White Noise

We’d driven up north to Tobermory, a town at the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, for an extended weekend getaway. It’s four hours away from Toronto, which led me to realize that I am a big fan of trains and planes, but not automobiles. Not for long distance travel, anyway.

I like to distract myself when I travel – a good book, maybe a couple episodes of a good show, a nap. Not this time around. As designated navigator (navigatrix?) for this particular road trip, staying awake and focused for the whole trip was an occupational hazard.

Things can go south pretty quickly when you’re in the middle of Ontario farmland and there are pockets of dead space. No phone signal? Quelle horreur! Not too horreur, of course. I smugly congratulated myself for growing up analog and having the foresight to download a map of the area before starting out. Who needs step-by-step directions in real-time?  Over-dependence on tech makes people pansies.

Or so I thought.

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Finally, Part Deux (Ex Machina)

Dear Elly G,

Now where was I? Oh yes.

I was beginning to despair. I thought the whole weekend would be a literal wash, because it rained the whole of Thursday and it looked like the sun had dropped the mic and walked out on the whole program altogether. But a little redhead once said the sun would come out tomorrow, and it did, bless that little orphan’s heart. I’m glad it did; we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the beauty of the Georgian Bay peninsula as much if it hadn’t.

So the second biggest reason A and I went north was to check out Flowerpot Island and the shipwrecks of Tobermory. I had plans to tour the island, but didn’t plan things properly on purpose – the weather was unpredictable and I didn’t know if it would rain. By the time we went to get tickets the island walk-on tours were all booked up and we settled for the non-walk-on tour instead. It wasn’t too bad. I did have a giggle, because their carved statue of a fisherman reminded me of penis.

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Did someone say bris?

I know, I know. I’m twelve.

Anyway.

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Gorgeous George and Chi-Chee Rodriguez, Une and a Half

Dear Elly G,

I guess when I said “gifs,” I meant “a gif.” Because I don’t want to overwhelm. Or overshare. Or both. Or who cares, it’s driving onto a boat and off of it after an hour and a half or so, and here I am gushing about it because I’m an ignoramus. Anyway, it’s just a really cool way to do it. Of course it’s squeaky clean, has a lounge, a gift shop (a Boatique, awww) and a surprisingly respectable cafeteria. I say respectable because it comes with its own popcorn machine, a nacho bar and a pretzel carousel. That’s on top of the full-service kitchen promising an all-day breakfast, fish and chips and even chicken curry on a bed of steaming basmati. (A: “I really like this boat.”)

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Gorgeous George and Chi-Chee Rodriguez, Part Une

Dear Elly G,

The biggest reason A and I went north last weekend​ was the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun. Ojibwa for Big Canoe, the ship is the only way to get from Tobermory, which is a town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, to the island of Manitoulin. We didn’t know anything much about it other than its prow being heavily decorated with colourful Native American art, and an advertised relaxing view. (Most of this research was done via quick, cursory glances at ads on the subway; pretty boat, Adirondack chairs, white people in shorts holding beer? Advertising works!)

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Charlatans Have Internet Too

Fairy tales are stories we tell children for the sake of their self preservation. Hansel and Gretel is a cautionary tale – adults can be awful, always leave a trail for your parents to follow and respect people’s homes. Jack and the Beanstalk is another – the family cow is important, ensure you get the proper return for your investment, stealing is lucrative and so is upper body strength. Rapunzel is about freeing yourself and the power of true love, Puss in Boots is about dressing for success and harnessing the power of hubris. They’re not always lessons on how to be a good person, but they are almost always about survival, because life will always have monsters. Evil witches in houses made of candy drops and gingerbread still exist, only these days they’re seemingly harmless gentlemen in windowless white vans, handing out candies to children.

Quite a few of them live online, like the Nigerian Prince, a vampire who uses e-mail to promise a substantial cut of his money in exchange for helping him move it out of the country. It will of course involve a very small fee, and anyone who falls for it eventually keeps paying all these small fees, waiting for the big pay-off, getting drained of their life savings in the process. Imposters love e-mail. A number of them use it to claim your Apple/Paypal/Netflix account is inactive, leading you down a path that eventually ends in forking over sensitive information like your birthdate, the high school you went to and your mother’s maiden name, before you realize you don’t even have an Apple account. These fishermen – phishers, because we’re stylish – lay your life wide open for identity theft and before you know it someone is spending vast amounts of money in your name and your credit rating is shot to hell along with your dreams of owning a car and a decent home.

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French Champ10n

He did it! La Decima is his!

The best tennis combines the brutality of boxing with the finesse of a chess match. Just you and another dude, slugging away at a tiny yellow ball, trying to out-maneuver each other and stay one step ahead. It takes a lot of mental and physical stamina. Only the strongest will survive. Vamos, Rafael Nadal! 

The Violence of Gentlemen

Everybody knows playing Rafa on clay is like going into a meat grinder. He is capable of wearing a player down, chewing him up and spitting him out with his signature brand of tennis. This is why Rafael Nadal is imminently watchable; watching him play tennis on clay (and any other surface) is like watching Beyonce on stage. He sheds the skin of a shy, soft-spoken Mallorcan and steps out in battle mode, utilizing that wicked, looping forehand and unrelenting athleticism to grind his opponents into the dust. Rafa is also capable of chasing almost everything down, and able to change from defense into offense in the blink of an eye. More than his forehand, more than his legs, he also has a will of iron, seemingly unable to just give a single point up, even if it’s the first point in the first match of a throwaway ATP event. To see Rafa at work is to see a fearsome gladiator with a racquet for a broadsword; he isn’t referred to as the Raging Bull for nothing. He has owned everyone at Roland Garros nine times.

Enter Stan. Long under the great shadow cast by Roger Federer, he’s clawed his way into the light with his own brand of violent, no-holds-barred tennis, hitting his way to three Grand Slam titles, making him the only men’s player to date never to lose a Grand Slam final he’s been in. Like Rafa, his athleticism is fearsome – Stan can go toe to toe with the fittest players of the day, sometimes outlasting them. And when he unleashes the blazing backhand he is known for, the reason he’s called the Stanimal is suddenly quite clear. On a good day, with a clear mind and his confidence high, the only sane thing to do is to steer clear of Stanislas Wawrinka and the cannonballs blasting off his racquet.

Raging Bull vs. The Stanimal. Forehand vs. Backhand. Will Rafa prevail and get La Decima? Will Stan triumph and  change the men’s tennis conversation from Big Four to Big Five?  Either way, it’s going to be a bruising Sunday morning on the red clay. I’m off to find a pub with great wings and a giant monitor.

Read the preview over on Rolandgarros.com

Gobble, Gobble, Goblin

Now let me see, if I were a nineteen year-old high school senior with no parents and an abusive auntie, would I go for a well-dressed, obviously wealthy immortal with a mysterious past and a sword sticking out of his chest? Le duh. All a girl really wants is to be with a guy capable of taking her to Quebec City in the blink of an eye after asking if she feels like having steak.  I might quibble a little, though. The best beef would likely be found in Argentina and Wagyu beef is big, but hey. I’m nineteen years old and easily impressed, Quebec City is romantic in sepia and who wouldn’t want to catch falling maple leaves in slow motion with an admittedly attractive man? Anyone would disown their abusive relatives in a heartbeat after a date like that.

My feed will not shut up about this show, so naturally I jumped on the bandwagon and am gawking at it along with the rest of them. One episode is way too long – an hour and a half, come on people, we have lives to live too – and sometimes the things the people in it do and say are completely contrived and make absolutely no sense. Still, this is a soap opera and it’s par for the course. I’m also chalking the wonkiness down to a bad translation job, and the need to make a story stretch for sixteen episodes.

It does drag on as it goes along. I’m still in the sixth episode. The titular Goblin (Gong Yoo, last seen running from zombies on the train to Busan)   has spent over 900 years looking for his bride – the only girl capable of seeing the sword wedged in his chest, destined to pull it out and therefore end his agonizingly long and lonely existence. Now that’s he’s found her, he  can’t seem to decide whether or not he wants to die. Cue mood music and intimate whispers under raindrops that fall just softly enough not to ruin one’s hair, because he also makes it rain when he gets all emo.

This is a show where the men dress better than the women, and I’m loving it. Even if I’ve never been drawn to fops, it’s hard to ignore Lee Dong Wook, an amnesiac Death God, giving face, face, beauty and moody face each time he’s onscreen, rocking wool coats like no one’s business. All the brooding disappears when you hand him a smartphone, and the results are hilarious.  I’m rooting for him and the owner of a fried chicken shop – that budding romance is way more interesting than the one between a nineteen year-old high school senior and a Goblin who can’t make up his damn mind.

Speaking of interesting romances, the best part of this show is the bromance between the Goblin and the Death God  who wants him to go ahead and die already so he can take over the gorgeous home they both share. Both immortal, both gifted with supernatural powers, both males used to getting their own way, both tired of the vagaries of living.  Like all males, they express themselves in the form of pranking, the level of which is borderline Van Wilder, and this forms a big chunk of what makes this show watchable, extended running time bedamned.  The weakness of one brings out the humanity in the other. It doesn’t hurt that both of them look like they stepped out of the pages of Korean GQ every day of the week. It’s easy to see the script flipped into a homo-erotic story where the women exist on the fringes as superficial interests, but it doesn’t and their Odd Couple setup brings enough charm to keep us rooting for them to succeed with the women who’ve wormed their way into the hearts of these troubled immortals.

 

 

Crossing Over

Some people hate the Trump administration so much, they say they’ll move to Canada. It’s not hard to do, a drunken group of American revellers once floated down to Canada by mistake. At last year’s annual Port Huron Float Down, the winds were so strong it pushed partiers  down the St. Clair river, stranding them in Canadian waters without documentation, prompting the Coast Guard to come to their rescue.

America’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is getting a number of people hot under the collar. Not that millions are fleeing in droves, but there’s certainly been an uptick in illegal immigrants crossing over the US border into Canada on foot. It’s not as easy as floating down a river by mistake, and no one will gun you down the way they do down Mexico way, but it can still be hazardous to one’s health.  In Northern Minnesota, Mavis Otutseye, a Ghanaian woman, was found frozen to death in a field half a mile away from a Canadian border town. Authorities believe she may have been trying to cross over illegally. When they learned she had plans to visit her daughter in Toronto who’d just given birth, it became the biggest human interest story of the week, and the finger pointing began. Death does that.

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