Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: The Marriage Ref

I know I shouldn't enjoy it. I know it's guilty-pleasure, cheesy cornball reality television that exploits and enables hapless people who just want a chance to be on TV. I know that most of it is scripted and forced and manipulated and tweaked to appeal to the broadest cross-section of mind-numbed telezombies on the continent. Yet I watched the first four episodes of The Marriage Ref tonight with my wife and enjoyed them thoroughly. I was interested primarily for the return of Jerry Seinfeld to network TV, and the whole show has a very Seinfeldian flavour; the very premise - that an impartial "marriage ref" and celebrity panelists make judgements on crazy marital disputes - sounds eerily like a sub-plot for an unaired episode of Seinfeld. Of course, there are two things that a show like this really needs: entertaining combinations of celebrities and really zany marital disputes. So far, all of the celebrity panels have been very funny, and I'm sure the groupings will get only weirder and funnier. But it's the delusional nature of the couples who appear on the show that really make it run. To wit: a pet iguana doted on and allowed to roam the house freely; a man who obsessively steals hotel hygienics and compulsively organizes them; a woman who withholds sex until her husband cleans up around the house; a psychiatrist with an odd relationship with his mother; a man who plays too much badminton; and the coup de grace, a woman who wants her husband to get rid of his ex-wife's sofas while she keeps her late husband's prosthetic leg and cremated remains in the living room. Most of the disputes are completely unreasonable, which is probably the reason they are selected for network television - they are so outrageous that they are funny and they would not be sensitive for most couples. It is interesting to see how completely delusional some people are, and also the lack of ability in logical persuasion techniques. Several disputes have been settled not because of the actual conflict, but because of the irrational arguments used to support a belief, regardless of the relative rationality of the arguer. It is also heartening to know that, despite the small arguments that arise in our marriage, that we have a very healthy manner of discussing and dealing with issues, and that we don't have any crazy issues like these couples do. (I am sure we will develop some, but we do not have them yet.) So what if it's trashy TV? It's fun, it's funny, and it's sweetly reaffirming in its belief in the sanctity of marriage. It's not for everyone, and it may not last for long, but as long as it's here, I'm planning to enjoy The Marriage Ref with my wife and play pop-psychologist with her - as long as it does not start any new disputes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Clutter busting

Your house is full, and it don't look good...who ya gonna call? Clutter busters! Or at least read Brooks Palmer's entertaining and informative book Clutter busting. Palmer is a professional buster, and his book details his philosophies of clutter busting, exercises to help you rid yourself of clutter, and some of his experiences during his career to help you understand your current state. I have worked through this process for several years (I know I've blogged about it before), but Palmer's work made me think about things afresh. He gives a lot of great advice, but most of it comes down to the fact that most outer clutter is reflective of what he calls "inner clutter" - the emotions and baggage that cloud our judgements and result in piles of junk in our spaces. He applies his theories widely, including to computers, relationships, and our minds, and the book is full of practical ways to implement those theories. I already knew a lot of what he was talking about, having already worked through how to deal with clutter in my life, but I learned a few new good tips, and it helped me realize how I justify clutter. Unlike my wife, who often sets it aside and doesn't deal with it, I attach value - either financial or possible functional - to my clutter. I often either evaluate it in terms of how much I paid for it or how much I could re-sell it for, or that it might be useful again someday. I'm much better than I was, but it's still an issue. But Palmer has effective counter-arguments for both of those thoughts: he writes that the initial cost is irrelevant compared to the emotional cost of keeping all the clutter with us, and that if the item does not have a clear purpose or reason for being in your house that it is not functional. His gauge is whether it has been used in the past year; I do not entirely agree with that criterion, but I do agree that anything you own needs to have some practical application. The process is difficult, and I know that I need to get in control of my clutter again. I do, of course, have the challenge of working with another person on the clutter, but I think Palmer has some strategies for that which don't include annoying her incessantly over the next few weeks as I work through this process. And yes, I do find it ironic that his book could end up adding to the clutter; I'm sure that his suggestion would be to pass it on to someone else who needs it rather than letting it keep cluttering up your house, or to do like I did and get it out of the library. I'm already ahead of the game - Turner 1, clutter 0.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An epic of epic epicness

The trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has been released. I'm stoked. And while you're there, check out the trailer for The A-Team. I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A taste of Saskatchewan

Some random observations after spending a week back in Saskatchewan after over a year and a half away from my socialist paradise...

- People don't recycle in Saskatchewan. Well, a majority don't. It's very sad. And B.C. hasn't changed me into a hippie; I recycled well before I moved to the Island.
- Saskatoon is not a very nice looking city right now. A lot of buildings have been torn down, and nothing has replaced them. I'm sure it will look better in a few years, but it looks like a bit of a ghost town in parts.
- It was weird to see billboards everywhere. We have them on one highway in Victoria.
- Rider Pride is everywhere! I loved seeing Green and White many times a day. I felt like the dog from Up!, except instead of saying "Squirrel!", I said "Riders!" They were even mentioned twice in one of the sermons we heard at church. Go Riders!
- I really missed prairie highway driving and sunsets. I loved seeing the blue and yellow/white, and all of the colours of the sunset on Sunday.
- I love the cold, crisp, dry feel of Saskatchewan air in early March. We had fantastic weather: mostly sunny and mostly clear and refreshingly chilly. I don't miss -30, but I do miss March in Saskatchewan.
- A lot can happen in 18 months. We went to several new houses, saw several new babies, and were continually shocked at all of the changes and how our friends and family are growing up.
- Having only two to three hours with most people was not enough time. That length of visit is so high-impact, and it does not allow time to just "be" with people. We need to have more of that "being" time in the summer. We want more downtime when we come in the summer. This was a great visit, but really just a taste of what the 3-0-6 is really like. Good times.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Final Oscar Picks 2010

After a month of buzz and speculation, here are my final picks for this year's Oscars.

Best Picture: All kinds of scenarios have been proposed, what with the new number of nominess and preferential voting system, which might allow films with a wider base of support to win. The two leading pictures are Avatar, and Hurt Locker, and if either of them win, it will be an historic win: Avatar the first sci-fi; and Hurt Locker the lowest-grossing movie. I think that the new system will still allow Avatar, despite its many flaws, to win. Hurt Locker may be the "better" film, but I think that it will get its recognition elsewhere, and that too many people will see Avatar as the more "historical" film.

Best Actor: Bridges, hands down. His performance was amazing, and there's no way he loses.

Best Actress: I think Sandra Bullock will win over Streep.

Best Supporting Actor: Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique for Precious.

Best Directing: Bigelow for Hurt Locker - first female to win!

Best Animated Feature: Up!

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air - Jason Reitman wins something to show for his string of critical hits and to tide him over until he wins Best Picture and Director in a few years.

Best Original Screenplay: Hurt Locker won the WGA Award, but Basterds has the buzz. I think Hurt Locker is better, but I think more people will want to reward QT and his quick tongue. I'm saying the Basterds will win it.

BONUS: Best Original Song: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart.

So, there are my picks for the main 9 (+1) awards. I think that it's going to be mostly predictable, except for that question of whether Avatar will win Best Picture. It looks to be divided between the Best Pic nominees, as has often happened in recent memory, though An Education and A Serious Man probably won't win anything, and District 9 might get one technical award. But it will be fun to see what happens with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting! As usual, I'll post my results after the Oscars air on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Character or caricature?

Funnyordie.com has just released a video that unites several top impersonators from Saturday Night Live reprising their iconic roles as U.S. Presidents of the past twenty-five years, along with Jim Carrey as Ronald Reagan. The video itself is very funny as it focusses on what Obama should do about the Consumers' Financial Protection Act, as it features all of these caricatures one more time. But what is really interesting is the point to which these impersonations have actually formed the impression that viewers have of the real people. These comedians have made a career of imitating and exaggerating the actions of the presidents, but it is their impersonations that stick in our brains. Consider that the Royal Canadian Air Farce's versions of Jean Chretien ("I am very poo-poo-lar"), Preston Manning ("Refooooooooorm!"), or even minor figures like Ontario MP John Nunziata ("But I'm not bitter.") are still what stick in our minds. And sometimes, it gets weirder when the politician is part of the joke, even when they're the butt of it (ie. Sarah Palin and Tina Fey). It is odd to think of how much our collective understanding of politicians is shaped by entertainment, and how difficult it is to separate the character and the caricature. Enjoy the video.

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