Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I haven't had time to watch any films since Dead Snow, so I thought I would go off topic and speak about Halloween.

I quite enjoy Halloween, particularly the candy part. I have a serious sweet tooth, and as soon as my Mom buys the candy, I dig right into it. So much so, that my parents tease me about it. An example: the other day I decided to try a yellow tootsie roll pop, thinking that it would be lemon flavoured. It wasn't. It was the dreaded banana flavour, so I cringed, and offered it to my parents. They both refused, and my Dad, in a mock serious tone, said something like "You are going to eat that Jennifer". I laughed. Then I ate it...very quickly, because I just can't waste candy, even the really bad stuff. However, the yellow tootsie roll pops are at the very top of the bowl of candy, so we're going to give them away.

From the age of 14 until I was 18, Halloween lost some of its appeal because I was too old to go out trick or treating and too young to go to any of the "adult" social functions. When I was 17, and in my first year of University, I put on a Scream mask and gave candy to kids, and really enjoyed that. But last year was the first year I got to really dress up and go out to a party. I went way overboard and bought a rather expensive costume at "Party Stuff", but it was a good night. This year I went the cheaper route and put together my own costume, which I wore at school. I'm probably going to wear the same costume I wore last year for the event I'll be going to tonight. My Dad suggested I wear a suit because of the costume Kirk is wearing but I'm not so sure about that. Don't know if I could pull off wearing my brother or my Dad's suit.

Surprisingly enough, I don't watch a lot of the Halloween specials. I was never into Charlie Brown as a kid, so I've only seen pieces of that. I'm not going to have time to watch a scary movie tonight, I'm thinking, so my horror movie watching last week will have to do in that department. I don't actually own a lot of horror movies, because I get so scared. I have Shaun of the Dead, which is closer to a comedy, 28 Days Later, which is a brilliant film, and The Ring 2, which was a gift, and not a movie I cared for too much. I may have to put in 28 Days Later sometime soon. Maybe even with the lights off to set the atmosphere. I do also have The Nightmare Before Christmas on VHS, my Dad was awesome enough to track down buy for me a year ago because I'd never seen it and Disney had it in the awful "Disney vault" at the time. It's since been released again and I'm thinking about buying it on DVD because I love it so much, and VHS is a near dead technology.

I hope you all have great Halloween plans and have a Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dead Snow

I finally had an afternoon where I didn't have any homework to do, so I watched Dead Snow, on Kenton's recommendation. I had a great time with it, and am going to give a few thoughts.

It is a Norwegian film about a bunch of med students going off to a remote cabin (of course) over the Easter break. There, they run into a strange hitchhiker who tells them the history of the mountains, and warns them not to "wake up the evil within". Of course, our drunk med students laugh, and refuse to take the hitchhiker seriously. Then the zombies show up. What makes Dead Snow different from other zombie films is that these are not normal zombies. They're...NAZI ZOMBIES. Much better than the regular kind, I assure you.

The film was billed as a horror/comedy, but for the first hour or so, there was relatively little humour. It was actually quite scary...or I thought so, but I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to movies like this. All the lights were on, and I was watching it on a fairly small screen, but I was still squealing during all the "jump scenes". It is also very gory. It's more cartoon gore, meaning that it is not "realistic" gore, but still disgusting nonetheless. After the first hour, the film seems to switch directions, and it becomes slightly more comical. It actually turns into almost a parody of other zombie/horror movies. Unfortunately, it's a fairly short movie, so this change of tone only lasts for about twenty minutes. I found that a lot of the humour comes from the ridiculousness of the situation these young people were in. They weren't just zombies...but they were zombies in Nazi costumes. Something about that makes it funny. But at the same time, it puts other horror movies into perspective: how likely is it that dead people are going to rise up from the ground? So maybe next time I sit through a horror movie, despite how scary it is, maybe I'll be able to find some humour in it.

I also want to say that I was quite impressed with the make up job on the zombies. It looked very good, and very creepy. The filmmakers must have known that their movie was going to be cliche, but instead of trying to hide that fact, they embraced it. I liked the movie a lot, so anyone who is into horror and can handle really gory stuff should check it out! Though if you're a wimp like I'll probably end up sleeping with the light on. I'm fully expecting nightmares tonight, but that's part of the fun of these movies. I can't watch really scary horror movies very often, but when I do, I generally end up having a good time. And this film was a good time, for sure.

Just a little note: The film is subtitled, as it is in Norwegian. I love watching foreign films so that was not a problem for me at all. I actually really love listening to other languages, especially hearing how similar (or dissimilar) they are to English. Norwegian is actually pretty close to English, because there were several words I was able to pick up, because they sounded just like their English counterpart.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where the Wild Things are

In short...biggest disappointment ever. Or of the year at the very least. Let me get this clear: I liked it, but I didn't like it as much as I wanted to. I think my problem was with character development. Even ten minutes in, I realized how hard it was for me to love Max and I just wasn't "feeling it". And maybe it's because I had had a rough day last Friday and my mind was elsewhere, I'm really not sure. I felt that the characters weren't very well fleshed out, so I couldn't bring myself to care very much for them, even after spending almost two hours with them.

That being said, it is a very beautiful movie. The scenery is gorgeous, the costumes are perfect (I'm fully expecting them to win the "Best costume" Oscar), and the "Wild Things" world felt real to me. It's just character that was an issue for me. And a lot of people I've talked to who have seen this movie have loved it, so Kirk and I are probably in the minority, but that's okay.

I think my big problem is that I hyped it up too much. I went in expecting it to be one of the best theatre experiences of my life, so of course I was going to be disappointed. I had this discussion with Jeremy once, about how if you have high expectations for a film, you are going to be disappointed. But if you go in expecting to hate it, then it feels better when you are pleasantly surprised. Since the trailer for Where the Wild Things are was among the better trailers I've ever seen, of course my expectations were high. Whereas a few years ago a friend dragged me to Beerfest, and I went in fully expecting to hate it, because I'd hated Super Troopers. But I loved it, and I think part of it was the fact that I was so pleasantly surprised.

So the big lesson? Try to keep expectations in check. No movie can be everything you want it to be, and going in expecting it to be is going to set you up for disappointment. I have learned that a few times in the past two years with films I've put on a pedestal (such as Watchmen, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Neither were as good as I'd hoped, though I still enjoyed them. Disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow, but I think this time the lesson has sunk in.

I think I'd probably give Where the Wild Things are a 6/10. I think people should go see it for sure, especially on the big screen, but it's not worthy of raves from me. I do want to see it again, probably on DVD, to see whether it was just my mental state that affected my enjoyment of it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spike TV's Scream 2009

Not much to say right now, but I found this story on the internet and wanted to share it: Scream 2009.There doesn't seem to be very many surprises, the very popular Transformers, Twilight, and Star Trek all won awards.

I'd just like to take this moment to show the female readers what audience members got to enjoy setting their eyes upon. Wait for it....

For anyone who doesn't know, that's Mr. Johnny Depp, looking spectacular as always. I think I'd faint if I was at an award show and he came onstage. Depp accepted the award for "most anticipated sci-fi movie" for Alice in Wonderland.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Buyer Beware: Compact Fluorescent Lamps Versus Incandescent Bulbs...Which is Better?

CFL light bulb on the left, incandescent bulb on the right.

I worked with Berea, Chris and Michael on our “buyer beware” project. Everyone came into the project with some good ideas, but we were all most enthusiastic about the idea Chris pitched: CFL bulbs versus incandescent bulbs. We were all skeptical about whether CFL bulbs were really as good as what the government and CFL producers were saying. Can they really save consumers money? Our they really good for the environment? We also wondered how to dispose of the bulbs in a safe manner, considering the mercury content of the bulbs.

We researched our project using a mixture of primary and secondary sources. We did a confidential survey over the internet to gather the opinions of consumers. We decided that an online survey would be easier as it would allow us to ask more questions in a shorter period of time, plus it would be more confidential, as we would never know who exactly completed the survey and what their answers were. We used the free survey website SurveyMonkey to conduct our survey.

We also looked at information obtained through Government of Canada websites, Manitoba Hydro, and Clean Nova Scotia, which is an organization that works with the public and private sector on environmental issues. We looked at three specific issues: the environmental impact of CFLs, the human impact, and the cost savings. By looking at CFL bulbs in three different ways, we were able to determine whether the bulbs are as good as they are claimed to be.

Environmental Impact

The Federal government says that by using CFL bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, it is estimated that, as a nation, we will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 6 million tonnes a year. Considering that would be the equivalent of taking 1.4 million cars off the road, that’s pretty impressive! We also found that CFL bulbs use about a quarter of the energy that incandescent bulbs use. However, the bulbs also contain mercury, which is dangerous to humans.

The people we asked were split on the issue of environmental impact. Many acknowledged that they were good for the environment, though some raised the issue of mercury being bad for the environment, if not disposed of properly. Others felt that they were not good for the environment at all. The bulbs are heavily advertised as being environmentally friendly, and it seems that the advertising is working as most have heard of the energy-saving claims.

Another issue is that CFL bulbs increase the amount your furnace will have to work during winter time, as the bulbs do not generate the heat that incandescent bulbs do. Manitoba Hydro claims that the money spent on heating will be offset by the money saved over the summer when your air conditioning does not have to work as hard to heat your home.

Human Impact

The biggest concern regarding CFL bulbs and human impact is the mercury levels. As I mentioned earlier, mercury is dangerous to people, and if the bulbs are broken and not cleaned up properly, or not disposed of properly, this could lead to prolonged exposure to mercury. We wanted to research the proper way to dispose of CFL bulbs, as none of us were aware of the procedure at the beginning of the project. It seems most other people weren’t either! We asked a question regarding disposal on our survey, and the vast majority simply disposed of CFL bulbs in the trash. Those who were aware of proper procedures admitted that they could not be bothered to follow proper disposal procedures. Do not throw away CFL bulbs! It is actually prohibited to do so by City of Winnipeg law. Doing so can cause the mercury to leech into the water and soil at land fills or even get into the air. Instead, Winnipeggers have the following disposal options:

Please dispose of your burnt out CFL bulbs properly, it is free after all! The used bulbs will be recycled, according to Home Depot. So you will not only be preventing harmful mercury from being released into the environment, you will be helping to reduce waste.

Another thing we feel should be advertised is how to clean up the bulbs safely if they are broken. Most people we surveyed did not have a bulb break while in use, but many people are unaware of how to clean up a broken bulb. One person stated that they used a broom, which is not a good idea, according to Energy Star .

Instead, open a window, leave the room for at least fifteen minutes, and shut off any air conditioners to keep the mercury from circulating through the air. Use paper or cardboard to scoop up the glass and powder, and place them in a jar or sealed plastic bag. Use tape to pick up and smaller fragments that are remaining. Wipe clean with a wet paper towel or wet wipe, placing the used towels in the jar or plastic bag. Do not use a vacuum or broom. A vacuum is only to be used on a carpet, after all visible pieces are removed. Afterwards, you are to remove the vacuum bag and place it in a sealed bag.

It is also recommended that any bedding or clothing that has come in direct contact with a broken CFL bulb be thrown out, as washing them in a washing machine will contaminate the washing machine. Clothing that has come into contact with just the vapour however, can be washed.

Cost Analysis

According to the Government of Canada, the use of CFL bulbs could save the average Canadian home (containing roughly 30 bulbs) , about $50 on their electricity bills. However, considering the price of CFL bulbs (a 15 watt bulbs, equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is $5, meaning replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs is an investment. CFL bulbs should last much longer than incandescent bulbs, up to five years, so that means consumers should make a return on their investment after three years of normal usage.


Ultimately, we concluded that CFL bulbs had positive and negative aspects. They greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and energy use, which are all good for the environment. Consumers also save money by switching to CFL bulbs, as they last longer, and use up much less energy than incandescent bulbs.

However, we feel that not enough is being done to educate consumers on how to dispose of bulbs properly. While they are good for the environment in the reasons stated above, the mercury in the bulbs is very bad for the environment. The City of Winnipeg is trying to prevent mercury leeching by setting up disposal sites, but more needs to be done to educate consumers on where to take their used bulbs. It would be helpful if the government created an advertising campaign to let the general public know that throwing away the bulbs is bad, and that there are places to dispose of the bulbs for free. Home Depot could even cash in on this, offering a free incentive for those who come in to dispose of a bulb. This would raise awareness and hopefully prevent people from disposing of their bulbs in an unsafe manner.

CFL bulbs are a great product for your pocket book, and for the environment when used and disposed of correctly. We think that with more promotion of safe disposal techniques, people, and the environment will benefit further from CFL bulbs.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snow (Oh No!)

I'm sure everyone who talked to me yesterday heard me complain about the snow we got. I'm not big on cold weather, because I get cold very easily. I like milder weather, therefore Spring and Fall. I can take the inevitable snow...if it comes after Halloween. October 9th and snow already on the ground? No way. I am trying to accept it.

After Friday at the King's Head, Kirk and I decided to catch a movie. We picked out Couples Retreat, which ended up being a rather interesting choice, considering that it takes place on a tropical contrast to the weather we were having outside. It wasn't bad. I like Vince Vaughn quite a bit, and he was reasonably amusing. Of course, Where The Wild Things Are comes out next week! I am getting very excited about it.

With Canadian Thanksgiving coming out soon, does anyone have a favourite Thanksgiving movie or tv special? I saw Pieces of April a number of years ago and I recall it being very moving. It stars Katie Holmes from her pre-Tom Cruise life, and she did a really good job in it. I think at times now she can be very over-publicized, in part due to her marriage to Cruise. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. The day after my Dad always bakes bread in our bread maker and we have the leftovers, and there's nothing at all like fresh bread. With the day off on Monday, I may put in a movie over the afternoon. I have several at home that I have owned for a year or more...and still have not seen. I swore to remedy that over the summer, but it never happened.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some Television Thoughts, Plus Violence in Film and TV

First of all, I just wanted to say that I managed to get my hands on "Dead Snow", which Kenton Larsen suggested to me. I'll watch it when I get the time, and when I do, I'll post my thoughts.

It's been a tough week for me, school-wise. Failed a PR assignment I'd have otherwise done very well on, because I didn't capitalize the "t" in "YouTube". I felt extraordinarily dumb after that, and have sworn to never make that mistake again. The problem is that I'm so used to not capitalizing it, I just didn't think to check, even though I was actually ON the YouTube wiki page to look something up as I was writing the assignment.

I also got back my streeter assignment, and failed it as well due to a foolish spelling error. I spelt a name wrong (in my defence, her name was very unusual). I had the name right in my interview notes, but spelt it wrong as I was writing my article. Another foolish mistake I don't want to make again. But I do feel pretty lousy about failing...I'm not used to it!

Monday is my big tv least in the sense that so far it is the only night I have more than one show to watch. I watch Heroes and Trauma. I do wonder why I even bother with Heroes any more. It is a tragedy, because the first season was fantastic, second season mediocre and finally, the third season was almost impossible to watch. This new season is not looking much better. At this point I only really watch because I want to know what happens in the end. I don't know if it will last more than another season or two because the ratings have been dropping, and it is a very expensive show to produce (ensemble cast, excellent special effects, etc).

On a better note, I did like last night's Trauma. More character development, and a really interesting story line. "Rabbit" is still my favourite character, he's the only intriguing one really. I'll be watching again next week. It's a very gory tv show though, and since I can be quite squeamish, there were some unpleasant parts. I'm a bit strange when it comes to violence and gore. In movies and on tv, I can watch people get shot, stabbed, etc, but show me a guy about to get his arm chewed up in machinery, or a gushing leg wound...and I freak out. There were moments I was covering my eyes and squealing, much to the amusement of my Mom, who is a retired nurse.

Similarly, the gore is why I had to cover my eyes during Watchmen. I said that normally I can take violence, but there were bits in that film that were just too much for me. I guess you can say I don't like disgusting things, or the aftermath of a violent act. I can take it and am fine with watching most movies or tv shows with stuff like that, but I may have to cover my eyes. But violence for the sake of violence (for example, the Saw franchise) does bother me. I used to be a bit more fearless when it came to that sort of thing but more recently, I've started to become more affected by it. I'm sure ER showed things as bloody and gory as Trauma did last night, but it never got to me. Maybe the reality of the situation being shown is starting to hit me harder than it once did? Or maybe I have just developed a weaker stomach. Needless to say, I would prefer not to have to deal with gushing leg wounds anytime soon, though should I be presented with such a situation, I promise to try not to faint, cry or throw up.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

By Request: Why I Love "Shopgirl"

First of all, my Buyer Beware group is doing a survey for our project, please take a moment to complete it. Thank you!

Amber asked me why it's one of my favourite films, and I thought I'd elaborate through my blog. :)

Shopgirl is a film based on Steve Martin's novella of the same name. Both the novella and the film are among my favourite books/movies. There will be spoilers in this entry:

Anyways, Shopgirl is the story of Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes, one of my favourite actresses), a slightly depressed, dissatisfied twenty-something selling gloves at a department store, while working on her art on the side. She first meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a fellow twenty-something, who is broke, socially awkward, and completely infatuated with Mirabelle. Mirabelle does not reciprocate his feelings. Then she meets Ray Porter (Steve Martin) a wealthy man much older than she is. They go out on a date where Ray tells her that their relationship will not be monogamous or something that will last forever. Mirabelle doesn't care, or chooses to ignore this statement, feeling that it is going so well that there's no way it can't last. Ray treats Mirabelle well, though he does cheat on her with an old girlfriend. Mirabelle is hurt, but chooses to forgive Ray. However, she begins to realize that Ray cannot ever love her the way she wants to be loved, and leaves him, choosing to "hurt now, instead of hurting later".

She meets up again with Jeremy, who has spent his time away from Mirabelle trying to improve himself. They go on another date, where he impresses her with the changes he has made. She quits her job at the department store and gets a job at an art gallery, and enters a relationship with Jeremy. She sees Ray again at an art show for her work, where he tells her he always did love her. Mirabelle is moved, but runs back into the arms of Jeremy, the man she realizes can love her the way she wants to be loved, because what he offers is "tender and true".

Anyways, I can relate to Mirabelle better than I can relate to any other character right now. I've had two "Ray Porter" types in my life. One a few years ago, and one much more recently. When I first saw this film it was before Ray Porter #2 entered my life. I was moved, but not quite to tears. I saw it just after I'd met and lost Ray Porter #2 and I cried all night, because I knew he would never love me the way I wanted him to and I missed him. I was a foolish woman, and spent too long wanting this person, even though he was up front that it would not be a long term relationship. But like Mirabelle, I was convinced at the time that things went so well over the summer that we could make things work somehow. I was very mistaken. I spent a long time hurting over the things that went on--time that was wasted, but not regretted because I've learned from the experience.

I also spent a decent amount of time Not quite satisfied with my life, not quite dissatisfied, but no motivation to go out and change it. I was quite like Mirabelle in that way. I would talk about all the things I disliked about my life and my situation but did nothing to change it. Ive always believed that there is a breaking point in every human relationship, where one party decides enough is enough and chooses to move on. They've been hurt too much, too disillusioned, etc. I'm the type of person who needs to hit that breaking point, and be hurt very badly. I realized it wasn't worth it anymore, that I got more pain than satisfaction from my situation and left it. And it's done, and I haven't looked back. I'm happier. But I've felt the sting of wanting someone you can never fully have. Of being kept at arm's length, ignored, wanting someone who can be so insensitive to your feelings that they do not hesitate to say something they know will hurt you. They do things to hurt you, to see how you will react...

I may have moved on from my situation, but I can still relate to the movie. I found my own Jeremy type. :) Someone who accepts me for who I am, who makes me truly, genuinely happy all the time. Like Mirabelle, I took a hard look at my life, and sought to improve it. In the past month, I've quit my job, started a program I really love, and tried to remove all the things in my life that have caused me pain. Plus I have a really wonderful boyfriend. :) There's still things in my life that hurt, but I'm trying to steer away from drama. I don't have time for it, school is taking over my life, and when I'm not busy with school, I want to be with Kirk or my friends. I don't want to be spending my time dealing with silly drama. On a whole, I'm happier than I've been in a long time. And I'm really proud of myself for doing the whole self-improvement thing. I spent the last year trying to improve myself in some ways, but I was never really satisfied, because I wasn't improving my emotional state of being, and my life situation. The second I dealt with that, I became happier.

I think the movie would still make me cry like a baby. I read the book over the summer, right in the middle of dealing with all this, and by page 36 I was in tears. I cried pretty much all the way through. I know it's not for everyone, but some of Steve Martin's lines were so beautiful and true (at least to me), that I was moved to tears. I think when you get down to it, the film and book are about foolish love, and everyone has a foolish love story. But I also believe everyone gets their happy ending, eventually. I think ultimately the movie has a happy ending, because Mirabelle grows as a person, and finds happiness with someone she once wrote off.

Here's a scene from the end that always makes me cry.
(I just watched it and I'd be in tears right now if my Dad wasn't down here beside me working on the desk top computer) I just wish that clip included the final voice over bit, because it just makes it all the more moving. Anyway, if you've watched it and haven't seen the movie, that gives you all incentive to go and see the movie. Please do watch it. Now I really feel like re-watching it again, to see how different my viewing experience will be as someone who is now more like Mirabelle at the end of the film, rather than Mirabelle when she was with Ray.