Sunday, 21 December 2008

#14 Watch the Indiana Jones films

Status: Watched

My attention to this list has reached even higher levels of slackness. Though if there was one image I wanted to leave languishing at the top of my blog, it's the Baconator.

Either way, it's probably inexcusable that I haven't updated this task, which was completed by the time Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released.

Perhaps it's because they were ridiculously hyped before I had a chance to see them, but I do feel the Indiana Jones franchise is overrated. That Empire magazine recently voted Raiders of the Lost Ark the second-greatest film of all time only cemented my belief. I mean, it's very good, but the second-greatest film ever? I don't see it. I know I'm a fan and I know Indiana Jones was partly inspired by 007, but I find a number of the Bond films significantly superior to the Indy flicks.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's dark story is undermined by a screeching heroine and annoying child, while Sean Connery's appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade elevated that film to equal status to Raiders, in my view. The controversial Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an adequate, even fun follow-up, but, like another of this summer's resurrections, The X-Files: I Want To Believe, it didn't really do much to warrant bringing these characters back.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

#50 Eat vegetarian for a month

Status: No-Meat November is underway

It's on. No meat for 30 days. That's 720 hours. That's 43,200 minutes. No bacon, no chicken, no turkey, no hulking steak, cooked medium-well ... a mouth-watering eight ounce slab of meat that falls off the bone. And, most definitely and most damningly, no Baconator, a burger to which no adjectives do justice. 

It's Day 6, and I have the shakes. It might be due to the fact my arteries have less fat coursing through them than on the day of my birth (I seem to recall munching on a ham sandwich in the maternity ward). Or it might be the fact I'm currently more spinach than man. What percentage of the human body is normally composed of water? 70 percent? I reckon all of that water has been absorbed by the spinach currently inside of me. What is it with vegetarians and weird vegetables such as spinach and artichokes? Carnivores are quite happy to settle for potatoes or carrots or – on a particularly adventurous day – a handful of green beans. But the minute you banish dead animals from the house, you somehow wind up on a diet of oddball veggies like asparagus.

Anyway, I'm contemplating creating a range of products designed to ween people off meat. Kind of like those aimed at someone addicted to cigarettes. Instead of some nicotine gum, you could chew on a rind of bacon. And rather than a nicotine patch, slap a slice of pepperoni on your arm. Anything that will take your mind of those delicious meals-on-legs.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

#81 Visit the Edmonton Corn Maze

Status: Maize maze completed (What? Too corny?)

If you're thinking I'm padding this list out with cool things I've done that weren't particularly challenging or life-altering experiences, you'd be right. Well done. Want a medal?

Last night we headed out to the Edmonton Corn Maze (location: just west of the middle of nowhere) to rummage about in some maize for a couple of hours. As an Australian who grew up in the city, it was a strange experience - but for my Canadian chums who came along, it all seemed a rather normal way to spend a Friday evening.

Here's what the maze looks like this year.  Heck of a crop circle, eh?

We arrived about an hour after sunset, so the atmosphere was suitably creepy. The fright factor was ultimately cranked to 11 after we discovered the place was swarming with teenage twerps whose idea of a good time was to lob ears of corn at each other while screaming obscenities. It's nice to see the young whippersnappers take a break from knifing each other in the city's grimy underbelly, but a cob of corn could honest to God knock you unconscious when hurled sky high. It made things tenser than that crop-dusting scene in North By Northwest.

Anyway, we grabbed two "passports" of varying difficulties consisting of questions that lead you from one point in the maze to another. The difficult one required an absurd knowledge of the Indianapolis 500, while the easy one (alright, it was "for tots") offered up the conundrum of whether corn is grown in outer space. I'm surprised we made it out at all.

#75 Watch Tim Burton's entire filmography

Status: Ashamed at just how far behind I am in updating this list

It's a bit appalling, actually - I've completed quite a few of the tasks on my list, but simply can't be freaked updating this blog. Fortunately, that hasn't been a task in itself yet, so I'm excused.

Anyway, is there a filmmaker more inspired and twisted than Tim Burton? Probably. But I'm a curmudgeonly old filmgoer who's rather stuck in his ways, so Burton will do just fine, thank you. His CV is nearly flawless, so it's always a joy to sit down and watch a film that seems to have been crafted with the sole purpose of terrifying children (a worthy cause if ever there was one).

On my return flight from London (an update on which is forthcoming, I promise), I watched one of Burton's few missteps; the curious Mars Attacks!. It's a movie I really want to like. It has a cast so ridiculously famous it begs for the creation of a letter preceding "A" because the term "A-list" doesn't nearly do it justice: Jack Nicholson (in two roles), Glenn Close, Annette Benning, Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Rod Steiger and Tom Jones (as himself). It's overkill in a film that is already brimming with ideas upon which it never quite capitalises; the only real perk is watching dozens of aliens promising to make friends with mankind before obliterating everybody, seemingly for kicks. They must've learnt from us.

Anyhow, here's my Tim Burton checklist and where it currently stands (oh, and I'm just going with feature films to keep it simple):
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) - not seen
  • Beetlejuice (1988) - seen
  • Batman (1989) - seen
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990) - seen, resulting in considerable trauma as a child 
  • Batman Returns (1992) - seen 
  • Ed Wood (1994) - not seen
  • Mars Attacks! - seen
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999) - not seen
  • Planet Of The Apes (2001) - seen; Burton's only other misstep, as far as I've seen
  • Big Fish (2003) - not seen
  • Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) - seen, and revelled in child torture
  • Corpse Bride (2005) - seen 
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007) - seen; it convinced me that singing and large amounts of blood go hand in hand
Most intriguing of all is Burton's next project - an adaptation of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland - which will hit screens before my deadline for this list. Hooray for sheer wackiness.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

#39 Read Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There

Status: I'm late, I'm late, for a very important update!

How can you not adore a book with passages like this?
"I see nobody on the road," said Alice.

"I only wish I had such eyes," the King remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see Nobody! And at the distance too! Why, it's as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!"

All this was lost on Alice, who was still looking intently along the road, shading her eyes with one hand. "I see somebody now!" she exclaimed at last. "But he's coming very slowly - and what curious attitudes he goes into!"

(For the Messenger kept skipping up and down, and wriggling like an eel, as he came along, with his great hands spread out like fans on each side.)

"Not at all," said the King. "He's an Anglo-Saxon Messenger -- and those are Anglo-Saxon attitudes. He only does them when he's happy. His name is Haigha." (He pronounced it so as to rhyme with "mayor".)

"I love my love with an H," Alice couldn't help beginning, "because he is Happy. I hate him with an H, because he is Hideous. I fed him with - with - with Ham-sandwiches and Hay. His name is Haigha, and he lives -"

"He lives on the Hill," the King remarked simply, without the least idea that he was joining in the game, while Alice was still hesitating for the name of a town beginning with H. "The other Messenger's called Hatta. I must have two, you know - to come and go. One to come, and one to go."

"I beg your pardon?" said Alice.

"It isn't respectable to beg," said the King.

"I only meant that I didn't understand," said Alice. "Why one to come and one to go?"

"Don't I tell you?" the King repeated impatiently. "I must have two - to fetch and carry. One to fetch, and one to carry."

At this moment the Messenger arrived: he was far too much out of breath to say a word, and could only wave his hands about, and make the most fearful faces at the poor King.

"This young lady loves you with an H," the King said, introducing Alice in the hope of turning off the Messenger's attention from himself - but it was of no use - the Anglo-Saxon attitudes only got more extraordinary every moment, while the great eyes rolled wildly from side to side.

"You alarm me!" said the King. "I feel faint - Give me a ham-sandwich!"

On which the Messenger, to Alice's great amusement, opened a bag that hung round his neck, and handed a sandwich to the King, who devoured it greedily.

"Another sandwich!" said the King.

"There's nothing but hay left now," the Messenger said, peeping into the bag.

"Hay, then," the King murmured in a faint whisper.

Alice was glad to see that it revived him a good deal. "There's nothing like eating hay when you're faint," he remarked to her, as he munched away.

"I should think throwing cold water over you would be better," Alice suggested: "- or some sal-volatile."

"I didn't say there was nothing better," the King replied. "I said there was nothing like it." Which Alice did not venture to deny.

"Who did you pass on the road?" the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some hay.

"Nobody," said the Messenger.

"Quite right," said the King: "this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you."

"I do my best," the Messenger said in a sullen tone. "I'm sure nobody walks much faster than I do!"

"He can't do that," said the King, "or else he'd have been here first."

Terrific stuff.

#78 Try 10 new beers

Status: Forgetful (but not due to alcohol consumption)

Forgot another Vegas beer - and one worth mentioning - in my first update...

Origin: America.
Site of consumption: The Treasure Island pool area.
Refreshingly unpretentious description from official website: "Bud Light Lime is a premium light beer that combines the superior drinkability of Bud Light with a splash of 100% natural lime flavor."
Verdict: Refreshing and tangy!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

#11 Return to London

Status: London-bound!

After plenty of faffing about, I finally got around to booking my flights to London, despite some highway robbery (flyway robbery?) on the part of Air Canada's fare system.

Nevertheless, it's a mere 10 days until I return to ol' Blighty!  (And 11 days before I'm sucking away at a Magners like a baby with its bottle.)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

#78 Try 10 new beers

Status: Not an alcoholic...

...but at this rate, I will be. I just realised this is the third alcohol-related task on this (still incomplete) list. Moreover, it's a new addition and I'm whizzing through the 10 beers.  And I'm not even a big fan of beer! But this list is all about branching out (and procrastinating when there are more important things I should be doing, like booking my flights to London).  Besides, I defy you to find another blog where an entry on beer can immediately follow one on classic literature!

Origin: Not actually Belgium (Canada).
Site of consumption: Our Las Vegas hangout, Stripburger.
Pretentious description from official website: "[An] unfiltered style of ale [that] combines malt, wheat and oats giving the Belgian White its signature cloudy appearance and smooth, full-bodied taste."
Verdict: Served with a slice of orange, it's one of the most delicious beers I've ever tried.

Origin: America.
Site of consumption: Stripburger, again. This was my substitute when they were out of Blue Moon.
Pretentious description from official website: "Brewed by the original Wheat Beer Pioneers, Pyramid Hefe Weizen is left unfiltered for extra flavor and aroma.  Handcrafted with 60% malted wheat (10% more than Bavarian tradition calls for), our award-winning Hefe Weizen is unsurpassed in quality and exceptionally smooth and refreshing for the whole beer experience."
Verdict: Not as good as Blue Moon, but I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with "smooth and refreshing".

Origin: Scotland.
Site of consumption: The Twisted Fork diner, essentially my Central Perk.
Pretentious description from official website: "Using oak to age beer is unheard of, but the flavours imparted by the oak barrels (previously used to mature bourbon) lend an incredible depth of taste. Think vanilla, toffee and orange aromas, with a malty, lightly oaked palate; soothing and warm in the finish."
Verdict: Overlook that flowery prose (it's not a bottle of wine, guys!) and this is a delicious beverage.

Origin: Brewed right here in Edmonton. 
Site of consumption: The Twisted Fork.
Pretentious description from official website: "The Full Moon is a west-coast style pale ale that is doubled hopped [with Centennial and Cascades] for good measures. The hops gives this ale a nice citrus-like taste to balance out the caramel malts. It indeed is a balanced beast."
Verdict: Sounds lovely, but I thought it was a bit rubbish.  A refreshing reminder that I will never become a fully-fledged beer drinker.

To be continued...

Monday, 25 August 2008

#39 Read Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There

Status: In a child-like state

"I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole ... without the least idea what was to happen afterwards." — Lewis Carroll
I'll say! A perpetually late White Rabbit, a disappearing cat, a lecturing mouse, a race-organising Dodo, a gardening lizard, a gigantic puppy, a caterpillar who takes insult when people point out his size, Fish- and Frog-Footmen, an ugly Duchess, a Mock Turtle (as opposed to a real one), a Gryphon, a deck of cards come to life (including a Queen of Hearts, obsessed with decapitation) and, of course, a Hatter who is, as you would expect from a tale this ludicrous, mad.

And all that's before Alice passes Through The Looking-Glass! Yep, I've been getting reacquainted with the first of Carroll's two-part tale, a classic for children, on whom Carroll's amazing knack for puns, wit and all-around cleverness must be utterly lost.

Everything about Carroll's writing sparkles and Alice is as well-crafted and imaginative a character as the creatures who populate the world around her.  The Penguin Classics edition, which I'm reading, contains both stories and is packed with a lengthy introduction, annotations, appendices, an essay, the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which became the first of the two stories, and John Tenniel's fantastic illustrations.

It is with nothing but pure excitement that I await Tim Burton's adaptation of this phenomenal book.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

#76 Try haggis

Status: Not disgusted

I expected to knock this one on the head when I returned to the UK (#11 for those of you playing along at home), but was offered the opportunity to sample this Scottish cuisine at Fort Edmonton Park's Highland Gathering.

If anyone's culturally ignorant, Wikipedia offers the following list of typical ingredients:
Sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.
Surprisingly decent.