Thursday, 31 July 2008

Voiceless in Seattle

Well, Lynnwood, actually. Just steps from the Alderwood Mall, which is where I spent much of my morning.

Trip report so far. At 9:15pm or so on the day before I flew out, I got a call from my sister Kathy telling me that the only night nephew David (who is getting married on Saturday and caused this whole mess therewith) is available for a family thing was last night. So I flew into YVR, picked up my rental car, and was at the border about 30 minutes later. And waited for 45 minutes to get through customs. Got searched. Well, the car did. And the suitcase. Oh well.

Drove straight down to Issaquah to see the relations (thanks for a whole 22 hours notice, by the way), had some nice dinner, and finally checked in at the hotel about 11pm. Embassy Suites. Gotta love suites. And it's a Hilton company, so I get more Hilton Hono(u)rs reward points.

Anyway, my throat felt sort of 'sour' yesterday getting off the plane, which I attributed to outrageously dry air in the cabin, followed by about 3.5 hours of air conditioning in the car. After a fitful sleep punctuated by dreams about staph infections and such, I woke up about 7am (waaaay too early) to get my free breakfast featuring cooked-to-order eggs (sausage, onion and cheese, accompanied by way too much bacon (yum), some potatoes (ditto), coffee and OJ), and then listed to a little NPR (I <heart> NPR) before heading off to the bank.

On the way back from the bank, I stopped at Alderwood Mall. I got caught in Sears during a sample-giveaway and 'free' bonus items with a purchase of a vaguely useful object (it would be more useful if I actually cleaned once in a while). Got some gift bags and such for gifties, and some sandals.

I got to the airport in Winnipeg yesterday at noon and discovered that I'd split the sole of my favo(u)rite sandals transversely (well, coronally, I guess), and they probably wouldn't stand up to the rest of the trip, so I had to buy new ones. I'll break them in later.

But anywa, I was telling the story of my broken sandal to the guy a The Walking Store and my already hoarse voice just about croaked away. Hopefully not for good. Someone (I forget exactly who) suggested it might be allergies, which I suffered from a lot as a kid growing up here, but very little in Winnipeg. It doesn't feel like a cold, but whatever it is it seems to have settled in my larynx.

Oh Joy.

So it's about 2:30, I'm going to have a bite to eat and then climb into bed for a nap. Gotta love suites. Hopefully my voice will be back, or all my hopes for scintillatng dinner conversation will go for naught.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I <heart> WestJet

And not because Facebook pal and former student Lauren Ham works for them.

They have economical flights (although for long flights, I would still rather spend the extra money on business class) for the shortish hops that Winnipeg to Anywhere usually involves. They have a service that e-mails you about seat sales and what not (my first official e-mail from WestJet was about three years ago, with an April Fools joke--anybody remember the "Blended Winglets" gag?. Gotta love a company with a sense of humor.) And I've just gotten really enamored of web check-in.

Twenty-four hours before your flight, you can log in and select your seat, print your boarding pass, and then all you have to do when checking in is drop your luggage on a belt and go have coffee and a paper until it's time to go through security.

WestJet has relatively small planes (the whole fleet is 737s) so there's no huge hassle getting on board. And I try to check in early and grab an exit row, just to get on the plane and settled early. Someday, when I have to remain calm in an emergency, I may regret that, but in general, I do okay in emergencies anyway.

So here I am, sitting in my favo(u)rite coffee place, checking in for tomorrow's flight, having a lime italian soda, and basking in the good news from the endocrinologist (A1C down to a comfortable 6.4, weight down a little, blood pressure a human 120/80), and trying to decide how badly I need to find a wedding present before I go home and pack. I'll be in and out of touch (gotta love hotels with free wireless).

So I'm going to finish my soda, maybe do some quick shopping, dash home and pack, clean house, make sure all the dead food is thrown out. Don't wanna come home to an apartment full of fruit flies again. Yech.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Hagiwara's Review of Fringe

I'm just getting home from the last day of the Fringe. Closing up shop after the festival is always a pain, since there's dozens of little details to attend to that you forget about until they're right on you.

Had a good Fringe. Fewer than the usual number of irate patrons (our favo(u)rite being the man who asked "Do you know what it's like to find parking down here?" Yessir. Some of us do it every day, and we manage to get places on time.) The usual number of irate performers (no, we don't know how many tickets we sold for your show two hours ago, we've been busy doing something else for all this time). Only one serious downpour, and thank heaven it was between shows. No heatstrokes that I know of. No police raids, again as far as I know. So I guess it was a good Fringe.

I did have a bit of an adventure, with someone (a passenger) in car having a seizure, the driver pulling into the parking lot where we have our venues. Thank heavens a quick thinking patron called 911 so all I had to do was alert site security and then watch to make sure nothing untoward happened in the meantime. So I thought I might get through this Fringe without a First, but there it was, my first security call, and my first all-points all-clear call.

Saw more than my usual number of shows, all terrific. In order of viewing, "House" featuring Facebook buddy and Ribbit mainstay Jonathan Paterson, "Teaching the Fringe" by Facebook buddy Kier Cutler, "Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution" by the nuts from Sound and Fury, "Hands Off" by Hot Thespian Action, "African Folktales" by Facebook buddy Erik de Waal, "It's a Gay Gay Gay Gay World" by Curtis Lowton and his pals at hYsTeRiUm, and the 10th Anniversary revival of "Midsummer Night's Fever" by Leith Clark.

Also wormed my way into the staff/techie wrap party by hanging around FOHP counting money and making myself generally useful. That was fun. Free pizza, leftover beer and such from the Beer Tent and Beverage Patio. And lots of inside laughs from the staff and crew.

So that was Viva Las Fringe. Looking forward to next year already.

Now I have two days to catch up with work, see the endocrinologist, do laundry, pack and clean house before my flight out on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hagiwara's Review of Movies

So I was doing some shopping yesterday afternoon, and I decided to see one of two movies I was vaguely interested in. I'm not much of a movie person. Not that I don't enjoy movies. I just don't often go see them. But two movies presented themselves in my path, conveniently scheduled, and there you go.

So the choice was between "Get Smart" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth". I like Steve Carrell, and I loved "Get Smart as a kid, so I figure I'll see it at some point. So I decided to see "Journey", in order to partake of the 3D experience.

Okay, 3D effects were pretty good. A few gratuitous straight-at-you things just for the cool 3D of it, but not so many that they were annoying. A couple of them were actually quite well done--well placed, cinematically thinking. Occurred at the right moment and evoked the appropriate response from the viewer, i.e. shock or fright or start or something.

Several straining the edges of credulity sci-fi adventure moments. Confusions between being 'miles' and 'hundreds' and 'thousands of miles' below the earth's surface. The earth is only about 8 thousand miles in diameter, and magma and iron core and such notwithstanding, it doesn't take that many miles to potentially enter a new world. That and falling that distance, or shooting back up that distance, even with terminal velocity and such, would be a lot more injurious than it was made to look. I'm not complaining in general about 'bad science' or 'poor research', so much as inconsistency. Falling miles and miles and miles and ending up completely uninjured, 'slowing down in the waterslide' not withstanding, is just not necessary, when falling a mile or so would do plenty. Although the fall itself was a riot.

Storywise, this has little to do with the Verne novel, although this is explained early--the lead character (Brendand Fraser) has a brother who apparently believed (and disappeared trying to prove) that Verne's novel was a history, and that Arne Saknusemm (the fictional alchemist whose notes lead the novel's protagonists on their adventure) was historical. Accompanied by the now 13 year old son of the lost brother, Brendan Fraser's character discovers seismic conditions are now identical to those that started his brother on his last journey, and they go off to find out what happened. They pick up a beautiful mountain guide in Iceland (who is more more interesting than the taciturn post-Viking guy they pick up in th enovel), who is the daughter of another "Vernian", now deceased, blah blah blah.

So they end up encountering a lot of the stuff from the novels--the giant mushroom trees, the reversed magnetic polarities, the underground sea, and yes, the monsters, while trying to get out of the big hole they fell into (see above).

They make it back, and a sequel (Atlantis, the Lost Continent) is implied, and all in all, it wasn't a bad movie. I mean, it won't win any big awards, except for visual effects, but it wasn't a complete waste of money.

I have one serious problem with it, and it's the yo-yo. They spend a long time setting up the kid and a yo-yo. It was his father's. They find it in a box of his father's stuff his mother hands to Brendan Fraser. "Mom doesn't talk about him much." So apparently the missing Dad was a whiz with a yo-yo. SO the kid picks up the yo-yo and after a couple of tries discovers he can do a few simple tricks with it. Nothing unbelievably for a beginner, mostly walking the dog and throwing the yo-yo around (leading to a 3D effect that is only half-gratuitous). He spends the flight to Iceland (if you've read the book you get Iceland, if you haven't, it's where the volcano with the holes to the interior of earth is) practicing.

So when the dinosaur comes to hassle the kid, or the flesh-eating fish, or something, you expect the kid to whip out the yo-yo and bop some monsters in the nose. Or at least knock some fruit out of a tree or open a hole in a wall to get some water or something with it. But he doesn't.

As far as I can tell, the yo-yo doesn't appear even once in all of Iceland, or afterward, unless it's what fell out of the kid's pocket at one point near the end of the film when he's clinging to a rock. I mean come on. You start with a yo-yo. He's the son of a yo-yo guy. He's a yo-yo savant. Brendan Fraser even says 'you know, these things started out as weapons, not toys'. And it DOESN'T FIGURE INTO THE FILM AT ALL.

I mean, there's a mention of batting cages near the beginning of the film, and they don't even go, but at a critical moment, both the kid and Brendan Fraser both start clubbing things out of the air. There's even a joke about switch hitting in the middle of it all.

Setting up the yo-yo and then not paying it off is just a screenwriting/filmmaking ERROR. Plain and simple.

But the 3D is cool. And it's not really a bad film. But not great. But how great were you expecting?

Friday, 11 July 2008

Fringey with anticip ... ation

That's mixing a metaphor or something, but it's pretty much how I feel.

My term as Acting Head is over (thank &deity;), but technically I'm still Grad Chair, Undergrad Advisor, Curriculum Development Central, Clinical and Developmental Linguistics Advisor, Department Webmonster, and on a hiring committee for an instructor in another department. And of course, I'm supposed to be doing research, preparing a grant applications, preparing ethics board stuff, and coming up with a good reason to go on leave next year.

But emotionally, spiritually, and mostly mentally, and soon to be physically, I'm in Fringe Time.

Fringe Time is state of unsuspended animation spent concerned primarily with things Fringe, i.e. the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, at which I volunteer as a Venue Team Leader, which means that I liaise bewteen the ticket sellers and ushers, the technicians, the site and festival supers, and the Fringe Staff. And occasionally security and so on. I'll be working six shifts at Venues 8/9, which are two spaces at the back of the Conservatory Building on Bannatyne. We're not supposed to call it the Crocus building anymore, for reasons having to do with the collapse of the Crocus Fund, but there's still a huge sign on the corner that says "Crocus". Enter the parking lot just north of the building and my two venues are back there.

Anyway, the Fringe is really the only outside, vaguely social, and vaguely charitable (well, non-profit and sort of community-based) thing I do outside of school stuff. I love being part of the Fringe (arguably) the largest unjuried theatre festival in North America (it depends on how you count--total box office, number of performers, number of performances, or number of patrons, and how well Edmonton does every year). More than seeing shows, I love interacting with technicians, performers, directors, and other Fringe Lovers, on both sides of the Venue Table.

I also love counting money and bossing people around, but that's a separate issue. (I always say, "I'm kind of a control freak, but I'm going to try not to micromanage you," at the beginning of a shift, and then when I see someone doing something I can't stand, I step in and say, "Okay, I'm going to micromanage you now, just for a second, but could you/we ..." and I make my plea. Usually that works. The 'could you' gives the other person the illusion of a choice, and therefore of power, which pays respect to their negative (or autonomy) face. See, all that time teaching "Language and Gender" has taught me something.

Anyway, I've been checking in less and less, and may be otherwise occupied for the next couple of weeks. WIll try to keep y'all informed of Fringe-related doings, etc., but not going to spend a lot of energy doing so, since energy is in short supply during Fringe Time.

Randumb thots:

Had another massage on Thursday, same guy, and today, except for a little soreness around my occipital bone (that's the back/bottom of the skull), I'm not really in any pain at all. Progress is being made.

Had an appointment with the GI guy today, and I'm now scheduled for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy for the end of October. "Just in case." Oh joy.

Bought a replacement for my dead duffel bag/suitcase thingy, so I have something to cart stuff to Seattle for nephew David's wedding, which by the way I leave for on Wednesday after the Fringe for a week. But I expect to have time to check in while I'm there, even if I don't during the Fringe.

I actually said this in front of someone, completely accidentally: "I was going to go out and find somewhere to play tonight, but instead it looks like I've going to stay home and play with myself."

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Better news!

It's Wednesday, 2 July 2008, and I'm not Acting Head anymore!

w00t! w00t!