Go Flames Go!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

As a Canadian gal with a hockey-playing dad, I grew up watching the Calgary Flames at every opportunity. Sure, at first it was just an excuse to stay up late, but as I got older I learned to appreciate the game and my hometown team. Although it's been a while and I was much too young to partake in most of the festivities, I remember clearly the way the city celebrated when the Flames won the Cup in '89. I've since moved away from Calgary, but seeing the city rally behind their team during the Flames' Cup run in 2004 made me more homesick for the city than I've ever been.

On paper, the Flames have one of the best teams in the league: Captain Jarome Iginla has been among the top scorers in the League for the past several years and defenseman Dion Phaneuf is among the hardest defensive hitters. Probably because my dad played goal, I've always had a soft spot for goalies and Miikka Kipprusoff is no exception. However, I must admit I was getting a little wary and frustrated with Kipper's performance so far this season since his was obviously not playing to his full potential. Up until the past four games, the Flames had only recorded two wins (one of which was in overtime) out of five games played this season. Their League standing was embarrassing.

However, they are on a four game winning streak and tonight, Kipprusoff recorded his first shutout. I'm hoping that this signals the end of a shaky start and is the sign that Kipper and the team are back up to par and on their way to another Stanley Cup.

Here's the Flames' promo video for this season. Man, those guys are big.

The Onion Movie: Don't Bother

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I watched The Onion Movie the other night and I must say I was sorely disappointed. I'm a big fan of The Onion and, in my opinion, The Onion News Network is the best "fake news" out there, next to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, of course. However, after watching the movie, it became obvious that the ONN just doesn't translate to the big screen.

Although there were a few chuckle-worthy moments, The Onion Movie was just a collection of loosely related sketches tied together with a weak, wandering story line. And don't even get me started on the ending: Suffice it to say that it was worse than the lamest Hollywood romantic comedy.

In short: Stick to watching The Onion News Network for satirical news. At least that way, if you run across a segment that's not clever or entertaining, you will have only wasted a few minutes rather than an hour and a half.

Clip from The Onion News Network:

Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain

Bill Maher's Religulous

Friday, October 3, 2008

I went to see Bill Maher's documentary Religulous today. It's pretty rare that I go to see movies on opening night; I think the last movie I went to see on opening weekend was last summer when The Simpsons Movie came out. I am a fan of Maher, though, and always find his religious tirades entertaining. Although there were a few old clips of Maher talking about religion during stand up routines, he remained respectively tame on the subject and was clearly trying not to judge or sway his interviewees. As he explained in an interview with Jon Stewart last week, Maher is not an atheist. Rather, he admits that he simply doesn't know whether there is a God or what the afterlife holds. As he says in the final monologue, "doubt is humble."

The film does not set out to bash religion, but rather to ask why. Why do people believe so vehemently in their given religion and take such offense when other people question their beliefs or believe something different than they do? Why do people believe so strongly in things that cannot be proven, yet refuse to believe other things for which the evidence is overwhelming? How much do people actually know about their religion? There were more than a few blank stares when Maher asked an interviewee a question about contradictions in the Bible or how certain passages from the Qu'ran have been interpreted.

Maher travels the world, from The Vatican, Jerusalem and the site of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, a truck stop church in the heartland of America and a Christian theme park in Florida to pose these questions to people of all walks of life. He interviews priests, rabbis, scientists, a U.S. senator, a Jesus impersonator, a Vatican astronomer, an alleged descendant of Jesus and several average citizens about religion. In an attempt to approach the subject with a logical approach, he is repeatedly met with illogical answers. Many of the interviewees blamed politics for how their religion is interpreted or the less than peaceful activities some believers engage in.

Although I enjoyed the film, I must admit that there were fewer laugh-out-loud moments than I had hoped for, although there were a few. The interview with a wacky Vatican priest who agreed to speak with Maher after he got kicked out (you've got to see that one for yourself, because words just can't do it justice), a scene in which he convinces a fellow cannabis enthusiast that his head is on fire and when Maher preaches the tenets of Scientology among other religious zealots in London's Hyde Park are all good for a chuckle.

As my movie companion said, in the film, Maher is basically preaching to the choir. Maher fans who see the film will pretty much get what they expect and I doubt that any religious enthusiasts who see this film (if there are any) will suddenly abandon their faith. Maher doesn't say or propose anything that most of us haven't heard before. If anything, it may make people, as Maher does, ask why, or perhaps have the courage to admit that they simply don't know.

Here's the trailer. If you like what you see, I definitely recommend you go see the movie.

Here's a clip of Maher discussing the film with Larry King:

Snow on Mars

Monday, September 29, 2008

This summer, one of the Mars Rover vehicles recorded footage of what appeared to be ice on the surface of Mars. Tests performed by NASA scientists confirmed that the substance was, in fact, frozen water. Today it was reported that the Mars Phoenix Lander, which landed on Mars' north pole in May, captured footage of snow falling in the Martian atmosphere.

Read the full NASA press release here.

Another reason I won't be visiting Texas any time soon

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I was appalled by this story I read today. Jose Luis Gonzalez was acquitted of murder charges after he shot 13-year-old Francisco Anguiano for breaking into his house and attempting to steal some twinkies. Now, I understand that in Texas, it is legal for people to use deadly force to protect their homes and their property. However, there are aspects of this story that, in my mind, are much more akin to vigilante justice than protecting one's home:

  1. Gonzalez was not in the house at the time; he was in "a nearby building" when he saw four teens enter his house. Rather than calling the police, Gonzalez went into the house with a shotgun, ordered the unarmed kids to kneel on the ground and then proceeded to hit and kick them as they begged for mercy.
  2. Gonzalez claims that he shot Anguiano because the boy appeared to be "lunging at him," but the medical examiner's report showed that the boy was "shot in the back at close range." Logically, doesn't that imply that if the boy was indeed lunging, he would be moving away from Gonzalez?

What further disgusted me was the fact that many local residents supported the decision and didn't even think he should be prosecuted in the first place. I agree that the boys shouldn't have been in Gonzalez' house, they were clearly committing a crime, and should have been punished, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the use of deadly force was unwarranted. If Gonzalez truly felt that his life was in danger and was afraid of these boys, why did he go into the house in the first place? Call me crazy, but shooting someone IN THE BACK and claiming self defense just doesn't jive with me. Granted, I don't live in Texas, but I don't understand how people could actually think that
young Anguiano "got what he deserved."

Books to Read

Monday, September 22, 2008

I just finished rereading Headhunter, a superb novel by my favorite author Timothy Findley. Unfortunately, Findley passed away shortly after I gave up my only chance to meet him: After attending a reading, I had my favorite Findley book, Famous Last Words, in hand ready to be autographed. But as I watched the 70-something man, who couldn't walk without assistance and looked fragile despite his sturdy stature, wince into his seat at the table, I decided that with perhaps one less book to autograph, he may be able to call it a night that much sooner. He passed away just a few months later. C'est la vie.

As with many other Findley novels, Headhunter lacks a co-called central character and instead provides us with an ensemble cast of intelligent, tragic and humanly flawed characters through which the story is framed. Also, like many Findley stories, themes of themes of isolation, despair, madness and the struggle for personal satisfaction despite outward appearances of success are treated to Findley's lyrically descriptive prose.

The story begins with schizophrenic Lilah Kemp, who believes that she has let the villain Kurtz escape from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Kurtz, she soon discovers, is the same Rupert Kurtz who heads an influential psychiatry research and treatment center. Desperate to return Kurtz to his proper place, Lilah places her hopes in the hands her new neighbor who, coincidentally, is named Marlow and has just begun working with Kurtz. Meanwhile, a deadly epidemic called sturnusemia is killing increasing numbers of people and animals, psychiatrists at Kurtz' center are dying under suspicious circumstances and the city's social elite are embroiled in a secret world of violent depravity.

I can't say much more without giving too much away, but I was struck at how themes of high-level corruption, cover-ups, the questionable practices of pharmaceutical companies and the tendency for the general populace to turn a blind eye to the unpleasant, but obvious truth may perhaps be even more timely than they were when the book was published in 1993.

In my mind, which I admit is highly biased on the subject, Findley is one of the most underrated authors of the 20th century. If you're looking for an action packed, fast-paced, easy to read story, you'll probably be disappointed. But, on the other hand, if you enjoy intelligent, multi layered, lyrical prose rich with literary and historical allusion, Findley's your man. A few of my favorites include the afore mentioned Headhunter and Famous Last Words, along with The Piano Man's Daughter, The Butterfly Plague and Not Wanted on the Voyage. The latter, I should mention, is not likely to be popular among devout Christians, as it is a somewhat controversial retelling of the Noah's Ark story.

Things that make me chuckle

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I just set up a new blog, so it naturally follows that I need to create my first post. Of course, it's past 1 a.m. and my mind's a total blank, but I can't just let the blog sit there so obviously empty. Staring blankly at the computer screen, I start clicking through my bookmarks and rediscover Cat Prin, the tailor for cats.

I don't know what it is about this site, but every time I visit it (and I do so more regularly than I care to admit), it literally makes me laugh out loud. I think it's the combination of the wide-eyed, mildly disturbed and frightened stare of the cat "models," the fact that there are, in fact, people that will market (and since the site has been around for a good five years now, apparently buy) a "frog transformation set" for their cats. And lets not forget the poorly translated, yet somehow endearing, promotional descriptions:

''All the cats that can be stylishly dressed well in the "CAT PRIN sailor color" which is the uniform of this school are suitable to the student of "the school of a sacred cat." If a sailor color is worn, a cat will disguise itself wisely!''
Rest assured I'm not a proponent of animal costuming or excessive consumerism, but I am a sucker for cuteness and cats.