Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Talkin' Movies.

Flying Air France helped me to catch up with a few movies I'd either missed or that were not released in our corner of Belgium.  I love seat-back screens, because if I can't sleep on the plane, I can watch whatever I want.  And if my choice happens to suck, I can change to something else :)  They are also wonderful as you can press pause to go to the loo, or to speak with someone.  I should compliment Air France on the large and varied selection of movies they had on offer.  It was fab, and I must say the selection outdid British Airways (who also had seat-back screens last time I flew with them.)  There were even video-games on offer on our flight, which I did not play but which boyfriend took advantage of and seemed to enjoy.  No, Air France didn't pay me to say this (but while I'm at it I'll also mention their food was better than BA, and the ticket was cheaper too!)

Brief movie reviews:

Where the Wild Things Are - I was all ready to hate this movie, since I remember the book fondly and really wondered if anyone could capture the essence of it on film.  But Spike Jonze did it!  If you haven't read the book, you should visit a bookstore and take a few minutes with it.  If you like the book, know that the movie doesn't try to BE the book, but is absolutely an appropriate attachment/cinematic version of the work.  I discussed the film with my sister upon landing in Toronto (she was also a WTWTA fan, and was ready to hate the film too,) and she as well said that it was such a pleasant and beautiful surprise to watch!  James Gandolfini's voice-work in this is also very strong, and a bit of a departure from what I know of his other work.  Sweet little picture.  (view trailer)

The September Issue - Anna Wintour, Editor-In-Chief of Vogue & one of the most powerful women in the Fashion Industry, is followed around during the creation of the largest Vogue issue ever.  We get to know some of the other key players in Vogue as well, notably Anna's other hand, Grace Coddington (responsible for some of Vogue's most beautiful photo-shoots.)  This film is not really about fashion (though there are some great insights into how the industry moves,) rather it shows why Vogue has so much influence, and how it has come to be this way.  Hint: Anna + Grace = dynamic duo (even if they sometimes seem to be reluctant about the duo part.)  (view trailer)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - This computer-animated movie was very enjoyable.  Funny, fantastic, and family-oriented without moving into schlock-territory.  I passed this one up at the cinemas during the summer, (the previews just didn't engage me,) but now I'm glad to have seen it, as it was a funky, fun little ride.  Who doesn't like a story about a geeky kid wannabe-inventor who grows up to be a geeky adult wannabe-inventor that figures out how to make it rain food?  (view trailer)

This is It - I started watching this, thinking that maybe there would be something in it worth sticking around for.  Then after about 20 minutes, I began fast-forwarding and watching 2 minute chunks to see if it was anything other than an "oh my god, let's watch Michael Jackson rehearse for a show he never got to put on" love-in.  If there is cinematic gold in this, I did not find it, and gave up after giving over a good 35-40 minutes of my time to this film.  I found it boring, and so that was it for "This is It".  Off to another film I went.  (view trailer)

Lagerfeld Confidential - Not all fashion-related documentaries are created equal.  The problem with this one is that the film-maker seems to revere, and at the same time fear Karl Lagerfeld.  A fanboy with a camera and a few questions.  Thankfully this film is not feature-length, because the pacing drags.  There is too much time spent on pseudo-artistic shots that contain little meaning.  It is worth it however, to hear Lagerfeld discuss his mother.  (view trailer)

GI Joe - What can I say, I grew up when this cartoon was on TV, so I was mildly interested in seeing the movie.  I watched this when my brain was reeling from the effects of strepto-plague on the plane back from Toronto, and suitably it was not terribly mentally challenging.  If you have not seen the cartoon, you will still get what's going on, but if you have seen the cartoon, you will 'get it' more, since you know what bigger things are to come.  Things blow up, and the background stories are laid for a (hopefully more interesting) sequel.  The acting is well done in that it captures the essence of many the cartoon-characters very well, however Sienna Miller doesn't quite get the Baroness right, according to my recollections of the cartoon.  Let's hope that this was because the Baroness becomes more of the hardened and vindictive person I remember due to something that should happen right around the beginning of the sequel, (since I don't feel like watching a watered-down Baroness.)  (view trailer)

Public Enemies - Watched this one at home recently.  It is a good little gangster-flick, but nothing epic, and not even terribly profound.  Kind of a waste of a great character actor like Johnny Depp.  After seeing it, I was glad I passed it up while it was in the cinemas here.  (That, and it's a crime to watch Johnny Depp dubbed into French.)  (view trailer)

Into the Wild - This picture is great.  I will say that some people I know were disturbed by it because it's not really the happiest story in the world, and might be a little more jarring for some simply because of the ideas the lead character had, but you know what?  I think those people are wussies.  This is not really a sad story, rather one that is bittersweet.  Sean Penn directed the picture, and I believe I may be looking out for more of his directorial work because the film is very well done; both visually and emotionally beautiful.  The acting is excellent, earthy, and believable.  I discovered here that Kristen whatsherface (who stars in the Twilight vampire-y films and who I had no interest in seeing on film whatsoever,) actually can kind of act (and not come across emotionally as a sheet of plywood)... who knew?    If you have not read Thoreau, you may find you want to after this film.  If you have, you may find you get a little extra out of the film.  This is one everyone should see.  (view trailer)

And there you go.  Hope this steers you toward a little cinematic enjoyment.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sum-ups, Updates, & Hunting the Mutuelle

I occurs to me this morning that I have little time, and some loose ends hanging about in this blog.  So, I'll use today to update a few things and wrap-up a few others.

Firstly, an update: Today I have little time because I will be trying to pick a mutuelle (health-insurance administrator/provider,) and will be researching the Belgian healthcare system in order to try and make an intelligent decision in the matter.  Up to this point, I've been covered by the all-risk insurance I had to take before coming here on the working-holiday visa, however that insurance will expire soon, and since the plan for us is to stick around here for at least a few years as legal cohabitants, (and since I've been working and paying into the Belgian system for more than 6 months now,) it only makes sense to do as they do here in Belgoland, to get my social contributions working for me, and get a mutuelle.  Wish me luck?  Happy hunting?  Of course, advice and warnings will be accepted gratefully too.

Ah yes.  The streptococcal throat-plague.  We are on the second-last day of meds, and feeling almost normal.  Crazy how it really does take the full 10 days to kick this nasty bacteria's ass.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised though, strep is no joke, really.  I'm just glad it didn't turn into rheumatic fever and attack my heart valves, or mutate into the flesh-eating disease and rot my hand off or something.  That totally would have made for a *much* suckier vacation.  Boyfriend did indeed make a mistake in thinking his credit-card travel insurance covered this sort of thing, and so he is stuck with his hospital bill.  Expensive lesson for him, the one who now vows he will always take travel insurance.  (I find it shocking that he never did before.)  Anyways, we're definitively on the mend, almost normal, and I'm looking forward to feeling well enough to hit the track for a run.

The Wii and I are not mortal enemies, yet.  I did gain a little on my vacation, but it's not horrible, and I believe the Wii knew better than to trifle with a sick and jetlagged me, so it resorted to flattery and softened the blow of my gains by telling me my Wii-age (based on balancing games, mental games, and my weight) was 21.  And then it started talking to me about Boyfriend behind his back...which was weird.  More about this in another post.

What actually was achieved in Toronto?  Well, I am officially divorced, and that divorce certificate was notarized, officialized and lastly legalized so that the Belgian government can now agree with the Canadian courts, that I am in fact no longer married.  In typical Belgian fashion, the consulate in Toronto sent us on a surprise scavenger hunt for three sorts of legal-recognition of the already-legal (produced by the courts of Canada,) document, just so that the consulate could 'recognize' the divorce.  And after we had found our required three quest items, along with the toad's ear and centenarian's fingernail, and answered the riddle of the sphynx, the sticker they placed on the final, super-officialized result (here comes the Belgian part,) said:

"This legalization does not guarantee the authenticity of the contents of the document"

As an aside... did you know that much of Kafka's work was greatly influenced by the real-life experiences he had as a lawyer and bureaucratic worker?

Anyhoo, many hugs were had in Toronto, though thanks to the strepto-plague we had to cancel a lot of visits and many others were shorter than we would have liked.  I did get my Java-Chip Frappuccino (2 actually), and had my Coffee-Crisp, though it was disappointing to me, tasting less of coffee, and seeming more generically sweet like other, cheaper chocolate-covered wafer-things.  In hindsight, it probably was disappointing because I had no sense of smell or taste, being that I was sick and all, but I didn't end up buying any more than just that one bar since I was disappointed.  I will have to see if it really was me or the bar that wasn't up to par on my next visit.  I got some amazing tax-news and advice from my accountant.  (I am now much clearer on, and more excited about the idea of doing business here in Belgoland.)  As well, I picked up the maple cookies for the hotel-client, and got my vitamins, (a small victory in the area of avoiding being forced to talk to a pharmacist in order to buy something simple and straightforward.)

I missed out on my Tex-mex meal, the Diet Dr. Pepper, the running shoes, the socks, the voltage adaptor and the Guess Jeans.  I did try for the shoes, but stupid strepto-plague left me with little time/energy to find them, so I came up empty-handed.  Boyfriend convinced me I could find the voltage adaptor here, and as we were so short on time I decided to believe him.  We decided as well that since we still actually can get Guess Jeans here, that we'd use not getting them in Toronto as a way to save time while there, and as an excuse to visit Antwerp once back here.  Despite streptoplague robbing us of a solid three or four days worth of meet-ups, hugs and material satisfactions, boyfriend and I both feel that the trip was still great, and absolutely worth it.  The best part of visiting of course was not any of the material or administrative things we did.  It was just being reminded in a more first-hand way about why I love my friends and family.   Needless to say, boyfriend and I are already looking forward to next time.

And I got my hang-time with kitty.  She is still the softest sweetest little being ever, and even after a year of not seeing me, she recognized me in all of two seconds.  She was following me around, coming up for some good chin-scritching, and curling up tranquilly, always within petting range when I was seated.

I felt so happy to see her and to know that she harboured no ill-will against me for going away, and so guilty at the same time that it was just a visit, and that I'd have to go away again.

Soon again, I hope.

Ah yes, one last loose end to clear up: did we buy something shiny the other day, or blow our eco-wad?  Nope.  We did a lot of staring at and discussing of lamps, batteries, and curtains however.  It was ever so exciting as you might imagine.  I finally found hermetically sealing containers large enough to keep my chocolate in though, which is another step towards good things.

That's enough for today I think.  Now I'm off to hunt down some healthcare.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jetlag can be fun. ish.

Almost over the jet-lag.  I think today will be the last of it.  However once you get past the stupid-staring state of being there is a funner, less-stupid and more energetic staring state of being.  For us this is hampered a little by the antibiotics, but body-clock resynching can still be fun.  Sort of.

For example: today breakfast for me started innocently enough as an espresso.  Followed by a banana with my second espresso, followed by a little leftover (and cold) ratatouille from dinner last night, and a good 20-30g of parmesan cheese to finish it all.  Mmmm.  Brinner.

Today we are better than yesterday.  This does not mean that we are going to be hiking the Ardennes, but it does mean that I can stand the thought of going out into a public place with other people and their germs, walking around a little and that I may even have the energy to try on clothing.  Maybe.  Or we may just buy something shiny.

Actually, there was a little talk this morning of going and blowing our "eco-wad".  This is to say that we would spend our eco-cheques (a financial 'bonus' of sorts that employees receive at the end of the year from the government that is essentially funny-money that can only be spent on items classified as ecological.)  We are thinking a bike might be fun, or perhaps stuff for our roof-garden (An army of cherry-tomato plants would be pleasing to us.)  In theory I like the bike-idea, as it could be practical or possibly even fun... but part of me says that everything about where we live is not cyclist-friendly, and that we would likely have several blown tires due to the curb-side debris I've taken note of here in the lovely Province de Liège.  And that drivers here scare me.  And that I could die.  We'll see.  Maybe just a cute lamp from Ikea?  We do hate getting out of bed to turn off the bedroom light.  I guess we'll wander around staring at things until we are tired.  That's a safe plan.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back, but not all here.

We are back in Belgium.  Showered, fed, and partially unpacked.  We are certainly jet-lagged, or at least I know I am, because I have already managed to launder my cellphone, and to break a teacup by forgetting to hold onto it.  The lights are on but not everyone is home just yet, so to speak.  Mild questions asked of me like "what would you like to do tonight?" produce only a vacant, cow-like stare in response.

I was going to try and go further, but that paragraph above really was an effort.  There were all kinds of twists and turns on our trip and with our plans, and in some areas we had success while others were mostly fail, but I haven't the mental fortitude to explain that just now.

I can say however, that I'm positive that bastard Wii Fit will be telling me I've gained several kilo over the past week when I step on it tomorrow morning.  I feel it's passive aggressive questions and smartass jibes coming.  I have no excuses.  I simply could not say no to the things I might not taste again for at least 6 months.  Aaand, with perfect timing, I've just discovered a bit of food on my shirt.  Lovely.  Let's hear it for the lack of awareness jetlag gifts me with.  I'm pretty sure it's a bit of filling from the maple leaf cookies my sister gave us.  In the process of eating ONE tonight (because remember, I'm feeling fat now,) I somehow managed to put half of it on my shirt without noticing.  YES.

Bedtime is soo now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Emergencies of all kinds

This morning we spent 2 hours in the emergency department of the Alliston hospital.  The other night boyfriend and I started feeling rather sore in the throat, and I had horrible body-aches all night.  We suffered through a day or two more, sadly having to cancel on a large number of plans because we both just felt like poo.  And last night it showed no signs of getting better, rather it was getting worse in a concerning way.  So, the hospital was the place for us to go this Sunday morning.

The doctor said we show half the signs of strep-throat, and wrote us prescriptions for amoxicillin.  I paid nothing because I am from here.  Boyfriend paid 550 dollars, since he is not covered by the Canadian health-care system.  He is hoping this is covered by the travel insurance thingums on the credit card he used to book our flight tickets.  I say this is an expensive gamble, though I hope he's right for his sake.  I will say that 3 doses of antibiotics in, I do feel marginally better, though that's maybe psychological.  As for the vacation as a whole, it's been lovely to see the people we have so far, but really it's been a pretty messy thing.  All kinds of plans to see people and handle paperwork are not going as we'd expected, so I'm really hoping these last few days work out.


Now here is an emergency of another kind, spotted on a patio earlier the same night we started to fall ill:
The photo was taken with a friend's phone, and I've enlarged it a little so you can see more clearly that this girls pants are like, totally in retreat.  We were on a patio, and it was 15 degrees celsius, but neither the temperature nor the breeze provided her a clue about what was going on down there, it seemed.  She was oblivious.  Oh and you can't see it well here, but her underwear was the perfect attention-getting shade of electric eggplant.  It was awesome.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things I'll be hunting down in Toronto...

I'm on the ground, in Toronto, at sister's house and have squeezed all the little ones several times already.  As kids tend to be, they are fascinating, adorable and disgusting all at once, but above all, loveable little individuals.  The flight was fairly good and I'd certainly do the Belgium-Toronto trip with Air-France again.  Overall it was pretty painless, relatively comfortable and included decent food, drink, and entertainment.  Now, since I'm here there are a few things other than the necessary appointments and visits I'm hoping to handle.  Mainly I'll be satisfying a few materialist urges including the following things I've been hankering for...

Guess Jeans.  Because there is ONE Guess Jeans Store in Belgium and it's nowhere near us.  Here in TO, they cost less and still do the job of making my bum look fab.

Voltage adaptor.  My electronic devices will live again on European soil!

A java-chip frappuccino.  Because there is ONE Starbucks in all of Belgium, and it's nowhere near where we live.

Coffee Crisp.  I will in fact, probably come back with a case.  Or two.
(Or five.)

Socks.  What?  As I've seen so far, Toronto kills Belgium for sock-selection.  Who knew?

Off-road runners.  Hopefully these ones.

Tex Mex (specifically the Guacamole Exquisito from Sneaky Dee's.)
(Salivating insanely just thinking about it.)

Diet Dr. Pepper (not quite root-beer, not quite cola.  The soda of true champions.)

Multivitamins - enough to last me until my next trip to TO.

Maple cookies (for a faithful client of our hotel)

Hugs!  I'll be squishing family, friends, people I've missed!
(People soooo do not hug in Belgium.)

Oh yes, and not that I can hunt anyone or anything down to make this happen, but if the Euro could go up a few points, that would be nice too.
Because while I'm at it all, who doesn't like a little extra buying power?

And now the first round of visits begins, step-dad, real-dad & step-mom, assorted brothers, sisters and nephews to squish.  Off we go!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The cold light of day

The sun has decided to make a cameo-appearance in our corner of the world, but today it feels like it's only showed up to mock me.

I have yet to figure out a way to stay warm here.  This is problematic because I despise feeling cold, and with Belgium's humidity, I have found little relief.  It's the sort of chill that seeps through to the bones, stealing even the warmth of the soul.  

Feeling cold is misery to me.  When I am cold I have no motivation, other than that of building my fat-stores, followed directly by the desire to construct a duvet cocoon in which I can escape the chilly discomfort in sweet unconscious oblivion while waiting for warmer times.  There is a direct correlation between my temperament and the perceived temperature, and here this worries me considering that much of last summer was, in my opinion "not really warm at all."  (Meaning much of last summer I was also "not really warm at all.")

There must be a few secrets I haven't learned... Perhaps I should drink more tea?  The Brits seem to do a lot of that, and their weather is similarly damp...  Or maybe I should invest in a plethora of summery-looking shawls, hats and scarves?

Any of you damp-dwellers have tips?  I'm all ears.  What do you do to keep out the chill?  Please do gift me with the pearls of your wet-weather-wisdom.
In the meantime, I'll be here, hibernating.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Self Control, now downloadable!

I have done so very many things today.  Except one.  I have not studied.  I tell myself I will.  I need to make progress on this, and still I find myself doing EVERYTHING else.  It has all been productive in some manner or other, which is of course, not bad since I'm still moving forward doing things in my life that I need to get done and out of the way.  This does not change the fact, however, that I am procrastinating and rationalizing at the same time, avoiding my stack of papers, my assignment, my books.

I need Self Control.  Yes.  Self Control is now something that you can download, helping you to crack the whip a little on yourself if you, (like me,) are sometimes prone to internet distraction during times when you are really, actually TRYING to do something a little more important!

Basically, it allows you to blacklist certain sites that you find yourself wasting time on.  You set a timer (presumeably the amount of time you plan to work, undistracted, before taking an intentional study/work break,) and then you hit start.  I don't think there is a way to stop it once you've started, which in this case is probably key... but I'll comment further after I've given it a spin.  I'm hoping it will help me to be a little more focussed during my study-time.

So, for now while I go procrastinate a little more by doing some oh-so-necessary grocery shopping (I've convinced myself I'll be saving myself time from going tomorrow by going today instead,) I'll be downloading a little Self Control.  Hey look, it's even multitasking if I download while shopping, right?  Isn't it? *sigh*

At the very least, since my studies rely on internet access, (meaning I HAVE to be at my computer,) it will stop me from ahem, "accidentally" wandering off to facebook, email, blogs, and so on.  And, given that I've pretty much taken care of all other possible forms of 'productive procrastination' available in the house today, I suppose that means there will be nothing other than studying with this new tool assisting me, tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Seuss...

Stars on thars, sneeds and whisper-ma-phones 
helped us to know that we won't be alone, 
or that sometimes we will, and that that's ok too, 
so long as we can live with the things that we do.
He said with his books, and in the land of the real
that you should be who you are and say what you feel,
that those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind,
that it's ok to be different, and it's good to be kind.

Do you know that today he'd be 106?
Today is his birthday, it isn't a trick.

This is me trying now, in my own little way
to honour a man who had great things to say,
who got adults and children together with rhyme,
while slipping in morals ahead of their time.

Little ones listened, and found their delight
learning words, while discovering the world isn't quite right;
that it's tipsy and turvy and full of strange people
they're greedy, judgmental, and some are quite feeble.

And why is this good to tell children, you ask?
Because raising your children can be quite a task,
even more difficult in a world complicated.
They're distracting, destructive, these things we've created.

To be heard above that din!
To have a good message sink in!
To cut through the noise and get through to our kin!

To teach little people while making them giggle
that life is a journey of ups, downs and squiggles.
It is what he did, with words and depictions
with simple and silly and beautiful fictions,
with truths that hold true, even when we are old,
and to give this to kids?  Worth it's weight in gold.