know where they were and there were no BlackBerrys to use to track them down.

Their work, once published, slowly filtered into the discussion back in Washington or Paris and helped to inform that debate; in time, of course, it could make its way back to the covered countries. Some newspapers, including this one, sold overseas editions in small numbers in dozens of international cities. Émigrés cut out articles for relatives in the old country. Governments monitored foreign press coverage.
Ah, those were the days.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quitely's Batman

First Image From The New Batman & Robin

This post, just an image from the upcoming Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely All Star Batman:

Story here, but really the art does all the talking.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hua's Brothers

Really? Lost in Translation?

Having finished reading Yu Hua's novel, Brothers, yesterday it was luck to find a review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review: why? Because while I liked parts of Brothers, something was off about the reading experience. It wasn't bad by any stretch, but it didn't read like me the big hit it was in China.

Jess Row, who reviewed Hua's novel in the Times, described what I believe is the key problem:
... reading “Brothers” in English can be a daunting, sometimes vexing and deeply confusing experience. Partly this has to do with the difficulty of finding an English equivalent for Yu Hua’s extremely direct and graphic Chinese. In the first chapters of the novel, when one of the principal characters, Baldy Li, is caught peeking at women in a public latrine, Chow and Rojas do a heroic job of trying to capture the parallel English words for a woman’s behind — “butt,” “bottom,” “buttocks,” “backside” — but it’s hard not to suspect that we’re missing some of the pathos and humor of the situation in the gap between those expressions and the original.
On a similar note, Andre Alexis, in the Globe and Mail, provided a post-script for his review of Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones that discussed that novel's translation. He determined that "As might be expected, it's a different novel in French: colder, more precise, coming from another time and place."

This all leads to the question: is there a point of reading a translation? It'd be ridiculous to create a rule to never read them just as it would be naive to believe that the original text can ever be reproduced perfectly into another language.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Jonathan Littell

Creating Controversy or Discussion

Jonathan Littell's novel The Kindly Ones has been published in North America, translated from the French, and has been quick to create controversy. Or maybe "controversy" isn't the right word. It's created "discussion"? Sure, that works.

The first review I read of Littell's novel, which is the fictional diary of a former SS officer, was the Times's Michiko Kakutani, who was disgusted by the 1,000-pager. She put down the novel in 964 words.

Another New York publication, the Review of Books, published its own review of the novel. The reviewer, Daniel Mendelsohn, spent just more than 5,400 words offering an even-handed review. He concluded:
Still, however badly it may stumble, The Kindly Ones brings to mind Maurice Blanchot's judgment—one which Maximilien Aue enthusiastically and, you can't help feeling, rather tellingly approves—of another enormous, hybrid novel, Moby-Dick : "This impossible book...[the] written equivalent of the universe...presents the ironic quality of an enigma and reveals itself only by the questions it raises." As another Kindly Ones—that of Aeschylus—continues to remind us, there exist strange fictional creatures, improbable hybrids whose two sides seem to have little to do with each other, that, however unlikely we are to find them in nature, can give us nightmares that will haunt us long after the show is over.
Sort of: Littell's was an important failure.

Kakutani may offer a simple "This is awful" assessment, but Mendelsohn has thought this novel through and said "Not so simple." That's nice. I'm not sure if either one - Kakutani's negative review (doesn't that mean this is a good book?) or Mendelsohn's comtemplative one - will make me read The Kindly Ones. I did like the latter's review though.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Watching Reviews

The Man Who Brought You 300, Brings The Watchmen

Based on one of the most revered comics of all time, The Watchmen, the film of the same name hits theatres Friday and the reviews, thus far, have been mostly unkind. The earlies, already aggregated at Metacritic, give The Watchmen an average approval rating of 44 percent.

It's, like I said, early, so there may be hope for a critical reversal but based on Zach Snyder's other films, 300 and Dawn of the Dead, he doesn't seem to direct movies that people paid to review like.