6.26.2016

we still like lists: recipe for effective activism

What it takes to be an effective activist:

1. Hopefulness

2. Persistence, perseverance

3. Reliability

4. Enjoyment of teamwork

5. Willingness to take direction from others

6. Willingness to make space and time in your life for your cause

7. Good listening skills

8. A long view

9. Boundaries

10. Passion for your cause

we movie to canada 2015-16. this year there's a part 2.

From the I Have Too Much Going On, Systems Are Breaking Down department, this year's we move to canada awards omitted a big chunk of viewing. I was very surprised -- and a bit disturbed -- to discover this!

Leaving aside questions about my mental competence, I'm reviewing the omitted films and series here, and I'll also update the main post. I'm also using this as an opportunity to move some of my binge watching to the main categories.

In the Muhammad Ali category:

The Duke of Burgundy
-- This darkly erotic love story is kind of the anti- Blue Is the Warmest Colour: crackling with sexual tension, and not a bit of skin exposed. A tender love story about love that is not tender.

In the David Bowie category:

Angel
-- I was skeptical about this Buffy spinoff, but ended up liking it more than Buffy -- the characters are more varied, the interplay and overlap of good and evil is even more complex. It's also funnier. Great stuff, with huge thanks to my Facebook friends who recommended it.

Series Noire
-- This French-language series from Quebec begins as a clever self-referential comedy, then deepens to a wry, bittersweet comedy-drama. Like BoJack Horseman, How I Met Your Mother, and -- my favourite TV comedy of all time -- The Larry Sanders Show, thos comedy improved when it tapped into pain. Really worth watching.

In the Allen Toussaint / Maurice White / Merle Haggard category:

Longmire, Season 4
-- This detective-western hybrid is still going strong.

Badults, Season 1
-- If you're old enough to remember The Young Ones, this is an updated version of the slacker-dudes-on-their-own motif, featuring members of a comedy troupe called Pappy's. The first season is funny. Please stop there.

Burnistoun
-- Could it be we've discovered a replacement for Kids in the Hall? I doubt this Scottish sketch comedy show will sustain itself as long as KITH, but Season 1 was hilarious.

Mike Tyson Mysteries
-- Are you watching this? It's funny, bizarre, occasionally hilarious, and episodes are only 10 minutes long. If you're a fan of Robert Smigel, you'll want to check this out.

Columbo
-- I started re-watching this detective show from my youth half as a joke, then discovered it was brilliant. More specifically, Peter Falk was brilliant. Lieutenant Columbo must be one of the greatest television characters of all time. The show was an absolute pleasure.

In the Glenn Frey category:

Birdman
-- Apparently we're the only people who didn't like this movie. Please don't explain it to me. I understood it. I did not enjoy it.

W1A
-- This spoof starts out with great promise, then reveals it contains only one note, played over and over and over.

In the Antonin Scalia category:

Badults, Season 2
-- Stop after Season 1.


6.21.2016

further thoughts on himym

A few weeks ago, I blogged about watching "How I Met Your Mother," a show that has been a huge surprise to me. At the time, I thought the show was slipping in quality. I had started the eighth season, and the whole thing was off. The characters were too shrill, the situations too zany and over-the-top. Having come that far, I was determined to soldier on. To my surprise, I was rewarded. (I should call this syndrome The Springsteen.)

After three or four subpar episodes, the show found its voice again. Overall, Season 8 turned out to be one of the funniest, saddest, and most genuine so far. The final two episodes were downright beautiful, some of the best romantic comedy I've ever seen.

So Season 8 ends with the first glimpse of Ted's future soulmate, The Mother. And now, according to so many people, Season 9 will completely tank.

I think I'll re-watch some of Season 8 before I move on.


6.19.2016

it's crunch time at the bargaining table

Now here's an interesting calendar of events.

June 27-29: The Negotiating Committee for CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers Union, returns to the bargaining table for three days.

June 30: The Negotiating Committee presents membership with a settlement offer. If the bargaining team recommends ratification, there is a ratification vote. If we do not recommend ratification, there is a strike vote.

July 2: Summer programming begins at all our libraries. Free programs for children and youth attract a huge number of customers.

July 4: The City of Mississauga and CUPE Local 1989 are in a legal or lockout position.

July 7-8: The director of our library system hosts an annual conference of the Ontario Library Association.

We played a long game of cat-and-mouse to make this timeline happen. It took a lot of resolve and a fair bit of luck. Now that we're here, perhaps our employer will be very motivated to avoid a strike.

* * * *

Brampton is a neighbouring city. Mississauga, Brampton, and one other city comprise the Region of Peel. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has been making public statements about pulling Mississauga out of Peel.

From 1974 when towns and villages were amalgamated to form Mississauga, until 2014 when Crombie was elected, Mississauga had only one mayor. That is, Crombie is only the second mayor to hold office in this city.

Crombie has convened a Mayor's Advisory Board on Poverty and Homelessness, part of the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy. Although there is ample reason for skepticism, this is potentially a big improvement over the former mayor's inaction. It took Hazel McCallion until 2010 to even acknowledge there was poverty in Peel.

Then there's the Fight for 15, the growing public discourse on precarious work and presenteeism, and the fact that more than half of Mississauga Library staff are precarious workers.

There are the (mostly male) Mississauga transit workers, who recently ratified a new contract, and kept their premium pay for Sunday work. The (mostly female) library workers are fighting to keep theirs, too.

And finally, there's this fact: there has never been a strike against the City of Mississauga.

* * * *

Last night, watching Endeavour, I heard this line: Sometimes you've got to put all you are, against all they've got.

I've been repeating this to myself, thinking about all I am, all our team is, and all our members are.

6.13.2016

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2015-16 edition

I'm posting my annual movie awards later and later every year. I'm also watching fewer movies, because I'm watching more TV shows. When I come home on Friday or Saturday, exhausted and needing total downtime, sometimes even a movie is too much mental effort; binge-watching a series is somehow easier. So I end up with a ton of movies on the List, unwatched, year after year.

But no matter. Here's what I did watch, and what I thought.

First, the annual recap.
- Canadian musicians and comedians (2006-07 and 2007-08)
- my beverage of choice (2008-09)
- famous people who died during the past year (2009-10)
- where I'd like to be (2010-11)
- vegetables (2011-12) (I was out of ideas!)
- Big Life Events in a year full of Big Life Changes (2012-13)
- cheese (I'm getting desperate!) (2013-14)
- and last year (2014-15) types of travels.

This year I've recycling a theme from a few years back. It was a bad year for the deaths of famous people, and it's only going to get worse, as a generation of musicians, actors, and thinkers that people in my age-range have worshipped have begun to leave us.




War resister, peace activist, athlete, orator, leader. Warrior for peace and justice. Proud Muslim. Few have sacrificed as much for peace as he did. Muhammad Ali was The Greatest, and so were these movies.

The Wire, Season 4
-- The absolute best viewing this past year wasn't a movie at all. Season Four of The Wire has more positive characters, more emotional investment, and a more profound impact than anything we've seen yet. The Wire is likely the best series ever aired, and this is its best season (so far). Exceptional.

Call Me Lucky
-- A hilarious, heartbreaking, inspiring movie about a man you've probably never heard of, featuring a lot of famous people who owe so much to him. My full review is here. I want everyone to see this movie.

Spotlight
-- A riveting drama and a fascinating history. A story that should never be forgotten, beautifully told. The DVD has interviews with the real Spotlight team.

Pride
-- Solidarity that made me weep with joy. A vision of the possible. Inspiration of the highest order.

Merchants of Doubt
-- An important, terrifying look into public manipulation, from Big Tobacco to climate change deniers. The must-see documentary of my movie season.

The Duke of Burgundy
-- This darkly erotic love story is kind of the anti- Blue Is the Warmest Colour: crackling with sexual tension, and not a bit of skin exposed. A tender love story about love that is not tender.




Brilliant, multi-talented, unique, influential, and gorgeous. There was only one David Bowie, and he influenced our culture in myriad ways. He did put out some clunkers and some mainstream fluff in his day. Like Bowie, these films are not perfect, but they are excellent.

Blue Ruin
-- A low-budget revenge thriller, as bloody as it is suspenseful. Riveting.

Far from the Madding Crowd
-- A lush, luminous adaptation of a great novel. I was skeptical, then found myself completely caught up in the characters and their tragic or triumphant lives.

The Search for General Tso
-- This documentary uses Ameican Chinese food as an avenue to explore identity, authenticity, and otherness. So well done.

Boardwalk Empire, Seasons 1-3
-- This high-quality historical fiction about boss politics in the Prohibition era ticks every box: gorgeous period setting, social significance, political intrigue, class war, and complex relationships. The first few seasons were stellar. After that, the great storylines faded away, and the plots became too repetitive. But these first three seasons, wow. Violence warnings, bigtime.

The Good Wife, Seasons 6 and 7
-- Rarely does a show stay great for seven full seasons. Writing, acting, storylines, politics -- all brilliant. I loved the ending, and am sad that it's over. Very nearly a Muhammad Ali.

Angel
-- I was skeptical about this Buffy spinoff, but ended up liking it more than Buffy -- the characters are more varied, the interplay and overlap of good and evil is even more complex. It's also funnier. Great stuff, with huge thanks to my Facebook friends who recommended it.

Series Noire
-- This French-language series from Quebec begins as a clever self-referential comedy, then deepens to a wry, bittersweet comedy-drama. Like BoJack Horseman, How I Met Your Mother, and -- my favourite TV comedy of all time -- The Larry Sanders Show, thos comedy improved when it tapped into pain. Really worth watching.



    The shocking deaths of David Bowie and Prince overshadowed the passing of many other musical artists. Allen Toussaint, Merle Haggard, and Maurice White all created original, important music. Each man took established genres and threw in elements of culture, diverse influences, and their unique visions to create something new, different, and beautiful. Their music was solid, good, and sometimes wonderful. So are these movies.

    Tangerine
    -- Part buddy road trip, part bedroom farce, funny, sad, and outrageous. Plus a trans actor plays a trans person. Plus it was shot on an iPhone. Not a perfect movie, but a really good one.

    The Overnighters
    -- A stark documentary that reveals a sad slice of the dead American dream. Bleak, compassionate, thought-provoking, surprising.

    BoJack Horseman, Season 2
    -- As often happens, this comedy improved when it found the pain beneath the laughs. The second BoJack season was often very sad, and also very good.

    Detectorists
    -- A gentle, good-natured comedy about some misfits, their subculture, and their attempts at connection. Lovely, and left me wanting more.

    Ex Machina
    -- Plot twists, suspense, and an absolute shocker of an ending. For an exploration of human-technology love, see Her. For a thriller that happens to feature some androids, see this.

    Force Majeure
    -- How do we behave in a crisis? What would you do if...? The answer to that question sets off a chain of events that remakes a family's life. A bit long and occasionally tedious, but thought-provoking and worth seeing.

    God's Pocket
    -- A strange comedy-drama romp, and a reminder of Philip Seymour Hoffman's quietly perfect talents.

    Holes
    -- I finally saw the film adaptation of one of my favourite junior novels. It almost does justice to the book, which is very high praise.

    How We Got to Now
    -- Steven Johnson's PBS series does a good job of making a science-history lecture visually entertaining. I've only seen two episodes, but plan on watching all six.

    Iris
    -- The Big Man of Documentaries meets the flamboyant Grand Dame of Fashion, when 87-year-old presents 93-year-old Iris Apfel. A film about free spirits and life as creation. Really fun.

    Keith Richards: Under the Influence
    -- The latest revision of Keith's biography. Diehard fans won't learn anything new, but it's Keith, so it's fun.

    Life Itself
    -- This tribute to Roger Ebert, the film critic and cultural icon, was... good. I wanted it to be better, but if you were a fan of Ebert's, you'll enjoy it.

    Magic in the Moonlight
    -- Solid Woody Allen. Won't change your life, but if you like Woody's comedies, this is one of them.

    Master of None
    -- Aziz Ansari tries to break out of the comic-turned-sitcom mold, and sometimes succeeds. Funny and interesting enough to watch another season.

    Pariah
    -- An African-American girl from a working-class, religious family, comes to terms with her sexuality and claims her identity. Even though the story has been told many times, when it's told well, it's touching and inspiring. A young filmmaker's very impressive debut.

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)
    -- A nice take on the Sherlock Holmes franchise. I found myself skipping through the action scenes to find the movie underneath, but it's fun and well done. Also a reminder that I just don't like action movies.

    The Clouds of Sils Maria
    -- In a film about actors and theatre, what's real and what's theatre shifts and bends and flips. This film is purposely disorienting and confusing, and strangely compelling.

    The Dark Matter of Love
    -- A cheery Midwestern family adopts older orphans from Russia, and learns that love and good intentions do not conquer all. This documentary follows their struggles, their perservanace, and their work with family therapists to try to get it right. Well done.

    The End of the Tour
    -- If you're not a writer or a fan of David Foster Wallace, I don't think this film adaptation of David Lipsky's Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself would be of much interest. But if you do fall into either of those categories, it's interesting and though-provoking. Jason Segal's portrayal of DFW is relevatory.

    The Great Train Robbery
    -- A funny, suspenseful, well written crime caper, told in a two-part series, first from the robbers' point of view, then from the police's. The first part is much more interesting than the second, but in general it's enjoyable. Lovely 1960s period piece, too.

    The Imitation Game
    -- This is not the first film about Alan Turing, the Enigma machine, and the homophobic persecution of Turing, but it's a very solid new take. Plus Benedict Cumberbatch. If you ever have the opportunity to watch Derek Jacobi as Turing, it's a very different portrayal, and also very good.

    Tiger Eyes
    -- Amazingly, this is the first Judy Blume novel to get a film adaptation. Directed by Lawrence Blume, the author's son, it's a simple and direct coming-of-age story. A tad melodramatic, but that's teenage life. Nicely done.

    Rectify, Seasons 1 and 2
    -- This series started out strong, but lost its way. Interesting, though, and worth seeing. We might try again at some point.

    Love & Mercy
    -- This biopic about Brian Wilson transcends the "troubled genius" mold. A good music film about struggle and redemption. The DVD extras include Brian and Melinda Wilson themselves.

    Badults, Season 1
    -- If you're old enough to remember The Young Ones, this is an updated version of the slacker-dudes-on-their-own motif, featuring members of a comedy troupe called Pappy's. The first season is funny. Please stop there.

    Burnistoun
    -- Could it be we've discovered a replacement for Kids in the Hall? I doubt this Scottish sketch comedy show will sustain itself as long as KITH, but Season 1 was hilarious.

    Mike Tyson Mysteries
    -- Are you watching this? It's funny, bizarre, occasionally hilarious, and episodes are only 10 minutes long. If you're a fan of Robert Smigel, you'll want to check this out.

    Columbo
    -- I started re-watching this detective show from my youth half as a joke, then discovered it was brilliant. More specifically, Peter Falk was brilliant. Lieutenant Columbo must be one of the greatest television characters of all time. The show was an absolute pleasure.




    Glenn Frey probably made some halfway decent music at some point. His career probably wasn't a total waste, but if I never heard another Eagles song again, that would be fine with me. These movies and shows don't completely suck, but they are generally failures.

    Garfunkle & Oates
    -- The female Flight of the Conchords is mildly amusing, but it only plays one note, and gets old fast.

    I Believe in Unicorns
    -- I wanted to like this teenage story of dangerous love, escape, and redemption. But I just couldn't buy any of it. Natalie Dyer's performance is excellent. Other than that, ugh.

    The Thread
    -- Online communities and their impact on mainstream news and public perception is a fascinating topic. I'd love to see a movie like this, but better. Halfway between Glenn Frey and Haggard-Toussaint-White.

    Last Weekend
    -- Family melodrama about incredibly privileged people and their relative self-awareness or lack thereof. The always brilliant Patricia Clarkson saves this from the scrap heap.

    Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me
    -- Stephen Fry is a treasure. This live show is occasionally good, but mostly meh.

    Fruitvale Station
    -- A fictional dramatization of the last day of Oscar Grant, who was killed by police in the Bay Area. This is one of those movies that I'm glad exists, but isn't very good.

    God Bless the Child
    -- The camera follows a group of siblings left alone by their depressed mother, with minimal plot and seemingly no script. It was such an interesting concept, and I wanted to love it. But it was so boring!

    Levon Helm: Ain't in It for My Health
    -- I love The Band and I loved Levon Helm, so I found something to enjoy in this movie. Levon deserved a great film and this is not it.

    Manglehorn
    -- Al Pacino is a misanthrope, then presto-change-oh, he's redeemed. What a disappointment!

    No No: A Dockumentary
    -- Do you want to see this baseball film? No. No.

    Paper Towns
    -- If this makes you read more John Green, it has served some purpose. Otherwise, a must to avoid.

    Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation
    -- This movie has some nice views of La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, so it wasn't a total waste.

    Schitt's Creek
    -- This started out full of promise, but faded first. It should have been much funnier.

    Set Fire to the Stars
    -- The best part of this film about Dylan Thomas is the title. There are a couple of good moments that save it from the bottom of the barrel.

    Welcome to Me
    -- Kristen Wiig is good, but quirky just to be quirky is just silly.

    Seymour: An Introduction
    -- This movie about an inspiring teacher might be interesting to someone who already knew and cared about him. But when it comes to introducing Seymour Bernstein and getting me to care about him, it completely failed.

    Paul
    -- I'm starting to wonder if Simon Pegg will ever appear in a good movie again. This road-trip romp has a laugh or two, but wow, some serious dreck.

    Birdman
    -- Apparently we're the only people who didn't like this movie. Please don't explain it to me. I understood it. I did not enjoy it.

    W1A
    -- This spoof starts out with great promise, then reveals it contains only one note, played over and over and over.




    Antonin Scalia was a disgusting excuse for a human being and a dangerous US Supreme Court Justice. He should never be missed and these movies should not be watched.

    Skating to New York
    -- If you must see all things Canadian, don't say I didn't warn you.

    The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
    -- An angry, bitter man finds out he is about to die, and runs around trying to love everyone. Yikes.

    The Slap
    -- I don't need to like every character in order to like a movie, but when every single character is hideously unlikeable, I must run away.

    Computer Chess
    -- What the hell? This was several critics' pick for best indie film of the year. I found it unwatchable.

    Interstellar
    -- Lurching from one plot hole to the next, awash in melodrama and rickety devices, this movie is a complete mess. Once again I am reminded not to be fooled by hype.

    You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
    -- This film might be an insider joke that I'm not in on. I'm not really sure, as I only got through 20 minutes.

    Badults, Season 2
    -- Stop after Season 1.


    Also:

    Binge Watching:
    Angel (loved)
    Murdoch Mysteries S9 (still enjoying in spite of myself)
    Columbo S1-12 (a classic)

    Comedy Before Bed
    M*A*S*H
    How I Met Your Mother (currently on S8 of 9)

    happy birthday to me

    Apparently I have been alive on this planet for 55 years. That seems completely impossible. Yet there it is.

    As always on my birthday, I feel incredibly fortunate to be alive and living such a good life. Thanks for still reading my (now occasional) blather.

    6.05.2016

    pupdate: happiness is a cancer-free dog

    Tala's stitches were removed last week, and we got the full biopsy results: clean margins all around. The surgeon says she does not expect to ever see us again. A week later, I'm still feeling waves of joy and relief. Allan takes the good news in stride, by not letting himself fully contemplate the bad news to begin with.

    Watching Tala's crazy-thick fur grow in is interesting! A soft undercoat has already grown in. We're told the thick guard hairs take a long time. 




    Diego's progress continues to amaze me on a daily basis. We still bring Rollover on all walks, but in most situations, he is calm, or if he's agitated, he immediately turns to his person for a treat. Quick, quick, treat me before I explode! And we do.

    The only scenario where he still consistently reacts is when we encounter other dogs in the small space of the elevator area on the main floor. Even then, he lets me lead him away, and as soon as the other dog is out of sight, Diego stops barking and relaxes. This is a long way from constant meltdowns at any distance, which would then throw him off for the entire walk. 

    In conclusion, dogs are amazing.

    the greatest, forever. rest in power muhammad ali.

    Revolutionary thought of the day, from a revolutionary American.
    Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

    No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.

    But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…

    If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.

    Muhammad Ali, 1967

    Two thoughts from my Facebook feed.
    I was saddened to hear that War Resister Muhammad Ali has died.

    His courageous refusal to fight in Viet Nam inspired and encouraged me in doing likewise. Nor was it simply a matter of his religious commitment. When he said "No Vietnamese ever called me "nigger"", he exposed the war for what it was, and African American life for what it was.

    As a War Resister, Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.

    Lee Zaslofsky, War Resisters Support Campaign

    RIP peoples champ. And writer friends, could we please remember to mention Ali was a proud Muslim? Bold, yes. Brave, yes. Handsome, yes. But also a deeply spiritual person. That can't be forgotten today or ever. ‪#‎stopislamophobia‬

    Joel H., Ottawa

    Not all white people are racist?
    There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right. If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn’t want to bite me, I knew they were good... Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?

    Muhammad Ali, 1971

    ‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali, Dave Zirin, The Nation

    Muhammad Ali Risked It All When He Opposed The Vietnam War, Justin Block, HuffPo

    Muhammad Ali: Worshipped. Misunderstood. Exploited., Ishamel Reed, New York Times Op-Ed

    Official New York Times obituary, written by Robert Lipsyte, a steadfastly progressive voice in the overwhelmingly ultra-conservative field of sportswriting

    If you haven't seen any of these movies, do yourself a favour. None is perfect, all are flawed, but all worth seeing.

    When We Were Kings (1996)

    The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013)

    I Am Ali (2014)

    5.29.2016

    14 thoughts on watching how i met your mother (first time through so no spoilers please!)

    I was watching MASH when Netflix pulled the plug on our VPN. I found a new VPN... but now MASH is gone. One day I hope to finish the end-to-end rewatch. But right then, my comedy-before-bed slot was left hanging. I tried "How I Met Your Mother," and I was very happily surprised.

    I have not watched or read ahead, so please do not even allude to the ending. I understand many fans hated it, ok? No need to fill me in.

    How I love "How I Met Your Mother".

    1. Smart, character-driven comedy. Not easy to find.

    2. Great female characters. Generally non-sexist, even anti-sexist.

    3. Around Season 5, I thought the show was going off the rails, as Barney's character became more outrageous and non-believable -- usually a sure sign that a show is struggling. Then I was very surprised and happy that it found a new groove.

    4. Most good comedies have at least a little pathos mixed in, and this show was brave enough to go there. Revealing the pain behind Barney's bravado was a bold move. Allowing Barney to care about Robin, also bold and feels credible.

    5. I find myself getting into the relationships the way I did with, say, "Veronica Mars". I actually no longer care how Ted meets his soulmate. I'm way more interested in Barney and Robin.

    6. Canada jokes. Occasionally a bit overdone, but I love the theme. Plus it's often a way to work in US jokes.

    7. This is one of the funniest moments I've seen on any sitcom. I watched it three times then made Allan watch it with me. (I am now officially banned from ever doing that again.)

    8. I am obsessed with this. The mannerisms and movements are so exactly perfect for a band playing this kind of music. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I've watched it. The first Robin Sparkles video was also dead-on. (The other Robin Sparkles vids were lame and unnecessary.)

    9. I'm a little obsessed with Neil Patrick Harris's acting ability.

    10. The occasional self-referential moments are great and not over-done.

    11. First musical number in a non-musical show that I ever liked: Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit. Hated the musical episodes in Xena, beyond hated them in Buffy (two shows I love). Rarely liked them in The Simpsons. Loved it here.

    12. I still haven't decided if the Seinfeld references are homage or rip-off. In general I love how the show updates the friends-hang-out motif -- a bar instead of a coffee shop, alcohol, recreational drugs, references to same-sex attraction in seemingly heterosexual characters.

    13. The only thing I don't like: I find the Lily-and-Marshall perfect-couple-monogamy overdone. Granted, everyone's relationship "thing" is overdone, but this one just doesn't work for me.

    14. New York City. Nicely done. Although the it-takes-five-minutes-to-get-anywhere that Seinfeld abused (Yankee Stadium!) is way worse here. Staten Island, for crissakes! But still. Good NYC stuff.

    5.15.2016

    things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #21

    Visibly anxious and upset customer: Can you please help me? Something is wrong with this computer!

    I go over to take a look. The public computer is still starting up, and Internet Explorer (sadly, the default browser) is slowly opening.

    Me (pointing to the Chrome icon on the taskbar): Let's try this browser instead. You'll find it's better than Internet Explorer.

    Visibly anxious customer: No! I can't! I have to use the internet!

    Me: I understand. This is also the internet. It's a different browser - a different tool for accessing the internet. Most people find it works better.

    I help her open Chrome, and show her where to start, and return to the information desk. A few minutes later...

    VAC: I can't use this computer! It's broken! I can't use this computer!

    Me: All right, you're free to use any available computer. Why don't you log in to this one?

    I stick around while she gets started, then return to the information desk. Fortunately, she is only steps away.

    VAC: Can you help me?! Something is wrong! This isn't working! Can you help me?!

    Me: What are you trying to do?

    VAC: I always go to Sears.ca and I see my paystub. It's not working!

    Me: Right now you're at Sears.ca, which is a public website, where people can buy products from Sears. The site where you see your paystub must have more to it. Perhaps Sears.ca slash... something?

    VAC: No! No! Sears.ca! I go to Sears.ca and see my paystub! I do it all the time! It is Sears.ca!

    Me: Here we are at Sears.ca. It's a website for shopping at Sears. There must be more to the address than that.

    VAC: No! Look! Here it is on this paper! Look! My-dot-Sears-dot-CA.

    Me: So what you need is my.Sears.ca. Let's do that.

    We do. The site she is expecting loads.

    Me: Do you know how to log in here?

    VAC: Yes, of course I do! I do it all the time! Go away! Go away!

    Me: Uh... ok. I'm at the desk if you need me.

    rest in power, daniel berrigan and michael ratner

    The world lost two great fighters for peace and justice this past week.

    Daniel Berrigan was a lifelong peace activist, a man who was ready and willing to put his body and soul on the line. He was a writer, a thinker, a pacifist, an idealist, a pragmatist, and a priest.

    Berrigan was also a leader, someone who, early on, helped make visible the connections between racism, poverty, war, and capitalism. He became a leading figure in the peace movement during the Vietnam War. Naturally, he was on the FBI's "most wanted" list and served time in prison.

    Later in his life, Berrigan founded the Plowshares Movement, which used daring acts of civil disobedience to draw a spotlight on the US's nuclear arsenal.

    Here are two pieces from The New Yorker celebrating Berrigan.
    James Carroll remembers his "dangerous friend".

    Eric Schlosser remembers how "a handful of a handful of pacifists and nuns exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear-weapons sites": Break-In at Y-12.
    Following in the giant footsteps of Dorothy Day, Berrigan's life and work demonstrates that religion can be a positive force for social change.

    Michael Ratner's life and work also defies stereotype: he was a lawyer who spent his entire career defending the scorned, the falsely accused, the scapegoated. He was a trailblazer who pioneered the use of the law to champion human rights. Long ago, when I contemplated going to law school, I dreamt of Michael Ratner as my role model.

    Democracy Now! devoted an entire program to the celebration of Ratner's life and work.
    The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, Michael Ratner defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He served as the longtime head of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

    Attorney David Cole told The New York Times, "Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful."

    In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration’s use of the military base to house Haitian refugees.
    I can't begin to do justice to either of these men, but I didn't want their deaths to go unnoticed on this blog. Their passing saddens me and their lives inspire me.

    hooray for tala

    Tala is doing great! Of course she was exhausted and a bit wobbly when she came home, but now she's well rested and back to herself. And she looks a whole lot better without a disgusting, oozing tumour sticking out of her side! More importantly, there's a 75% chance the cancer won't come back.




    Look how thick her fur is! The doc said this will take a long time to grow back.



    She doesn't need the Cone of Silence* this time, but the surgeon recommended she wear a t-shirt to keep protect the incision site. Tala accepts it with grace.





    *  I much prefer the vintage TV reference to the what most people seem to call it, the Cone of Shame. The surgery clinic calls it an E-collar, which makes me think both of some sort of digital device, and of E. coli.