Saturday, November 30, 2019

November Tidbits

So, in no particular order,  Eva got the outline of what will likely be her final tattoo, the one to summarize all the others; Kathy bought a car; I enjoyed a critically panned movie so much I saw it twice in the theatre, and I attended my first rock concert in nearly thirty years.


Eva's tattoo.

She's written of it here recently. It's Durga, the Hindu goddess and demon-slayer, and her tattoo artist Colin of Berlin Tattoos did an amazing job with the outline.
I'll be breaking this tattoo down and explaining its significance in the spring, when it gets coloured in. In the meantime, I can tell you this ink is functioning for Eva the same way my blue spruce did and does for me. It may sound odd to those who do not have tattoos, but trust me, they can be a source of strength. And this one more than most.

I've been hearing about Durga for almost the length of our marriage. She always said that Durga was going to be the capstone, the final tattoo, and further that she--Eva--had to earn the right to emblazon Durga on herself. Durga is, after all, a slayer of demons. Eva felt that she had to slay her fair share to be worthy of Durga.

She did. And she is.

Her tattooist fell ill and the outline was delayed by several weeks. We all think it's worth the wait. Even without the colour, this has PRESENCE. I will have pictures for you once it's coloured in.

Kathy's long car-shopping ordeal is finally over.

I'd been accompanying her on scouting trips whenever my schedule permitted, from Guelph to London and many points in between. It's been an education.

I won't put my knowledge of car quality up against anyone's in particular. I will just say this: I know more about what's good and what isn't than you might imagine, me not driving and all. My role has entailed emotional support, chief researcher, extra memory holder,  and keen observer of red flags, not so much with the cars themselves but definitely with the dealerships and salespeople.

I'll spare you an exhaustive blow by blow account, but I will mention a few things I learned

  • Getting a used car on a budget means juggling a LOT of different numbers. 
The monthly (or biweekly, or semi-monthly, or weekly) payment is just the first consideration. Beyond that, you have to consider the interest rate, which varies WILDLY depending on where you're shopping (actually brand name dealerships offer a substantial advantage over catch-all used car outlets). You have to factor in insurance, which is obscenely expensive and which seems to vary crazily between similar cars -- a Nissan Sentra costs approximately one and a half shitloads more to insure than a comparable Hyundai Elantra, and supposedly newer cars have lower premiums because of extra safety features, but I never saw this play out in real life. You have to think about any warranty that might be left, and whether you want to extend it. On the plus side, you have to figure on some fuel savings to offset your costs, if you're coming from a 2011 Impala. 

You really need a king size set of spreadsheets to track all this once you test drive a bunch of cars.
  • Sexism is alive and well in car sales.
Actual exchange at Woodstock Hyundai, and I swear to God I am not making this up:
Kathy: "I just want to tell you about my monthly budg--"
"Doug": "--let me stop you right there. What I need to know is how much you are looking to pay each month."

Bravo, Doug, she actually really liked that Elantra. but you just torpedoed it. Along with anything else she might have bought here. 

Several sales people, including "Doug", insisted on talking directly to me. even after I'd say something like "this is her baby, I'm just along for the ride". It got old, fast. 
  • Car dealerships can still be pretty damned shady.
Kathy had narrowed down her search essentially to one specific car (which she missed out on owning by about twenty minutes, but we didn't know that at the time). I convinced her to try one last dealership, as they were running a really hot promotion on brand new cars: $49 down, $49 a week, for a perfectly respectable 2020 sedan. Of course it would be the base model (I'm not stupid)...but what we didn't know is that they'd demand $500 just to check credit scores, and the rate they promised was strictly imaginary if you were, you know, human. She reported she had never felt so pressured in all her life, and now I know another Hyundai dealership to avoid. 

She got an Elantra on the weekend, a really good deal, even better than the one she missed out on. She likes it: good practical car that still manages to put some mph in oomph. Can't wait to go "road trekkin'" when the weather improves in about nine months.

Maybe by that time, my Facebook feed won't be stuffed full of car ads. 


Doctor Sleep.

Rarely have I seen a movie reviewed so inconsistently. Some few critics call it a masterpiece. Many absolutely loathed it. More said "meh". Me, I'm going to spout a heresy: it's better than the film it's a sequel of.

That's not just a heresy, it's an outright blasphemy, unforgivable in the sight of God. (Weird God, willing to forgive absolutely anything except calling the Holy Spirit a bad name.) But Kubrick really is revered as a god of filmmaking, and while I loved the creepy atmospheric dread he evoked in The Shining, I still, all in all, detested the I am sure I have mentioned here more than once. Still. it's iconic, and any sequel to it is going to have to play by its rules for that reason. 

The reason this film is better than that one is simple. Its characters are fully realized human beings.

Ewan MacGregor was the absolutely PERFECT choice to play Dan Torrance all grown up. You can (or at least I could) easily see him as Jack Nicholson's son: the voice had just a hint of his tone. I really bought MacGregor as a reformed alcoholic. His nickname, "Doctor Sleep", comes from patients at the hospice where he's an orderly: he uses his "shine" to ease people's deaths. Director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald's Game) makes these scenes sentimental without being mawkish. 
Dan makes the psychic acquaintance of Abra Stone, a young girl who shines brighter than Danny ever did. He is to be Dick Hallorann to her Danny Torrance. He's understandably reluctant, so the ghost of Dick Hallorann visits him to impress upon Dan the importance of the young woman.

Abra is played by newcomer (and up and comer, if this role is indicative) Kyliegh Curran. She is beautifully badass. What impressed me most about the dynamic between her and "Uncle Dan" was that she knew she needed help, but also had every confidence in her own abilities.

And she did need help, to defeat Rose the Hat and her True Knot, a group of quasi-vampires masquerading as old fogies in RVs. They brutally torture and murder kids with "the shining" to feed upon the "steam" that escapes them when they die. It sounds ludicrous, written like that, but Flanagan makes it work. And so does Rebecca Ferguson, playing Rose as an evil seductress. I'll never hear "well, hi there" quite the same way again.. 

There's only one place this  could end: in the Overlook Hotel. The only thing creepier than Kubrick's Overlook is Kubrick's Overlook lovingly recreated with forty years of rot. No spoilers here, but Doctor Sleep manages the impossible, giving King's Constant Readers the ending of The Shining that Kubrick denied them, while still wrapping up the sequel novel in a way that felt true to Kubrick's movie.  Highly impressive. 

So impressive I saw it twice in the theatre, once with Kathy and once with Eva. I haven't seen a movie twice in the theatre since Titanic, and before that, Silence of the Lambs. By the time I got to see Doctor Sleep with Eva, the only place it was playing  was a VIP theatre in Kitchener. That was a pricey experience, but something I would do again for certain films. Lazy Boys. Popcorn and drinks brought to your seat. A small, intimate theatre--there was just one other couple in there besides Eva and I, but then, there'd only been a handful in a larger theatre with Kathy and I the week previous. It bombed at the box office, clearly, which is a tragedy. It really is a great film. 


Dream Theater. 

I can't even remember how I first stumbled across this group. It certainly wasn't in 1985 when they formed. More like 2015, actually. They're progressive metal, and if you haven't heard of them, I don't blame you: I'm not sure they have a song shorter than six minutes long, ensuring you'll never find them on the radio. 

They are, however, incredibly talented. 

Jordan Rudess -- keyboards -- in July 2011, in a poll for MusicRadar, voted the best keyboardist of all time.
John Petrucci -- guitar -- ranked the second best metal guitarist in history by Joel McIver in 2009.
Mike Mangini--percussion--formerly of Extreme, between 2002 and 2005 he set five "world's fastest drummer" records
James Labrie, lead vocals -- is Canadian. Uh..well, vocals aren't really the group's strong suit. But, yeah, born in Penetanguishene, which is one place name that's just fun to say out loud.

I haven't been to a rock concert since Roxette at Maple Leaf Gardens (it was still called that!) in 1992. My friend Nicole got me tickets...back row of the mezzanine.
The sound quality, for a venue as acoustically acclaimed as Centre in the Square, was something of a disappointment, really. It sounded "muddy", not well mixed. But the group's tight musicianship overcame that. I was most in thrall to the light show: whoever programmed that did a masterful job.
It was a short set by Dream Theater standards, about 2.5 hours (some of their concerts run three or four hours). But it was amazing: a wall of sound in constantly shifting meter.


December brings a heart health test for me, a shift change at work (still don't know what it is), and, oh, yeah, some holiday or other. It'll be a low-key Christmas once again this year...after about seven years of this, I guess you can say it's the norm. But that's okay. Christmas stopped being about things some time ago. 

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