Tuesday, February 28, 2006

That Damn Ball Torments House Fans

There’s no House today, and I’ll miss next week, too, so here’s a silly substitute for a Tuesday review.

A friend sent me a present:

It’s a dog toy from Target. I have no dog. So why this particular gift? Because I asked That Damn Question of House writer Lawrence Kaplow:
DK: Have you seen on the Television Without Pity site that people are obsessed with the ball on House's desk?
LK: Yes.
DK: Would you reveal what the ball is?
LK: No.
I swear, I'd never had the slightest interest in That Damn Ball.

Affectionately known as the BOUO (Ball Of Unknown Origin) to those who aren’t bitter towards it, on TWoP, the ball became almost as famous as Hugh Laurie. Before the site embraced House and gave the show its own overwhelming forum, there was a single discussion thread with a smallish group of discussers. During a lull between episodes, someone who has since become an offline friend — in fact, the friend who gave me the ball — posed an innocent question, expecting a simple answer: what is that ball on House’s desk?

Too big to be a tennis ball, too wrong to be a lacrosse ball, too unlike any other sports ball anyone could identify. There were claims it was a practice tennis ball, a therapy squeeze ball, a dog toy. The discussion got intense, with speculation that House and the as-yet-unseen Stacy had owned a dog together, and he kept the (miraculously unslobbered-on) ball as a memento. I wasn’t a participant in this debate; I was an amused observer. I didn’t care what the ball was. It was just another House toy. A new episode aired, and the discussion moved on.

But then the BOUO became a running joke. You could say we embraced it as an ironic symbol of our obsession with a TV show, if you wanted to get pretentious. We laughed at what the writers would think if they knew we were discussing a prop with the same fervour as the themes of the show.

Then it turned out they did know. So I asked That Damn Question as a shout-out to the TWoPers, but the shout-out got shot down. At least I didn’t ask what kind of tree he would be.

Now, it’s personal. Now, it's a challenge. Now, I care. In some episodes, That Damn Ball seems to have more screen time than the much more noteworthy Robert Sean Leonard and Lisa Edelstein. In "Failure to Communicate," House steals a substitute when he's in Baltimore, while Chase plays with the original. In “Distractions,” the camera lingers on it when House cradles it during his migraine. In last week's "Skin Deep," it gets a closeup when he squeezes it in pain.

Is it a coincidence the ball gets such prominence? Call me paranoid, but I think not. They’re mocking us.

My friend’s theory is that the writers don’t know what it is either, and there’s a props person snickering at them the same way the writers are snickering at us. I’m starting to hope so.

A new episode of House returns March 7 at 9 p.m. on Fox. Watch for the ball.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics, believe it or not)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Comparing Olympic courage

My city, Vancouver, has been getting some international attention lately as the next in line to be Winter Olympic hosts, and we had a tiny trickle of snow yesterday to mark the occasion. Fortunately, we can rely on co-host Whistler to supply the white stuff for 2010. In anticipation of those Games, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan will accept the Olympic flag from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge at today's closing ceremonies. Sullivan, who was paralysed in a skiing accident when he was a teenager, quipped: "There was a debate over whether we should send Vancouver's worst skier to the Olympics to represent the country."

While the closing ceremonies celebrate the ending of the Games, I celebrate the fact that Scrubs and My Name is Earl will soon return. NBC suffered some of the worst ratings ever for an Olympics, partly because the other networks didn't play dead, partly because the time difference gave North Americans the results before prime-time coverage, partly because there were few compelling success stories.

I'll watch almost any sport in person just for the spectacle, and in the right circumstances will uncomplainingly watch the occasional game on TV, but I'm not what you would call the target audience for Olympic coverage. The only winter sports I have the slightest interest in are figure skating and hockey, but these days, that interest is thinner than Sasha Cohen. I did catch some figure skating when I tuned in expecting to see Scrubs or Earl, forgetting the Olympics were on, or when I idly flipped through channels.

So I saw an interview with Evan Lysacek, an American figure skater, who declared he'd shown a lot of courage after giving a great free skate performance following a horrible short program. Are you supposed to say that about yourself? I thought that was the purpose of the overwrought analysts, producing features on athletes who have overcome all odds. And does getting over the flu count as one of those poignant stories? It doesn't quite compare to Russian Tatiana Totmianina, whose partner dropped her on a lift in competition over a year ago, knocking her out and causing a severe concussion, who came to the Olympics with the same partner to perform the same routine. Now that's courage. Or amnesia.

Courage is an overused word anyway, but I have a hard time with it being used in the Olympic context. Despite my disinterest, I'm all for the Games and their place as the pinnacle of athletic achievement. But it should be enough that the Olympics are a competition of athletic prowess, dedication, and determination, without turning them into a competition of so-called courage.

Most people have a hard-luck story in their background. Some pick themselves up after years of depression following a skiing accident that made them a quadriplegic, then create and oversee a variety of charities dedicated to helping people with disabilities before running for public office. Courage has to mean something more than overcoming the flu, or a bad performance, or it means nothing at all.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Can I trust Michael Ausiello?

From TVGuide.com:
BREAKING NEWS: Sources confirm that UPN is in talks to acquire CBS' Love Monkey! Hooray! I'll (hopefully) have more on this in Friday's Ausiello Report.
I'm happy, and I don't even know what this means. UPN, the soon-to-be-defunct network? That seems like it means it would burn off the eight episodes shot this season, and then both network and series are history by the end of the summer. I won't even hope that it means the new CW network will pick it up for next season. Well, I will hope, but I won't publicly state my hope. Oh ... right.

EDIT: And the answer to my title question? No, I probably can't. Here's the update:
A source close to Monkey confirms that UPN has expressed interest in acquiring the show's five unaired episodes, but as of now, it isn't in the plans. "But," the source adds, "anything could happen in the future."
Well, sure. But I don't want to hear about it until it's past the "anything could happen" stage. Stupid heightened expectations.


Monday, February 20, 2006

TV Review: House – "Skin Deep"

(Warning: spoilers for the episode that aired Feb. 20)

In an average House episode, it's the CGI shots of a patient's oozing intestines that most disturb me. I found this week's "Skin Deep" the most uncomfortable, disturbing episode so far, for very different reasons. And I don't mean that as a criticism.

House is always entertaining, usually thought-provoking, and occasionally delves deeper into murky ethical waters. The beauty is that when it does, it doesn't wrap the issues up in a nice easily digestible package that allows viewers to partition characters and actions into black and white. We don't have the comfort of knowing House will save the day and all will be right with the world. For while House almost always saves the patient, the world remains a pretty messed-up place. That can be uncomfortable and disturbing, but it's also daring and challenging. And that's a good thing. This is an episode that invites us to look below the surface, past our expectations, past easy answers of good versus bad, wrong versus right.

While a crankier-than-usual House is contending with increased leg pain that Wilson thinks is psychosomatic, a result of sending Stacy away, he focuses on this week's patient, 15-year-old supermodel Alex. Her devoted daddy/manager gave her a little Valium with her champagne backstage, right before she ended up in a "catfight and cataplexy on the catwalk," as House puts it. If that wasn't enough to strip him of the world's best dad title, Alex's father is soon suspected of sexually abusing her. House thinks Alex's hidden heroin addiction is only part of what's causing her symptoms, and that she might be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. House doesn't like it when people other than himself cause PTSD in his patients, so he promises Dad confidentiality in exchange for the admission that he had sex with his daughter, once.

Before he gets that confession, Foreman admonishes House to accept that his increased leg pain is causing him to rush the diagnosis. House looks abashed, like he's been shown the error of his ways, gives Foreman a sincere-sounding "thank you," then turns around and yells at Dad in a crowded waiting room: "Are you doing your daughter?"

It's an uneasy plotline, and it wouldn't be House if I could say it was treated with compassion and tact. But it is treated with fidelity to the character of House, who cracks jokes that are wrong, wrong, wrong, and I am going to burn in hell for laughing at them. (House: "Two clinic hours says that those love apples are handcrafted by God." Foreman: "I thought you didn't believe in God." House: "I do now.")

And the story is treated with the intelligence to question a society that sexualizes a teenager, treats her as an adult, then castigates those who look at her as a sexual being, without sympathizing with either side. As the show does in its best moments, it takes our expectations and twists them. When Alex admits to Cameron that she slept her way through photographers and tutors to get where she is before "seducing" her dad so he'd feel guilty enough to let her do anything she wanted, the show is compassionate enough never to let his status as the adult who should know better slip away, and clever enough not to partition her on the side of tarnished purity. She's a victim, but she's also a manipulative victimizer.

It's a creepy line to walk, and House initially gives the appearance of being far creepier than he actually is. When he spontaneously visits the patient - a miracle under less attractive circumstances - he lets Cameron believe that he failed to talk to her about anything medically relevant. He makes comments about Alex's beauty to her pretty face and to anyone else who will listen, but the creepiest speech he gives, the one that made me finally think he'd gone even further than his normal "too far", ends up being a quote from a magazine interview Dad gave about his own daughter, commenting on her perfect, perky breasts and heart-shaped ass. Creepy.

Cameron takes Foreman's place as the one to stand up for what she believes in and tell Cuddy about House's breach of ethics for not reporting the sexual abuse, but again House proves the consistency of his messed-up ethics by almost praising her – or at least not punishing her, which is pretty close for House - for doing what she thinks is right.

The final diagnosis is a weird one, and House delivers the news in the least empathetic way possible, of course. Alex suffers from male pseudohermaphroditism: according to her DNA, she's a he. (House: "The ultimate woman is a man. Nature's cruel, huh?"). The cancer on her undescended testicle is causing paraneoplastic syndrome (soon to replace vasculitis as the diagnosis of choice) and therefore her variety of wonky symptoms. It also provides some relief from the thought that though she and her father denied abuse to the social worker Cameron insisted on, Alex might not need protection from her father. In one of those lines that makes me a bad person for laughing, House says: "Good news is I don't think Dad's going to be sleeping with him-slash-her again. See, now it's gross."

Through it all, it was easy to forget to credit Hugh Laurie for doing such an amazing job of reflecting pain with every crease of his face, every movement, every catch of his breath. It was easy to forget it was a performance, one so visceral, I felt a sympathetic gut reaction to his pain. Hey, I was just like the clinic patient who was experiencing sympathetic pregnancy symptoms along with his wife.

There were questions about whether both patients and House are experiencing psychological or purely physical symptoms, and we get the answer – only House's worsening pain is in his mind. The episode provided a different kind of discomfort with a scene of pain-wracked House's pathetic plea to Cuddy for morphine to ease the pain. When she refuses, he pulls down his pants to show her his scarred, hollowed-out thigh, and asks if that's all in his head, too. Poor self-deprecating Laurie seems to be caught in contract hell where he's suddenly required to show some skin in each episode, but there was nothing sexy about this reveal, just desperation and pain. House's psychological pain has always been part of the mix, but now he's faced with the proof of it – and the possibly more painful proof that Wilson was right - when Cuddy later admits that the injection she gave him that seemed to cure the pain was actually saline, a placebo.

Though House is an anti-social misanthrope, he's also oddly reliant on those around him. We saw House's "lackeys" take care of him when he induced the migraine last episode. Wilson takes care of him this episode by urging him to recognize the truth, and giving him an MRI to see if there's something physically different about the leg (and even entertaining him with juvenile humour while he's stuck in the MRI tube). But Cuddy appears to be tapped out of sympathy, telling him: "You're on the road to becoming a junkie." It's another disturbing layer to a disturbing episode, where clues we've been given about his pain and drug dependence being psychological as well as physical come together in a revelation not so much for the audience, but for House. And like the best revelations of the show, it doesn't solve a mystery so much as it introduces new issues.

The writing credits this week were more cluttered than the usual "Written by X," with a story by Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner and teleplay by those two plus David Shore. That's mystifyingly messy enough for me to have taken the lazy way out and not mentioned the writers this week, except it also marks the first time this season that creator Shore's name has appeared for episode-writing credit (though his fingerprints must be all over the scripts anyway, of course). And why do I feel the need to devote a paragraph to that? It's the first time his name's appeared since last season's Emmy-winning "Three Stories," and I'd begun to think he would pull a Harper Lee – write the perfect work, then shrug off the pressure to top it by never writing another one. Well, if you ignore the fact that Shore has a resume full of other works while Lee started and stopped with To Kill a Mockingbird. Well, and that she wrote a few minor essays afterwards. But using bad math, Shore only has about 1/5 of a writing credit on this one. Give me a break, I'm not as good at this analogy thing as House.

House returns March 7 with a new episode, but I don't. The next review will be several days late, unless I overcome my completist mentality, succumb to laziness, and (gasp) skip a week.


(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

I'm sorry, I'm Canadian

I seem to be on a roll with a couple of posts in a row that could be summarized as: "this is what's wrong with me." I might not be a charter member of my own fan club, but I really don't suffer from particularly low self-esteem. I just find it interesting to examine my foibles, because maybe if I understand them, I can start to cure them. Nah, that's probably not true. I just think it's fun to ridicule myself. Today, I'm going to ridicule myself for being a stereotypical namby-pamby Canadian, because I feel like I caved in to the stereotype too much this evening.

I had a particularly off night at volleyball (which is saying something – I'm not terrible, but I'm not exactly ... um ... name a famous volleyball player here), and found myself apologizing when I didn't do a great set, but then also caught myself apologizing when I did a great set and my teammate messed up the spike. Then in conversation later, another teammate asked something about my parents, and when I only mentioned my mom, he asked about my dad, who died when I was a baby, and I never had a convenient father-figure replacement who I could refer to instead. But even though I always stress the baby part – long ago, no memory - people react like they've just stuck a giant foot in their mouths, which makes me feel terrible (though really, aren't they being the too-apologetic ones?). I end up trying to assuage their guilt for daring to bring up such an innocuous topic, and then feel ridiculous that I feel badly because they feel badly for something so un-feel-badly-about.

The trait goes beyond those examples. I have literally apologized when people bump into me on the street. I feel terribly if I hurt someone's feelings, even if it's in retaliation for them hurting mine. If people ask me a dumb question, I feel the need to phrase my answer in a way that doesn't make them feel dumb, even if I think they are. Because there are no dumb questions, only dumb people.

It sometimes seems a little odd to me that I love the character of House so much, but then things like that last sentence pop out of me. Some people have found the current season too dark, House too nasty, but I love the fact that the writers are defying the expectation of the stock character who appears to be a bastard, but is revealed to be a true softie underneath. There's some squishy softness in there, but House really is a bastard, and I love him for it.

Yet I value kindness. I like the social veneer that allows us to only think cutting things about the stupid and annoying people we encounter every day - the social veneer House not only lacks, but scorns.

I'm not quite as nice as I appear to the casual eye. There's a very small percentage of the population that doesn't bug me. I haven't nearly reached House's blissful level of misanthropy, but I am in awe of his ability to express that misanthropy so fully. He says the things I might think I want to say, but never would, and could never forgive myself if I did. And I love him for it because it's liberating to hear those thoughts vocalized, without risk to any feelings but fictional ones.

Coworkers and casual acquaintances have told me they've never seen me in a bad mood or be unpleasant to anyone. Friends know better. In a way, it's a great litmus test for friendship - it's obvious I'm comfortable with someone if my inner bitch shines through occasionally. Maybe that makes me hypocritical, or passive-aggressive, but I think there's enough crap in the world without me making people feel like crap for no reason other than they bug me, or I'm in a bad mood. And I'm not sorry about that.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A tragic case of technoamnesia

Oooh, I got a new toy: a computer-based PVR. The original idea was that I would get this software called Beyond TV, but the TV tuner board they recommend comes with its own more rudimentary PVR software, so I'm going to take that around the block first, then try the trial of the more TiVo-like Beyond TV, then if I love it, get that (do I need the more sophisticated version? No, but then I didn't need digital cable with Eastern time zone feeds either, and now you'll have to rip that from my cold, dead hands).

I'm sure I'll write about the PVR itself more in a couple of months or so, when I can make some judgement on it besides how much fun/trouble it was to set up, and make a comparison between the two. Right now, it's just reminded me of this weird glitch my brain seems to suffer from. I'll call it technoamnesia.

At my various workplaces, I've always had the reputation for being very technosavvy, which makes my technosavvy friends laugh themselves silly. The thing is, I'm good at using computers. At my current job, people in my department will often come to me before calling our computer helpdesk, because they know that a) I won't put them on hold for half an hour, then tell them that they have been assigned a priority 3 and someone will call them back before the next ice age; and b) most of their questions result from not knowing how to do something, not from a technical problem, and the evil helpdesk people will snicker at them behind their backs whereas I'll do it to their faces in the nicest possible way.

But I know nothing about the inner workings of computers. It's not simply ignorance; I've been taught all this stuff. It's just that when you start talking RAM and ROM and MHz and GHz, nothing will stick to my teflon brain.

When I bought a new computer last January, I did a ton of research and asked my geeky friends and brother for advice. My brother kindly refrained from snickering at me ... much ... when I tried to talk about memory in terms of GHz. But I learned what was what, and ordered the right specs for what I wanted. About 2 seconds after I placed the order, I couldn't have told you what I got.

The PVR box says it requires 733 MHz or faster. I wasn't sure if that was a high number or a low number. In case I had to return it, I checked my computer out before opening the box and discovered it has a GHz number. At least I knew that was faster, not slower.

I was confident I had lots of hard disk space, but the box says a one hour TV show will use 2 GB. But I only have 512 MB of RAM! (And no, I didn't remember that, I had to look it up.) Oh. You mean that's OK?

I had to install the TV tuner board thingie in my computer, and the instructions say to put it into a PCI slot. I've never heard of a PCI slot, so I had to check my computer manual to make sure I have one, and if so, what the heck it is. Of course when I say "I've never heard of a PCI slot," you can bet that means I've heard it mentioned a few dozen times and have forgotten each and every time.

My brother is one of the best technoexplainers I know, and I have some pedantic friends, so I've listened to a million explanations about all this stuff and I never remember. I know it's because I simply don't care, but there are a million other tidbits of information floating around in my cluttered brain I don't care about either. Do I need to remember all of Cary Grant's ex-wives names? Or who Grant Goodeve is? (I can't remember why, but he came up at Christmas – I think he might have been mentioned in the Team America or Family Guy movie – and my brother thought I was a freak for knowing that he was on Eight is Enough.)

I suppose I could have had one of my technofriends come over and install the damn thing, but this is fun for me. Not fun enough that I'll remember anything by tomorrow, though.

[Edit: Geeky brother told me about a free program called GB-PVR that seems to have similar functions as BeyondTV, so I'll probably try all three out and compare before committing to any extra bucks. He added: "it's not open source, though," as if I would be heartbroken at that fact.]

(Reworked a bit and cross posted to Blogcritics)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Writers Trust Awards and other book stuff

The Writers' Trust of Canada announced four awards today, including one for Rohinton Mistry - the Timothy Findley Award for a male writer in mid-career. His A Fine Balance is one of my favourites books, one of those books that envelops me in its world for the days I spend reading it, only to release me into the mundane world with a sigh. It's overpoweringly, unapologetically depressing in parts, but always entertaining and enlightening.

Book awards are not exactly rare, but the ones announced today are a little different from most in that they reward authors for their careers, not single works. Unlike the Oscars or Emmys, these awards not only bring attention to quality work, they bring money to the award recipient (wait ... Oscar and Emmy winners don't get money, do they? I'm sure we'd hear about it if so. If I read one more article about the great swag the Oscar attendees get, I'll have to mug Keira Knightley in March).

And just as the Oscars tend to boost a film’s box office and the Emmys tend to ... do nothing much, if you take Arrested Development as a lesson ... book awards tend to boost readership, which is why I even care that the Writers Trust bestowed one on a favourite author of mine. If they had a tacky televised award ceremony, I might care even more.

Much as I love movies and television, it makes me sad to think that the average bestselling book is read by a tiny fraction of the number of people who see a generic Hollywood blockbuster. I won’t whine about the increasing illiteracy of our society, though. It’s partly math. A movie lasts a couple of hours – maybe more if Peter Jackson’s name is on it. Depending on the book, it can take days or weeks to finish. It’s hard to measure precisely how long, since most of us read in bits and pieces without a stopwatch, but The Time Traveler’s Wife audiobook, for example, clocked in at almost 18 hours.

Plus, going to a movie or watching TV can be a social occasion. I might be a nerd, but even I don't get together with my friends to read, and I might protest if a guy proposed a reading date. (Though my most pathetic/funniest date ever was watching television — a taped curling match with a guy who could not accept that I found the sport a complete snoozefest and hoped to convince me otherwise on our first — and last — date.)

Still, it’s partly that we want to read less than we used to, because there are so many other things competing for our leisure time attention, things like movies, TV, video games, Internet, in so many forms. Where we might have brought a book along on a bus or plane ride, or into a waiting room, or whatever, now we have the option of portable DVD players or iPods.

I can’t point any fingers. I hit my reading peak in university more than 10 years ago, when I slyly majored in my hobby, and chose English courses based on the reading lists rather than any academic ambition. Still, it didn’t leave much room for fluff (unless you count that Folklore in Children’s Literature course I took. Which, yeah, you probably should). I’d say I’m at my reading nadir now, with other activities (damn you, Blogger) taking up space where I might otherwise have picked up a book.

I have no value judgement to make. It’s sad that we don’t read as much as we used to. It’s sad that some of the finest writers struggle for recognition. But that’s true whether they write books, television, or movies, and always has been.

Is reading intrinsically more valuable than watching TV or a movie? The English lit major in me should say yes, I suppose, but the rest of me can’t. You can’t compare the quality of A Fine Balance to Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, perhaps, but maybe you can compare it to Brokeback Mountain or Crash or Good Night, and Good Luck. I spend my Tuesday nights analysing a TV show into the ground, so who am I to say that watching television can’t be as thought provoking as reading?

(Not gonna be cross posted to Blogcritics unless I get ambitious enough to edit it into coherence.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

TV Review: House - "Distractions"

(Warning: spoilers for the episode that aired Feb. 14)

Wow. This qualifies as the least newsy newsflash ever, but that House is one messed up dude. And … eew. This week’s episode demonstrates why I sometimes question my squeamish self’s sanity for being attracted to medical shows. Maggots covering a burn patient’s body? I guess I didn’t really need to eat or sleep anyway.

I may not be the only one requiring a psych consult, as House does a good impersonation of a crazy man in "Distractions" while still, irrationally, appearing almost rational. Of course if you need a live subject for an unethical test to prove your medical school nemesis wrong, you have no choice but to experiment on yourself. Of course if you need to induce a migraine, you should take nitroglycerin. Then when you need to get rid of the migraine – because oh, yeah, the patient of the week needs some attention – of course you should take LSD to cure it and then anti-depressants to counteract the LSD. It all makes sense. If you squint.

The med school nemesis is Dr. Weber (Dan Butler, Frasier), whose questionable migraine prevention breakthrough House is determined to prove wrong. House has been academically stalking the man for 20 years in hopes of finding a way to retaliate for being ratted out when House tried to cheat off him on a test. So he gives Weber's miracle medication to our old friend Coma Guy, then gives him a migraine, proving, at least in House's mind, that the drug is a failure.

His master plan is to forge an invitation from Cuddy for Weber to present a lecture on the new drug, while House sits in the back in a monster-truck lover's disguise and discredits his research. He's only temporarily foiled by the claim that since Coma Guy's brain is not normal, House's little experiment means nothing. Ignoring Wilson's pleas to get a regular hobby - maybe a spot of bowling in place of obsession - House takes the drug himself, then successfully induces a migraine. It's not quite scientifically solid proof, but it's enough to convince the pharmaceutical company to back out of the deal. Though I could argue that House's brain is not exactly normal, either. As Wilson says: "Get a hooker. Anything."

Foreman is amusingly pragmatic about having to treat his boss for this self-inflicted misery – just another day on the job – while he, Cameron, and Chase go about the business of trying to help the patient of the week. They do have help from the astute if pained mutterings of House, curled under the conference room table. Wilson provides House with all the sympathy he deserves (which is to say, none at all) and interprets House's actions for us: "You get distracted by pain." And after driving away the love of his life, House needs distraction.

The neglected patient is Adam, a 16-year-old boy who was badly burned in an ATV accident ... which may have been the show's first real stunt that didn't involve Hugh Laurie taking a punch. Though House seems to take cases a little more readily these days, burns are still not enough to bring the master diagnostician to the case, so Adam also has unexplained heart symptoms and blood test results.

Because of his injuries, the team is unable to perform the usual tests, including their favourite MRI, and must resort to some old-fashioned and creative procedures. House yet again proves he'll do anything to get the truth from a patient, waking Adam from his induced coma to question him about his pre-accident symptoms as the boy screams in agony. But it's all justified, at least in House's mind, because Adam gives House the information he needs. From the clue that Adam wet himself before the accident, House pieces together the truth that the boy had been trying to quit smoking, took a cessation medication that also acts as an anti-depressant, and suffered from the rare complication of too much serotonin, causing seizures and a bizarrely orgasmic response to pain.

After House takes a shower to shake off the headache, Cameron finds him in the locker room dressed only in a towel. Under ordinary circumstances, that might be the Best Valentine's Day Present Ever for the pining girl, but instead she's angry to realize he's high and "seeing" music (but ... cool. There's some cool direction by Dan Attias to mirror House's migrane and altered consciousness, too.) She's later equally puzzled to find him quickly recovered. We're not shown the drug-taking, but House not-admits to Cuddy that, hypothetically, one might take LSD to help with a migraine, and then one could conceivably take anti-depressants to balance out the LSD.

He also reveals a new slice of House philosophy to explain the LSD/anti-depressant effect, as well as the eye-for-an-eye revenge on Weber: karma.

House: The universe always settles the score.
Cuddy: Does it?
House: No. But it should.

Lawrence Kaplow, who just won a Writers Guild Award for the "Autopsy" episode, wrote this one too. For those with good memories, it's the one he was in the process of writing (and referred to as "Happiness") in an October interview, where he says: "House does some pretty outlandish things in this episode, and it raises the question: is this only about addiction or is he self-destructive? Does he have some sort of death wish? What does House want in the end?" "Distractions" points to self-destruction as much as I thought "Autopsy" did, where House's answer to seizing the day is to hop a motorcycle with a crazed look in his eye.

Maybe the universe really is about balance, and the patient with an excess of the pleasure hormone contrasts with the title character with a dearth of it. House's heartbreak isn't in the spotlight here, but it is in the shadows of everything he does. According to Wilson, House's instinct is to distract himself from his emotional pain with physical pain. But pleasure is the opposite of pain. So the episode ends with House's willfully depressing pursuit of pleasure as a distraction. Fortifying himself with a drink, steeling himself to answer the door, in the final scenes House invites a call girl into his apartment. Unlike his constant hooker jokes, there's nothing funny or puerile about it. It's a sad ending for a sad man.

Because of a supersized American Idol, next week's House airs on Monday (Feb. 20) at 8.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Monday, February 13, 2006

And I feel fine

Grey's Anatomy fairly suddenly became one of my favourite shows sometime in the fall, so I was excited about the post-Superbowl episode (though if it weren't for GA, the Superbowl might have come and gone without me noticing - that's football, right?). I was forced into a bizarre routine for the last few weeks, since my volleyball team's Sunday schedule meant I had to leave home after the first half hour aired on the Eastern ABC feed, but I got home in time for the last half on the Western feed.

Because "It's the End of the World," the Superbowl episode, aired late, last week there was a little chunk in the middle I missed (like how the bomb got inside the patient - thanks TWoP recap for filling me in. Some day I'll remember to record the show). Even with the disjointed viewing, I was on the edge of my seat. Sure, it pandered to the male sports fan audience with the a) shower scene and b) potential for things to go boom. But it was a) hilarious and b) exciting but still focused on the characters.

The second half that aired yesterday, "(As We Know It)," fell flat for me, though. It got great ratings, so it's hard to argue with success. I might have cried a little at the end (OK, maybe a lot), so it obviously got to me emotionally. But I felt like it took the easy way out. All the patients lived, Christina Ricci's adorable Hannah gets absolved in the end. OK, Kyle Chandler didn't fare so well, but still.

The episode raised some questions about how we react in crisis, but the answers were kinda boring. It seems authority figures fall apart and interns rise to the occasion. I don't know, it just felt like Bailey's irrationality was forced, Addison's meltdown was too (it's stupid to suggest drugging Bailey but OK to force an emergency C-section?), Dr. Webber's is-it-a-heart-attack was one dramatic moment too much, there were too many forced scenes shoving characters together so we could hear the words the writers wanted us to hear, not enough to challenge our perceptions of the characters. The episode titles promised something they didn't deliver.

But George was, as usual, awesome, Burke was dreamier than McDreamy, and Izzy and Cristina almost make me wish I batted for the other team.

One small thing I love about this show is that the episode writers blog about their episodes, and Shonda Rhimes has already posted about "(As We Know It). She calls the first part, "The End of the World," the more masculine half to the second part's feminine take on the same issues. I get hives at the idea of dividing the world into masculine versus feminine viewpoints, especially since I apparently didn't like the feminine viewpoint, but I love her explanation:
In the first episode, (George) is fantasizing about what it would be like to see three women in the shower. In the second episode, he sees what three women in a shower is like in reality. Because, guys, women don’t just climb in a shower and start soaping each other up for no reason. Hello!? Life isn’t porn. Life is Meredith, bloody and battered, being gently cleaned off (chunks of Dylan) by her best friends.
Um, yeah, my life isn't quite like either one of those scenarios. But I still like what she has to say. And I like that they're brave enough to allow viewer comments on their posts (and hope like hell they don't follow all the suggestions ...).


OK, dammit, this was supposed to be a really short post saying how much I like Grey's Anatomy but the last episode didn't quite do it for me. I kind of want to post some quick, immediate-reaction-to-TV kind of stuff in this blog instead of just the more longwinded stuff I do for Blogcritics, because I find myself thinking - gee, I should have said "yay Hugh Laurie for winning the Golden Globe, boo CBS for pulling Love Monkey off the schedule," etc. I am incapable of writing a really short post. I used to call my House episode analyses "mini-reviews." Ha!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Audiobook Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife is a touching and compulsively readable (or listenable) tale, partly high-concept, mostly finely realized love story focusing on fate, the pain and relief of being left behind, and the pain and excitement of leaving. Science fiction, literary fiction, romance, adventure, tear-jerker, laugh-inducer - it defies categorization.

The 2003 bestseller is being released this week in an unabridged audiobook version (16 CDs, 17 ¾ hours) that lets you savour every word, a welcome addition to the previous, abridged version (10 CDs or eight cassettes, 12 hours), both by Highbridge Audio.

The Time Traveler’s Wife covers the lifetime of Clare Abshire and her unusual romance with time traveling Henry DeTamble. Henry has been an integral part of Clare's life since she was six, when his 36-year-old self appeared naked in the meadow outside her home, and reappeared at random intervals - and at random ages - over the years. To her surprise, he tells her they will eventually be married. Henry first met Clare when he was 28 and working at the Newberry Library, and she was a 20-year-old art student. To his surprise, she tells him they will eventually be married.

Niffenegger outlines the strict rules of time travel in her book's world without getting bogged down in the inherent contradictions that might make your brain hurt. Henry can bring nothing through time, not clothes, not money, not even fillings. And nothing can be changed. He can't go back in time and alter the future. Though, in one of those inevitable time travel paradoxes, of course his presence in the past has already affected the future.

The book portrays both a romantic and harsh view of time travel. Henry is attracted to the adventure and repelled by the danger and inconvenience. Naked, hungry, disoriented, he must run from the police, fight for protection, steal to provide for his out-of-time self.

Henry and Clare's life together is unoriented in time. A memory for one is the future for another, their past and their present are so intertwined that they are literally fated to be together. The unusual romance could stand as a metaphor for romance itself - two people destined to be together, feeling as though they've known each other forever, knowing they would not be the person they are today without the other.

Novelist Niffenegger is also a visual artist who teaches at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, and those sensibilities come through in her vivid descriptions in general, and Clare's art in particular. She paints delicately detailed characterizations not only of Henry and Clare, but their circle of friends and relatives, and coming to the end of the book is like losing touch with good friends.

I can only focus on audiobooks while driving, and The Time Traveler’s Wife made me wish my commute were even longer. Well, almost. Niffenegger's delicious prose is well-suited to the dual reader strategy employed by Highbridge Audio, with William Hope reading Henry's narration and Laurel Lefkow reading Clare's.

Listening to a book is a very different experience from reading one. The occasional quirk of pronunciation distracts a little, the very occasional difference between my interpretation of mood and the readers' distracted slightly more. Hope maintains a wry, ironic tone that doesn't fit with my mental soundtrack of Henry, but Lefkow perfectly captures the innocent wonder of the child Clare, the rapid-tongued nervousness of the teenage Clare, and the poised bemusement of the adult Clare.

To hear a clip, or to order directly from the publisher, visit the Highbridge Audio website. The book and audiobook versions are also available from Amazon.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

House - "Need to Know" reprise

I'm supposed to be working on a freelance copywriting project that's due Monday. I have an audiobook review I need to finish for Blogcritics before the publisher who gave me the review copy starts to get antsy. I should prepare for a (boring, work-related) interview I need to conduct Monday morning. The apartment could desperately use a cleaning and I need groceries. So what am I doing? Writing about House, of course.

Though I didn't love the last episode, "Need to Know," my faith in the writers and in the episode before that, "Failure to Communicate," has been restored after an exchange of comments on the Blogcritics version of that post. I could just tell you to go read the comments, but since I know you won't, I'll recap.

Carol and blue lucia gave me the key to what I'd missed – the Woody Allen quote at the end of FtC was supposed to be a turning point, while I took it as ironic.

From bluelu:
"You know what Woody Allen said about relationships? Irrational and crazy, but we go through it all because --" House finishes for her, "We need the curry."

She's telling him that she wants him anyway. She knows he isn't going to change, and she wants him anyway.

So in he walks at PPTH, buoyed by the knowledge that she knows what she's getting into and she wants to give it a shot. How much more heartbreaking, then, to discover that she only intended the curry to be a side dish? And in the end, he came to the conclusion that she might think now that she wants the curry, but sooner or later it would still take the roof of her mouth off, and she'd only leave him again.
Which makes sense, but I'm not used to the audience being several steps in front of House. I won't call it out of character, because his lack of self-awareness and his emotional screwedupness has been well established, and his romantic optimism has been briefly shown before (the corsage for Cameron last season, for example). It just didn't resonate with me, and still doesn't. But as I said:
I can still believe the "Failure to Communicate" patient story has strong ties to the House-Stacy story ... both ended on a seemingly optimistic note ("we need the curry" versus "she'll come back when she misses you") but both seem doomed for disappointment.

None of this makes me love "Need to Know" as much as I wanted to, but I think "Failure to Communicate" is mostly safe in my esteem.
So I'm no longer confused. Still a bit dissatisfied, but no longer believing the writers might have been experimenting with the Vicodin. I actually found "Need to Know" entertaining, I just didn't find it convincing.

Fernando Delgadillo: Mellow, Melodious, and Mysterious

There are artists that fill an emotional niche for me, and Mexican singer-songwriter Fernando Delgadillo is my go-to guy when I'm in a mellow, pensive mood. Or, if I'm just feeling nostalgic for some Spanish tunes to remind me how much of the language I've forgotten.

Unfortunately, the independent artist's music isn't easily accessible outside his native Mexico, but Amazon.com stocks his live albums Febrero 13 Vol. 1 and 2, which are a good introduction to his emotive voice and lush acoustic guitar. Actually, a better – and free – introduction is the downloads at Delgadillo's website. If you're hooked after that, the rest of his many CDs can be ordered directly through that same site (click on Tienda) ... but you have to really, really want them to go through the hassle of the offline ordering process (the instructions for which are only in Spanish).

If you decide not to take up that challenge, with Febrero 13 you're at least getting best-of albums that contain a great sampling of Delgadillo's talents, with two of my favourites on Volume 1 and available for download at his site: "Julieta," sweet nostalgia for a childhood crush, and "Hoy ten miedo de mi," about ... um ... his passion for a woman? Or something.

But if you're willing to brave the experience (or manage to find it through other means) the album I can't get out of my head – or my stereo – is Campo de SueƱos, especially the hauntingly beautiful melody of the song "Visiones." Each song on the album paints a whimsical picture, from the little boy of "Aguacate" who struggles with school and fitting in, to the greenhouse-loving friend who literally turns into a plant in "Conducta Herbal."

The lyrics are poetic and filled with intriguing imagery and allusions, which I can't pretend to fully understand. But as with many other artists who are presumably singing in English, of course you don't have to understand what he's saying to appreciate his music.

My boyfriend at the time, who introduced me to Delgadillo's lilting voice and guitar, was wary of my efforts to decipher the lyrics. It was part of my attempt to get more comfortable with the language – the same reason I started reading the Harry Potter books in Spanish, mitigating any reluctance I might have had to pick up a kid's book. Hey, it was educational. But as the boyfriend said: "He's very poetic. Spanish is my first language and I don't understand what he's talking about."

This is the same guy who encouraged me to speak English to him, which I suspect was motivated more by horror at my accent than the stated, also valid reason, that we were most ourselves in our native tongues. Our bizarre bilingual conversations at least half fulfilled my language lessons, and my quest to understand Delgadillo's lyrics was half successful.

A translation would suck the poetry out of them. Well, that's not fair. My translation would suck the poetry out of them. I find "Visiones" vaguely reminiscent of Lady of Shallot romanticism and Icarus imagery, but the emphasis would be on the "vaguely." The cold nights are keeping the narrator inside, where his music and imagination provide the visions he relates, including of a man learning to fly, falling and kissing his hands because they were wings. Or something.

But don't take my word for it. Check out the downloads, and if they make you want to kiss your hands - or something - check out the albums.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

TV Review: House - "Need to Know"

(Warning: spoilers for the episode that aired Feb. 7)

It’s been a cruel Houseless month, but Fox finally, mercifully, ended the detox with a new episode. (OK, so I'm a House addict, but it’s not a problem). And while I genuinely appreciate the fix, I'm not quite sure what to think of "Need to Know." Since "gee, I don't know" makes for a lame review, though, I'll try to sort it out.

It was not a bad episode of House. And even a "bad" episode of House is, to me, better than a good episode of most anything else. It even had one of the funniest lines, which was of course used repeatedly in the previews. "I know you're in there," House says outside Wilson's locked door. "I can hear you caring."

But I think it's the first episode that confused me. It made me think I've missed something crucial. Because this episode starts as if the last episode didn't end the way it did. In "Failure to Communicate," didn't Stacy and House ruefully recognize that people don't change? And wasn't there a nice parallel between the patient desperately trying to change, and House realizing that he's still the same man who couldn't give Stacy what she needed? Did I imagine the bitter in the bittersweet ending? But ... but ... does this mean I have to retract my admiration for the way "Failure to Communicate" tied the medical and personal stories together, subtly but effectively? That would mean that I was ... wrong. My brain is having trouble grasping that concept.

If we skip all the pesky patient stuff, "Need to Know" begins with House believing the kiss in Baltimore means a reconciliation, and Stacy, though conflicted about her commitment to her husband, ready to ditch Mark and live grumpily ever after with Greg. When she delays talking to Mark, because "if I never tell him, it will never hurt," House breaks it down into a him-or-me argument: "It's not easy, but it is simple." The episode proceeds to show us how much difficulty people have with simplicity.

First, back to the patient stuff, because this is still a medical show, not a soap opera, and the case also ties in to the House-Stacy story and contributes to the theme that not only does everyone lie, but people in love lie even more.

When supermom Margo (Julie Warner, Family Law) crashes into her garage after her limbs start flailing wildly, House and his team believe her fertility treatments might be to blame. Since Huntington's Disease is also a possibility, House wants to try his usual "let's treat before we diagnose" trick – this time with even less attempt at justifying than usual - but Foreman is still in the waning days of his month in control of the department. Instead, they discover Margo has been sneaking Ritalin ("cocaine with a PG rating") to cope with her frantic days, which explains her symptoms and is also easily treatable: stop taking the damn pills. But when she has a stroke on her way out of the hospital, House and Co. realize that something else is going on.

Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota, plays the adorable munchkin daughter who has no hope of melting House's heart, but gives it the old kindergarten try. When she barges into his office wanting to play, he takes her by the hand and leads her to the elevators – awww! She asks about his limp: "Is that why you're so sad?" "Oh, aren't you adorable," House replies sarcastically. "I'm not sad, I'm complicated. Chicks dig that." The conversation segues into the revelation that her parents never fight, before he fakes her out and sends her off in the elevator by herself.

The conversation leads to the realization that it's hard to fight when you don't talk about anything meaningful, like that you don't actually want to have another child and are taking birth control pills along with the fertility treatments. House tells Margo the benign liver tumour this caused will go away once she stops taking the birth control. Though the choice seems simple, if not easy, she opts to lie some more, to deny taking the Pill, and to have surgery in order to avoid telling her husband she doesn't want another kid. "You don't have to lie to me," House tells her. "We're not married."

Lisa Edelstein is sadly absent for most of the episode, but makes up for it by doing a fabulously awful impersonation of Sela Ward. In a deliciously bad Southern accent, Cuddy mocks the legal advice Stacy would give House, calling him "the big mean doctor, albeit with dreamy eyes" who should, for legal reasons, act as though he believes the patient.

"Need to Know" gives us a taste of House's view of romance, which is, not surprisingly, a little cheesy, a little sweet, and a lot disturbing. He actually admires Margo for going to such lengths, calling it romantic – "people do crazy things for love." And though the magic whiteboard doesn't give him any easy answers to his romantic dilemma, he admits (but ... again? Didn't he do this last episode?) that he is not willing to do anything for love, and sets Stacy free to be with Mark.

But not before our first House sex scene, with a shot of him and Stacy in bed together ... and a brief February sweeps glimpse of Hugh Laurie's bare chest. The suddenness of the bedroom shot, coming as it does near the beginning of the episode, and after some hand-wringing about the foolishness of pursing a relationship, works for shock value but not for the subtle or clever character progression the show usually demonstrates.

"Need to Know" gives us an overdose of character story when we're used to having it doled out in smaller doses. It wraps up Sela Ward's storyline and Cameron's HIV scare while giving a minor nod to Chase's dead dad and Foreman's adolescent brush with crime (yes, sigh, again – Foreman needs more backstory). It relies on us still feeling the repercussions of Cameron's crush on House, with Jennifer Morrison playing almost-suppressed jealousy nicely, and House not-so-nicely toying with her in order to force her to get her HIV test. But both the Cameron plotlines have been so far on the back burner lately that they don't have enough emotional impact to make the scenes poignant, or funny, or anything but an afterthought. This episode feels like both a slight rewind and fast forward at the same time.

There are fun moments, like the rivalry between House and Foreman, and the team's concern over Cameron manifesting as a bet over whether she'll take the HIV test or not, and the usual sprinkling of politically incorrect laughs. But it also has an awkward scene that is either a near miss of slapstick or a near miss of pathos between House and Mark, who unbelievably comes to him for advice. There are also a couple of cringingly cheesy visuals of House and Stacy on the roof with a backdrop of purple skies – Laurie and Ward are great in the scenes, but the shots seem taken from House's lessons on romantic cheesiness.

Wilson hovers around House and Stacy throughout this episode, warning her about the emotional mess she left when she broke up with House the first time, and warning House about the consequences of getting involved with her again. When the end comes, Wilson plays pop psychologist, astonished that House told Stacy the truth – that she's better off without him – then deciding that House doesn't actually believe that, however. His theory is that it's not that House can't change, it's that House doesn't want to change. "You don't like yourself, but you do admire yourself," he says, offering the theory that House believes that shorn of his misery, he would lose what makes him special.

"Need to Know" isn't quite devoid of what makes House special, but it's a sadly rushed ending to the Stacy storyline that occasionally seemed to drag on without progressing much, and ends with a heavy-handed Wilson pronouncement that could have been more interesting and credible if the audience had been led to the conclusion ourselves, rather than having Wilson act as our narrator.

EDIT: Check out House - "Need to Know" reprise for an explanation of why I'm still dissatisfied, but no longer confused.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hollywood Writers Honour Their Own at Writers Guild Awards

Sandwiched between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, the Writers Guild Awards were announced Saturday evening at ceremonies in both Los Angeles and New York. Why are the Screen Actors Guild Awards televised but not the Writers Guild Awards? Yeah, yeah, I know – the celebrity factor. But still. I bet the acceptance speeches were better written.


Brokeback Mountain gave the Oscar oddsmakers another reason to back that favourite, as Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana took the Adapted Screenplay award (the film was based on a short story by Annie Proulx). Crash has some reason to hope, though, with Bobby Moresco and director Paul Haggis given the Original Screenplay honours.


Outstanding Achievement
For the first time this year, the Writers Guild of America created a category for best overall writing for a television series, an award that is given to the season's writing team. The writers of Lost took home the Outstanding Achievement in Writing for a Dramatic Series, while Larry David was the sole writer credited for the Comedy Series award, for Curb Your Enthusiasm. The New Series award went to the writers of Grey's Anatomy.

Traditionally, the WGA has honoured writers of individual episodes. This year, Lawrence Kaplow of House won for the "Autopsy" episode in the Episodic Drama category. Jenji Kohan was awarded the Episodic Comedy prize for "You Can't Miss the Bear", the pilot of Weeds. The Simpsons prevailed in the Animation category, with Michael Price winning for the "Mommie Beerest" episode.

Long Form
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which also won an Emmy for writing, was honoured by the Writers Guild in the Long Form – Adapted category (it was based on a book by Roger Lewis), with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely adding to their trophy shelves. Warm Springs, which lost the Emmy to the Sellers television movie (those awards don't distinguish between original and adapted), picked up the Long Form – Original Writers Guild award for Margaret Nagle.

For a complete list of winners, check out the Writers Guild of America website.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

Friday, February 03, 2006

These shoes are made for walking

Scientists have mapped the human genome, and there are all kinds of exciting implications for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. But that’s all too theoretical and impersonal for me to fully appreciate. I know what they would find if they mapped my genes – I’m obviously missing something on the X chromosome.

I hate shoe shopping. I kind of hate shoes, except that it hurts to walk on many surfaces without them, and they are required for most social outings. At work, I kick them off at every opportunity, then have to blindly foot-feel for them under my desk when I’m pulled away on some grammar emergency.

But I desperately need some new shoes, so this weekend I will make the dreaded excursion to the dreaded shoe emporium to get some dreaded shoes that make me look like a woman who cares about shoes. Because I’m practical enough to want comfortable, but vain enough to want pretty.

I enjoyed Sex and the City, but it was often an anthropological lesson for me. I’d never heard of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks before that show introduced me to the high-end world of shoe fetishism. Sure, I have friends who love shoes, who can shop for them until long after I’m cowering under coat racks. But they now know better than to bring me along or regale me with stories of their shoe conquests. My lack of stamina for the hunt, or my blank stare when they brag about their latest trophy, is apparently not very gratifying.

A friend of mine once asked her boyfriend if he liked her new, wildly patterned shoes. He answered, incredibly tactfully for him (she had him well-trained), that he liked some of her other shoes better. This resulted in a relationship crisis that I’m not sure has been completely resolved, years later. I tried really hard to be sympathetic to her when she told me of the appalling shallowness of his love for her, but all I could think was, why ask if you didn’t really want to know? Why train him to lie to you?

Of course I’m not alone. Not all women are obsessed with shoes. Not all women ask questions like “do these shoes make me look fat?” Women might be from Venus, but there’s more than one continent on the planet. Generalizations are good for, well, generalizing, but they don’t offer much help at all when dealing with specific individuals. So they mapped the genome … when will they get to mine?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Uncle! (or, You Know I'm Procrastinating When I Write About the Weather)

Way to go, Vancouver. About a week ago, we were a day or two away from beating the record for most days in a row with rainfall. I was disappointed when we didn’t hit that milestone. I mean, if you’re going to have this much rain, might as well have a reason to celebrate it, right? But February brings good news - it turns out we did beat the record for the most number of rainy days in a given month, with 29 days of rainfall in January. We also surpassed the most rain to fall in the city for a January.

During the rainy season in Mexico City, where I lived before coming to Vancouver, an entire ocean would fall from the sky every afternoon for about an hour, but it was otherwise sunny and mild year-round. When I decided to move to Vancouver, people in my sunny native Alberta warned me that I’d find the grey skies and rain depressing, but I wasn’t worried. I like rain. I'd already lived in a city with a distinct rainy season.

But there are limits. I also like sun and blue skies, if I remember correctly.

Also in the news today: The area also made #43 on a list of the most expensive places to live in the world, tying with Montreal for tops in Canada.

Why do I love it here again? Oh yeah … it’s pretty. When you can see it through the clouds.