Goodbye 2011

December 31, 2011 at 8:00 pm (Uncategorized)

And as the last few hours of 2011 slip away, it’s time to look back and see some of the things that made life a little better this year  (as opposed to, say, the Sheepdogs)

1. Lester the Dog

Regular readers will remember I got a dog in June. A friend of mine told me it’s like having a toddler for 15 years. Not entirely wrong, but it’s going to be a good 15 years. Like having children, not everyone should have a dog, but if you can make it work… Lester has brightened things. Never a dull moment, and you know what, I actually enjoy the walks.

2. Zeppele

Mmm, creamy Italian dessert produced around Easter time. Say no more.

3. Justified

Ironically, I heard about this US series in a British magazine. In a nutshell, US Marshall Raylen Givens (Timothy Olyphant) kills a gangster in Florida under fairly dubious circumstances and is exiled to his hometown in Lexington, Kentucky. Sounds unremarkable, but Olyphant is irresistible and the stories crackle with excitement.  (Walton Goggins, formerly of The Shield is marvellous as a former white supremacist turned Christian fundamentalist). Do I need to say it’s based on an Elmore Leonard story? Season 2 is out on DVD next week. (Sorry, have to add this – apparently Leonard was on a panel discussion, ands after a young man came up to sell hello. According to Leonard the man’s name was Raylen something. Leonard snapped, how would you like to be in my next novel. The name was too good not to use)

4. Romeo and Juliet

I had to do a study of this play recently. It was never my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays (and still isn’t), but I do have a greater appreciation for it now, and the brilliance of the Bard.  (OK, now I understand the Prince of Cats line). It’s a testimony to the power of Shakespeare’s art that we still root for Romeo and Juliet even though they are doomed.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9

Like many people, I was thrilled with the announcement of the continuation of Buffy in comic form after the ending of the TV series. Like many people, I was also disappointed with season 8. It got off to a good start, but the Twilight saga, Buffy with super-powers etc lost me. In the final two books however, a gleam. The death of Giles, as painful as it was, was brilliant. And the final book had that Whedon feel to it. Season 9 is much better. To begin with, it’s about vampires again, and the dialogue and story feels much more like the series.  Worth that trip down to the comic shop.  

6. Anna Calvi

Yeah yeah, critical buzz, but ignore that; she really is that good. I saw her twice this year, at the El Mocambo and at Lee’s Palace. She basically played the same set, but it was sooooo good, I didn’t care. I don’t remember the last time I was this excited about an artist (maybe I should read over my blog). New album next year? Let’s hope.  

7. Island Foods

OK, it’s a small franchise with three stores in Toronto, but the roti there is fabulous. We live near the one in Don Mills, and eat there probably twice a month. Get the spinach and chick-pea roti with hot sauce. To die for.

8. Banana Republic Topcoat

Ok, let’s be superficial for a moment here. I bought a brown moleskin coat at Banana Republic this year. I know I’m long past the age where I might be considered cool, but I love this coat.

9. True Blood

Haven’t seen season 4 yet, but I did watch the first three seasons this year. . When I watched the Sopranos, I found it easy to root for Tony and his friends. But just as you did, they would commit some horrific act of violence, and I would remember these were amoral monsters. True Blood has that same effect, only with more sex and blood and rock and roll.

10. Downton Abbey

I’m not a monarchist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m a sucker for these British period pieces. Downton Abbey is the story of a titled family whose male heirs die on the Titanic. Because of the curious inheritance laws in the UK an estate with three daughters presents a problem. Like Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey tells three stories: the wealthy, the servants and the interaction between the two. For a show where people just talk, its essential drama.  

11. Arkham Asylum – The Game

OK, I know Arkham City is out now, but I’m a little behind. I’m not much of a gamer, but I do enjoy the Bat as he battles the Joker, Harley Quinn, Bane, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy (met her yesterday) and more. I’m reduced to playing the “easy” version, but it’s kinda cool. Check with me in three years when I’m playing the next version (The Assassins Creed series looks interesting too!)

12. French

I took French as a kid, and I wasn’t very good. I tried again in university, and the results weren’t much better. In September, I registered for French classes with the city. Oh, it was hard, but I signed up for part 2 starting in a few weeks. Notwithstanding the numerous typos that litter this blog, I think my sense of grammar is quite good, but my French is quite poor. It’s an interesting puzzle to try to understand and become comfortable in another language. My accent will never be confused for a native French speaker, but who knows, maybe my writing will be…one day. (Thanks to Sander for pushing me!)

13. Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – The Strain

My favourite pop novel this year. A very-readable vampire series with all the familiar clichés, but in an original way. Watch out for that stinger! Dark Horse are publishing an 11-issue adaptation.  And you can be sure there’s a plan for a movie somewhere along the road.

14. Canada’s Worst Driver

As a rule, I don’t watch reality TV, but last year on New Year’s Day, my daughter and I happened across a CWD marathon. Now it’s our show. I’m not a great driver, but I think generally I’m a safe driver, so a part of the thrill of watching the show is, “hey I could do that” or “Oh my god, stop doing that” On the season finale, you could see the rising fear in host Andrew Young-Husband as he rode in a car where the driver was on the wrong side of the road approaching a blind hill. like parents or pet owners, some people shouldn’t drive.      

15. Bowling

In the words of Homer Simpson, “if horse racing is the sport of kings, then surely bowling is a …very good sport as well. ” Indeed. I started a new job in November, and a few weeks in, people went bowling. What the hell I thought. In for a penny… And a lot of fun it was (it didn’t hurt, I ended up bowling better than most of the people there). Next time, ten pin!

16. New York

I’m really surprised how many people I know in Toronto who tell me, Oh I’ve never been to New York. But it’s so close, and it’s so cool. I rarely seem to get out of Manhattan, but I feel as if I barely scratch the surface there.  Still, Toronto always seems so small whenever I go there. Always something to see; always something to do. Last year was exploration, this year, it was shopping (including a visit to the American Girl store). The watch I got from MOMA always gets compliments.

17. Soundscapes  

Like New York, Soundscapes always seems to end up on this list. It’s a record shop for people who love music. No, not like HMV which is for something else, Soundscapes has that record you want, and the one you didn’t know you needed. Along with books, magazines, DVDs and tickets. Rarely do I leave empty-handed, and quite often with more than I planned to get. Whenever I read MP3ers prophecies about the death of the CD/vinyl etc, I’m glad stores like Soundscapes are still around. Rock on!

18. Matt Smith as Dr. Who

Now David Tennant was very good as the Doctor. Many people even placed him ahead of Tom Baker. Matt Smith, whom I’d only seen in the Sally Lockhart Mysteries (with ex-Dr Who alum Billie Piper), had big shoes to fill. And he’s great. There’s a moment in an episode this season where Smith dons an astronaut’s helmet and exclaims “Look how cool this stuff is!” Nerds everywhere rejoice.  (Oh and he wears a bow tie – see last year’s list, point 19)

19. Fan Expo

This past summer, I went to Fan Expo down at the Convention Centre. Fan Expo isn’t the biggest sci-fi/comic/fantasy/horror convention in North America, but with over 80,000 people attending this year, it’s pretty big. I went on a whim. A whim that turned out to ber overwhelming. After queuing to get in, I was startled by the size of the thing. But after I adjusted to the scale, it was pretty interesting – I wish I’d done my homework a little and actually prepared some things I wanted to do (I did fist-bump Larry Hagman – not on my to-do list). Sad puppy that I am, I’ve already bought next year’s ticket.

20. Hope for the Future: Class Struggle

Who would have thought it? At the end of 2010, we saw the fall of Tunisia, then the struggle moved to Egypt, and beyond in a movement which came to be called the Arab Spring. What the outcome will be is still uncertain, but a little over a year ago, they would have been deemed impossible. Then the Occupy Movement. Thousands upon thousands moved into opposition. words like socialism and communism were still dirty words to some, but they could be heard every day. In a leaflet published by Internationalist Perspective, the organization to which I belong, we wrote:

 In 2011, ten years after the attacks on New York that launched a decade of fear and demoralization, a breach has been opened. From Tunis to Cairo to Athens to Madrid to Santiago to New York, a fever is spreading. After taking it on the chin for so long, the working class, employed or unemployed, is beginning to rise up. We’re not gonna take it anymore! Something has changed. True, the Occupy Wall Street movement will not last forever. At some point, it will end, without a clear victory. But it’s just the beginning. This dynamic will continue and gather strength. Be a part of it!

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