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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Sunny day

On most days I like to think that I am a man of reason, capable of controlling my emotions and thoughts, as any rational man of reason should. But sometimes, it's humbling to realize that I am no more in control of my mind than I am in control of the weather. In many ways, I am just a fleshy receptacle for chemicals that are trying to avoid reaching equilibrium (equilibrium = death; ask any biology teacher). I'm not saying my life can be driven by stoichiometry alone, but sometimes it helps explain things.

The sun rolled out domination style today and cranked up the heat in this city to a balmy 15C. This, in turn, caused the primitive cells in my brain to open their serotonin floodgates to release what little natural Prozac was left from winter, giving me a sense of inexplicable euphoria--not that I'm complaining. But just because my brain is producing this stuff instead of Pfizer, doesn't mean this potent chemical has no side effects. There is no free lunch, and after the dramatic high comes the inevitable crash. One minute I think the sun bathed streets of Toronto are the most beautiful things I've ever seen, the next I'm thinking about how it all reminds me of sunny weekend drives on No. 3 Rd in Richmond. I miss terribly much. But that's beside the point; Richmond is really quite a dump (sorry d~ :-p), so why am I getting all nostalgic about it all of a sudden? It's not rational, nor is it logical, nor is it reasonable. See what I mean about the chemicals and my being a mere receptacle for them?

Your Favorite (Irrational) Jerk

On a completely unrelated note, here are some pictures I took over the weekend on my trip to 1st Markham Place. Without going into too much detail, I will just say that the food was amazing and I had two bamboo-steam-trays of Xiao Long Bao in one sitting (approximately 16 pieces). Feel free to click around in there; I've added captions and explainations to most of them now--see especially the pics of my new phone :-) Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Le Jerk au printemps

I have writer's block. A lot has been going on lately, but I don't know how to write them down. Perhaps this is symptomatic of a mild case of the end-of-winter blues. Winter has a way of hanging around in this city long after it has worn out its welcome, like a drunk friend who refuses to get off your couch even as the sun glares menacingly at his hung-over face, caked with dried sweat from the night before...but I digress.

Anyways, on the inane subject of weather and seasonal patterns, it seems spring has quietly snuck in under my radar. If Persians didn't celebrate their new year at the beginning of spring (and hold large receptions at the lobby of my building) I would never have known that spring had arrived. Frankly, I can't picture renewal, regrowth, and rebirth when there is still snow on the ground.

Keeping track of the seasons is really quite a difficult task. Things were easier in Vancouver, where we only have two seasons: rain and summer. Here, people embrace all these old almanac seasons like spring, fall, winter, and summer. Whatever. It's easier not to keep track of the seasons at all. In my room, it's sunny and 24C everyday of the year.

Your Favorite Jerk

Friday, March 11, 2005

Jetsgo'in bankrupt

I bought roundtrip tickets to Vancouver yesterday from Jetsgo, and less than 12 hours later they declared bankruptcy. Now that the shock has worn off, it's really quite comical and I'm having a good laugh. Who would have thought that a company offering one-penny tickets to Vancouver (I kid you not; this is the deal I got yesterday) could possibly go out of business?

The timing was so impeccable that I was up all night wondering if my ticket was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Picture this: at one penny a trip, these guys must have been losing at least $199.99 on each leg of the trip; and right when I bought my ticket, I might have pushed their debt level past what their creditors allowed. I may very well have single-handedly destroyed Jetsgo. I so rock.

Your Favorite Jerk

Update 1:
AMEX has agreed to give me my money back :-)

Update 2:
When searching for "jetsgo+bankrupt" on Yahoo Search, this page comes up at number 8 (someone has said he's even seen it as high as number 6). I would gloat and say this is an amazing feat of blogging, but I'm afraid it's actually a reflection of just how crappy Yahoo Search really is.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

So many questions...

I have so many questions that I need answered. Do you ever get that? You wake up and almost everything you encounter makes you ask "Why?". Personally, I haven't had those kinds of days since I was five, but today has started out like one of those days.

As soon as I opened the curtains in my room and saw the layer of white frost on the ground I knew it would be cold--minus 20, if you must know. Why is it so cold today when just yesterday it was so pleasantly mild? How does a city drop 20 degrees in less than 12 hours? Is this even possible without either an asteroid collision, a nuclear holocaust, or Storm from X-men having PMS?

When I opened my bagged breakfast this morning, I found that in lieu of a spoon, I was given a fork and a packet of salt to eat my yogurt. Why? Who the @$*^ eats yogurt with a fork, and what do I do with the packet of salt!?!?!?!

And finally, while doing the rounds on the internets this morning I found this sign (via What Tian has learned) and it has been puzzling me to no end. I don't read Chinese or understand the physics of squat toilets, so I must ask: why does the orientation of the squat toilet occupant matter? Is it bad feng shui to face east while answering nature's call? Please, if you can read Chinese or know the engineering behind squat toilets, explain it to me.

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I have other questions I need answered, but these I cannot post for public consumption. They can only be answered by my lawyer and my priest, who have moral obligations to the bar and to God, respectively, to keep their confidentiality agreements :-p

Your Favorite Jerk

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol

Yesterday I saw Chuan Lu's "Kekexili: Mountain Patrol", and I haven't been able to stop thinking about that movie since then. Normally, I am wary of watching foreign films--especially ones about Tibet--because I find that they are either pretentious, or heavy-handed with their treatment of the subject. I don't watch movies to get lectured, but rather to be entertained. The brilliance of Kekexili, however, was that it could deliver a harsh lecture, while at the same time offer you almost 90 minutes of the most engaging entertainment you will ever see (or, if you're in North America, never see)

Set in the barren mountain ranges of Tibet, Kekexili opens with a confusing, yet gripping sequence showing the brutal execution of a Tibetan man by a group of antelope poachers. Right away, you'll know this isn't some movie about the Dalailama. As the story progresses, we are introduced to our protagonist, a journalist from Beijing, and follow him as he rides shotgun with a team of poorly-equipped, volunteer patrolmen tracking down the poachers. Along the way, the patrolmen discover that the enemey they're chasing is more ruthless than they thought, and the land they're on is even more unforgiving than their human foe.

For a movie like Kekexili, it's not hard to imagine that a lesser director might have made a 3 hour long "epic" with long, monotonous pans of the barren Tibetan landscape to fill up celluloid between boring, drawn-out fight sequences between one-dimensional heroes and villains. Thankfully, Chuan Lu artfully avoids these pitfalls and provides a very tight, 90 minute movie that'll knock you away. Never relegating the awesome beauty of the Tibetan landscape to mere backdrop, Lu constantly remind his viewers of the wickedness of its inhospitality--a young patrolman tells the journalist that a geologist once told him that "in Kekexili, every step you take may be the first one taken by man since the beginning of time"; but before the journalist can appreciate the romance of that revelation, the young man tells him that the geologist went missing and was never found, having likely been killed by quicksand. The characters in the movie are as compelling as the land on which they live, and as the story progresses and their situation appears ever more dire, Lu invites the audience to question the motivation behind each member of the mountain patrol, without being afraid that such questioning will weaken the story-telling.

To say that Kekexili is a tragedy would be doing a huge disservice to the word tragedy. As you watch the movie, you can't help but think that sometimes the battle is so stacked that good men can only do so much. In the end, it is only the epilogue which provides a glimmer of hope that mankind is not hopelessly lost and that good does eventually triumph over evil. But before you put down your popcorn and go give $5 to Greenpeace, take a deep breath because the last image of the movie, a black screen with five simple words "Based on a true story" will hit you like a freightrain train and make you question yourself. Do you think you're an environmentalist just because you ride around in your BMX and stick "I'm a gas-guzzling moron" bumperstickers on Escalades? Watch this movie, and think again.

Your Favorite Jerk

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Stand up and praise them

I shouldn't be posting because I don't have much to say, but the Vietnamese coffee I had an hour ago is preventing me from falling asleep. So, I may as well ask you all about something that's been bothering me since Wednesday night: what's the deal with standing ovations?

Two nights ago, I went a TSO concert at the Roy Thompson. The music was great, the seats were amazing, and the conductor was possibly one of the most engaging I've ever seen. In all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. So what's the problem, you ask? Well, at the end of the concert I noticed that many people in the audience stood up to give a standing ovation to the performers. Now, here's what I don't get: does giving a standing ovation to someone imply that you have just witnessed the best performance ever? Because at the age of 22, having seen no more than 20 concerts, I am frankly not ready to dish out that kind of compliment to anyone.

In the end, I had to get up and clap with the rest of the standing, praising audience because I noticed that only those who were infirm or nonambulatory remained seated. Personally, I felt I was forced to pay the greatest compliment to what was possibly not the greatest performance. What are your thoughts on the standing ovation? Let me hear it.

Your Favorite Jerk

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


If you have been keeping up with this blog -- and who can blame you if you haven't -- you'll recall that the last time I tried to go see a movie, I didn't quite get what I wanted. But behold, tonight I ventured out again to quench my thirst for moving pictures and the result was more fruitful.

We got to the "theatre" at around 8:45 tonight, and I was surprised to find out that the theatre was actually more like a bar -- to be fair, no one told me the name of the place was the Camera Bar before I got there. Apparently, the place is owned by Adam Egoyan so there was a whole indy kind of vibe at the place. Anyways, to make a long description short let me just tell you that there were candles everywhere, the washroom stalls were all unisex, and the cinema was a small 40 seater in the back of the bar. The place was fantastic and I would definitely visit again if I got the chance, but that's not really the point of this post. The topic I would like to bring to your attention is: evil.

The word evil is tossed about so casually these days that it's hard to distinguish the good-humored evil from the truly evil. The way I see it, there are two kinds of evil: "evil haha" and "evil evil". Perhaps a simple example will illustrate what I mean. If your friend accidentally sits down on a chocolate fudge sundae and you laugh at him because he looks like he's incontinent, that's "evil haha"; but if that same friend unwittingly sits down on a beaker of glacial acetic acid and you laugh at him because he no longer has any buttocks, that's "evil evil". As you can see, the later form of evil is far more dangerous and truer to real evil.

So what's all this got to do with the movie tonight? Well, everything; because tonight's movie -- a documentary called "Shaking Hands with the Devil" -- dealt with the uneasy issue of the Rwandan genocides that occured a decade ago. The movie really got me thinking because at it's core it poses a seemingly simple question: "Are not all men created equal, so that no one life should be valued more than another?" Specifically, we're talking about the value of an African life vs that of, say, a Belgium, Canadian, or Amerian life. While at firt glance, it seems obvious -- "...self evident", even -- that all men are created equal, I wonder if that automatically means that all men must value every life equally. I know intuitively that the answer should be yes, but when I really think about it I can't really say it's the way I feel. Let's say I had a brother who was in the army -- I know it's far fetched, but humor me. Now, say also that it's 1994 and someone tells me that if my brother goes to Rwanda, he might be able to save 1000 Rwandan lives but he may also be a casualty. Well, you know what? I know* his life should be of equal value to the life of a Rwandan, but I don't know 1000 Rwandans, so for me I value his life more and I wouldn't want him to go. At the end of the day, was this not what happened in Rwanda? It sucks a lot, but can we really say we are surprised?

Tell me, does this make me "evil evil"? I've always joked that I'm evil, but when I say that I mean "evil haha". Am I wrong here? Comments welcome, but personal attacks or non-constructive criticism will be ignored in the order received.

Your Favorite Jerk