Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hibernation - Fall 2009

I've been debating whether to continue this blog, now that I'm no longer travelling. On the one hand, my life hasn't been very exciting recently, and since I can see my friends in person, I don't need a blog to keep up with them. On the other hand, I still know lots of people in other parts of the world, and I figure this blog is a good habit I should keep up. So I'm going to keep posting entries - albeit short ones.

My first priority when I returned to Ottawa was re-applying to the JET Programme. Having already been through the process once, I found it less stressful this time, but I'm still nervous about it. My other priority, obviously, was finding a job. I've applied for several positions, most of them entry-level office jobs. I've also discovered that there are in fact language schools in Ottawa, and although teaching English as a second language doesn't seem to be as big an industry here as in Vancouver, I've submitted several résumés. After two-and-a-half months, though, I still haven't been successful in finding anything. I have to admit, I've been getting pretty discouraged.

Still, being unemployed does have its up-side. I successfully applied for E.I. again, so money isn't an immediate problem. I used some of my free time to take a C.P.R. course, and if I'm thinking of doing the instructor programme too. For Hallowe'en I once again took my inspiration from a recent movie, and dressed up as a Starfleet officer. A friend also decided to have a pumpkin-carving party at her house, which was fun, despite (or because of) the fact that she only had melons and various kinds of squash to carve.

Other than that, I've been filling my time with books, movies, and television, reconnecting with friends, getting back into swing dancing, writing ideas in my notebook, and wondering if I'll ever be a published author.

I split my Christmas between Ottawa, London, and my first ever visit to Hamilton (it wasn't very exciting).

Movies I've seen this season:

Freedom Writers
– Sappy inspirational film about a teacher who empowers her low-SES students by teaching them about the Holocaust. In the same mould as To Sir With Love and Dangerous Minds. (Three stars)

Divided We Fall
– Czech comedy-drama about a couple hiding a Jewish man in their cellar during the Second World War. (Three stars)

After the Wedding
– Danish family drama. Kind of like Secrets and Lies, but not as good, and too unrelentingly melodramatic. (Three stars)

The Counterfeiters
– One of the more interesting Holocaust films I've seen. This one focuses on prisoners being forced to produce counterfeit British and American money. (Three and a half stars)

The Naked City
– Old American crime film. The story's not bad, but a lot of the acting is hammy and the voice-over narration gets really annoying. (Three stars)

The Glass Menagerie
(1973) – Made-for-T.V. movie of a Tennessee Williams play. It was nice, for a change, to see a really dialogue-based film, and it reminded me why I like old movies. Aside from the overly bleak ending, I liked the characters and their story a lot. The fact that I knew most of the actors probably helped, although it was also a bit distracting at times. I was especially impressed with Sam Waterston; this is the first time I've genuinely liked him in something! (Three and a half stars)

– Really sweet movie. Not wildly hilarious, but still cute and entertaining. (Four stars)

The Glass Menagerie
(1987) – It was interesting to compare this movie with the 1973 version. The pacing was better but the tone was a bit too sombre. I preferred the actresses in this version but missed the actors from the other one. (Three stars)

The Informant
– Comedy based on a true story about a corporate executive who turns F.B.I. informant. Not nearly as good as I thought it was going to be. (Two stars)

Adam's Rib
– Romantic comedy about two married lawyers trying opposite sides of the same case. A cute idea for a movie, but not that well executed. (Two and a half stars)

Before The Rain
– Artsy Macedonian film. I didn't really get it, although I found the structure slightly intriguing. (Two stars)

– A film about the plot to assassinate Hitler. Worked as a historical dramatisation, but not as a thriller. (Three stars)

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
– Yet another World War II film, this one depicting the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy. Interesting premise, but still only a mediocre film. (Two and a half stars)

October Sky
– Really nice feel-good movie about a group of young boys trying to make a rocket for a science project. Based on a true story. (Three stars)

The Gods Must Be Crazy
– I'd heard a lot of good things about this film, but it turned out to be really bad – or, at best, so bad it was mildly amusing. (One star)

A Star Is Born
(1954) – Basically the plot of the 1937 version, padded with a lot of tedious and perfunctory musical numbers. (Two stars)

Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest meets Dances With Wolves IN SPACE! If you think of it as the former, it makes for an entertaining fable. If you think of it as the latter, it starts to seem trite and insulting. Either way, it didn't thrill me, but I enjoyed it. (Three and a half stars)

T.V. shows I've seen this season:

– Forgettable failed sci-fi T.V. show from the creator of Buffy and Angel. Similar in quality to Angel, with a more original premise, but less-likeable characters.

Defying Gravity
– Near-future sci-fi soap-opera. Likeable enough, but not great. I'm not surprised it got cancelled.

– T.V. mini-series about a Jewish family living through World War II. As a drama it's surprisingly mediocre, considering that the cast includes Meryl Streep and James Woods. Still, as a history of the Holocaust I found it somewhat interesting and informative.

Books I've read this month:

by Malcolm Gladwell – Another highly readable book by the author of The Tipping Point and Blink. This one has the dual premise that success is the product not merely of talent, but also of hard work and plain dumb luck.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver – The true story of an American family that moves to a farm and spends a year eating only home- and locally-grown food. It got me thinking a lot more about eating responsibly, and especially about eating seasonally. It's something I want to start doing more of, although there won't be a lot of fresh, local produce available now until spring time.

A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams – It's not that I don't understand the point of the story, which seems to be, "Men are pigs; women are doormats." I just don't find it very compelling, and I don't understand why it's the most famous of Williams' plays.

The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams – Bleak family melodrama about a mother and her two adult children living in Depression-era St. Louis. Having seen two film adaptations, I decided to read the original. It really is a beautiful play, with a very accessible story. I still find the downer ending a bit jarring, though.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories
by Salman Rushdie – I'd read this book a long time ago, and I'd forgotten how brilliant and wonderful it was. By far my favourite of the Rushdie books I've read.

The Pillars Of The Earth
by Ken Follett – Historical fiction based mostly around the building of a cathedral in twelfth century England. Quite entertaining, over all, although I got the impression that the author got bored while writing the last third of it.

Dreams Underfoot
by Charles de Lint – A collection of short stories sharing a common setting and many common characters. Most of them aren't very good, but I did like a couple of them.

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
by David Simon – True story of a year in the life of the Baltimore police department. Inspired the T.V. show of the same name, and written by the man who created The Wire. I haven't watched either show, but I did enjoy noting the similarities and differences to Law & Order. Incredibly well-written and extremely readable.