Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ABC

ALWAYS. BE. CLOSING.  I haven't seen Glengarry Glen Ross but that's all I know about it (that's what I consider a Jeopardy-level knowledge of a topic).  

I had a humdinger of a day yesterday, which stood me in good stead when it came time to visit the car dealership last night to test drive the Dodge Caravan.  The Dotytron was super-hype on his Caravan.  I don't like the look of them, myself (wicked boxy, yo!) and I don't trust the brand - even though our mechanic (who we love more than anything) listed it as his number one minivan.  It was our mechanic's endorsement that totally turned the Dotytron around.  I think he loves our mechanic more than I do.  The Dotytron has a distressing tendency to get really attached to trades if he gets good vibes from them.  As opposed to me, where I prefer working with trades that I get good vibes from and that exhibit craftsmanship and pride in their work, but I will always, always, always, be preoccupied about the bottom line.  

Monday night we were at the Toyota dealership test driving a used minivan and they kept me waiting for like 15 minutes and I basically went ballistic.  I got super-snippy with them.  First of all, aren't you supposed to be "ALWAYS! BE! CLOSING!"???  Do you want my 25gs or not?  You are not my friend, and more importantly, my time is money, especially after work on a Monday when I haven't had my dinner yet.  I am not going to be nice to you.  I don't owe you anything.  But then I turned into good cop when it came time to haggle over the price.  I played up the whole, "Look, I really want a Toyota or a Honda, but my husband is the one who wants the domestic" thing to get a better price.  Last night I got to be bad cop.  We'll see how it goes tonight, when we're test-driving the Honda.  

I have anxieties about becoming a two-car family.  The fuel economy on vans isn't that hot so we might keep the Captain for the Dotytron to drive to and back from work and keep the van as a weekend, me tooting around vehicle.  Ugh...the environmental impact isn't sitting well with me, though.


Nice segue into a documentary I saw as part of Hot Docs on Friday.  The Human Scale is about Jan Gehl and his architectural firm, Gehl Architects, which seeks to redesign cities and urban environments to make them more friendly for people as opposed to cars, which has been the trend, certainly in North America and the developing world, for the past 100 years or so.  Using various examples of Gehl Architect projects and models, they aim to show how if you create public space, humans, as social creatures, will fill those spaces and contribute to a vibrant, urban life.  It's all very Jane Jacobs-y.  The model is Copenhagen (of COURSE it is, never mind the anti-immigrant right wing trends in those favoured Scandinavian models of urban planning) and Gehl started out his career counting people usage patterns in Siena (cut to scene of people lounging happily in the sun in the major, bowl shaped, Piazza de Campo, where Dr. Rei, the Dotytron and I ate a sandwich impregnated with racism that made Dr. Rei very sick and unable to enjoy her meal at Dario Cecchini's restaurant).  At which point, I snorted at my friend B, "Uhh, no one in Siena HAS A JOB."  They also showed some smaller scale projects (reclaiming New York's Times Square for pedestrians over vehicles) and how the World Bank is super-corrupt (no surprise there) and basically loans places like Dhaka, Bangladesh infrastructure money to build car-based projects, even though only 1% of the population there can afford a vehicle and most people get around on rickshaws, which have been outlawed in many areas.  

This is all very well and good.  But I couldn't help but wonder how you address problems in places where the suburban infrastructure is already so entrenched, like the GTA.  How do you make downtown Scarborough a busy thoroughfare, when most people commute into the core or across town to work?  It's a big conundrum.  Like, there didn't seem to be much that was workable for a city of our size.  

I generally scoff at the typical urban, privileged lefty narrow-minded rhetoric of what makes a great city (bikes! Farmer's markets for all! Coffee shops with foam art!), but at the same time, I can't deny that I succumb to it and espouse those values in my day-to-day living.  I believe in the value of vibrant neighbourhoods that have everything you might need.  We had that in our old 'hood, and we have that now.  With the majority of the world's swelling population projected to be living in cities by 2040, then I care about what my corner of the city looks like.  I am lucky, though.  We live somewhere where there are amazing restaurants, green space, beach (!), public recreational facilities, a real feeling of community, and the commercial and retail infrastructure to support modern life all conveniently located within a 30 minute walking radius.  That's a pretty darned big deal, folks.  This is what life is about.  I love those (all too rare, unfortunately) weekend days when we go for aimless walks in the neighbourhood, stopping for a macchiato for the Dotytron, a flaky true croissant for me, a chocolate croissant for the Big Yam, and just poking around at yard sales and the like.  Not having to get into a car is liberating and enriching all at the same time.    

Like, tonight I'm already thinking about walking to pick up ice cream from our local indie film rental place and then sitting on one of the benches that overlooks our park and eating ice cream on one of the first real spring days with the Dotytron and the Big Yam, watching the sun set over the city (we have a pretty view of the CN tower and the downtown skyline).  You can't beat that, folks.


We recently watched Searching for Sugarman.  This film is pure, heart-warming goodness.  It's about this singer, Rodriguez who is based in Detroit and who recorded two albums of folky, songs that didn't do very well in North America.  He subsequently faded into obscurity, but somehow the albums made it into apartheid South Africa where they sold hundreds of thousands of copies and made him a celebrity.  But none of his South African fans knew anything about him and he was rumoured to be dead.  The documentary follows the efforts of two fans to track down and find out what happened to Rodriguez.  This documentary is THE BEST.  First of all, the songs that Rodriguez wrote are like, really good.  He's compared to Bob Dylan (in the sense that he speaks to the urban poor and American disenfranchised) but frankly, his voice and song-writing are better than Dylan's, in my opinion.  We immediately went and bought both his albums.  Just listen to this song.  It's so freakin' catchy.  The production is amazing!  Definitely go see this.


We also watched Sound City, which is this documentary directed by David Grohl, about this pretty legendary recording studio.  Fleetwood Mac's first album was recorded there, and a bunch of Rick Springfield (how is Rick Springfield a thing?) and then Nirvana and a bunch of the grunge guys.  It's a paean to the glory days of analog recording technology and the skill required from engineers.  The documentary drags a bit near the end, but Grohl's enthusiasm for the material is endearing.  As someone else who also fetishizes analog (me and the Dotytron both, really), we were swayed by the position Grohl took - you know, the whole, "Dem kids! They don't make 'em like they used to" bit.

That's what we've been watching in between re-doing Veronica Mars.  


SQUEEE!  One of my top 5 TV scenes, ever.  Because I am a teenaged girl at heart.

Fin.


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