Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Movie Lover's Lament

For a variety of reasons, I am going to remember 2011 as a year of loss and mourning.

This realization hit me as hard as ever last week when I strolled over to my local Second Cup to enjoy a cup of coffee and a book for a while. Before entering the cafe, I had a ritual - I would go next door to the Blockbuster and peruse the new releases, the foreign titles, and the special interest documentaries.

Blockbuster now sits closed and empty. I give it a fleeting glance as I enter Second Cup,the barristas greeting me by name.

Of course, I knew the writing was on the wall and I tried to give myself time to prepare. Blockbuster went into receivership in the United States some time ago. Still, there was hope for Canada. But then, a select number of Canadian Blockbusters closed down.

But not mine. No, it was still standing large and tall, filled with all kinds of movies I had yet to explore.

I felt ominous when my membership expired and I was not given the option to renew, being explained that the company was in receivership and as such the future was uncertain.

Then, the end came. It was announced that all Blockbusters in the city, and in Canada, would be closing. Closing out sales were held, and I purchased a few DVDs at rock-bottom prices. I felt choked up as I stood in line for the last time, looking around at the near-empty shelves, a film of some kind playing loudly on the large screen behind us.

How and why did this tragedy occur?

Internet killed the video store.

I contributed to this situation. The convenience and ease of renting movies on iTunes, as well as the low price and increasingly good selection of a Netflix membership all took their toll on how often I would physically go out and rent movies.

Still, there was just something about browsing through the aisles, making discoveries, and reading the covers. I would often leave with two or three - usually a new release or two as well as possibly something I had never heard of before, just to try something different.

One can browse online, but it doesn't feel the same. Lots of browsing online makes me dizzy in a way wandering around in a video store never did, even if I had no idea what I was looking for.

A generation will now be raised up not knowing what it is like to physically rent movies. And while this is definitely a first world problem, I will miss my pre-coffee ritual.

Of course, there is always the library.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction - But Not Enough

This past week, the Edmonton Public School Board approved a sexual orientation and gender identity policy. This policy was put in place to protect students, staff, and their families from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identification. This was a needed move that is a step in the right direction.

However, it is not enough. The EPSB needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards bullying, regardless of its nature. I should know. I was bullied and harassed almost daily throughout the latter part of my elementary school days through junior high. If I was a student now, the school would take very seriously the anti-gay epithets that were hurled at me on a regular basis. However, what about simply being called a bitch? Or fat? Or the multitude of things I either cannot repeat in polite company (nor do I care to relive at the moment)?

Here is a concrete example. When my parents met with the principal of my school to discuss with him the things I finally broke down and told them concerning how my fellow students were treating me, he put much of the blame on me - in particular, he pointed to the fashion accessories I was fond of wearing (a leather-studded bracelet). He even had the nerve to speak of this to my face. "If this was my daughter's," he said, holding the offending cuff in his hands, "it would disappear." I stopped wearing the bracelet, but the bullying continued.

Flip to the present day. Let's say I am back in grade seven, and my pimply, awkward self was wearing a necklace or bracelet with a rainbow on it. The principal could not blame me and would have to take action, because the rainbow is a symbol concerning sexual identity (and in my case, my support of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning, and transgendered. However, the same cannot be said of my leather and metal studded monstrosity. Both accessories demonstrate my personality and individuality, and it is a human right to wear whatever I want. The main difference is that I am only fully protected by my school if I am wearing the rainbow.

Bullying attacks someone for being who they are. By its very nature, it is an act of prejudice and intolerance. It damages someone to the core of their being. Regardless of the reason why, it needs to be stopped. I comment the EPSB for their actions this past week, and I hope that it is indicative of a zero tolerance bullying policy across the board in the near future.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

November Firsts: NaNoWriMo, Movember, and Maisie's

November has come and gone, and with it. I like to think of myself as somewhat adventurous (being "somewhat adventurous" meaning something similar to one who likes to take "calculated risks" but that is a topic for another time) and decided to try a couple of new ventures during the month.

The month of November has two special designations. First, it is National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo for short). Participants in NaNoWriMo have the goal of writing 50,000 words of fiction in the month. You can have an outline, but cannot have already started on the draft. It is literally literary madness. The theory behind NaNoWriMo is that everybody has a book inside of them - I don't doubt that, although I think 50,000 in 30 days is a lofty goal. More like insane. There is no time for revisions - you just keep writing for the sake of writing.

I did try this a few years ago, and didn't get very far. I did not have a clear enough idea of the novel I wanted to write, and I just could not think up enough original material on the spot under such pressure.

Perhaps I was under the influence of some kind of mania, but this time I did it. And, I was finished by mid-month. I had a very detailed outline and much of the research done beforehand. I will indeed spend some time revising it - December is supposed to be the month designated to that - but I may prefer some more hindsight before I attempt to work my way through the pages.

November is also "Movember," when men grow moustaches to raise funds for men's health, in particular prostate cancer. The guys who take part are called "Mobros" and us women are left wondering, when we see a man with a moustache, if it is for real or if it is temporary just for Movember.

Women can take part too. We're called "Mosistas." Obviously, we don't grow moustaches (although I am sure there are some gals out there who can rock the facial hair - except I don't think many would quit plucking and waxing, even for a good cause, so a friend of mine recruited me for her team - Chicks Without Nicks. We are four women who committed not to shave our legs for the entire month of November. Our team raised a total of $88 with me being the leader at a whopping $68. We didn't do as well as we had hoped, but a lot of people take part in Movember so there was a lot of competition. And hey - the more, the better. That's $88 to men's cancer that would not have been donated otherwise.

Plus, it was a lot of fun trying to encourage my friends on Twitter and Facebook to donate. One of my Twitter friends and I even got into a "hairy legs contest," posting picture of our unshaven calves for all to see. To view my pics, check out my page at the Movember site here. Truth be told, it wasn't all that bad - I have probably gone just as long, if not longer, at this time of the year without shaving my legs without noticing. However, I was told that I had guts for posting those photos. I really didn't think so - some of the men out there cannot grow good moustaches, and some who do look like pervs or porn stars, and if they have the guts to walk around looking like that, then I can show some leg hair. It was a great cause, and I look forward to doing it again next year.

As November drew to a close, Christmas decorations and music started popping up all over the place. As a life-long resident of Edmonton, I have seen many, if not most, of the events and attractions the city has to offer. However, I have never seen this: Maisie's Magical Christmas House.

Located way in the north end at 9619 144 Avenue, the house is a veritable wonderland, full of decorations, multimedia presentations, and lights galore - including ones that flicker in time to music. I felt excited like a little child as I walked around the huge area - besides the house itself, there must be at least two extra lots. This is all the work of a family, the matriarch of whom passed away in 2007. It was Maisie's wish that people be happy - this house is her legacy.

No photos can do the house justice, but I tried here.

Also, here is a video tour of the house: