Monday, April 21, 2008

Announcing.., yet another blog.

Just a quick post here...

Feel free to visit our new blog: The Adventures of Ninja Baby

Monday, October 08, 2007


Hey Folks,

I've been noticing lately that "True North: Strong and Free" has been... well... de-evolving. The original intention of the blog was to discuss martial arts and martial arts related topics. It's obvious that since I've moved to Canada, and thus away from Vaughn's Dojang, I've been shifting my interests elsewhere. Alas, no more!

I've started a new blog called "Trouble with Titles" which can be found at I will be hosting ongoing discussions about every thing not related to martial arts at that site. I will be maintaining a strict martial arts/fitness related discussion here at "True North". Please feel free to visit both, especially all you Facebook peeps.

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ali-Come-Lately Part 2 - All Time Best List

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm kind of a "Johnny-Come-Lately" when it comes to cool media. I remember back in the day, say around '94, '95 or so, a friend of mine once suggested that I check out this cool new rapper named "Biggie Smalls". The little exposure to Biggie I had at the time lead me to believe that he sucked at rapping and I would hate his "bling-bling-party-all-night" message. Cut to two years later, I'm hooked on the Ready to Die album, and starting to place the Notorious B.I.G. in the All Time Best rapper list.

So in an effort to take some personal inventory, I present the following top 5 list of media that have been recommended by friends, and a follow up explination of why I have/haven't checked it out yet.

1. Heroes, TV show.

I actually tried watching the first episode when this show came out, but for some reason I didn't get into it. Everyone I know swears I would love it. I have some reservations, but I've decided to ZipList the first season. Hopefully I'll get to it after I complete season 5 of Angel.

On a side note, I've been a long time fan of Hayden Panettiere, and I am pretty glad she's been getting some big time notice for her acting.
In my opinion she's never better than she was in the HBO film Normal. Here's hoping she does well and doesn't get too chewed up by Hollywood.

2. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, movie.

Guy Ritchie's first film. My brother swears I'll love it.
Tried watching it last night, was bored out of my mind. I re-watched Deathproof instead.

3. Battlestar Galactica, TV show.

Jenni and Eric suggested I get into the new series. Given that they were the one who suggested Firefly, I'm going to give this one a healthy chance. Already ZipListed, buddy!

4. Transformers, movie.

I don't really care if I see this one or not because a) Michael Bay movies generally suck and depress the hell out of me; and b) can't get much better than the original Transformers: The Movie.

"You've got the Touch! You've got the POWWWERRRRR! Yeah!"

5. Neverwhere, novel
Again, Eric suggested that I read this one. Since he took my advice and read the Dark Tower series, I'm gonna take his advice and read this book. I must admit though, I am a bit worried 'cause last year Eric suggested that I read Chapter 1 of Gödel, Escher & Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by D. R. Hofstadter, and frankly I couldn't get past Chapter 1.

It was just too mind blowing for me. Eric is, well... I wouldn't call him a "genius" but he is smarter than the average bear (I'm sure Jenni will comment on that last remark...), and if this book is as complex as "GEB", well, let's just say I require way more passive reading entertainment.

Bonus Item. Doctor Who, TV show

Sarah is all about the new, revamped Dr. Who series. I frankly, could never get into Dr. Who. I will admit that Christopher Eccleston is pretty interesting as the 9th Doctor, and thus somewhat more watchable than the others.
I really liked him in that BBC/CBC joint production of Othello but, I just don't see myself screening any episodes anytime soon (unless Sarah decides to buy the DVD's and lend them to me... no bootlegs, please...).
By the way, I have the perfect name for Dr. Who fans. You know how Star Trek fans are called "Trekkies". Well, Dr. Who fans should be called "Re-TARDIS" y'know, like "retarded" but not really....

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ali-Come-Lately Part 1 - Review of Q. Tarantino's "Deathproof"

You ever have a friend say to you: "Hey, man! You should watch this movie/check out this TV show/listen to this CD/read this book, 'cause I know you'd like it!"

People say that to me all the time, and sometimes it just bugs me. I hate the fact that I'm so easily read by my friends. I also hate when somebody knows about some cool form of media before I do. It doesn't stop me from doing the same in reverse though: (By the way Grant, you should really rent Hot Fuzz, 'cause I know you'd like it).

Earlier this spring/summer, my brother-in-law suggested that we go see Grindhouse, that cool double feature of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Deathproof during opening weekend. Sounded like a cool idea, and it was sure to be fun because I'm a huge fan. But, I ultimately blew him off and decided not to go (I had to work a bunch of weekends this summer). So I missed out.

Strangely enough, against all critics and analyst's predictions, many other people blew off Grindhouse. It had a really poor showing at the box office, much to my surprise, 'cause it had some really great reviews and, what I consider, the best trailer of the year.

Cut to month's later, I finally rent Deathproof, and man I totally, friggin' suck for not paying to see it in the theatre!

I loved it. Deathproof is less a movie, more of a cinematic essay by Tarantino about a wide variety of topics, including but not limited to:
  • exploitation films from the 70's and 80's;
  • female characters in genre films

  • the waning era of practical car stunts and the men and women who perform them;

  • a primer on how to film an amazing car chase;
  • a primer on how to write amazing dialogue;
  • the wonderful world of music cues and sound editing;
  • the crazy, lovable, totally crushable, Zoe Bell;

  • the friggin' total awsomeness and cinema godness of Kurt Russell;

  • the cinematic magnificance of a woman's butt; and
  • Tarantino's long-suspected foot fetish.

The best things about this movie are the details. For example, the deliberately "bad" editing, distressted film stock and sound stutters that evoke that rich, exploitation film/grindhouse feeling, actress Tracy Thoms channeling Samuel L. Jackson right down to his crazy "pimp laugh" and the distinctive pronounciation of the word "motherfucker", and the rattles and squeaks eminating from Stuntman Mike's deathproof car. These details give the movie a larger depth, thus turning a simple slasher film into a work of art.

And as much as I want to big up the female stars of the movie, I'm going to take time in this blog to praise Kurt Russell. The dude rocks as Stuntman Mike! He easily pulls off the lazy charm and sadistic menace required for the role of a slasher movie killer, but when he totally loses it near the end, and goes all "Cowardly Lion", well friends, that just plain genius.

Since it's more fun watching Deathproof that writing about it, I'm gonna pop it into the DVD player and screen it again. It's good to be blogging again after such a long delay (work is a bitch, man, what can I say?). I'll see you guys again before long.



Friday, July 27, 2007

Fellow Traveler

I have a friend who gave a name to his smokes,
'cause when it comes to cigarettes this man don't joke.
He calls them "Fellow Travelers", and to me it's kinda funny
'cause he,
may or may not know that's what they used to call "commies".

But this man and the name, see, he really got me thinking,
the kinda deep thoughts I only get when drinking.
I had to take some time out to do the math,
and wonder: Who's my "Fellow Traveler" along life's path?

Now I'm a lucky man, I have family, friends and a wife,
who provide love and guidance as I make my way through life.
No disrespect to them, my "Fellow Traveler" is much more simple,
I'm not talking about people, I'm talking about a symbol.

My "Fellow Traveler" is sitting here beside my right hand.
It's a paperbook edition of Stephen King's The Stand.
I've had this copy ever since first year university,
and this old book has seen me through much adversity.

I've read it so many times that the cover's all torn,
the pages are all dog-eared and the spine is all worn.
I've tried to preserve in its semi-disintegrated state,
by covering the front and back pages with layers of Scotch tape.

Yeah, my book ain't mint, in fact it's quite a mess
But I find when life is hard, and things get kinda stressed,
I can pick up this old book and get lost between it's pages.
This book has helped me through some of life's tougher stages.

Its about the end of the world, and isn't that ironic,
that a book so scary can be a healing "soul tonic"?
Its about more than Armageddon, that's not what makes the story great,
Its all about men and women taking a Stand based on faith.

Call me a little crazy, but after I read a few chapters,
Whatever bothered me before, doesn't really matter.
I gain a sense of perspective (yes, I know that sounds like blather),
But I couldn't ask for more from my old "Fellow Traveler".

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter 33 to the End

"I open at the close."


Well, that was a huge bruhaha! The Battle for Hogwarts, the showdown between Voldemort and Harry for the Elder Wand, and the resulting coda. Full of emotional upheval. The highlights:

- the return of Percy
- the rally of Dumbledore's Army, The Order, the Potterwatch cast and crew and the teachers and students of Hogwarts.
- the image of Professor McGonagall leading a batallion of animated school desks to battle
- Neville throwing plant pods into the fray
- the final charge of the centaurs
- the battle between Mrs. Weasely and Bellatrix
- Kreacher leading the revolt of the House Elves

There are some things that confused me though:

- How did the giant spiders enter the battle? At first I thought the Death Eaters brought them on, but there may be some implication that Hagrid is responsible ("Don't hurt them!"), which would be too idiotic an idea, even for Hagrid. I will choose to thing that the spiders came of their own volition, attracted to the noise of the battle, seeking to eat the freshly fallen.

- How did Neville get Gryffindor's sword? I thought Griphook the goblin absconded with it. Perhaps the sword is so linked to Hogwarts that no matter who is in physical possession of the sword, they will loose it once a Gryffindor requires it for battle. We know that Neville was close to the Sorting Hat at the time, and Harry was able to pull the sword from the hat from book 2. But the hat was engulfed in cursed flames and Neville, I believe was magically bound at the time. Yet he emerges un-burnt and un-bound to deliver the final blow to Nagini. Again, perhaps the Sorting Hat itself protected and freed Neville as well as provided him with the sword (the hat is hinted to have quite a lot of magical power). But none of this was made explicit. Not that I mind, 'cause I think my logic fits nicely.

- Just a comment, all the questions on the ownership of the Elder Wand, who won it from whom, was getting to the point of annoyance. I like the concept, I just didn't really think that in the final battle with Voldemort, that would be a topic of conversation for so long. Anyways how I think it goes is, Dumbledore won the EW from his battle with _____, Draco disarmed Dumbledore in the last book, thus winning the EW, although he apparently dropped it and it was returned to Dumbledore's grave. Voldemort raided the grave, but the EW still considered itself Draco's wand, becase Voldemort didn't battle anybody for it. Harry and Draco battled in Malfoy Manor, and Harry was able to take not only Draco's original wand, but all other wands in Draco's possession would now consider themselves Harry's. Thus Voldemort was essentially using Harry's own wand against Harry, which explains the weakness of his magic (and may explain why it was so easy to protect Neville from cursed burns and free him so quickly). Whew...

- Who's daughter was Teddy Lupin snogging at the end? The name Victoire leads me to believe it's Bill and Fleur's child.

- Is it me or is the new James Potter a bit of an ass? A bit more malicious than say Fred or George was to Ron.

- What is the signifigance of the watch Harry wears in the coda? Does that mark him as a Ministry official, possible head Auror. I would think that Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny all work for the Ministry as Auror's. I also choose to think that Kingsley Shacklebolt is still Minister of Magic.

Anyways, let's look at the predictions I made in the first blog to see how if they came true:

1) Harry's gonna croak.

This one can go either way. I choose to think that Harry did indeed die, but earned the ability to return to life that one time. Purists may not buy this theory... feel free to post your arguments otherwise in the comments.

2) Voldemort's gonna croak too.

And he did.

3) Snape is not really on Voldemort's side, and will in some part assist in the Dark Lord's downfall, but in the eyes of the wizarding world, he will be forever considered a traitor.

I was right for most of this. The coda doesn't really make it clear if Snape is forever consisdered a traitor. Harry, in naming his son Albus Severus, certainly accepts Snape as a tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.

4)Ginny's gonna get kidnapped.

Way off on that one.

5) Ron and Hermione will live and marry, and raise a bunch of kids (not so much a prediction as a feverant hope).

And they do.

6) The last chapter will be titled "The Boy Who Died" or something of that nature.

Way off on that one.

7) Neville still has a major part to play in the tale, and will die in an attempt to destroy Voldemort.

Neville did have a major part as the destroyer of the last horcrux, but he's alive and well, teaching herbology at Hogwarts. I get half points for that prediction

8) Harry's scar is a horcrux.

I get full points for that one, but almost every fan thought the same.

9) Ron will punch Malfoy in the face! (again, a feverant hope)

I can't tell you how happy I was when that happened! Ron is the friggin' man!

10) Remus Lupin is gonna die too.

Ever since the character Lupin was introduced, my gut feeling told me he was a marked man. I knew he was gonna die, it was just a matter of time. Still it was a crushing blow, and for Tonks and Fred to go too, that was too much. The price for defending Hogwarts and freeing the wizarding world from Voldemort was very dear, indeed.

The following is a first draft attempt to list the fallen heros throughout the series. Feel free to add names I might have missed.

James Potter
Lily Potter
Cederic Diggory
Sirius Black
Albus Dumbledore
Charity Burbage
Hedwig the Snowy Owl
Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody
Bathilda Bagshot
Dobby the Free House Elf
Fred Weasly
Remus Lupin
Nymphadora Tonks
Colin Creevey
Severus Snape

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter 32

1:55 AM
Page 518 and my prediction #9 came true! He Hee!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Pottter Blog - Chapters 16 to 31


The endgame is afoot, and the Battle for Hogwarts is underway. The last fifteen chapters are pretty harrowing, and our gang takes some major casualties. At the same time the deus ex machina clanks along at key moments to save our heros.

I wonder who made the doe Patronus? The romantic in me would guess Ginny, but that does not jive with the facts.

More and more you hear about Snape, the more you wonder his motives. I'm sure that Rowling has some kind of twist planned for the character, but I'm thinking he's pretty much a total ass.

I'm pretty pleased that Nevill turned so bad-ass! I haven't seen a transformation like that since... oh, say Westley-Wydham Price in Angel. And man, I do love a good rally scene before a major battle. Some long lost friends show up to support Harry as he tries to complete his last desperate task.

If I had to critique, I'd say that the action scenes are starting to get confusing. It's hard to tell who's doing what to who. And I sure the hell am tired of Crabbe and Goyle. Never liked them, and never considered them a threat.

It's 9:34 PM and I've been reading since oh, about 1:30. That means I've been reading twelve out of the last 20 hours. Teresa has custody of the book right now, but she'll be going to bed soon. I reckon I can actually finish withing 24 hrs after all.

Harry Potter Blog - Chapters 9 to 15


In the Dark Tower Series Stephen King calls it "ka-shume" the feeling of dread that comes when a ka-tet, or group of hero's linked by destiny, begins to break. After sharing many harrowing adventures, after finding a horcrux and liberating a few Muggle-borns, Harry Potter's little ka-tet has reached the breaking point. Things are going from bad to worse.

The thing is Voldemort is not the sole reason things are going so badly in the wizarding world. He's just taking advantage of the general fear and mistrust between wizards and muggles. And who's to blame really? Since The Goblet of Fire Rowling has been steadily highlighting the darkness that pervades the wizarding world. The Harry Potter books started off as a nice escape from our more mundane world, to a place of magic. Since book four, the Harry Potter books have come to reflect our own world more and more. The complexity, the shades of gray, the conflicted morality... I'm just really glad that that these issues are being explored in a supposed "kid's" book.

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter "Freh?"

My non-stop reading marathon turned out to have major stops after all. I was betrayed by two things:

1) My body: I gamely tried to continue reading through chapter 9, despite what I wrote in my last blog, but I fell asleep mid-chapter. I was so tired I hardly understood what I was reading anyway.

2) My wife: While I was sleeping, Teresa absconded with the book. She's currently finished chapter 4, and for any HP fan, it would be nigh impossible to not continue on to find out the outcome of the books first, and quite amazing, action sequence. I shall have to wait for her to stop reading, or resort to dastardly measures to gain access to the book. I plan to make a huge mess in one part of the house, bring her attention to the problem, and given her meticulous nature she will be complelled to attend to the mess and drop the book. If that doesn't work, I will have to spike her drink with knock-out drops. Either way, the book will be mine... oh, yes...

It will be mine...

Harry Potter - Chapter 8

It's 5:00 AM and I'm done in. Harry and his peeps are safe for now but only in the loosest sense of the word. They are on the run, confused, disheartened and their worse fears are happening. All that means the book is fantastic and very hard to put down. But put it down I must. For now anyway...

Harry Potter Blog - Chapters 7 & 8

Man, already a major battle, major casualties, two Patronuses, much heartbreak and denied love and I'm only on page 133 (of 607). Chapter 7 helps renew your contempt for Rufus Scrimgeour. Chapter 8 starts off so funny, so nice and heartwarmingly good, featuring a surprising return of beloved secondary characters that I began to suspect that things were going to end badly. And sure enough, the crap really hits the fan. Cliffhanger ending too!

It's 4:32 in the morning and I'm beginning to fade. The Ginny/Harry thing is doing me in. And Mrs. Weasly really has to cut out the over-mothering. Voldemort has made such headway into terrorizing the wizarding world that over-mothering is just gonna get more people killed!

The ghost of Dumbledore (figuratively speaking, not like Nearly-Headless Nick) is featuring big time. The guy is proving to be just as big as a mystery as Voldemort. It's amazing how little we know about his past...

Harry Potter Blog - Chapters 5 & 6

Mmmmm.... it's 3:31 AM and I am happily munching on cheese and crackers and reading one of the most engaging books in my library. Chapters 5 & 6 offered some respite after the crazy shenanigans of chapter 4, but wow, the characters are paying a heavy cost to save the wizarding world. Again I am struck by the allegory to post-War on Terror culture; the wizard folks who bury thier heads in the sand rather to stand for a cause, and the breeding of mistrust within a the Order. Anyway's Harry's people are hurting, but doing the best they can, and Hermione and Ron are proving once again to be the best friends ever.

I'm going to take a pee break before starting chapter 7, which looks pretty heavy...

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter 3

Whew, Chapter 4 is a doozy! Things are getting very dark for the Order.

Reading the first few chapters has made me wonder about the implicit analogy to living in the post 9-11 era. Here in Canada, the War on Terror is really does not have the same impact that it does in either the US, UK or Middle East. There has been no attacks on Canadian soil, so there's not the same level of pervasive fear. Maybe the darkness of the last few books, and the mood of the last few chapters J.K. Rowling is making some comment on the culture of fear that has developed since the attacks and the resulting war. Certainly the actions of the Ministry of Magic share a lot of the "head-up-the-ass" actions of the US (and perhaps UK) government.

The book is great so far. Rowling is calling back some of the more memorable images from the past books, like the return of the flying motorcar. Generally in the other books, you don't hear much from the Dursleys after the third or fourth chapter, and they seem to bow out of the story as I expected (although there is one minor and rather nice surprise).

By the way the casualty count is beginning to rise...

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter 2

Oh Dumbledore, we hardly knew ye!

We learn a little bit more about the Headmaster's background, and it's a doozy. And guess who's back? Rita Skeeter.

It's 1:52 and I only finished chapter 2.

Harry Potter Blog - Chapter 1

A quick scan of the end of the book shows that my predition #6 is wrong. The last chapter is not "The Boy Who Died". I won't tell you what it is, but it is marginally more hopefull.

The first chapter starts with a scene with Voldemort and the Death Eaters, in keeping with the pattern of the last three books. Voldemort declares his goal and it doesn't look good for either the Muggles or those that love them.

Voldemort's last words in the chapter: "Dinner, Nagini," is very creepifying. As bad guys go, he's as scary as Anakin Skywalker wasn't in Episodes I to III.

Who is more scary?