Hooker Sheets and Airport Seats

by PenRei

Last weekend, I was forced to live an experience I wish to never repeat EVER again. It is an experience that has now carved deep into my soul the conviction that Air Canada is amongst the worst airlines from a first world country. It is a long and painful story, yet I have been told it’s a good one to hear, so get ready for a very wordy post.

Between June 17th and June 22nd, I was in Melville, New York, to be trained on an animation and design program used at my job. It was well worth it since this specific program had a tendency of making me feel stupid at my own job. Now, I won’t feel so pathetically slow when I’m asked to design or animate something. Hooray! The training week went well, but it was the departure that frustrated me to the point of tears.

Friday June 22nd
1:30pm
I arrive at Laguardia Airport, check in my luggage, take a seat in the lounge-waiting area. My plane doesn’t take off until 4:30pm, so I have plenty of time to read and watch stuff on my laptop until the plane gets here. I might even make it in time for Amélie et les singes bleus and Ariane Moffatt, who are playing a free concert at Francofête. Plus, I’ll also get enough sleep to get to work the next day (Saturday) for the kids show I’m teching on.

2:30pm
One of the earlier flights gets cancelled. That’s weird, but at least it’s not mine. Sit tight, everything is going to be okay.

3:00pm
More flights are getting cancelled. Okay, this is weird, but mine isn’t. It’s just delayed… until 6pm. I’ll miss Amélie et les singes bleus, but at least I’ll still get there in time for Ariane Moffatt!

3:30pm
More and more flight’s are being delayed. What’s going on?

4:00pm
It’s official: they’re cancelling flights one by one every 30 minutes. Ugh! Now mine is only delayed until 6:45pm. Come on! Don’t cancel my flight! A migraine is starting to settle in.

5:00pm
A massive lineup of passengers with cancelled flights are filed one by one in front of the Air Canada travel agents desk. They are hoping to book a flight for the next day as quickly as possible to get out. It looks like at least a 1.5 hour wait. Yikes! I am now looking after a nice canadian woman’s heavy carry on while she’s in line. She told me that if my plane gets cancelled that I can just bring her bags to her then.

5:45pm
My flight is now delayed until 7pm. A bunch of flights around mine are being cancelled. This doesn’t look good for me.

6:45pm
It’s official: my flight is now cancelled! Air Canada makes an announcement that those who recently had cancelled flights shouldn’t even bother waiting in line. They should call a 1-800 number and book with an agent over the phone. This isn’t good! I immediately bring the nice lady’s luggage to her. She’s about 4 people away from talking to an agent. As a thank you, she tells me to cut in with her; she feels bad for me. I thank her profusely! It may not have been the most honest thing, but in times of great frustration, I’ll take what I can get. My brain has now gone into focussed mode. Step 1: Tell my boss. I turn on my phone to call my supervisors to let them know what’s happened. Phone call with scheduling supervisor goes as follows:
Me: Hi (name)!
Super: Hi PenRei! How are you? (she’s clearly puzzled since why would I be calling her on a Friday evening.)
Me: I’ve been better. My flight back to Toronto has just been cancelled and I’m stranded in New York.
Super: Oh no that’s terrible. Thanks for letting me know.
(Moment of silence, I’m guessing she still doesn’t entirely know why I’m calling her.)
Me: Uh, (name), I am suppose to work the kid’s show tomorrow at Francofête.
Super: … OH SHIT!
Me: Yeah!
Super: Okay, don’t worry PenRei. I’ll find someone to replace you. Just take care of yourself.
Me: Um… also, I have the dvd’s with all of the media. So the team will either have to use the P2 player or go through the back ups.
Super: Okay, I’ll make this work. Thanks for letting me know. Don’t worry about any of it. I’ll figure it all out.
(We say goodbye and I am glad to have such a nice and sympathetic scheduling supervisor.)
I call the technical director of the show and leave him a voicemail with what’s going on. I then proceed to call my father, who is expecting a message when I’m back in Canada, and text the friends I am meeting up with at the concert to let them know that I won’t be able to make it.
Step 1 accomplished!

6:50pm
Step 2: Book my flight. I get to a travel agent. They are clearly swamped with frustrated and angry customers, so I’m doing my best to stay calm and carry on. While she’s helping me, she’s also talking to someone on the phone and directing an agent to help a woman in a wheelchair. Such little dialogue is exchanged between us that at one point I’m wondering if she’s helping me at all. I decide to not be an impatient customer and trust that she’s doing her job. She tells me the earliest flight she can get me on is at 6:30pm the next day. With no better option, I take it. She makes the changes, hands me the booking information and explains that they will be booking larger planes on Saturday, so I could show up early and maybe get squeezed into an earlier flight. I thank her. Step 2 accomplished!
Lastly, Air Canada isn’t providing anyone with any accommodation information. I’m worried since Step 3 is finding a hotel room. It looks like I’m on my own. Frustrated by their lack of customer service, I leave.

7:00pm
Both the nice lady and I have our flights for the next day. Now for Step 3: Find a hotel room for the night. The nice lady continues her kindness and allows me to use her laptop (with internet access) to find and book a hotel. I go to Hotels.com and scour the website for hotels nearby. Everything is fully booked! Why am I not surprised? There are probably close to 1,000 people now stranded in New York (Air Canada flights from JFK have also been cancelled). There is an option for me to return to Long Island, but the taxi ride is so long and expensive that I’d rather find something nearby. I look for hotels in Manhattan, crossing my fingers that there will be at least one. Lucky for me, there is one hotel who’s price range fits within my work’s requirements (140$ a night) and there are only 2 rooms left. I book it without hesitation. My confirmation is sent to my email and everything looks good. The hotel is even listed as having free WiFi. Necessary Bonus! The nice lady and I separate, wishing each other good luck. Step 4: Collect my suitcase from baggage claim.

7:10pm
I’m waiting at baggage claim for my suitcase. As soon as I’ll get it, I’ll be off and heading to my hotel. My migraine has now accelerated to full-pain mode and all I can think about is getting some food in my system and then lying down on a bed with all the lights turned off. Come on suitcase, show your face!

7:35pm
The same 20 suitcases are just repeatedly spinning around in a circle. We’re about 60 people all wondering what’s going on. Where is our luggage? The conveyor belt is only about 2/3rd full. A man goes over to an airport employee and asks why there’s no new luggage. The employee says that the conveyor belt is full (not true) and they are waiting for the luggage to be claimed before putting anything new on. Um, thanks for telling us earlier! (sigh) The same man, who I found out to be Canadian (yes, Canadians are nice), puts a smile on his face and starts taking suitcases off one by one and putting them into a pile in the middle. Two others help out! I want help, but the pain in my head is so intense that I can barely stand up straight. Eventually, new suitcases begin to appear and mine finally shows up. Step 4: accomplished! Step 5: Get my ass over to my hotel.

8:10pm
There is a long lineup outside for a taxicab. What else can I do but take a spot in line and wait for my turn! I plant myself behind someone, massaging my temples to help alleviate some of the agony. My stomach is starting to eat itself, adding to the overall physical pain I am dealing with.

8:40pm
There are only 5 people in front of me. Awesome! We’re almost there. I distract myself by watching others walk out of the airport and find a place in line. I spot the nice lady from before and flag her down. She is also going to a hotel in Manhattan, so I tell her to join me in the line and split a cab. This time she is thanking me and comments that we make a good team. I am happy to have someone to share this experience with. I push back my migraine to keep a positive attitude about the situation like her. Soon, it’s our turn and we jump in a cab. During the ride, we find out that her hotel is only 5 blocks from mine. I tell her not to worry about the cab fare since my work will reimburse me and we’re so close to each other anyway. She thanks me again for the free cab ride. Before being dropped off, she extends an invitation for me to join her mother (who is still at JFK waiting for her luggage) and her for dinner. I thank her, but I am so hungry that I can’t wait another hour to eat. She says she understands and we part ways.

9:15pm
I get to my hotel. It’s the Pennsylvania Hotel near Times Square. There’s a diner called Lindy’s right downstairs and I note it as a place to grab some diner. I check in and make my way up to my room, incredibly happy to finally lie down. Unfortunately, the hotel room is HORRIBLE! To anyone venturing to Manhattan, DO NOT STAY IN THE PENNSYLVANIA HOTEL!!!! If I knew this would have been the state of the room, I might have taken my chances sleeping at the airport.
The carpet was dirty and made me afraid to take off my shoes.
The washrooms were cleaner at the airport than at the hotel.
The bedsheets had stains on them.
The hotel smelled like it wasn’t aired out in a decade; there was an unpleasant mix of cigarettes, dust, alcohol, bleach, and old carpet.
On top of that, there was no WiFi as promised. I asked the hotel and they said that there was none in the hotel rooms, only in the lobby, and you had to pay 10$ to get access. I showed them my booking clearly specifying “free WiFi” the clerk simply said “what do you want me to say? It’s not true.” Uh, how about the minimum customer service you could offer? Such as giving me at least free WiFi in the lobby for the evening!
Unable to stall my hunger, I went to the dinner. I was completely unprepared for the prices on the menu. The only thing I could afford within my work per-diems was a chicken sandwich and frozen vegetables on the side. Safe to say, not particularly appetizing and not worth the 22$ I gave them.

10:00pm
I’m back in my room with my take out container.  I swallow an Advil and wait for its effects to make their way to my neck and brain while very slowly eating (I occasionally get severe nausea if my migraine is really bad). Now that I have a flight for the next day, a roof over my head, and some food in my stomach, my head steps out of ubber-focussed mode and for the first time in hours, I let everything sink in. Feeling incredibly lonely, after being disconnected from all of my friends and family in Canada for a week, I call my dad and ask him to call me through the hotel phone number so we can talk. He does and after a few tears and telling him everything that has happened, I finally begin to feel better.

11:00pm
After talking to my dad and watching an episode of The X-Files. I decide it’s time to go to bed. Now I’m not too sure what to do. The bed is so disgusting that I’m worried I might get crabs (that’s how bad it was), but the air conditioner (which I can’t control) is pushing too much cold air. I decide to sleep in my clothes underneath one blanket. Before falling asleep, I pray that there are no bed bugs. I don’t need more stress after this.

Saturday June 23rd
8:11am
I wake up to the sounds of some very loud Portuguese  tourists next to me. Impossible to go back to sleep. I watch another episode of X-Files on my laptop while eating the other half of my sandwich from the previous night.

9:00am
I can’t stay in my room for much longer. The smell and the grossness is getting to me. I’d like to go to the Metropolitan Museum, but without internet, I have no idea where it is or when they open. Also, I have to check out at noon, most likely not giving me a lot of time. I opt for just walking around Times Square. In the process, I stop by Starbucks and buy some breakfast (the only place that will fit within my per-diems). I walk, browse through stores, and try to just keep a positive attitude despite my single desire to go home.

11:30am
The streets of Manhattan are getting too crowded for my taste, so I decide that it’s time for me to check out. I do so and go outside to catch a cab. I don’t have any American money in small bills, so I decide to call a cab myself and not ask for help from the bell boy. As my arm stretches up in the air at an upcoming cab, the bell boy jumps in front of me and does the same. I don’t understand what’s going on. Is he hailing a cab for somebody else? Turns out he was hailing it for me… even though I had already done that for myself. He opens the door for me and I get in. I close the door and then he yells at me “What about my tip?” I’m shocked! I never asked for his help, and all he did was hail a cab I already had. I just give him an expression saying “why would I tip you if I didn’t even want your help?”. He decides to yell at me some more through the car window and I ask the taxi driver to get me to LaGuardia.

12:45pm
I get to the airport and am thankful that I didn’t have a driver who wanted to talk to me. That last scene with the bellboy was just enough to set me back in my lonely mood from the previous night. I admit, I cried a bit in the cab. I walk into the Air Canada check-in station and the first nice thing happens to me all day.
I don’t want to check-in at the kiosks in the hopes of getting an earlier flight, but I couldn’t find the regular check-in counter, just the baggage line. I walk up to the woman at the business class check-in since she has no one in line and ask her where I’m suppose to go. She points to the baggage check-in counter. I sigh and am about to turn around, but she stops me and says “I can ring you through here, I don’t have anyone in line”. I am dumbfounded! Is this even real? She asks to see my passport. It is real! Friendly service from Air Canada? I decide not to question it too much and just go with it. She rings me through and says that there are seats available on the 3:30pm flight. I accept without hesitation. She also says that she can check my suitcase right there. She hands me my boarding pass and I thank her profusely. There may have even been a tear of joy.

1:15pm
I am back in the waiting-lounge area. Boarding for my flight starts at 2:55pm and takeoff is 3:30pm. Renewed with hope, I am convinced that today is the day that I am going. I also know that if I have to repeat this nightmare again, I might just breakdown in the airport. But no, I choose to try and stay positive! If all goes well, I’ll be back in my apartment around 6pm and will make it to Running Man’s (besty Douggy Fresh’s boyfriend) birthday party.

2:00pm
A later flight is delayed. Worry begins to sink in. No! I try to be positive. I will not give up hope!

2:30pm
An airplane docks in gate 7. My flight is departing from gate 7. That must be the plane! HOORAY! I’m going home! I continue to read my book while keeping my ears open for any announcements.

2:50pm
They’ve begun boarding the plane. This is happening! This is actually happening!

3:10pm
Everyone has boarded the plane. It’s just a matter of minutes before we take off. I can already breathe the fresh Canadian Air and see all the trees and nature again. (That’s right, I was so deprived of it that TORONTO felt like nature). I jumpstart my return to Canada by watching a NFB documentary called Cry of the Wild about wolves.

3:50pm
We still haven’t taken off. What’s going on?

4:15pm
Oh no! They’re going to ask us to get off the plane and cancel the flight. Please don’t let it be! Please don’t let it be! Please don’t let it be!

4:30pm
The captain over the intercom: “Sorry to have kept you waiting folks. We initially didn’t have any staff to put the luggage on the plane, so we were just waiting on that. Soon we’ll be closing the cargo doors and we should be ready for takeoff any minute.”
Seriously! THAT was the hold up! For crying out loud, I think most of the people on this plane would have gone out themselves to put their luggage on the plane. Air Canada, you’re disorganized ways are bringing me nothing but GRIEF!

4:45pm
The captain: “Thank you for waiting folks. We have now closed the cargo doors and are waiting for our turn to takeoff. It shouldn’t be much longer.”
By that do you mean 10 minutes? 15 minutes? I can handle 15 minutes.

5:00pm
I can’t take it anymore! What’s the holdup! Please just get me home!!!!!!

5:15pm
The plane is moving. Wait, the plane is moving? Yes, it is! The plane is MOVING! YES! Finally, FINALLY I can go home. There’s no way they would cancel the plane now. Shh, no, don’t say that. You’ll jinx it! Don’t say anything until you are past customs in Canada. (Can you see the slow degradation of my sanity by now?). The plane takes off. Now it feels real.

6:25pm
We land in Canada. Oh sweet Canadian soil! You are amazing and I love you so much. I’m soooo sorry that I left you for so long!

7:40pm
I pass customs. Now I really am in Canada. There’s nothing that they can do make me go back to LaGuardia. Oh LaGuardia and Air Canada, how I despise you completely!

8:30pm
I’m home! I’M REALLY HOME! My tiny bachelor apartment has never looked so wonderful. My neighbourhood, with a strange mix of immigrant families and drug-dealers, has never looked so welcoming. The trees outside have never been greener. Everything is WONDERFUL! I proceed to spend my evening doing my laundry (and putting everything in the dryer in case of bed bugs), buying some well-deserved sushi for dinner, skyping with my family, and reading. I told Running Man that I couldn’t make it to his birthday party. If I really wanted to, I might have made it for 10pm. I found out the next day that the party had pretty much winded down by then.

10:30pm
I slip under the covers of my bed and prepare for sleep. Before closing my eyes, I pray with all the energy I have left that I will not wake up tomorrow morning back in that horrible hotel room. If this whole day was just a dream, I would breakdown in that hotel right then and there.

Sunday June 24th
9:30am
I wake up. I’m still in my apartment! Now it feels over.

And there you have it! 3,517 words later, the story is over. Congratulations to you if you made it to the end. This must be the longest post I’ve written so far. Despite my desperate need to leave the states by the end, I’m excited to return and visit my dear friend Gretchen in Washing DC and West Falls Church. I’ll also be taking Porter this time, an airline I have taken often in the last year and always had a great experience with. I am now convinced to  use Porter whenever possible and avoid Air Canada at all costs.

Air Canada Sucks

Are You Insane Enough For Insanity?

by PenRei

Back in early June, my friend RoboMon, massage therapist and fitness enthusiast, introduced me to Insanity. She texted me one afternoon asking me if “I’d like to join her for Insanity”. I texted back saying “sure”, and then five minutes later with “What’s insanity?”. Knowing RoboMon, I was positive that she wasn’t referring to the the abnormal mental state associated with strange behavioral patterns… but still, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. She then told me it was a series of workout videos that she wanted to try. Sounded safe enough! Plus, ever since the end of the holidays, I have been trying to get back to my regular weight. It’s been a challenge that at many times makes me wonder why I even bother trying.

By mid-May, I was FINALLY starting to see some progress in my weightloss. It took a whole 5 months of exercising 4 times a week and changing my diet, but it finally happened. My potbelly was shrinking and very slowly starting to flatten out. My bootie didn’t feel as tight in my jeans anymore – although I have accepted that it will always be oversized for a half-asian. It’s hard to keep track fo your progress when you don’t weigh yourself or keep track of your measurements, but as previously mentioned, I’m choosing to judge my weight based on how I feel about the way I look. For those of you who need a number description, in December I was a size 10. Now, I’m nearly a size 8 (so so close, as in I can fit in it, but there are some specific areas that are a little tight). All of this to say that after seeing some of my weight shed off, I was motivated to try different types of exercises.

After trying the Fit Test and the first workout video (Plyometric cardio), I was hooked. I’m a fan of exercise routines that don’t require me to buy accessories (except yoga matts, those I accept). I think this comes from my days of competitive dancing – I’ve learned how to use the weight of my body in specific positions for exercising. Separately, the various exercises in Insanity aren’t that difficult (except for pushups, I SUCK at those), but when done repetitively and in sequence, you can feel your heart beating while the sweat drips down your neck.

Beach Body Insanity contains approximately 14 videos, comprised of a fit test, cardio workouts (both in intervals and marathon style), ab workouts, resistance training, and recovery (but don’t be fooled, squatting for 2 minutes at a time is part of recovery). The workouts are hard! Even the people in the video have trouble finishing them and are dead on the floor.

What I really like about Insanity is that in the videos, Shaun T mostly talks about personal goals and progress, not about weight. I for one prefer this form of encouragement, because it prevents me from focussing on my physical appearance, but more on how far I can push myself. To me, knowing that I started with only 7 half push-ups in 1 minute and am now up to 10 real push ups is something to feel good about. I also appreciate that Shaun T repeats the following statements:
1) Take a break when you need it (he even tells people in the video to stop and take a break)
2) Stay hydrated, drink water (water breaks are included and recommended)
3) Don’t compromise form over speed (despite the exercises going faster and faster, it’s more important to do it right than pick up the tempo)

I haven’t been following the program on a daily basis (nor have I adoted the nutrition guide), but I can honestly say that I have felt a difference in myself. When I first started, I couldn’t complete the first workout video. By the end of the second week, I was able to do everything from beginning to end. Sure, I was still dead afterwards, but it was a good and accomplished kind of dead. Walking up 6 flights of stairs is easy now, versus when I would get winded by the 4th.

All in all, I have thoroughly been enjoying Shaun T’s Beach Body Insanity workouts and recommend it to anyone who is looking to strengthen their cardio (or even shed a few pounds). Douggy Fresh is already planning on giving it a try. I will get Nomes hooked to it this weekend. Next week, I’m heading over to Falls Church in the US. Watch out Gretchen! You better be ready for the Insanity that’s about to come your way!

Beach Body Insanity Sneak Peak

Homemade Onion Pancakes… Now With Less Junk!

by PenRei

I have a problem.

I LOVE green onion pancakes. They are SO delicious! I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack. I usually buy them frozen from T&T since they’re easy to fry up when you have a strong craving or just need to eat something and soon. There is one major problem: at 13.5% of my daily fat intake, 22% of salt, and a whopping 414 calories each, well… let’s just say they don’t like me back. But still, I must believe that somewhere out there is a solution to this conundrum: continue occasionally eating onion pancakes without sacrificing my health and figure.

The answer was so obvious that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t found it earlier: make them from scratch! After all, once upon a time, they didn’t come from the frozen section of the grocery store, but from your Chinese mother’s hands in the kitchen. It was time that I continued my love for green onion pancakes without compromising my figure.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 3-4 stalks of long green onions
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (if you’d like to add flavour, but it’s not necessary)
 
Mix the salt and flour into a large bowl.
 
 
Add the hot water two tablespoons at a time while mixing.
 
 
Mix until it becomes a dough. Drop the spoon! It’s time to get your hands dirty. Knead that dough!
 
 
Once the dough is soft and even (leave no clumps of flour behind!), ball it up, place it in the bowl, and cover it with a damp towel. Let it sit between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
 
 
Separate the dough into lime-sized balls. I was able to make 10 with my dough.
 
 

Roll out the dough as flat as possible. It’s very thick, so be prepared to use those arms muscles (which I don’t have). A rolling pin comes in really handy here!

Sprinkle on the green onions (and sesame seeds if desired). Squish the green onions into the dough to lodge them into place and squeeze out some of its juices to help seep it into the dough while cooking.

 
 

Roll back up into a ball.

For maximum tasting experience, repeat the last two steps. Roll out, sprinkle green onions, squish in, roll into ball.

Flatten out your pancake! The thinner the better (about 4 inches across)! That thick dough can be mighty difficult to cook all the way through if you leave it too thick.

Cook! With olive oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Flip occasionally.

 
 

Cook until both sides are slightly golden and solid.

Are you ready now? It’s time to eat!

Consensus?

 
 

HOORAY! That is one stamp of approval I can trust!

So, to recap what we talked about at the top, the frozen onion pancakes I buy at T&T have 414 calories each, while the homemade version only has 130 calories. Surprisingly, even though the homemade ones are smaller, they are MUCH more filling than the store bought ones. Success! Less calories for more hunger satisfaction! I brought one as a snack to work this week and it kept me surprisingly full for 3 hours before lunchtime.

As an added bonus, I know everything that went into my food, versus questioning half of the ingredients on the package. Preservative free!

GREEN ONION PANCAKES RULE!!!

 

Making Truffles with Chocolate Tales

by PenRei

A little while ago, bestie Douggy Fresh and I participated in a truffle making workshop offered by Chocolate Tales. We heard about it a few months ago when a Groupon emailed showed up in both of our inboxes. “Learn to make chocolate and eat it after? Uh… YES!” The answer was obvious.

Chocolate Tales

All in all, it was a good experience. I would have liked to have gotten my hands a little dirtier and gone as far as crush the beans myself, but that’s just me. The website clearly stated that it was a truffle making workshop. Plus, considering that I have never made any form of chocolate in my LIFE, I was most likely over-reaching in my expectations. (I don’t count melting baking chocolate.)

The workshop was comprised of 3 sections: learning, making, eating. I think we all know which part was decidely favoured by PenRei and Douggy Fresh (cough:: eating ::cough), but that does not undermine the other 3 sections.

LEARNING ABOUT CHOCOLATE

We had the pleasure of having a workshop lead by David, the chocolatier du jour! He didn’t have a chef’s hat, but that can be forgiven since I don’t know if chocolatiers wear those hats. David was very articulate and explained the process from beans to chocolate in a very charismatic way. Honestly, if I had the money, I wouldn’t mind following a lesson on how to make chocolate from scratch with him. Everybody wishes that at least one of their high school teachers was more charismatic… like David!

Anyway, stuff that I learned?

Did you know that cocoa beans are actually white and not brown? I had NO idea. When you open the pod collected from the tree, you’ll see white beans at the centre. CRAZY!

Cocoa Pod

Cocoa Pod

This also led to a fascinating discovery about white chocolate. When I was a kid, I thought, “chocolate is brown and milk is white, so white chocolate must be chocolate with a lot of milk”. Despite the fact that this logic didn’t make sense as I grew up, I didn’t question it too much since nothing in my life had proven otherwise. UNTIL NOW!  White chocolate does not contain cocoa solids (it was separated from its brown counterparts), but is instead just cocoa butter, the fattiest, creamiest, and richest part of cocoa. Chocolatier Dave called it “the junk food of the chocolate world”. And so it is, with its delicious addictive properties. Yum yum!

Something else I learned about chocolate is that it is made up of 4 unstable molecules and 1 stable molecule. I’m not talking unstable to the point of explosion, but in the sense of culinary cuisine (don’t ask me more than that, I’m guessing it has to do with taste, texture, and combining in the end). To help turn the 4 unstable into the 1 stable, you have to heat your chocolate (always heat in a metal bowl over boiling water to heat evenly and avoid burning), pour 2/3 onto a slab of granite (granite always stays at 10 degrees celsius below room temperature) and mix it using a scraper that can be found at your local Home Depot or Canadian Tire (but please wash it first!). By using the scraper to mix the chocolate over the slab or granite, the mix between cold and hot creates a “chemical drama” (in Dave’s words) that we can’t see, but that stabilizes the molecules.

Also, random fact for you, cocoa and cacao are the same thing. It’s just different pronounciations of the same word… in case anyone was wondering.

Health benefits of chocolate:

  • Cocoa contains high levels of flavonoids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular system. Flavonoids are naturally bitter, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
  • Continuing with your cardiovascular system, it also improves your blood vessel function and lowers blood pressure. The flavonoids slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the bad one we all try to fight or deny). It’s when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized that it can clog your blood vessels.
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants, which strengthen your immune system to combat free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage) in your body.

History of chocolate:

  • History says that chocolate started in Latin America where the cacao trees grow naturally. The Olmec, living in southeast Mexico around 1000 BC, called it “kakawa”. I think you can see the similarity to our “cacao”.
  • Mayans who inhabited the same general area between 250-900 AD also ate chocolate. Mayans used cacao beans as currency in a trading culture. “I’ll give you 2 rabbits for 6 cacao beans.” Unfortunately, slaves cost a mere 9 beans. Luckily, this is not the case anymore. Boo to slavery!
  • Mayans didn’t eat chocolate, but drank it.  Essentially, they had thick hot chocolate for many religious rituals, such as weddings. They didn’t add sugar though, so it was a lot more bitter than the hot chocolate we know today.
  • Since cacao beans were considered currency, only the rich, who had them in abundance, ate chocolate. The rest of the population used it as money. After all, if you were poor, would you eat your money?
  • After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they continued the tradition of drinking chocolate. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought chocolate down to earth to share it with man. Quetzalcoatl was then cast out of paradise, for only the gods were allowed to drink chocolate.
  • In 1519, Cortez (a Spanish conquistador) tried hot chocolate, but disliked it for its extreme bitterness. With all of the conquering and ruling happening around the area, the Spanish eventually discovered the Caribbean islands where sugar cane grew. One guy decided to mix the two together and then BAM! instant awesomeness happened.
  • It wasn’t until the 1850s that an Englishman named Joseph Fry created the world’s first solid chocolate by adding more cocoa butter to the mixture instead of hot water.
  • 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle (you know which chocolate company he founded) added condensed milk to solid chocolate, creating the milk chocolate bar.
  • 1879, Rudolphe Lindt (another name dropped, boom!) invented a machine called the conch, which rotated and mixed the chocolate into a perfectly smooth consistency. Remember the hot chocolate mixed on a cold granite slab with a scraper? Think that but with a robot doing it! Okay, not a robot, just a machine. Still a big deal!
  • 1907, Milton Hershey (you all know this guy) had a factory that produced 33 million Hershey kisses per day. That’s a lot of kisses!
  • Today, over 3 billion tons of cacao supplies a 35 billion dollar chocolate industry.

MAKING THE CHOCOLATE

There isn’t much for me to say in this section. The hands on portion of the workshop is something more so experience. Essentially, we made our own truffles by cutting or rolling the ganache block we got into the desired shapes, dipping them in delicious milk chocolate, and decorating them with white chocolate, coconut shavings and cocoa power. For practice, we got to use marshmallows to fine tune those… uh… natural?… skills we came into the workshop with. Everything was edible and VERY yummy. Chocolate Tales even provided us with lava cakes for us to decorate. They had a small oven with them to cook so the cakes would be ready by the end of the workshop.

EATING THE CHOCOLATE

What do you want me to say? It’s clearly the best part, but unfortunately the shortest one. I miss chocolate! *tear*

chocolate tales truffles

chocolate tales truffles

Chocolate Tales doesn’t just do open workshops to the public. They also do corporate events, kids parties and bridal showers. I know what I’ll be planning for Douggy Fresh’s bridal shower when the day comes. Knowing her, you won’t have to bring a gift, just give her all of your chocolate at the end. Ahahaha! I unfortunately found the initial price (about 70$ per person) to be quite high, but the Groupon deal I got meant that I only had to put in 37$ for the 90 minute experience. I didn’t feel that the workshop was worth 70$ (for 70$, I’d want to grind my own cocoa beans), but if you can find a Groupon deal or a group discount price, it’s a fun experience where you get to learn a lot about one of your food best friends: chocolate.

 

For more information, visit their website: www.chocolatetales.ca or contact them at 1-800-905-2858. Chocolate Tales can provide services and workshops at any location between Ajax to Niagara.

The Honeyrunners and TimeGiant

by PenRei

Thursday night, Nomes and I had the pleasure to rock out to two great independent bands at Toronto’s Rivoli venue. Good times were definitely had; so good in fact that we ended up staying until 1:15am. It was quite the feat considering that I had to be at work for 8:30am and Nomes had a dance class at 8am. But I admit, IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!

I would like to start by explaining that this rock ‘n roll show was of, what I find in Toronto, to be a rare kind. Most independent music shows I’ve been to consist of the type of music where you sit or stand and just listen. Of course, there are a few exceptions (like The Balconies, which you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already), but there are few.

I will start with The Honeyrunners. This four piece rock band won my heart over the evening of Friday May 4th at the Hard Rock Cafe. First of all, the lead singer and keyboardist, Dan, came on stage barefoot. I immediately knew that this would be a good show. As soon as the first guitar riff happened, I knew what I was in for. The Honeyrunners are influenced by both American and British rock from the 70’s: an era of amazing music. Throughout their set, I could hear influences from great bands such as Boston, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Lynyrd Skynyrd… but successfully never sounding exactly like these previous big name bands. In short, The Honeyrunners know where their music is coming from while managing to build their own distinct sound. There wasn’t a single song that I found weak or didn’t enjoy, but they had a song based around the Faustian myth of Robert Johnson (unfortunately, I can’t recall the title, but it has the word “devil”) that was pure GOLD. I highly suggest checking them out when you have the chance. Here is a list of some of their upcoming shows in Toronto from the band’s website:

  • May 26th at the El Mocambo with Steve Lewin
  • June 23rd at Cherry Cola’s @ 9pm
  • June 30th at the Evergreen Brickworks from 10am to 1pm for FREE

On a more personal level, Nomes and I noticed that there is a condition spreading across spectators in Toronto. It’s called “not-dancing-because-I’m-a-judgmental-hipster-who-is-too-cool-to-be-judged-by-others”. For some odd reason, even when there is a great concert with danceable rock music, Torontonians just don’t dance anymore. When did dancing at a rock concert become uncool? At the beginning of the show, Nomes and I noticed that we were the only ones who were moving out booty. We had one of our telepathic short conversations wondering if we ended up looking like drunk idiots, or real fans of the music. We thus decided “this music is awesome and it makes me want to dance, so I’m going to dance and all you judgers be darned”. In case you haven’t noticed yet, Nomes and I aren’t afraid to make complete fools of ourselves. Luckily, we got to speak to Dan, the lead singer, at the very end of the night. He said that half of the music they wrote was so that people could dance to it and he was glad to know that there were at least two people that night rocking out. So the next time you go out to a concert and you feel a strange sensation in you to move it, listen and DO IT. Just keep it on a non-annoying-non-harassing level to the fellow spectators around you.

Here’s a YouTube clip with two of The Honeyrunners songs. Hope you enjoy!

Official website: www.honeyrunners.com
FaceBook: www.facebook.com/honeyrunners
Blog: honeyrunners.tumblr.com/

Now, onto TIMEGIANT! That’s right, they rocked so hard that I chose to write their name in all caps (actual spelling is TimeGiant). Their 50 minute set felt like an adrenaline-laced-gasoline-on-fire shot straight into my brain resulting in awesome overdrive! These musicians are rockers in the truest sense; I like to describe them as the type of guys who came out of the womb holding guitars and drumsticks.

Their heavy progressive rock was reminiscent of the 70’s rock music and Nomes I and found it impossible to stand still and just watch (although others further back looked like statues… how could you when THAT is on stage right in front of your face?!). Not only was the music good, but their sound was tight, polished, and well rehearsed. As I told Tyrone, the singer, guitarist, and saxophone player (that’s right, you read it clearly, saxophone in heavy rock = amazing!), it is so refreshing to hear in a day and age full of acoustic indie music that there are still bands that can go onstage, rock out, and really deliver a show. Long hair and mustaches have never been cooler!

Here’s a list of some of their upcoming concerts:

  • May 12th in Hamilton Ontario at The Underground @ 8pm
  • July 5th in Owen Sound Ontario at The Harb @8pm
  • July 6th in Toronto Ontario at The Horseshoe Tavern @8pm

Check out this video from their performance at the Rivoli from Thursday evening. (Review from T Mak World and original videos can be found here.)

Also, check out this acoustic version of their song Temple In the Sky.

Official website: www.timegiantband.com/
FaceBook: www.facebook.com/timegiantband
MySpace: myspace.com/timegiantband

Now go forth legion of music lovers and ROCK ON!

All My Wires or A Tale of Transportation and Low Blood Pressure.

by Nomes

Can I just take a moment to say how much I love PenRei? Thanks: PenRei, I love you. For so many reasons which would take up a whole novel but the most recent one being the bunny pictures related to hair donation…and the hair donation itself of course.

And now for something completely different: my trip to the hospital in an ambulance.

That’s right, folks, Strugglebot Nomes has done it again! Taking the art of struggling to a whole new level!

It all started this morning, or should I say last night, or should I say Monday… Well really it started when I was born with this curse: doomed to struggle forever. But fast forward to this morning I guess, when I wake up after not quite enough sleep. The cause of which was last night’s soirée with friends (let me specify that I am in O-town currently, having returned to the family homestead for a 3 week break from school). Needless to say there was wine. Ok so I had a few glasses of wine. What of it? There was water involved and food being consumed, so all in all a very tame and responsible night of merriment. Got home around 12:30am, my bad there, but I’m pretty sure that this is acceptable and I’m still a healthy girl in her 20s who doesn’t need to worry about sleeping 9 hours every night or else she FAINTS.

So…yeah. I fainted. On my way to work, this morning, the bus was relatively full, and I was standing/cramming myself between bars and the wheel box (that elevated platform at the front of the bus under which the front right wheel resides). Also I was reading a book (Feast of Crows, 4th in the DELICIOUS Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin… I’m sure PenRei will have a review for you once she’s done reading them too. What… you expect me to do book reviews? No that’s the organized half of this team’s specialty:) ) . In any case it occured to me as we approached downtown that I was not feeling a hundred percent, quite nauseous in fact. My headache, which I attributed to dehydration/lack of sleep, started to make its way into my stomach. I felt a pain in my chest which seemed to be anxiety (which I’ve never experienced quite so physically before) and a wave of claustrophobia hit me (also for the first time ever). I tried to smile: using reverse muscle memory to calm myself… Nope! I flashed back to the time when I threw up in the bus a few years back and realized I should probably get off before that happened…but the bus was packed…and I didn’t want to be late for work. “Tough it out, Nomes, just breathe. Put the book down (my sister gets motion sickness in the car, especially if she’s reading), and face the front of the bus. You’ll be fine once you get off. Oh look at that girl, she looks familiar. Breathe. Just bre…..”

Next thing I know, I hear a man say “Oh my god… oh my god.” I open my eyes and my face is pressed against the wheel box, my glasses have left my face and I’m..well.. on the ground. Everyone is looking down at me and the bus driver is asking if I’m okay. We get to the next stop and I get off to just get some air. The man who was saying “Oh my god” follows me and asks if I’m feeling okay. I answer I’m not sure and sit at the bus stop. Well he ended up waiting with me, that gentleman and a scholar. The bus driver did too. He stopped the bus and everyone had to get out and grab the next one, because he wasn’t going anywhere. He got OcTranspo emergency people to come and they in turn called the paramedics. The kindness of all these people just cannot be measured. People are frickin’ fantastic. My sincerest apologies to everyone on that bus that had to wait while the driver assessed the situation, only to get bumped to the next crowded vehicle. All 900 of you. No wait… *blink* 47 of you.

I got into the ambulance, feeling a little better, and they start wiring me up. First it’s the blood pressure (mine was low). Then it’s that finger clamp thingie. Then they checked my heart with half a dozen electrodes on my legs, arms and chest. My dad was luckily headed to the hospital to accompany one of the men he works with to an appointment (my parents are saints, that’s all), so I got the ambulance guys to go to that same hospital. More fantastic people, I tell you. Just lovely.

I admit I used this experience to my advantage and took mental notes for future roles I might play in a hospital setting. Win. So I got to lie on the stretcher as they drove me the hospital and even had some oxygen pumped through my nose. The whole nine yards, man! I felt bad again for making them wait with me as we tried to get a nurse to pay attention to us, once we were at the hospital. I offered to sing to get their attention. Was denied.

Got in to see the nurse and she got me to don the hospital gown of shame. She hooked me to the heart monitor and another nurse stuck a needle in me to take blood samples and left it in, in case they needed to IV me up, and then left in a puff of helpful, caring yet busy nurse-ness.

So I sat. And waited. I needed to get in touch with my dad…and felt like this would be a good time to start learning a monologue for next term, but unfortunately I could not get to my purse as I was stuck in an array colourful wires (which looked a lot like the wires they have in bombs, in movies. Upon seeing them I joked to the nurse: “Oh no.. which one do I cut?!” She was silent. Then she may have chuckled, but it could have been a cough. Awkward.)

So I sat, a long time, contemplating the other patients around. One woman was tied to her bed as she kept thrashing, semi aggressively, and seemed constantly uncomfortable, poor lady. One woman was just sitting in silence in the dark with what could only be considered as a red sleeping bonnet, on. Then there were all the nurses and doctors puttering in and about the central work station. I started playing around with my finger clamp thingie. It looked like a duck from one angle, a donkey from another and an alien from yet another. I should have taken a picture of that, cause now I just sound crazy. In any case, I stored that fun fact in the ol’ attic to use in case I ever need to entertain a kid, were I to, one day, know a child who has to stay in the hospital. Win.

So I finally got a little too bored and decided to try to make something happen; while the doctors and nurses weren’t looking, I grabbed the table next to me, wincing at the pain from the needle stuck in my arm, and tried to manoeuvre it to roll over to my purse and perhaps grab it and drag it back to me. Well, I felt stupid after 10 seconds of that doomed-to-fail attempt, so I put the table back and just asked the next nurse who didn’t look too busy to grab the book my play was in, from my purse. Nice person number 192 today!  When the original nurse came back around she announced that there was an emergency trauma which was keeping the doctor from me. Aaaaand I felt bad again with my silly fainting and low blood pressure, while somewhere else, someone was actually bleeding… Man the hospital is an interesting place.

Skip to doctor coming in, asking me questions, getting me to squeeze his fingers and breathe deeply into his stethoscope, and tell me that I just had a classic “fainting spell” from dilated blood vessels which caused all of my blood to fall into my legs. He recommended I lie down for the rest of the day and drink lots of fluids to restore blood flow and that’s when Super-Daddy arrived to take me home. He knows all about this kind of stuff so spoke to everyone and got all the info and voilà! I am home now. Not before worrying all of my sisters of course, and my mother and a couple of close friends who I informed of my unfortunate yet kind of hilarious situation. Made more hilarious by something they wrote on my chart. Apparently I had suffered from a Syncope/Pre-syncope. In French, “une syncope”, is a medical term as well as a word used in hilarious expressions similar to  “Don’t have a conniption!” or in the famous words of Bart Simpson: “Don’t have a cow, man!”. “Fais pas une syncope!” we would say, and laugh our happy little French heads off. (OOOhhh accidental French Revolution pun. Good for me!) I can finally see “J’ai fait une syncope!”….and mean it.

My final words as I finish this post, will be the same as the last words I said as I left the Emergency Ward with papa: “Oh. How embarassing…”

Nomes-out

The Hunger Games: Movie Review

by PenRei

On Tuesday night, besty Douggy Fresh took me to the theaters for a belated Christmas present: The Hunger Games movie. In case any of you forgot or didn’t know that I LOVED the first book of the trilogy, you can check out my book review here. I figured since I reviewed the books, I may as well review the movie.

Douggy Fresh and I waited for the insane wave of tweens to have their movie experience first. The last thing I wanted was to hear a bunch of teenage hormone filled girls gasp every time Josh Hutcherson appeared on-screen, followed by their own running commentaries. It usually ends with me fantasizing punching them repeatedly in the back of the head.

Now, onto the review!

The Hunger GamesI will start by stating that this is a GOOD movie. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece that will propel moviemaking in a different direction: it’s a solid piece of entertainment. The running length is 2.5 hours and it didn’t feel too long. The director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) and screenwriter Billy Ray took some liberties in the film, but they were all appropriate and helped to:

a) propel the story of the world forward instead of just Katniss’
b) share important information with the audience that was originally shared in narration
c) create a pacing appropriate for a film

Movies and books are not the same thing. They are both different forms of storytelling, with their own narrative style, pacing, structure, and expression. Straight adaptations from the books usually don’t come across very well. Therefor, it’s important to know what to cut from a film and what to change. Let’s look at the three points I listed above.

A) propel the story of the world
The book is written in first person narrative (which means it’s through Katniss’ perspective with the use of “I”). There are few movies and tv shows that can successfully use that narrative form; the only one I can think of is the show Dexter, and even that isn’t purely first person narrative. The team of The Hunger Games went with an omnipresent narrator that switched between Katniss, Haymitch, Seneca Crane, and the population of Panhem. This allowed the viewers to see more than what Katniss was going through, placing her actions in the bigger picture of what was happening in the world of the film (the beginning of the resistance). With regards to Haymitch, we witnessed the work that he did to try to save Katniss and Peeta, giving us more depth to his character. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first person narration in the book and wouldn’t change it. However the omnipresent narrator was key to the success of the film.

B) Sharing information
The use of Ceasar Flickerman as a medium to share information from the book with the audience was brilliantly done. A lot of information in the book is told through Katniss’ narration, which would have been a disaster in the film (thank you Gary Ross for not having narration). A prime example are the tracker jacker wasps. In order for the audience to know why they are so dangerous, Gary Ross had Ceasar Flickerman speak to the camera as a host to a live show and explain what they were. Small moments such as these really helped to close the gaps of knowledge for those who haven’t read the books.
A few scenes with Seneca Crane helped to amplify the dystopic nature of the film. His conversations with President Snow, interviews with Ceasar Flickerman, and direction in the control room proved how the tributes of the Hunger Games were no more than pawns meant to please and control a population. As a result, the obstacles Katniss faced in the arena were even more painful, since someone was deliberately trying to eliminate her as if she was no more than a chess piece.
I’d like to just take a moment to give the team an applause for the action in the control room. As someone who has worked in both live and reality television, they got it spot on.

C) Pacing for the film
It’s hard to go into this section without giving away too much detail of the film, but I will do my best. A lot of small details and scenes were removed from the book to make way for new scenes outside of the arena; this saved time and kept a flow to the film. One prime example is that in the book, Katniss struggles to find water; she nearly dies of dehydration. I loved this part of the book, mostly because I’m so sick of reading about people who go on epic adventures or have to survive and never seem to hydrate or eat. Collins did a phenomenal job writing that into the book, but since it wasn’t key to the story, the filmmakers made a wise choice to scrap it. After all, this isn’t a movie about man versus nature, but of man versus man.

CASTING

Let me just start by saying that Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal! They made the best choice by casting her in the role of Katniss. She owned it!

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

What I loved so much about Jennifer Lawrence was her ability to evoke a lot of emotion subtly in the film. Lawrence portrayed a teenage girl who had to grow up fast due to the circumstances surrounding her life in District 12 (such as the accidental death of her father when she was a child). Much like the excellently written exposition of the book, Lawrence’s portrayal was so credible that you knew everything you needed to know about her character before she is sent to the Capital. To name just a few, inner-strength, patience, self-reliance, resourcefulness, doubt, fear, and resentment were all present in the first part of the film with minimal dialogue. There is a reason why Lawrence won an Oscar for the film Winter’s Bone. Despite Hunger Games being a teenage film and not one of Oscar-hype, she delivered and worked just as hard. After seeing her in Winter’s Bone, X-Men: First Class, and The Hunger Games, I can safely say that Jennifer Lawrence is amongst the most talented young  American female actresses. I’m honestly not even worried about typecasting for her; she’s so talented that she’ll continue to show us just how much she can do.
Can I just say how amazing she was during the reaping? The actor for her sister was fantastic too, but Lawrence demonstrated her strengths as an actress. TEARS!
The only relationship that I didn’t fully buy from the film was the one between Katniss and Rue. Yes, the film already had a running length of 2.5 hours, but there wasn’t enough time for us to feel a real friendship between them. Maybe the scenes were shot but cut due to running time. Extended edition maybe?

Alongside Jennifer Lawrence was Josh Hutcherson. He did a good job, but his acting was not on the same level of Lawrence.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Hutcherson tried, he really did, but the acting gap between him and Lawrence was only made more obvious in the scenes where they are in the cavern. Lawrence’s reactions were subtle, honest, and well-placed within the context of the film. Hutcherson lacked subtlety most of all. In my opinion, I completely forgot I was watching a teenage film until Hutcherson’s puppy face and scripted love acting came into play. It wasn’t bad; it was just on the acting level of teenage romance films (while Lawrence took it a few steps further).
Not specifically related to Hutcherson, but I was upset that during the romance scenes, a very important detail regarding character relationships was omitted. Not only is Katniss pretending to be in love with Peeta to impress audiences (thus helping her survive), but during those moments she’s thinking of Gale. In the book, it makes these scenes more painful to read and amplifies that the lies do have a negative impact of her and Gale. When I mentioned this detail to a friend who hadn’t read the book, she said that she had absolutely NO IDEA that Katniss was thinking of Gale. I believe this small detail to be important for the 2nd and 3rd films to help ease into her relationship/friendship with Gale.

Woody Harrelson was a key actor to put in this film. He was the only casting choice that I initially had reservations about. It had nothing to do with his acting skills because he has done some fantastic work (Natural Born Killers, The Thin Red Line, and No Country For Old Men), but I was hoping for someone less known and more scruffy looking. I was so happy to have been proven wrong.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch

Harrelson not only did a great job (as usual), but didn’t take too much shine or screen time away from main character Katniss (Lawrence). He is playing a supporting role and that is exactly what he does; he uses his skills to create a character there to support the story and main character. I have to give a hats off to the acting between Harrelson and Lawrence. They both did such a phenomenal job of never outshining each other, but also laying out all of the foundations to build the rest of the relationship between the characters. It was acting work that will give further credibility to the next films if they (including the director) can keep such high quality work.

Lastly, this section would not be complete without a special mention to Stanley Tucci.

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman

There is not much to say about him except “Congratulations for your versatility as an actor, for your commitment to your roles, and the craft you present to us on-screen”. No one else could have played Flickerman and we, the audience, completely forget that Stanley Tucci is with us. He portrayed everything that was good and bad about the Capital with an ease to be studied by those seeking a career in acting.

TECHNICAL

Now I know most people don’t really care about this stuff, but I do, so I’m going to write about it (I’m that person who watches the Oscars and asks people to shut up during all of the technical categories).
First off, what was going on with the camera in the first part of the movie? I mean, seriously guys? Handheld telephoto lens with fast editing during introductory shots of District 12? Did you really think we’d be able to fully understand what we were seeing and avoid early onsets of vertigo?! I don’t know who made this choice, or why the director and producers stuck with it. Introducing a set and atmosphere that does not require action scenes should be done with a steadier camera and give us the time to absorb the state of the people in District 12. I’m not saying that it was completely absent, but it would have benefitted from say, perhaps a handheld camera with a 35 mm lens instead. (For you non-techies out there, I basically just suggested to use the same camera technique but with a lens that won’t make you dizzy.)

However, I did find that there was merit to this style during the action scenes in the arena. One thing that I was very hesitant about was the translation of the violence in the book to the screen. To me, there is a huge difference between reading about violence among youths versus seeing it in front of me. I was apprehensive.

Luckily, Gary Ross and his camera team did a phenomenal job of keeping the violence without ever really showing it. What do I mean by that? Well, there were action scenes, but none of the killing blows were shown on screen. Gary Ross and his team made the conscious decision to cut away at the moment a final blow is delivered, or use the extremely shaky-jerky camera movement so that we could never really see what happened. This allowed room in the film for violence without showing it (it’s either too fast or we cut away from it). Despite some people not enjoying the downplay of the violence in the film, I found it to be a very responsible move on behalf of the director, producers, and studio.

First of all, this is a PG rated movie. In Canada, that means that parental guidance is ADVISED, but there is no age restriction, simply a warning that some materials might not be appropriate for a younger audience. Of course, the studio knew that kids 10 years and up would probably want to see the movie, even though the book is not written for their age demographic. So their solution was to remove/hide aspects of violence. Thus, they don’t lose that audience age group and are able to make more money.
On a more social level, we already hear about violence among youths in and out of school and how it’s a serious problem. It is the parents’ responsibility to inform their kids about the things they see in television and theatres. Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world and some youths are unfortunately negatively influenced by these medias (even if the consequences are accidents and unintentional). To get to my point, hiding the violence without shying away from it demonstrated a level of creativity and responsibility on behalf of the filmmakers. I am 100% in agreement to their creative choices and would like to remind all those who are above 18 and who saw the movie to remember that this is a book for TEENAGERS, NOT FOR ADULTS. Deal with it!

 

All right, I’m done talking about this movie (not really, but this is already too long). Plus, it took me a week’s worth of breaks at work to write this, so it’s time for it to be posted.

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend!