Tacky Tourist Things

Chaos in Print

Thursday had come, and it was the one day I was looking forward to all week. For you see, Chuck and L were working the whole time I was visiting them. They would work in the mornings, then come home early in the afternoon. The evenings were taken up with the multitude of movies they wanted me to watch. So, that only left a small window in the afternoons for me to get out and do stuff. But not so on Thursday. Chuck and L had the day off, and so finally I was going to get a whole day out of the house. The plan was for us to head to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, followed by some more time hanging out downtown. I was set.
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Gomer in the Big City

Chaos in Print

There’s been one drawback to my small town upbringing. Whenever I find myself in a genuinely “big city” environment, I find myself getting self-conscious. There are times when my family will go to a museum, and my personal defenses will go up. We could go to a restaurant that’s a little more upscale than what I’m used to, and I’ll start getting small twinges of fear. I guess the years of my parents saying, “Now be on your best behavior” has manifested itself into the fear of making an ass of myself in new situations. During my whole trip to Vancouver, this fear was dormant, until L revealed the one big plan she had for me on my trip. She was all convinced that I just had to try some sushi. So, since Wednesday was a grey, rainy day, it was on that night that Chuck, L and I set out for her favorite sushi place in town.
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Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Directed by Chris Columbus

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Alan Rickman, and Robbie Coltrane.

I have yet to succumb to Potter-mania. True, it seems that you can’t spit nowadays without hitting some kind of Harry Potter merchandise. I’ve read the debates, about how all this merchandise is good because it’s for a book, and how all this merchandise is bad because it’s for a book. But, even with all this stuff in the media right now, I will admit that I had no idea what to expect when I went to see the first film, based on the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Sure, we all know the basic premise: British boy goes to wizard’s school. But, besides that, what is it about? I mean, there’s more to the plot than that, right? So, I went into the theater, trying to get some glimpse of what this Potter is all about, without actually have to pick up a book.

We are introduced to the young Harry Potter (Radcliffe), and man does his life suck. His parents died when he was just an infant, and he has been raised by his sadistic aunt, uncle, and cousin, who make him live in the cupboard under the stairs. But, all that changes as his 11th birthday nears. He begins getting flooded with letters, saying that he has been accepted to the Hogwart’s School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. It turns out that Harry’s parents were great wizards, and they died battling an evil wizard by the name of Voldemort. Harry then sets out for Hogwart’s, to follow in his parents’ footsteps. Along the way, he makes fast friends with fellow Hogwart’s students Ron Weasly (Grint) and Hermione Granger (Watson), plus the “Groundskeeper Willy” of Hogwart’s, a friendly giant by the name of Hagrid (Coltraine). As Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin slowly accepting life at Hogwart’s, with the ghosts that roam its halls, its ever-changing stairs, and Quidditch matches, they find that there is something amiss at Hogwart’s. That mystical item, the Philosopher’s Stone, is locked away deep in the bowels of Hogwart’s. It seems that a member of the faculty is plotting to steal the stone for dark purposes. Who is masterminding the theft? Can Harry and his friends stop it? And what’s the connection to Voldemort and the death of Harry’s parents?

Everything about this movie is just…right. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really good fantasy film, and this is it. The world of Hogwart’s is a rich one, with its ghosts and moving paintings and wide array of eclectic staff. And, if I may say so, the Quidditch match just ROCKED! That’s one hell of a sport, leading to one hell of an action sequence. John Williams again provided one of his kick-ass scores, and all the FX, from a wide variety of studios, were top notch. I’m the last one to judge acting, but I liked the performances. Young Radcliffe was pretty good as Harry, but I really enjoyed Alan Rickman as the dark and brooding Professor Snape. This film was just right. It warms the heart and tingles the toes. But, if I have one complaint, it’s that it wasn’t quite the epic I was expecting it to be. I mean, with all the merchandise, you’d think it’d be pretty epic. But then, remember. This is the first of a proposed 7-part saga. This is just the start of an epic. Am I right, all you Potter fans who may be reading this? I guess I may have to pick up a book after all.

3.5 Nibs

Raiders of Lynn Canyon

Chaos in Print

Of course, my whole time out on the West Coast wasn’t spent in Coquitlam’s many thrift stores and watching black and white films about gay cowboys eating pudding. I was expecting a certain degree of tacky tourist things, and L and Chuck were primed to deliver. When they returned home from work on Tuesday afternoon, I was battling a bout of cabin fever, and I was desperate to get out of that house. Don’t get me wrong, L and her family have a nice house, but I was on the west coast! Let’s see some mountains! Let’s see some babbling brooks! With desperation mounting in my voice, L and Chuck began scrambling for some tacky tourist thing that was nice and close that we could do. After an hour or so of mulling it over, L’s mother finally suggested the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, a nice, secluded suspension bridge over a nice, secluded canyon and not as developed as the more famous Capillano Bridge. I ran up to my room to grab my camera, and soon we were headed for Lynn Canyon.

As we were driving off, the clouds began rolling in and the rain began. The past few days had been clear and sunny, so Chuck and L made some sort of comment about how now I was experiencing real west coast weather. It was a long drive, as we wound through the hilly streets of Coquitlam until reaching the highway. Driving along the west coast was a weird experience. I can’t think of any where along the drive where we were actually “out of the city.” Sure, you were fooled along most of the way as the pines grew high, but occasionally there would be a break in the trees and you could see down to some sort of industrial complex sitting on the water’s edge. It were as though the west coast is the massive war zone between the industrial and the natural, and there are belts where nature wins. Getting to Lynn Canyon meant driving straight through another small town whose name I forget, but that was truly a place where the war raged, and Lynn Canyon was on the other side; the front line.

The rain stopped as we pulled into the parking lot. I wish I could say that the clouds parted and that the skies were brilliantly clear for the rest of our afternoon, but it was not to be. The clouds remained, and there was this threat of rain hanging over the whole proceedings. Not that I minded. I kind of like rain. We jumped out of the van. I was all ready and eager for an adventure. With the doors locked, we started heading for the bridge when we heard Chuck utter those fateful words: “Uh oh.” He had locked the keys in the van. A small panic began to set in. What were we to do? Were we to be stranded here in the woods, eventually turning to cannibalism to survive? Chuck put all our fears at ease. “I do this all the time!” he said. “All I need is a coat hanger.” So, L and I were to venture forth into the canyon alone, while Chuck would go off in search of a coat hanger. When the van was successfully unlocked, he was to catch up with us.

L and I descended the stairs towards the bridge. The suspension bridge was one of those classic, Indiana Jones-style ones, only a little more fortified. Replace the flimsy jungle vines and knots with steel cables and lock bolts. It truly was like something out of an Indiana Jones film. Towering trees surrounded the canyon walls. The walls themselves were made of a stony grey, looking rather foreboding. Down near the bottom of the bridge, you could hear a raging mountain stream slicing its way through the granite. Suddenly, L and I ceased to exist. We were Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, brought together through a fluke of science, and joining forces to beat our evil rivals to a priceless artifact that held the key to saving the world!

And then a group of neon-haired tourists marched by, totally destroying the image. There were four of them. Their leader had blue hair, and she was marching them in unison across the bridge. I’m sure they would also be singing in unison if it weren’t for the presence of L and I. They marched past us, and, as each one marched by, the turned to L and I with big goofy grins on their faces and said, “Hello!” What could L and I do but return the greeting? When they reached the other side of the bridge and disappeared into the trees, L looked into my eyes, and I knew she was thinking the same thing I was: that was odd.

With that bringing me back to reality, L and I continued walking across the bridge. Of course, L took my picture of me on the bridge to send to the folks back home. Sadly, that one didn’t turn out, but I digress. When we reached the other side, we were faced with a decision. We could either take the path to the left, or the path to the right. L had been here before. She was my guide. My fate was completely in her hands. We went left. L said it would take us down to the river. We began walking down the left path.

I was marveled by the trees. The smell of cedar permeated the air. They were just so tall. It didn’t matter that it was a cloudy day as the tree cover soon blocked out all I could see of the sky. It had been a long time since I had seen trees so tall. I was lost in it all. The rocky paths…the overwhelming trees…the distant sound of the river. I had missed my yearly excursion to Jasper, but this was just as good.

Just as I was starting to fear that L was going use my confusion to take advantage of me, we came to the water’s edge. It seemed like your typical mountain stream. The water was so cold and clear as it came flowing down from the mountain. You could see right to the bottom, where rocks had been sitting for years, being slowly worn down by the water flowing over them. You could also see an empty bottle of bottled water wedged between two rocks. The irony was not lost on me. L and I leapt from rock to rock getting out into the middle of the stream. I do enjoy mountain streams. There’s a waterfall around every corner, and every couple of meters there’s a calm spot formed by three or four rocks. And the sound of the rushing water is just so relaxing. It’s one of those moments where you’re truly at peace. L and I continued down the water’s edge for a ways, until we came to this spot by the river where a person had been stacking rocks. The person had made these towers about six feet high of rocks he/she’d found by the river. It was quite a sight to see.

At this point, L and I started getting worried. Chuck hadn’t caught up with us yet. Had his quest for a coat hanger gone unfulfilled? There was a ranger station right there in the parking lot, so it’s not like he had far to look. Maybe he was having trouble finding us. We did have to walk through some pretty heavy bush to get to the water. The decision was made to head back for him. When we arrived in the parking lot, Chuck was no where to be found. The van was still locked, but we could see no keys dangling from the ignition. Obviously, he was successful, and we missed each other on the way back. L and I settled on one of the concrete parking dividers in the parking lot, and began to wait for Chuck. And we waited. And we waited. We made the small talk that friends make. Sadly, we’ve reached the point in our friendship where we’re out of deep, dark revelations to make to each other. So, we were just comfortable. And we waited. Even though it was cloudy, it was getting pretty warm out. We took off our coats and continued waiting. Finally, from down the road, we saw the tall, skinny form of Chuck approaching. Yes, he was successful in getting the keys out, but at the other side of the bridge, he went right instead of left. Since he started telling us so many tales about what was down the left path, we just had to go back.

The spot Chuck was telling us about was a smaller bridge, closer to the canyon floor. We gazed down at the river, forming a small waterfall beneath the bridge. The water was so clear, we could see a variety of coins down below. They were even littered on a small ledge on the canyon wall. Apparently, this is some kind of wishing spot. I had no wish to make at that moment, so I didn’t toss a penny. L mused aloud about how much money was there, and Chuck volunteered to go collect them for his lady. L protested for fear of her knight in shining armor plummeting to his death, so Chuck didn’t do it. Chuck and L aren’t the most romantic couple, but they have their moments.

As we were heading back, we came to something odd in the fence along the canyon wall. It was a gate. On this gate, there was a warning sign, telling us of all the terrible things that would happen should we venture past the fence. We were conflicted. Why would they put this warning sign here if there was a gate? Really, what would happen if we ventured past the fence? I mean, it’s a warning. They’re not telling us we can’t; they’re telling us we shouldn’t. If we proceeded past the fence, it would be at our own risk. Now, I’m normally a pretty straight-laced person, but Chuck and L were getting this desire to go past the fence. And, since this trip was all about adventure, it was very easy for me to cave into the peer pressure. We proceeded past the fence, and down the slippery, moss covered, jagged rock littered slope to the canyon floor.

“Floor” was an overstatement. There was very little space between the water’s edge and the steep granite walls of the canyon. All that there was was a few large rocks for us to sit on. With steep walls on all sides, the roar of the river seemed louder than I had ever heard. The sun was starting to set, and it was getting rather dark down there. The lengthening shadows made it seem even more foreboding. But still, I couldn’t help but be in awe. This was the deepest I had ever been into one of these natural wonders. Even in this deafening prison of natural creation, there were still the moments of peace to be found in pools formed by three or four rocks. It was truly amazing. I looked around and noticed that I couldn’t see Chuck or L. For the briefest moment, I wondered if I had been ditched. I shrugged it off. Let them have their moment. When they emerged from their corner, we were all getting the feeling that it was time to go. After we got back up the slippery slope, we had to climb a countably infinite number of stairs to get back to the parking lot. Never had I been so worn out.

As we piled into the van and began driving away, I couldn’t help but feel that I had gotten what I wished for. I had seen my babbling brook. I had seen my mountains. For the briefest of moments, I even envied L. It would have been heavenly to have grown up in such a beautiful place. There was no more desperation in my voice. The cabin fever had been beaten out of me. I was ready to sit back and be a little more subdued. I was craving an adventure, and I had gotten one. With the roll of film in my camera now half-full, I was ready to kick back and do something a little more subdued. Even Indiana Jones liked to kick back and relax after his exploits. Like all great action heroes when the adventure was over, I couldn’t help but smile and say, “Let’s go home.”

Mallrat Mark at Value Village

Chaos in Print

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I often wish that I grew up in a more urban environment, as I often believe I would have made an excellent mallrat. A big day off for me involves just wandering aimlessly around West Edmonton Mall, checking out the stores, catching a movie, and wondering just how I’m going to get onto the Santa Maria. At university, there was a time in my second year where I’d ride my bike up to the Duggan Mall and spend a Saturday checking out Zeller’s. I do so love a mall. So, on Monday of my big Coquitlam trip, I was getting rather bored out of my tree as I waited for Chuck and L to come back from their jobs. When they got home, they proposed going to the mall, and I readily accepted. So, we were off to Coquitlam Center, the mall where L spent many an afternoon as a mallrat.
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Movie Review – Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc.

Directed by Pete Doctor; Co-directed by David Silverman and Lee Unkrich

Starring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, and Jennifer Tilly.

I’ve grown to be a big fan of computer animation. And, since Pixar made the first computer animated film, Toy Story, they are always looked upon as the industry leaders. They are the ones who continuously raise the bar and set new standards. They make the films that both adults and kids can laugh at. Riding of the high that was their last film, Toy Story 2, we all knew their next film was going to be great. And so, here we are, with their latest in theaters, Monsters, Inc.

As we all know, monsters live inside of closets and scare little kids as they sleep. But, there’s good reason to that. For you see, children’s screams are what powers the monster world. When we first arrive in the monster’s city of Monstropolis, we find that they are currently in the midst of an energy crisis. Thanks to the growing desensitization of kids, they just aren’t as easy to scare as they once were. But that hasn’t slowed down Sully and Mike of Monsters, Inc. Sully (voice of Goodman) is the top scarer at Monsters, Inc., and can be counted on to get the screams night after night. Mike (voice of Crystal) is his best friend and assistant, and they are an unstoppable team. Of course, this incurrs the wrath of the chameleon-like monster Randall (voice of Buscemi), who seeks to become the new top scarer. But, all this changes when Sully discovers that Randall was putting in some overtime one night. For you see, monsters also believe that children are toxic. When one of these monsters accidentally brings back a child’s possession, all kinds of monsters in detox suits come in to destroy the offending object. So, you can imagine what happens when Sully discovers that Randall has accidentally brought back a child. Some how, Sully and the child, whom he names Boo (voice of Gibbs) manage to bond, and Sully starts to think that maybe children aren’t so bad after all. So, enlisting the aid of Mike, the quest is soon on to get Boo home. Will our heroes succeed? Will they find out exactly what Randall was doing after hours? And will they discover a new energy source even more potent than screams?

I like Pixar. They know how to do sweet without piling on the sugar, and this is just one sweet movie. The animation, as always, is spectacular, as are the voice performances. Crystal and Goodman really have a good chemistry together. It also helped that Boo reminded me a lot of my niece. This film doesn’t have the same number of “Woah, cool!” moments that were in Toy Story 2, but it’s still above average as most animated films go. And I must really be starting to turn into a Pixar geek, as I pretty much got all of the little references to their past films. Anyway, this film is just good stuff. You should go see it.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. Like most Pixar films, this one begins with a Pixar short called For The Birds, about some snotty birds sitting on a telephone wire. It’s good, too!

3 Nibs