Correspondences

“Glass of Water and Coffee Pot” by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (1760)

“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams (1923)

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

Binstagrammed

Doing my part.

It’s been brought home to me by the online community that taking bins to the curb is a civic ritual in places ranging from Gateshead to New Hampshire. Even small villages in Scotland have blue recycling bins for cardboard, cans, bottles, and old film reviews that are occasionally reposted as “new” content.

Just remember that “reduce” comes before “reuse” and “recycle.” It’s a hierarchy, and your goal should always be to make do with less.

Squeezing the tube

A year or so ago I picked up a half-dozen tubes of my favourite toothpaste when it was on sale. I tend to buy in bulk like this when I find something I want at a good price that I know I’m not likely to ever get any cheaper and that doesn’t have an expiry date. Like certain articles of clothing, or water-softener salt. I just stock up.

I’m down to my last couple of these bargain toothpaste buys though and realizing that they do indeed have an expiry date stamped on them. This surprised me. Can toothpaste go bad?

I did some research and the answer is “Sort of.” It doesn’t go off to the point where it’s bad for you, but fluoride does break down over time. So it’s not harmful, just not as beneficial.

The shelf-life for toothpaste is about two years. But what I couldn’t determine was whether this holds true if the tube has never been opened. All the stuff I read had to do with finding an old tube of toothpaste that had been left in a suitcase or something after having been taken on vacation a year earlier. If I haven’t opened the toothpaste, does it still break down at the same rate?

I’m going to finish up using the toothpaste I have anyway, but I’m curious. I guess if my teeth fall out I’ll have an answer.

The green economy

Canada legalized the recreational use of pot in October 2018, and there was an initial rush to enter the market. Early reports were that a lot of start-ups, and even the Ontario government, lost money on the business, and that the sheer number of stores opening was going to lead to “closures and market rightsizing” (according to the CEO of the province’s pot distributor in 2020).

I don’t know what the state of the green economy currently is, but I haven’t noticed any closures in my community. In fact, dispensaries continue to be built. There are at least nine now within walking distance of my house, and 26 are listed in the city of Guelph.

That’s a lot of pot stores! This leads me to wonder just how much money there is in the recreational cannabis business. Are most of these places going to go bust? What are the profit margins? And how many pot smokers are there out there in the first place? Has pot use gone up since legalization? I don’t even know anyone who still smokes cigarettes anymore. I’m sure there is a market, but is it big enough to keep all these places in business? And who is the average recreational cannabis user? Blue collar, white collar, student? The presence of so many stores gets me thinking about these kinds of questions.

Got you covered

A popular type of post on personal blogs are the ones with music links. I’ve never done one of these because I figure everybody already knows what they like. But just for a break I thought I’d link to a few of my favourite covers here.

“Subdivisions” Allegaeon

A metal version of Rush’s classic “Subdivisions”? I was highly sceptical at first but boy did these guys nail it. The guitar work is great and the vocals on point too. As they say about the best covers, they really made this song their own. I love it!

“Sympathy for the Devil” Motörhead

Motörhead’s covers vary a lot in quality, but I thought this really worked. The opening drums get things off to a great start and Lemmy’s voice is a perfect fit for a weary and scarred Satan.

“The Waiting” with Eddie Vedder

This isn’t really a cover since Tom Petty’s here playing and singing back-up. Basically it’s just Vedder coming on stage and doing lead vocals. But does he ever kill it. I like this version even better than the original.

And now some words from our sponsors

Just go away already.

Wow, the Super Bowl ads really sucked.

They’ve probably been bad for a while now, but to be honest I haven’t been paying any attention. This year I managed to check a bunch of them out. And they were . . . terrible.

I’m honestly surprised they were this bad. No intelligence or creativity at all. They just seemed like they were throwing around lots of money, big stars, and brand IP,  and then hoping for the best. What was funny about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Selma Hayek playing retired Olympians (Zeus and Hera) who get an electric car? Do you think they might have written them actual jokes? What was funny about Mike Myers reprising his role as Dr. Evil to hawk an SUV (in an ad The Athletic rated the pick of this year’s crop)? What was funny about Ryan Reynolds recycling an old Mint ad upside-down? What was funny about Lindsay Lohan reinventing herself by going to the gym, along with a bunch of weird celeb cameos (Dennis Rodman, Danny Trejo, William Shatner)? There was nothing clever, noteworthy, or memorable about any of this. It was all trash.

Is ad culture now as exhausted for new ideas as Hollywood has long been? Because that’s what these ads felt like. Blockbuster commercials with A-list talent and no brains. Were these the ads we were supposed to be talking about the next day around the water cooler? Or is that itself an antiquated notion now?

Or perhaps I’m just being a curmudgeon. Writing in Slate, Justin Peters declared this year’s Super Bowl ads to be “by and large, pretty good.” So I watched all of the ads he ranked as the best. I was even more disappointed. The Chevy Silverado ad just mined The Sopranos for . . . what? That’s the ad? Meadow and AJ hugging after she drives through the opening credit sequence? It was only a minute long and I honestly had to skim through it to make it to the end. And I loved The Sopranos!

Next Peter had an ad for something called ClickUp, with the joke being that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were using a tablet and cloud computing. No laughs, not even a smile, and the whole idea is played out by now.

Then there was an Expedia ad which was sort of meta, poking fun at previous Super Bowl ads and ad culture in general. Another yawn.

A Lay’s Potato Chips ad which had Sexiest-Man-in-the-World Paul Rudd teamed up with Seth Rogen, as they reminisced over movies they’d been in together while sharing some Lay’s. Peters found this “very funny.” Huh?

Nissan “Thrill Driver.” Eugene Levy is funny in just about anything, but this is more of the blockbuster syndrome I was talking about. Big effects, big star cameos, and nothing else.

I sort of gave up at this point. Among the rest, Jim Carrey was back as the Cable Guy. I actually thought this was a little better than Mike Myers returning as Dr. Evil, though not much. Apparently there were a lot of not-good commercials trying to sell us on crypto. One of these just had a QR code bouncing around the screen. Larry David shilled for another, but his ad was way too long, dragging out a single joke to the point where it lost its edge before the hook at the end. LeBron James also pitched crypto, with the same FOMO message. As Matt Schimkowitz writing for Yahoo put it, “The [crypto] ads, disturbing and boring in their own ways, were met with derision online for basically the same reason: They suck because the thing they’re advertising sucks.” Yep.

Anyway, the only ad I sort of enjoyed was the Uber Eats one, which was weirdly riffing on “can you believe how stupid the people are who order Uber Eats?” You could say it fell into the category of so-dumb-it-was-kind-of-good, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s cameo was definitely off-putting. In a field of disposable formula and conspicuous waste, it’s the only moment that stood out.

Stats 2021

One of the interesting things about blogging is the availability of stats detailing how many people are visiting your site, on what days and what time of the day, how long they’re staying, what they’re reading, where they’re located, and lots of other stuff. So since we’re kicking off a new year I thought I’d look back and share a bit of this here.

At Alex on Film in 2021 these were the ten most visited posts:

Little Children (2006)
The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
Deep Throat (1972)
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
Candyman (1992)
Behind the Green Door (1972)
Visitor Q (2001)
Showgirls (1995)
Her Last Fling (1976)

I think this is mostly self-explanatory. Cult films and porn rule. Except for the continuing dominance of my review of Little Children. I can’t figure that out. It isn’t linked to anywhere.

And here are the ten most read reviews at Goodreports:

The Road
A Perfect Night to Go to China
1491
An Impalpable Certain Rest
How to Become a Monster
Madame Bovary’s Ovaries
The Blind Assassin
Why Nations Fail
Who Killed Jackie Bates?
The Age of Movies and The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex

Nothing too surprising here. Nice to see a number of Canadian titles making the list too. I’ll take that as an inspiration to try to do more in that department in the coming year.

Lost in transit, or: Why can’t I buy a coat online?

It’s hard to miss the way that COVID-19 has transformed the economy. The delivery sector in particular has become a huge employer. No matter what time of day, or what neighbourhood I’m walking through, I see at least a couple of vans (often rentals) buzzing about or parked in the street, with delivery drivers running up to porches and leaving packages.

Of course, with so much demand, and with this many new delivery drivers entering the workforce, I’m sure there’s been some sub-optimum hiring going on. This has led to a few problems.

About three months ago I bought a winter coat online from a large retailer. It was a good price and came with free home delivery. After several weeks it still hadn’t arrived and I got in touch with customer service. According to their records the coat had been delivered. I assured them that it had not. Nor was this a case of the infamous porch pirates. I live in a sort of cul-de-sac, and no one has ever seen a porch pirate in these parts. Plus I’m home most of the time during the day, and receive parcels nearly every day. I’ve never had a parcel go missing before and I’m pretty sure I would have known if one had been delivered.

Most of my parcels though are books. People don’t steal books. That’s because nobody wants them. But who doesn’t want a new coat? When I called both the retailer and the third-party seller who had sold the coat they expressed a sort of weariness. Again? “This happens a lot,” one representative told me. I received a full refund.

As an aside, I was interested that many of the people I told this story to said that delivery drivers were taking photos of the parcels sitting on the customer’s porch as proof of delivery. This made no sense to me. What’s to stop a driver from putting the parcel on the porch, taking a picture, then picking the parcel back up and taking it with them? Only a porch camera I guess. Which would make the driver’s “proof” of delivery redundant.

A couple of weeks later I thought I’d try again. I ordered another coat (slightly different, but still a good deal) and instead of opting for home delivery said that I would pick it up in-store. After a week of tracking the shipment online it disappeared somewhere between the local shipping station and the store. I went to the store. A helpful sales rep told me that this is happening “a lot.” The coat was gone and they told me there was little hope it would ever be found. I would have thought they would have had better tracking, but after three weeks of searching and updates being emailed to me the retailer finally admitted defeat and again gave me a full refund. Officially the coat had gone from being “stuck in transit” to “lost in transit.”

This made me wonder just how much product is being “redistributed” through the delivery chain these days. Buying two coats in three months and having them both go missing may not be a large sample size to go on, but how representative is it? Both times I spoke to multiple customer service representatives who seemed weary of what was clearly a large and ongoing problem. I think the numbers may be huge.

In any event, a couple of people are getting nice new winter coats for Christmas. I probably shouldn’t try ordering another, but now I’m curious to see how it might turn out. Could a third time be the charm? I’ll let you know.

Now you’re cooking with gas . . . in space

They even put it on buttons.

The expression “Now you’re cooking with gas!”, which has the meaning of “Now you’re doing it right/making progress/on the right track,” had its origins at the end of the 1930s, when it was used on radio shows as a way of promoting the home use of natural gas. Some have attributed it to Bob Hope (or one of his writers) and it apparently does get used by him in Road to Zanzibar (1941), a movie I haven’t seen.

My father liked to use the expression. I heard it a fair bit growing up. I never heard anyone else say it. Whenever I’ve used it I’ve only gotten confused looks. I think it may have been the equivalent then of “Where’s the beef?” for my father’s generation. That’s an ad line that found it’s way into a movie too.

You can imagine my surprise then on reading Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space, which is space-opera SF set sometime in the distant future on board a giant “greatship” that is sailing through the cosmos. When the crew of a hydrogen harvester are unloading their cargo of fuel the captain tells the rookie “Now we’re cooking with gas.” This provokes a questioning response, “We are?”

“It’s an expression,” he said. “Apparently, once upon a time cooking with gas was very . . .” His eyes met hers. “Honestly, I don’t know. Half our jargon is from the old United States Navy and the other half is from the ancient British Royal Navy, and there’s a bunch from early spaceflight operations and some even from Old Terran trucking. Navies are the most conservative linguists anywhere — we preserve even the meaningless terms for hundreds of years.”

I don’t know why the connection is made here to navies, since it’s an advertising catch phrase that started out on radio directed at people using gas ovens in their kitchens. In any event, this may be the first time I’ve ever seen the expression in print, and what a strange place to finally find it!