My Life…Now Available on DVD

Chaos in Print

Joy was recently brought unto my household with the purchase of my DVD player. Now, I can enjoy the crystal-clear picture quality and digital sound quality previously only available to the wealthy, or those just willing to go into debt for it. But, this has brought about some changes in the way things are done in my house. Whenever I fire up a DVD to watch something like the cut scenes or the “making of” featurettes, my Dad says, with annoyance in his voice, “Are you watching that movie AGAIN?” Just last night, for the first time, I went to the corner video store to rent some DVDs. My Dad found his customary movie-rental role cut off. With no previews to fast forward through, and no lag time while you wait for the last movie to finish rewinding, he found himself with no opportunity to make popcorn. Not just a tragedy for him, but a tragedy for all.

But seeing how my DVD player has affected my Dad’s life, it got me to thinking. How could our lives change if they were on DVD? If directors can give running commentaries for their films, what would you say on the running commentary for your life? How would you edit your life into an eye-catching, drool-inducing 2 minute trailer? Would you really want to stick some of your daydreams and fantasies into that cut scenes section? And, most frightening of all, how many people would really want to see The Making Of YOU!, starring your parents? Still, though, it got me to thinking, and now I’d like to present to you the special features you’d see on the DVD for my life, enhanced for 16×9 TVs, of course.

The Trailers
Mark Cappis, angst ridden university graduate. Artist. Scientist. But, he harbors a dark secret. As the sun rises over the sleepy city of Drayton Valley, and the gates to the Derrek Mall are opened, Extra Foods cries out for, a hero! [Cut to scenes of me donning black apron, black tie, and name tag stating simply “BAG BOY.”] Yes, Mark is, in fact BAG BOY!!

THRILL as Bag Boy performs his heroic exploits!
Cashier: Bag Boy! I need a price check!
[Bag Boy springs into action, sprinting through the aisles. He leaps over a crouching customer, and at the top of his jump, things slow down and get all bullet-time like in The Matrix.]

AMAZE at his phenomenal strength!
[Bag Boy heaves 6, 20-kg bags of dog food over his shoulders]
Bag Boy: Let me help you out with these, ma’am.

WATCH as he battles with the corrupt management!
Regional Manager: Damn it, Bag Boy, this company doesn’t need someone running through the aisles doing price checks! If people were made aware of the actual low price, we’d lose millions!
Bag Boy: I’m not going to cheat the innocent out of their hard-earned dollars just so your company can have a bigger bottom line.
Regional Manager: Watch that tone, Bag Boy. Especially when people are fully capable of shoving things into bags on their own.
Bag Boy: I am not going to stand idly by and watch people SQUISH THEIR BREAD! YOU’VE BEEN BEHIND THAT DESK TOO LONG, YOU <deleted to insure PG-13 rating> MBA!

FEEL as his duties conflict with his most romantic desires!
[Scene of incredibly hot cashier and Bag Boy, their eyes locked together over the till]
Cashier: I just have to know, are we going to try to love each other?
Bag Boy: I’d like to, [lifts frozen turkey into camera view] but someone has to bag this turkey.

Yes, a new hero for a new time! Standing up for your rights! Protecting the innocent! Making sure your eggs get to your car in once piece! Bag Boy! Coming to theaters this summer!

The Running Commentary
Director/Writer/Star Mark Cappis: “Ahh, yes. This is the fourth grade Christmas concert scene. This was one of the most difficult scenes to film, as you are about to see. Our producer [teacher] had decided that a re-telling of The Shoemaker and the Elves was the most appropriate piece for my troupe, and she selected me to be the narrator. So there I am, spotlight on me, with the action playing out to my immediate right. Now, this was truly an off night for me. I had just recently gotten my glasses, and as you can see, they are clearly too big for my face. This was the origins of my whole “nerd” look that was to plague me for years to come. Now, I would be amiss if I didn’t point out the prowess and skill of Rob Burton, playing the lead elf there. This is a young man whose skill at comedy would be an influence on me for the rest of my life. Oh, and now we’re coming to one of the biggest bloopers of this whole production. I can’t believe we left it in this film. See, the sound FX guy is about to sound ‘the chimes of midnight.’ Like directed to, I turn my back to the audience so I can count of the chimes. And, there it is. Yes, with my back to turned to a school gym filled with my parents, grandparents, and hundreds of others, I’m scratching my ass.”

Cut Scenes
“Now, I’m sure you’ve seen this scene in the final film. See, there she is, standing at that payphone. It’s a beautiful night, with all the stars out and a full Moon. Boy, the FX guys were on a roll that night. Anyway, in the final film, I recognize her, walk up to her, and mumble a hello. She says hello back, we exchange some small talk, and I go on my way. But, what you are about to see is how I originally intended the scene to play. I walk up to her, say my hello, and in the course of my conversation, I confess my undying love to her. Stunned by this, she hangs up the phone, we walk into the night, and continue our conversation. I don’t know. Sometimes I regret making this cut, other times I don’t. I guess you’ll be able to judge for yourself.”

Needless to say, watching your life on DVD would be a unique experience. I guess it all boils down to one thing. When you are on your deathbed, and your life flashes before your eyes, do you want to see things as they actually happened, or the Director’s Cut? Perhaps there are some questions that technology is just not meant to answer. So, then, until next time, I’m going to hit rewind and go make some popcorn.

Against A Brick Wall

Chaos in Print

When I was in the eighth grade, I had this one substitute teacher. My class was being quite rowdy, as we always were for a substitute teacher. Wanting to keep us quiet, that teacher issued a challenge to my class. He drew this simple brick pattern on the blackboard:

The Infamous Puzzle

He told us that there is a way to draw one continuous line that intersects all the lines in this pattern. He even said that there would be a prize of $50 to the one who could solve this puzzle. All of us in the class got to work right away, sketching the pattern on looseleaf and trying to draw that one continuous line through trial and error. That kept us quiet for pretty much the rest of the afternoon. None of us in the class could solve it. As that substitute teacher was quite a frequent visitor to our school, we’d always present our latest possible solutions to him whenever he came back, in the hopes that we’d win that $50. None of my classmates ever solved it. When I was bored in high school, I’d sketch that pattern in my margins, and again try to find that continuous line. Same deal at university. Even now, during my breaks at work, I find myself sketching that pattern and drawing lines. For 10 years now, I’ve been trying to solve this “riddle of the substitute teacher.” But, it does say something about my personality.

I am a person who has trouble letting go of things. When I am presented with a problem such as this, one with no obvious solution, it gnaws at me. Through a repeated process of trial and error, I attempt solutions only to have them fall flat. These problems become sirens, singing a song of temptation and driving me mad. Maybe that’s why I originally found math appealing. Every calculus equation was just another unsolvable problem trying to seduce me to my end. But when a problem has no obvious solution, I just have to solve it. And the one that I’m currently confronted with is a frustrating one, indeed.

I’m sure by now you’ve all read of my grand adventure visiting L and her three lovely roommates down in Camrose. You also read how I was developing a bit of a crush on the one known as Lady Jaye, and how my heart was crushed when I was told that she is a lesbian. At first I took this in stride. This happens to me a little too often. I develop a crush on someone, but soon it moves on to someone else. This week it’s Lady Jaye, next week it’d be that new news anchor on channel 6. But something weird happened. The crush wasn’t going away. It was starting to get disturbing. Why wasn’t it going away?

I began comparing this to previous crushes. (Good ol’ physics: look for the pattern.) In the past, when could I describe those crushes as being dead? Well, in the sunset of a crush, I’d usually cook up some kind of reason to convince myself why we’d never work together. But this time around, I didn’t need to cook up a reason. I had a ready-made one in the fact that she is a lesbian. That didn’t sit right with me. That’s the kind of excuse that men tell each other when they get shot down in singles bars. “Oh, she didn’t like me because she’s a lesbian.” As excuses go, it was just too darn convenient.

There was another reason why it wasn’t sitting well with me. Whenever I came up with an excuse on my own, there would always be that one niggling self-doubt in the back of my mind. There would be that one little voice saying, “Well, you’ll never really know, will you?” From that, I’d draw hope; the hope that I’m not a complete loser and the day I do work up the nerve to confess my feelings, I will find my one true love. As long as there was doubt, there was hope. But in this case there was no doubt. We wouldn’t work at all. No doubt means no hope. No hope means I’m destined to live alone forever in my parents’ basement. I needed to know that I’d never really know.

So, my unsolvable problem was this: How do I get a lesbian to reject me, but not because she’s a lesbian?

As is always the case with these problems, the logistics of my first solution made it completely impractical. At first I thought the answer would be simple. Simply get Lady Jaye to say she’d go out with me if I were a woman. That would provide the requisite hope and I could get on with my life. But how do I implement this solution? How do I walk up to a person I barely know and ask, “So, if I went to Sweden and had the operation, would you go out with me?” And besides, if she said no, I’d be back at square one. Impractical.

I needed to know more about Lady Jaye. Perhaps I could form a good excuse as to why we wouldn’t work if I knew more of her character flaws. Who knows more about your character flaws than your roommate? So, I e-mailed L and asked her to send me a list of what she doesn’t like about Lady Jaye. And L responded. As I read through the list, I came to a stark conclusion. This was just the wrong thing to do. Getting someone to write out a list of why they hate someone else is just a negative exercise that accomplishes nothing. I should have never made L go through it. L, if you’re reading this, what you should do now is write out a list of everything you like about Lady Jaye. And give her a big hug. And again, I’m back at square one.

Time to focus on my skills as a scientist. I got that degree for something, right? Based on my observations of Lady Jaye while I was down there, I should be able to come up with something that could help me get through the night. Let’s see…what did I see? Well, she was leafing through this bike catalogue. So, this implies that she’s a cyclist. That’s OK. I used to do a bit of biking. What else? She made reference to Dr. Lotz and the biathlon team. Biathlon implies that she skis. I don’t. I tried it and didn’t like it. In fact, she was quite athletic. She’d want to be outside running and jumping and enjoying the sunshine while I’d want to stay inside and watch Star Trek reruns. Come to think of it, I hate athletes! How the hell can you dedicate your life to a sport? How can you dedicate your life to running faster, jumping higher, and getting stronger simply to beat the other guy? What’s that line in Fight Club? “Self-improvement is masturbation.” And when they don’t win, they start whining and nitpicking the rules and demanding to see the instant replay. Yup, athletes are just over-competitive, aggressive, whiny masturbators. And if they’re not good enough to do even that, they become phys ed. teachers.

Problem solved! I don’t have a crush on Lady Jaye anymore! In fact, I just about down right hate her! But not because she’s a lesbian. Because she’s an athlete. And, as previously mentioned, I used to be quite the avid cyclist myself. We’ve still got one thing in common that we can use to build common ground. And since I never asked her, I’ll never know how large that common ground could actually be. Therein lies the doubt, which leads to the hope. I’m over you, Lady Jaye! Now we move on to Jessica Alba, star of Dark Angel!

Perhaps it’s appropriate that that substitute teacher drew a brick wall pattern on that blackboard all those years ago. Trying to solve problems like these are very much like beating your head against a brick wall. If you do it long enough, that wall will give eventually. True, you should take a break once in a while to rethink your strategy. If you look around, you may find a door in that wall, see how to draw that continuous line, and discover the best way to be rejected. And then, there will always be those times when you have to accept the inevitable: there is no continuous line, and, despite your well-thought out excuse, she is still gay at the end of the day. But if you just walk away, you’ll never really know, will you? And where there is doubt, there is hope. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a line to draw and $50 to win.

L & I — Day 4: The Voyage Home

Chaos in Print

Sunday morning began with rustling in the kitchen. One of the roommates, I’m not sure who, got it in her mind to make breakfast for everyone. So, everyone (sans L) was in the kitchen, messing about and making French toast. At first, I felt like rising out of my sleeping bag and making my presence known, but soon decided against it. There I was, all snug and warm on the couch, while they were in the kitchen, with their girlish giggles blending with the music and a barrage of wonderful smells tickling my nose. It was one of those moments that was just absolutely perfect, and I wanted to stay all snug and warm on the couch savoring every moment in my half-awake state. With the snow gently falling outside, one of the women had the inspiration to put Bing Crosby’s White Christmas in the stereo, which soon led to a discussion on how Bing Crosby butchers every song he sings. How dare they say that! Bing Crosby was the Backstreet Boys of his time, for crying out loud. I had half a mind to get up and give them a history lesson, but it would’ve ruined all the snugness and savouriness.
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Movie Review – Hannibal


Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, and Giancarlo Giannini.

I’ll never forget when I first saw Silence of the Lambs. It was during my grade 9 class trip in the spring of 1992. We went to some youth camp outside of Calgary, and snow had pretty much ruined all our plans. The evening of the third day, we had decided to watch Silence of the Lambs, which one of my classmates had picked up at a Banff gift shop on day 1. But, also that day, a high school class on their class trip showed up at the camp. So, our choice for that evening was clear. We could either watch Silence of the Lambs, or we could fake how mature we were by going and playing Truth or Dare with the high school kids. Since I’ve rambled on this theme before, you could probably guess that I pretty much wound up watching Silence of the Lambs alone while everyone else went off to play Truth or Dare. Was it foreshadowing of things to come? For, 9 years later, I found myself alone, in a darkened theater in Edmonton, watching the long-awaited sequel, Hannibal.

It’s been some years since Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) escaped from prison. In the meantime, he’s been hiding in Florence, Italy and conning his way into a position at a university. Stateside, we have Special Agent Clarice Starling (Moore), and her career hasn’t been going so well. After a drug bust went bad, she was taken off the front lines. Not until Mason Verger (Oldman), the only surviving victim of Hannibal, contacts her with new information about the good doctor’s whereabouts does she get back into action. As Starling begins investigating the new leads, a cop in Florence (Giannini) begins thinking that he just may have stumbled upon one of the FBI’s most wanted. When a murder in Dr. Lecter’s style happens in Italy, Verger knows that soon he will have his vengeance. He conspires with Agent Krendel (Liotta) of the Justice Department to set a trap for Dr. Lecter, and who will be the bait? Why, Starling of course. Who will find Hannibal first? Verger, craving vengeance, or Starling, craving justice? Is it really justice she craves from the doctor? Or, will Hannibal be able to play them all like cheap banjos?

Roger Ebert once said that he only uses one standard to judge comedies: did it make him laugh? Based on that, I guess there’s only one standard to be used to judge a horror movie: did it scare you? Not being a real scary movie fan, it doesn’t take a lot to scare me. But, this film is delightfully creepy. A lot of fuss has been made over the gore in this film, but it’s not really a gory film. Just 2 or 3 spectacularly gory set-pieces, including the now-infamous final scene. Moore makes a fine successor to the role of Starling, as now Starling is a bit more world-weary after being an agent for so long. Liotta is perfectly slimy as a corrupt agent, and Oldman hisses quite menacingly from behind special effects make-up as Verger. (See, Hannibal cut off Verger’s face and fed it to Verger’s hounds.) All in all, I was wise to see it in daylight hours, as it is a wonderfully creepy, scary movie. It loses it’s sole nib because, as I’ve said, I’m not a scary movie kind of guy. Now, who’s up for a game of Truth or Dare?

3 Nibs

L & I — Day 3: Side Quests

Chaos in Print

On Saturday morning, I was once again up before L. This time, though, there were no dishes to do. I started snooping through the bookshelves, and I soon began leafing through a copy of The Vagina Monologues. I treat the vagina the same way I treat the Loch Ness Monster: I’ve read a lot about it, I’m pretty sure it exists, and I’d love to see one for myself someday. But my education in the female body was cut short when L awoke, and came up with the idea of going to Augustana’s cafeteria for weekend brunch.
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