Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Kino

There's nothing like gathering around the ol'yule log the day before Christmas with a group of friends, all the hectic Christmas shopping and baking done, to enjoy a lazy afternoon of classic Christmas cinema, like Tony Jaa's heartwarming tale of a boy and his elephant, Tom Yum Goong.

Alright, yes, we're being a wee facetious here, but The Protector (as it was known here) offers stunning martial arts sequences, brought to you by the same people who helped choreograph Ong-Bak, as well as elements of District B13 and Casino Royale. Granted the following is a bit like admitting one buys Playboy for the articles, but one of the things that we rather enjoyed about The Protector, was the way it built a theme established in Ong-Bak, namely the modernization of Thailand. While we don't mean to suggest that director Prachya Pinkaew has his finger on the pulse of a Thai generation, but he nevertheless appears to be building up slowly a body of work documenting some of the transition problems Thailand is going through.

In Ong-Bak, who's plot we found rather confusing, these elements are limited to rural vs. urban, with Tony Jaa's character trying to adjust to life in the city after leaving his rural home to find his village's religious relic. Here, "modern" urban life is presented with all of its vices, gambling, drugs, prostitution, and the abandonment of religious values. In The Protector, this theme of decadence is taken one step further, as Jaa's character travels from "pre-modern" Thai village, to "modern" Thai city, and then to the global ("post-modern?) city of Sydeny, Australia featuring a transexual crime lord.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nights of the New Republik

We're living in the past while the kids step into a brand new era.

The Republik hosted one of its first events last night, a Junior Boys DJ set.

Our friend Mike Bell has a story about the nightclub sitting at a generational crossroads as he talks to club owner Victor Choy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Booked Up For The Holidays

As most of us came through the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede Parking Deptartment, a strange institution around which to form an intellectual coterie for sure, we were naturally attracted to Simon Henley' The Architecture of Parking. Henley shares our love of parking structures, but while ours exists in a more philosophical, abstract manner, for Henley, the parkade in its numerous forms offers examples of alternative architectural frameworks, composed on an altogether different scale from most of the buildings that surround us. Comprised largely of short essays and photo-investigations, Henly explores the development of the car park over the last century, looking at changes in design, use, materials, and forms, dipping into the rival conceptualizations of car park as urban hub, blight, or reluctant necessity.

Two other books that are working their way through our office are Benjamin Barber's book on consumption patterns in developed capitalist economy. The title and subtitle pretty say it all: Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. We're still too early into it to offer any critical insights, but it is riveting, and one of our fellow readers, Sean Marchetto claims it has already helped him firm up ideas of the post-WWII visual culture that he talks about at www.explodingbeakers.blogspot.com.

The other book, Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought, has us a little bogged down in the meaty subject of grammer construction. Pinker promises to reveal how language shapes our thoughts and conceptualizations of reality, but without relying on the arguments of Wittgenstein, or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. We suspect he might be a closet Chomskyite, but will have to see, for The Stuff of Thought has offered many fascinating insights into the construction of language, it has yet to wrap things up into a big picture framework of reality.

As the holidays rapidly approach, and we look at the other books lining our reading shelves, we can only hope that Santa, or somone, leaves us some fiction beneath our Christmas tree, or perhaps a little poetry in our stockings.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Days For The Old Republik?

We first started to wonder when we saw someone downtown wearing what looked like a brand new t-shirt with the logo for the old Republik night club. A staple of the 1990s music scene, many of us cut our teeth in the converted maison-cum-rock-mecca, with it's gutted concrete basement and built-over garage, turned into a stage. Outside, around back, the rear of the house sometimes functione as an after-hours/informal nightclub, the Delux a precursor to the Embassy.

The t-shirt was soon followed by rumours that the Republik was re-opening, and a full-page ad in this week's edition of Fast Forward confirmed everything. No date was given for the opening, but something should surface soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Good German

Perhaps we've been hanging out with too many math folks lately, but we felt naturally inclined to express our views of the George Clooney/Cate Blanchett "The Good German":

f'(The Good German): S(Chinatown + The Third Man)

Fusion Infusion?

Despite our well-earned reputation as espresso lovers, we have been known to poke our heads around the local tea shops to investigate what's brewing. Quite often, as we stare at the loose tea leaves, we imagine packing them into our espresso machines to see what would happen. Obviously, certain teas, such as green and white tea, require a temperature range below that which our espresso machines operate, but perhaps some sort of herbal concoction might work? We've never been brave to work, but part of the allure is the supposed properties of many herbal teas.

Recently, a B.C. based coffee company has apparently been wondering the same thing, though in a slightly different way. Fusion Coffee infuses their beans with some of the same herbs that show up in teas. This week, The Daily Wenzel has been test driving their "Extreme Blend", that contains extracts of ginseng, yerba matte, and guarana, for added boosts of clarity, energy, and concentration (all this plus caffeine). Sadly, we report no insanely creative bursts of anything, though we suspect the recent sub-zero weather, dark skies, and occassional flurries may have more to do with our unusuallyt high degree of lethargy. Tastewise, the coffee is a somewhat lighter roast than our usual espresso flare, definitely sweeter, and took a little work to find the right degree of grind, but even without any supposed benefits, it is a satisfying taste alternative.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Strong Wind A-Comin'?

The UN Convention on Climate Change starts today in Bali, a two week process searching for a successor to the Kyoto Accord. As with the opening of other such conventions, there seems to be an expectant hush as the world hopes that this time something will happen. Meetings this year, such as those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have brought public opinion one step closer to accepting the need for some kind of dramatic change.

Things began optimistically today, with Australia announcing that they would sign on to the Kyoto Accord, a tacit announcement that they are rejoining the world community. Canada meanwhile is showing it's increasing reluctance to remain a part of this group.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Music, Music, Everywhere

It's been a long time since we talked music here, and a lot of musical water has passed under the bridge. A few of the notable discs that have stayed resolutely in our players include Feist's The Reminder, alternating as it does between dirgy tunes like "Brandy Alexander" and poppier masterpieces like "1234" (available on seemingly every Apple commercial). A rough and tumble live album, recorded by Tokyo Police Club at the Chicago Lollapalooza stopover, has sparked our enthusiasm for their Saddle Creek full-length, duo out early next year. Similarly, Bassano del Grappa gets voluably excited everytime Stars' In Our Bedroom After the War comes on, speaking passionately about some kind of Dr. Zhivago-esque grand romance movie script locked up inside his head. Apparently only Stars hold the key.

Other noteworthy releases include Radiohead's In Rainbows (see earlier post). We finally got around to listening to Bright Eyes' Casadegga to only lukewarm response, but the Broken Social Scene's Introducing Keven Drew has grown somewhat on us.

A charming little surprise came to us in the form of New York anti-folketeer Jeffrey Lewis' acoustic covers of Crass songs entitled, surprising, 12 Crass Songs. Stripped of the screaming vocals, and buzzing guitars, couched in softer tones for more suburban surrounds, Lewis helps us think of a time when we were better (and poorer and more radical) people. Generally we solve this problem by listening to Nico's Chelsea Girls, and just descending into a deeply morose spiral best counter-balanced by more uplifting fare, like Tokyo Police Club.