Monday, August 29, 2011

Pictures and videos and stuff, oh my!

I've been busy and when I'm busy I often write less, especially when the stuff I'm busy doing doesn't quite translate into interesting blog posts. So first I'm going to inject some juice into this blog by cheating and post some Blake videos and pictures. I can play that card while he's still so young and cute. Also, these are probably some of the last videos and photos to be taken in London before we make our big move in three weeks.

Show me your teeth!
Night cam
One of the many self portraits Blake leaves on my iPhone
Open day at the local fire station
Fireman Blake to the rescue!
That how I roll!

Blake and Leo bonding over Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
A Great Dane's bottom makes for a comfy pillow
Sunday thoughts

Dexterose at night
Loshkin at night

A gorgeous rainbow spotted by Blake - two seconds later it was gone
And of course a couple of Blake videos will seal the deal to make it an awesome post. Far better than those lame posts where I just go blah blah blah about stuff nobody cares about.

There. I hope that keeps Blake's millions of fans happy for a while. I'll try writing a blah blah blah post soon.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Shield Review

I never watched The Shield when it aired originally. In fact, I only decided to check it out after I saw it in some Top 10 list of the best TV shows ever. Now that I watched every single episode from the seven years long show all I have to say is one word, but I'm going to say it a bunch of times.

Wow, wow,  wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

There. I hope you didn't actually read every wow individually. That would be sort of stupid.

It's an ultra-realistic gritty TV cop show. After watching it it's very hard to watch the sterile, lobotomised CSI-style stuff flooding prime-time nowadays. Mind you, I watch most of that lobotomised nonsense as guilty pleasure, but it's still a guilty pleasure. Contemplating suicide type of guilt.

I don't want to spoil anything. Try getting hold of the first series or at least catch the first episode. It will give you a very good idea of what you are getting into. The shock ending of the first episode is one of the greatest OH MY GOD moments in TV and sets the ton of the show from then on. Vic Mackey is one of the most complex and multi-layered characters you are ever going to see on American TV. You'll love him, you'll hate him and most likely you'll love to hate him. Vic and his team will keep getting into more and more trouble and you'll wonder not only if they'll manage to get out of trouble, but also if they deserve to. 

One big issue I have with the series is the treatment of the only gay character in the show, Julien Lowe. The first couple of seasons deal with his struggle with his homosexuality, but later on the storyline is dropped altogether. It was odd considering Julien was still around for the remainder of the seven years run. The character had practically no other storylines and from one of the more interesting characters on the show, a conservative black man struggling with his homosexuality, Julien turned into a glorified extra with a few lines. They didn't take the character in any real direction and simply neutered him. Could've just as well kill him off.

Michael Jace as Julien Lowe
I hoped for Julien's gay storyline to be resolved, especially as it was obvious that the whole series was coming to a close. It's not as if the writers had some plans for the character they never got around to because the show was cancelled too soon. From the ending of series 5 it was obvious that the show was heading towards its inevitable conclusion. 

There was a tiny blink-and-you-miss-it visual reference to the storyline in the last episode, but considering the neglect the storyline received over the years  it wasn't a nod to fans of the storyline as much as a spit in the eye. I am perfectly happy with a TV show not resolving every single plot line. It was a realistic show and real life is random and often without closure. But the fact that Julien's entire personal life was buried and never revisited for over four years indicates that the writers treated it as a no-go area.

Regardless, I would still recommend the show to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. One of the best ensemble casts ever to come together in a TV show (I want to marry CCH Pounder). The impressive cast is further bolstered with long term heavy weight guest stars Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker.

Six Feet Under used to be my favourite TV show of all times. It hasn't been knocked off the top yet, but it's now sharing the spot with The Shield.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dexter: The World's Real Worst Dog

Crazy. Cute.
I thought Marley and Me will be a perfect book for me as a dog lover, but I couldn't read past the first few chapters, so maybe I missed some fantastic anecdotes later in the book. I did watch the movie and while it was too long, badly paced and boring in bits, it did make me laugh in places and I was moved by the ending (even though it was mostly because it reminded me of the dogs I have lost over the years rather than because it was well made drama). Regardless, I am yet to see what made Marley the "world's worst dog".

"I'm really a good puppy."
I suppose a real contender for the title would be a really mean dog. It'll go around eating human babies. Lots and lots of human babies, leaving a bloody trail of grief and terror in its wake while cunningly evading capture. Not only that, the evil dog will eat your baby, digest it and poop it right there in the middle of the room for you to clean up. Or maybe the world's worst dog will be a super genius mutant dog with the ability to create and deploy nuclear bombs.

I bet Dexter isn't the worst dog in the world, but I would like to nominate him anyway.

I have already written in the past about his fights with other dogs. Dexter doesn't like other dogs. I don't know if it's something he acquired when he was attacked first, or if it was something that was always in him. Calling him Dexter after TV's most famous serial killer might have not been the brightest idea. My Dexter also has his own dark passenger.

Emo dogs
Preparing them for the trip to Canada, I took both dogs to the vet this week, separately. I am done deluding myself that I can handle two adult Great Danes at once. Leo was marvellous. So polite and calm, even when a rude Jack Russell was barking and growling at him endlessly. To balance things out when it was Dexter's turn to visit he flew into a rage when a dog came out of the vet's office. He jumped, twisted and tried to escape from the lead to get at the other dog. Fortunately Dexter is a weakling compared to the iron dog Leo, so I could restrain him physically quite easily, especially since he was neutered. Regardless, it was quite an embarrassing scene.

Like most Great Danes Dexter isn't very bright. I suspect his aggression towards other dogs stems partly from fear. He's afraid of them so he thinks the best approach is to kill them first. Yeah, it sounds stupid, but so is Dex. 

Dexter is a coward, but it's getting better with age. He used to be afraid of many random things: falling broomsticks, big snowballs and even houses. He would jump and go crazy every time we went past a specific house for absolutely no reason. But more than anything else Dexter is afraid of me punishing him.

You'd think that I branded him with hot iron or shattered his bones when you see the terror in his eyes. It's not a big deal indoors, but outdoors, especially when I let him off the lead, it's a huge problem.

I used to take my dogs at night to the park and release them to run around knowing that the chances of running into other dogs were very very low. I say used to in past term since last night is going to be the last time I did it. For the time being, anyway. Instead I will let them out in a small corner of the park where I know there are no hedgehogs and no open areas to get lost in. Might still be a mistake, but we'll see how it'll work out.

You see, last summer Dexter developed a new hobby. He would locate hedgehogs, grab them in his mouth and run around with them. He would occasionally put down the hedgehog and bark at it angrily for a while before picking it up again to run with it some more. You'd think it would get old eventually, but no such luck. During the winter we had a break as it was too cold for the hedgehogs to come out, but since spring it started all over again. Poor hedgehogs. 

I felt bad for the hedgehogs, especially the one time I actually heard one of them scream continuously throughout the ordeal. I made the mistake of running after Dexter and shouting at him. Big mistake, as I could not outrun him and I only made him fear me which resulted in him keeping his distance from me for a long long time.

I attempted changing my strategy and recently I would praise him when he got a hedgehog and be all casual about it in the hope that he would get bored and come back. But it was too late. He can't resist hunting hedgehogs and once he starts his routine he already decides that he is now in trouble and keeps his distance from me even when he is done playing.

Last night I spent 90 minutes outside. When the hedgehog shenanigans started I took Leo home and Dexter followed us a few steps behind, but he wouldn't come home. Instead he would run into the road several times and nearly got ran over three times. So I chased him back to the park where there were no cars to flatten him and worked hard trying to seduce him to come to me. When he eventually got near enough I got him by the collar, and the collar is all I had in my hands as soon as he slipped his neck out.

Then he found the hedgehog again and the games started anew.

I tried lying on the ground and whimper, pretend to play with him, lie that I have a treat, ask him to jump up for a hug... It took forever. Dexter was exhausted and thirsty and eventually came to me. Much as I was frustrated and angry there was no point in punishing him. He wasn't a bad boy, he was just scared of being punished, so punishing him will be counter-productive. Instead I had to praise him and play with him to calm him down when all I really wanted to do was throttle him Homer Simpson style.

"Why you little...!"
When I calmed down I realized that it was all my fault. My dogs weren't super trained which was fine. It just meant that I can't take them both together, which I learnt last year. Fine. Now I know I can't let Dexter off the lead in an area with small animals he would like to snack on (unsuccessfully).  My first ever dog, Bobby, was a very naughty dog and he was always on the lead. Dexter will just have to settle for running in the back yard or maybe I can sometimes run with him on the lead to blow some steam. I will also try drilling him when he gets to the new neighbourhood in Winnipeg to instil new habits in the new place. Growing older will also have a calming effect on him as it did on Leo.

Over the last year we seriously considered giving Dexter up, a very painful idea. I have my red lines - if he was aggressive to humans or if his reckless behaviour endangered Blake he would have been out like lightning, maybe even put down if it seemed unlikely he could be re-homed. But Dexter is a good boy. He is perfect with people, especially children. He just needs some work and restrains.

Dexter will annoy and embarrass me again, I'm sure, but he is family and that is exactly what family does.

Sleep easy, North London hedgehogs. Your nightmare is soon to be over and across the pond.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Underground is Hell

One thing I won't miss about London (other than the greedy deranged looters rampaging through the city right now) is the public transport, most particularly the London Underground. It's like a Subway, only far more expensive, smelly and inefficient.

Mind you, I used to love not having to drive everywhere, in fact I managed to survive without a driving license until late 2007. The city is littered with tube stations and there are plenty of buses connecting everything else. It's a very efficient system except for when it's not, which is often enough for you to rely on its unreliability.

It's a bit of a problem trying to get to work on time when you don't know for sure whether there's going to be a delay or not, anything from a five minutes delay to complete cancellations of scheduled trains. The reasons are at least varied so you don't get too bored hearing the same excuse over and over:

Snow on the tracks in winter, leaves on the tracks in autumn, rays of sunshine on the tracks in summer, person on the tracks every other day, signal problems always and so on. And if everything is actually on track, literally, with your train you might still end up waiting in stops to "even the gaps" between trains in the service. It can really drive you mad. Maybe that what happened with all the rioters; they became demented after years of exposure to the London Underground system.

Of course the London Underground people work hard to improve the service which includes shutting down vital parts of the Underground System for weeks and often even months. It's a bit like a surgeon taking out the heart out of the patient's body so he could operate on it more easily. When they don't work hard to improve the service they go on strikes that bring the entire city to a stop.

Delays, planned work and cancellations aren't the only problems. Often you'd get the new driver who's still figuring out the controls on the go, accelerating and braking like mad, tossing everyone around like bowling pins. That is, if there was room to be tossed around. During rush hour the trains can be so packed some women might leave the train unintentionally pregnant. Even some men.

To be fair, it's probably a big city thing. I have no idea how the experience compares to subway train systems in other cities. I also don't particularly wish to find out. For the time being I am done with big cities. While an hour commute in each way is considered great in London (it means spending ten hours a week just travelling), in Winnipeg people actually move homes if their commute or school run is longer than twenty minutes. I like that. Life is too short.

Moving to Winnipeg means lots of lovely tasks to take care of and I was on the way to town on Monday for one of those tasks so I had the joy of using the London Underground once more. I allowed for an hour travel, but since a chunk of the track was out of service and won't be reopened until after I leave London I took the replacement bus service which was tortuously slow. And I was too late.

So I tried again on Wednesday, allowing for more time. I decided to kill two birds with one stone: I took Blake with me. Blake loves trains, planes and automobiles. What was for me boring and tedious was for him wonderful and exciting and in short bursts I got to glimpse things from his point of view which was quite nice.

Blake on the bus is cute, cute cute! All day long!
So I've taken care of business and we had a nice little lunch before heading back home. The weather has been quite bad since we came back from Winnipeg, but yesterday it was quite nice and sunny which added to the experience. The best part undoubtedly was sitting at the front of the double decker bus and looking down at the sprawling road below us. As far as Blake was concerned he had a front seat to the best IMAX movie ever produced: Driving Through London.

Who's driving this bus?!

Since I didn't take a stroller I had to carry Blake on my shoulders some of the time, but it was well worth it. Thank you son for turning a boring chore into a fun day out.
Blake's favourite part of lunch is the food.
I'll finish with this crude music video "London Underground" by Amateur Transplant. If four letter words starting with F and C offend you, steer clear.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Leaving London

London Eye, March 2010
Just because we decided that London isn't right for us any more and that this is not the place we want to raise our son doesn't mean that I am entirely happy about leaving. Well, the current riots by a bunch of brain-dead morons who have nothing better to do than burning down buildings and loot stores sure help make us feel better about our choice.

The worst part is undoubtedly being far away from our friends in the UK. I probably won't need all ten fingers to count the truly important close friends (maybe not even both hands), but I am certainly lucky enough to have them. I may not see these people every day or even every week, but it is comforting to know that they are just around the corner.

When I left Israel I didn't quite realize I left Israel. I was in London for an undecided time before it became permanent. When it dawned on me that I am staying in the UK for the foreseeable future it was a bit of a shock, thinking about the many friends and family I left behind. I used to visit Israel often in my first few years away and at first all of my friends got excited about it. "Mickey is coming from London! Yay!" But eventually with every subsequent visit the novelty wore off and it was more like "Mickey is coming from London! Meh!" Soon enough many faces faded away into the background and I found out who were my real friends who stuck with me and kept in touch despite the infrequent visits.

Nowadays it's the age of Facebook and Skype and it's far easier to stay in touch.On-line you really have to actively try and cut people out of your life and even then you're bound to keep encountering people you rather wouldn't if you used to hang out in the same circles at some point.

Still, I will miss certain people for certain activities. I will miss Janey who's my favourite horror movie watching partner, someone to share the giggles with any time we witness something utterly horrifying or gory. I will miss Kenric for lengthy gaming sessions blowing up aliens, zombies and alien zombies. I will miss Sally for face to face comics collaborations. And the list goes on.

I will make new friends in Winnipeg; I already have. I just hope not to lose any  old friends in the process.

It's weird being in our North London home which isn't really ours any more. To walk to streets of my neighbourhood which isn't really my neighbourhood any more. It's a bit sad. A bit. At the same time after getting to live in it for two weeks I also miss our new home and neighbourhood in Winnipeg, so at least we are not leaving here to the unknown; we have a pretty good idea where we are going.

We are going home.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why Winnipeg?

Many people, especially Winnipegers, asked us the same question: Why Winnipeg?

For many people London is a magical big city they can only dream about living in. So why leave that behind and go to a small, frozen town in the middle of nowhere?

The answer to that is quite simple. It's... Um... Oh my God. WHAT HAVE WE DONE?! WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!

Tee-hee, just kidding. People who want to move to London can have my spot. We are quite at ease with our choice, considering Winnipeg only cropped up as an option less than a year ago.

Ever since we got married and had Blake in Canada the idea of moving there nested in our brains like a malicious parasite that borrows in deeper with time and only gets a stronger grip while nibbling away on squishy brain tissue. We kept studying our options until one day in November last year.

We learnt about Manitoba and the provincial nominee program almost entirely by chance through a friend from Israel who is also planning to immigrate. We had a varied history with Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City, but Winnipeg and Manitoba were completely off our radar. Though the more we read about it, the more intrigued we became.

We popped over for a visit in January, deliberately in the worst of the winter to see if we can handle the cold. I partly expected the trip to turn us off so we could put Winnipeg out of our minds and concentrate on more practical options like Darfur or Mecca. Instead, we loved it. Sure, it was freezing cold, but it was sort of exciting. You simply dress warmly and don't hang out outside more than necessary. But really, it wasn't such a big deal. The bright sun more than makes up for the low temperatures.

We arrived in Winnipeg knowing practically no one and by our second visit last month we already made a bunch of acquaintances and even a few friends. The one thing you notice about Winnipeg right away is how nice the people are. Not just polite like in England. There is a huge difference between polite and nice.

If you contact someone in the UK regarding a job and they're not interested it's most likely you'll never hear back from them. In Winnipeg I got several offers to meet anyway for a chat, lots of advice and pointers regarding where to look next and I even made a few friends. Networking in Winnipeg is very organic and within days you will be connected to dozens of people in your field and the same names will keep popping up again and again as it seems like everybody knows everybody. Heck, at a networking get together I attended last week I even got an offer from a young lady to carry my next baby which was both adorable and a tiny bit disturbing.


Winnipeg is cheaper than London in every area from housing to education and I still get to live in a real city with huge stores that sell anything I need (POPCORN MACHINE!) and fantastic restaurants. It lacks London's sophisticated clubs, pubs and art facilities, but it's not like I ever take advantage of those attractions anymore. We love staying home and watch Television or occasionally pop out to see a movie or eat out and we can do that anywhere in the world.

There were two big issues that worried us: the cold in the winter and the flesh eating mosquitoes in the summer, both turned out to be non-issues after all.

It's certainly a downside to be so far from our friends in the UK and even further away from friends and family in Israel, but at the same time it really opens up  for us North America and other locations nearer by, so it's a fair trade-off.

So in short, Winnipeg is great because it's not really a big city and not really a small town, but something in between. You get more for your buck without sacrificing anything of importance. The people are amazing, the food is great and... Stuff. You know, it's great.

If you don't think so, whatever. Then you don't move there. More Winnipeg for us.


Friday, August 05, 2011

The Winnipeg Chronicles

I haven't written much because I was very busy with several things I couldn't quite yet talk about publicly, but now I can, mostly, when everything is now set in motion.

I am now a Scientologist.

No, I'm not. Kidding. Calm down.

It was on the cards for a while, but this summer it is already happening. We are leaving London, England. To some extent we have already left, we just need to take care of some (many) loose ends.

"Where to?" You might ask. Well, it says so in the title, but I'll still give you a hint: it starts with Winni, ends with Peg and has lots of mosquitoes in the middle. At least that's what we were told - on our last visit I saw only two mosquitoes and one of them was dead. Blake was eaten alive by mosquitoes during our visit to Israel in April, but not even a nibble in Winnipeg. Odd.

I love Winnipeg, I really do. I even considered renaming the blog to "I F***ing Love Winnipeg!" to mark the big move, but decided against it, mostly because I only recently renamed the blog.

That's in Canada, in case you don't know. Manitoba province, to be even more specific. Stick around and you'll learn more about Winnipeg than you ever wanted or needed.

The three of us came back from a three weeks stay in which we moved into our new home and started settling in. Now we are back in London to wrap things up here before we move for good sometime next month.

When I left Israel for England it wasn't a big deal. I never planned to move to England, I only came over to visit Miron after I met him in Israel. It never crossed my mind that fourteen years later I would still be leaving with this guy I met in a pub and we would have three different dogs together, not to mention get married and have a child! I was fairly certain that we would have had fun for a few months and when the novelty worn off I'd be headed back home to Israel. I never actually made a conscious decision to leave Israel behind, my friends, family and life. It just happened this way.

But now it's a decision and a huge one. We are packing up our lives in the UK and leaving. Will I ever again live in London? Never say never, but I strongly doubt it.

This is no longer a plan. It happened. We have a home in Winnipeg and we got to live in it for a couple of weeks. It's a huge process which isn't over yet, we still need to make the final move and bring the dogs over, a huge undertaking on its own considering how big they are. Then the real adventure of adjusting to our new life begins, especially surviving the first winter. Good times ahead and plenty of things to write about. I just hope I could find the time!

Blake playing outside in our new street.