Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bleeding Blue and White, Turning Red

Fuckin' Leafs.

1-8-1 in the last 10 games. 4 points out of a playoff spot. Only 3 points ahead of BUFFALO? Give me a break.

What a joke.

I agree with not much being done on the trade deadline. Other than a goaltender, no trade would have made a major difference with the club.  But the goaltenders worth anything that were available would have come at far too high a cost for them. When Evgeni Nabokov and Jonathan Bernier are your top options, their prices are going to be inflated.

Nash? Obviously nobody wanted to pay the price for him.

Dustin Brown? Might have been nice, but hardly improves a team fighting for a playoff spot. He's a good addition FOR the playoffs, but not scrambling for them.

The reality is that most deadline signings don't have an effect on the acquiring team until the following season. It takes more than 20 games to find your groove with new teammates and new coaches.

So, nothing was going to get fixed by dismantling the rebuilding effort.

Look, I said before the season started that the playoffs would be a fight. We were as likely to be in 11th as 7th with this team and this division. The emergence of Kessel and Lupul as bona fide stars is welcome, but the death of our secondary scoring, complete inconsistency in goal, and godawful defence has more than countered the upsides. Those last two points have really come home in this stretch. Where before the Leafs could win on top-line scoring alone, the turnovers and bad goals of late are gifting points to opponents.

But that's not the worst of it. What really pisses me off as I've watched this collapse is the lack of energy on the team. It started when they played 4 games in 6 nights a couple weeks back.  The Leafs were DEAD after the first game. They could barely stand up, let alone skate end-to-end by the third period of the second game. By the end of the week I half expected to see them snoozing on the bench.

If you can't play the 2nd half of back-to-back games without looking like your legs are made of wet noodle, then you're sure as shit not going to make it ANYWHERE in the playoffs. Where the fuck is the conditioning?

Outside of Lupul and Brown, are there any players on the team who can go a full 60 minute game?  I wish the whole team was made of clones of these two. Brown can't score, but he's scrapping and banging and shooting to the last second, whether it's 5-0 leafs or 10-0 other guys. Kessel still looks like he should be on a beer-league team, and it shows as the long stretches play out.

I think back to the Pat Burns days, and him running the team hard every single practice. They'd be gasping for breath when the sprints and drills were over. He told them they'd be thankful when they were in overtime in game 7 of a playoff series. That year's team saw a game 7 every round. And more overtimes, double overtimes, and triple overtimes than any team has ever seen. They played hard every damned shift.How the hell is Wilson letting his team look this poorly conditioned?

So now, 19 games left, four points out, 2 teams to climb over, to JUST make the playoffs - the team needs to be shaken up. Firing Wilson at this point serves no purpose. If they miss the playoffs, he's in trouble.  But knowing Burke's loyalty to his guys, I expect you'd see the rest of the coaching staff scrapped first. Goaltending coach Francois Allaire should be the first out the door.  He may be highly regarded, but his method clearly isn't working with what he's got.

At this point, with 9 of the next 11 games on the road, the Leafs need a kick in the collective ass. They'll be away from the (rightfully) booing fans at home, away from the Toronto hockey media circus, and that can't hurt. But they'd better be flying a few Marlies around with them too. Time for Kadri to skate around for a game or two again, give Colborne a shot, why not Carter Ashton? They can't hurt any more than we're hurting. Would it kill them to put Scrivens in net for a game? If nothing else, the enthusiasm from these guys could be a refreshing change right now. The teams hits the ice already beaten now. It's an embarrassment.

I accept rebuilding. In fact, I embrace it for the Leafs. Too many rebuilding efforts on this club have been stopped dead by a playoff run or unexpectedly good season. I'm glad Burke is sticking to his guns. But at this point? We should be fighting for 6th, not 8th.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Flailing of a Failing Dictator

More Toronto politics folks.

When we last left our intrepid mayor, he had suffered a defeat at the hands of council. His lackeys looked chagrined, and he was at a bit of a loss.

To the surprise of nobody, he's been lashing out in his own special petty way.

First, there were the Ford-side councillors who sent a letter to our Provincial government that said "hey, council is irrelevant, so you should just ignore that vote."

You don't get to pick and choose if you're relevant in a democracy. You can't cry because you didn't get your way and say you don't matter. Because the next time something goes your way, but the people up the ladder don't like it, they can say, "huh, I thought you said you were irrelevant."


Then word came that the TTC chief general manager, Gary Webster, had sent a report to Ford a while back basically saying, "Um, dude, your plan for a subway makes no sense, will never make sense, isn't feasible, and would be extending a mistake made over a decade ago that resulted in none of the promised gains."  Also known as the truth. Our esteemed mayor and his lackeys decided this report wouldn't be released to the public or council - you know, a vital piece of information that could help inform their decisions about the project.

That same guy made the mistake of telling the truth at the big special council meeting too - 135,000 more people served using the LRT plan instead of the subway plan. Far better value for the dollar.

In short, he wasn't making friends with Ford.  He refused to drop to his knees for the emperor of Toronto.

So Ford's lackeys on the TTC board called their own special meeting of their group, and fired the chief general manager. The guy who's been working for the city for 37 years. Why? For no just cause, but because he didn't kowtow to the Mayor's whims.

The sycophants who still side with Ford toed the same line - "A civic employee should hold the same vision as the Mayor."

No. A civil servant should serve the needs of the citizenry. The ideal civil servant should be apolitical, and be relying on facts and the truth. They shouldn't twist these things to match the current administration's viewpoint if it's directly at odds with reality.  This is why there is a civil service and bureaucracy - to maintain a steady flow of operations as leadership and mandates change.

Oh, and the vote? 5-4. Exactly along the lines of those who "want subways" and those who have a fucking brain.

But, council has still spoken. Firing the guy running the day-to-day of the TTC doesn't change that. It's the bully going after the random kid because his teacher gave him detention and the Principal backed it up. I'm sure Webster's replacement will be someone more in-line with our Mayor. Which means more roadblocks and stumbling blocks to a realistic transit solution finding its way into my city. But hey, anyone who thought Ford wouldn't muck up the works instead of accomplishing anything of significance needs to have their independent thought examined.

Edit: Turns out Webster was one year away from retirement. Also, The Holy Roman Mayor managed to say that the "general public" wanted the TTC to "move forward" with a straight face. I assume he fist-pumped once he was out of sight.

Addendum #2: I forgot to mention that the whispered cost of terminating his contract early? $500,000. Yup. Ford's desire to turf someone who didn't agree with him will cost his beloved "taxpayers" half a mil so he can sit at home instead of working for one more year for, I assume, less money. CHOO CHOO! What's that? Oh, it's the GRAVY TRAIN!!! WOOO WOOO!! Thanks for stopping that your Worship.

Note: "His Worship" is actually the proper title/address for the Mayor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Peaty Night

The current assignment, due tomorrow, is to replicate a shot. The challenge of course being to reverse-engineer the lighting, angle, materials, etc. used in the original without having access to that information.

The original I chose can be found here.

This shot isn't my replicated version, but one that happened while trying to get it.  I almost stopped shooting at this point because I like the fall of the light so much more. But then, that wasn't the assignment.

One Peaty Night

Monday, February 13, 2012

Baseball Season

No, I'm not giving up on the Leafs' season yet, although after the last 3 games, I've got that ol' familiar feeling called "February for the Leafs".

But, baseball season isn't too far off, and I read some disturbing things about the Jays the other day. Mainly, that the fans are restless.  19 years since the last World Series win, and the fans are restless. Please, add 26 years and then call the Leafs fans.

The concern seems to be in the Jays not trying hard enough for some big names like Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish this off-season. The Jays' explanation? No contracts longer than 5 years. Which is an improvement over the 3-year max back in the halcyon days of the '90s.

Makes some sort of sense. In any sport, 5 years is a long contract.  It's long if the player stinks and you can't dump him. It's long for the player if he has an amazing 5 years and doesn't see a raise while lesser players are raking in salaries commensurate with other teams' payrolls.  We have Bautista for 5 years, and that's looking like a steal.

What these fans want is a contender. I can't blame them. I want one too. But look up and there's the Yankees, Red Sox, and sometimes the Rays in our division. Second place in the AL East usually means the wild card. With the addition of second wild card, the Jays' chances improve tremendously.

But what I feel the fans are missing is what's right in front of their nose - the team we've got. Back in the big days, the Jays WERE the AL All-Star team. Big name free agents, blockbuster trades, rent-a-players down the stretch.  Also, a sold-out Skydome, Major League attendance records being shattered year after year, and teams that couldn't be ignored, despite being up here in the Great White North.

Now? Well, 20,000 is a decent turnout. A sellout is 10,000 less than it used to be. The Jays are a footnote in baseball news, and the fans here are starting to buy into that.  We're not a small market team. Toronto has 2.6 million people, the GTA has 6 million within an hour's drive from the Rogers Centre. Ownership is a company that pulls in over $12 Billion in annual revenue. But nobody's coming out to the games, so they can't validate putting up a $120 million payroll to satisfy a handful of fans. And since Toronto is a hockey town first and foremost, grabbing a Yu Darvish or Prince Fielder won't pack the stands. Hell, Prince would be a better choice because at least then you have a connection to old-school Jay, Cecil.

After all, we had the best pitcher in the Majors in Roy Halladay and couldn't bring in the numbers until he was about to leave, and now when he returns. We have one of the best hitters in the league in Bautista, who broke the all-star voting record, and can't keep all the beer stands open. The only way the people come is if the team starts winning deep into the season. No more of this "1st in April, 4th in September" crap.  We need to be fighting for 1st in August, if not running away with it. We need the team to be dominating the headlines in the dog days of summer. We need a winner.

And rushing that now, when Anthopoulos is doing yeoman's work on rebuilding, would mean a quick death.

Sure, there are holes. That's what rebuilding is about. You see what you've got, and fill in the gaps. Coming up is a prime time to finish the launch pad.

Bautista has proven himself.
Romero is our ace.

Does a Darvish help? Maybe. Of course, he hasn't played a lick in the Majors yet. Maybe he gets 18-20 wins. Maybe. After all, we play the Yankees, Sox, or Rays seemingly every other series. That replaces 6 wins from one of our 3-5 starters, so a net gain of 12-14 wins. Or the wild card spot.  Or maybe he's only solid in this division and pulls under 15 wins... also known as still 4th place.

But can't we get those wins elsewhere? Morrow is a strikeout machine behind Romero. Cecil and Alvarez pretty much have 3 and 4 locked up in the rotation, and Alvarez could do some damage with a full season.  Does McGowan make it back to be #5? Does he steal #2? Is Drabek mature enough to get in there? Can Arencibia follow up a fantastic rookie campaign in 2012? He's got Mathis to mentor him, and d'Arnaud coming up the ranks to light a fire. Escobar has become a solid shortstop when nobody was looking.

What about the close games? Oh, Cordero and Santos are the setup man and closer for this year, new to the team and getting on in years, but we don't want them forever, we just need them to fill their roles. Neither is going to overpower, but I'm thinking Santos has a pretty good ground ball crew behind him. They add to the veteran presence that is slowly being installed behind the young guns to provide experience, mentorship, and calm. If we get some protection behind Bautista, there's no telling where his numbers go.

Which brings me to Brett Lawrie. A Canadian boy who has "5-tools" bandied about him all the time. All I can say is that he has superstar written all over him. Sitting 20 rows behind home plate I watched this guy step up to bat and was blown away. Intensity radiated off him, and the crowd was louder than I've heard it in a long time. The kid's young, but has shown every bit of willingness to do what's asked.I watched him with the bases loaded, every muscle tensed, his bat quivering.  I turned to the guy next to me and said, "this is going out or he's striking out in 3 pitches."  1st pitch - ball. I was shocked this young guy had the wherewithal to hold off. Then he cranked it out of the park for the Grand Slam. The roof blew off the place in a nothing game with tons of empty seats. If he keeps his head in check, he's going places.  And he's the type of player who will bring the city along with him.

Then there's the talk of Votto. Some think it's a foregone conclusion that he'll be here in the next couple years. A Toronto native. An established powerhouse. And again, exactly the type of player this city will pay heed to. He'd be a good fit, and it's a move I'd keep an eye on.  Probably not this season though.

There's plenty of weak spots still - middle relief is better but still a question mark. Only two pitchers last year saw double-digit wins. Can Lind finally be consistent? Can Rasmus get his head screwed on the right way? Will Snider even sniff the bigs again? Can the team get a damned batting average? .249 is pathetic, and only Bautista was over .300.  The right side of the infield could use a bit of spackle too.

I said .500 would make me happy last year. The Jays obliged and nailed that number. This year I expect some surprises, and assuming general good health, a better record. They aren't winning the division this year.They might be fighting for a wild card spot. At the very least, I expect the Jays will have the adjective "surprising" put in front of them more than a few times.

Also, going back to the old logo is a nice touch. It's far better than everything since.

Wasting Away

According to the multiple apps I enter my weight into daily, it's been 40 days since I declared I was going to lose some of this middle section of me.

40 days. 5 5/7 weeks. 4 lbs. 0.7lbs/week.

The goal was 0.5 lbs per week, so I'm ahead of schedule! The Superbowl jammed me back up, but that was gone a week later.

It's odd doing this slow-and-steady method. I'm not exercising any more, but I'm definitely eating way less crap. I look at a bag of chips and can only taste the grease. I feel like a pop and I can taste the sugar. If I want some candy, I have a little bit of chocolate or some flavoured hunk of sugar and move on.  My candy jar at work has been empty since the new year.  My trips to pick up snacks downstairs have become a rare occurrence, and even then I return with peanuts, almonds, or dried fruit.

I have a lot more salads, wraps, sandwiches, and soups.  The Greek, Thai, and burger places around around here have forgotten what I look like.

At home, I still cook - chili this weekend. Also applesauce to save some apples that were on their way to inedible. Oh, and I whipped up a batch of an attempt at Ben & Jerry's Cool Britannia for a friend (and also me), but switched the cream/milk proportions (and added more yolk) to cut the fat.  Portions of that will be still be small.  But of course, anything I make at home will be far healthier than whatever pre-made stuff I could pick up. After all, it's "real" food.

The only really successful attempt at weight loss in my past was comparatively rapid. 15 lbs in 3 months, daily exercise and extensive calorie counting. I kept that weight off for a year, and then very slowly gained it back over 4-5 years, then passed it, then kept going.  11 lbs more to lose before I'm back to that old high.  Then 10 more before I hit my current goal. Maybe I'll aim for another 5 after that.

This time I'm hoping the long-view attempt at weight loss will result in it staying off - because I'll have spent a year eating healthier, and getting my body off the crap I would think nothing about eating.

I know that at some point I'll plateau. My body will hit an equilibrium where just cutting the crap won't result in weight loss. That's when I'll try and start getting the daily exercise routine back into play to keep on track.

Friday, February 10, 2012


This etherspace isn't the only thing I need to renovate in my life.

There's also my home. Or more specifically, my kitchen.

I bought my place 7 years ago. Hell, just over exactly 7 years ago.  The plan then was for 5 years, then I'd rent it out and find something more permanent. What I didn't anticipate is loving the convenience of being smack in the middle of downtown, with more space than I need, in a great older building. As it stands, all I'd be interested in for moving purposes would be if my unit, only 7 or 8 floors higher went up for sale at a reasonable price.

That said, with a 5 years, then rent plan, I skimped on the renos when I moved in. I stripped the bathrooms to the walls and rebuilt them, stained the floor, and put in new tile, cheap countertop, and backsplash in the kitchen. The plan was to reface the cabinets, but that never happened.

Now, it's all starting to bite me in the ass.

The bathrooms are generally holding up - except for perhaps the need to replace the showerheads.  The floor is fine, if a but scuffed in places.  A year or so ago I tore out the carpet from the bedrooms and put in hardwood. That's all good.

But the kitchen... oh the kitchen.

A couple years back the faucet exploded. Lucky me - lifetime warranty, new faucet head. But now the unreplaced parts are weakening.  The cabinets are literally falling off.  Their hinges coming loose after 30 years of existence.  The handles are ripping out of the doors. The microwave decided it didn't want to open any more. The handle on the stove is sitting in the pantry now. I don't even want to look in the range hood for fear that years of grease has become sentient and just wants to be left alone. In short, I fully expect the whole thing to collapse around me in the middle of preparing a meal.

So the process to renovate has begun in earnest. I met with a kitchen company last week, and have a meeting with an independent contractor tonight.  I'm leaning to the latter option as he's come recommended, seems friendly, and has been open about seeing his current projects, past work, meeting the crew, etc..

Place will be demolished to the walls. New cabinets, new stone countertops, new appliances, raise the drop ceiling and put in new lights, new floor, new backsplash, new paint, new everything.

It's something I both love and hate. Hate because it's stressful. Picking cabinets, countertops, appliances, colours, etc.. Talking to 3 different people about what can and can't be torn out. Putting together the application to condo management. Eventually I'll be given an estimate and that will be fun.  But then, new stuff! Induction stovetop with double oven and built-in probe thermometer! Fancy new fridge! Schmancy dishwasher! Convection microwave! Quartz everywhere! No more 1981 cabinets! In the end, it will be totally worth it.

So, any suggestions?

I guess I'll have to host another dinner sometime.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Better Way

This is Toronto-centric. Also, it's long. Leave now if you don't care.

Yesterday, an astounding example of community activism and municipal democracy happened in my fair city.  But first, some background.

Our previous city government, under mayor David Miller, approved the most ambitious transit plan that Toronto has seen in decades. Ours is a city of the car - gridlock during the day, poor bike infrastructure, 3 subway lines, and a bunch of streetcars and buses. The Transit City plan would use LRT lines to expand this infrastructre - replacing a line at the end of its life (Scarborough RT), replacing a dozen bus lines with one contiguous rapid transit line (Eglinton), providing those with the worst commute in the city with a sleek new system (Finch), and extending other lines to the people who needed them.  Environmental assessments were done, provincial funding was guaranteed to the tune of $8.4 billion, and while some compromises had to be found, it was full steam ahead to finally expand a system that had only seen a stub of a subway line added in the previous 30 years of explosive growth.

If it all worked out, even more ambitious plans were in the works - a downtown relief line, extensions to University and College campuses that are currently a pain to get to, connections to major attractions and the airport. In short, what would eventually be better access through one of North America's largest cities.

Then came Rob Ford. Our current buffoon of a mayor. He campaigned on "ending the gravy train" at City Hall. He promised those wonderful "efficiencies" that are all the rage but never really found.  He also promised a subway to our eastern wing, Scarborough.  A subway that would run along a stretch where the density is far too low to support such a system. Hell, they build a Sheppard subway in the 90's that they considered closing in the 2000's because ridership was so low.  He wanted to extend that mistake.

So day 1 in office, he "cancelled" Transit City. A plan, that while not perfect, was our best hope for comprehensive transit in our lifetimes. A project that was fully funded, fully supported, and where DIGGING HAD ALREADY STARTED.  Why? He wanted a subway to Scarborough. Fuck the rest of the city.

So he marched to our Provincial leader and demanded they let him have his way. They acquiesced - an election was coming after all, the world was jerking to the right, and Ford had some sort of inexplicable momentum behind him.

So work stopped. The organization in charge looked at alternatives. Ford demanded that the $8.4 billion, instead of building 2 new lines, replacing a 3rd, and extending a 4th, all be dumped into burying the Eglinton line and replacing the Scarborough RT. Because that's how much it would cost to take a reasonable plan for that street (buried for a bunch, surface route in lower-density areas) into a "subway".  I guess it beat his alternative - the whole kitty into the subway to the east that would be underutilized for 50 years.

But all was not lost! No! He also was going to find magic beans he called "private sector money" to pay for his glorious Sheppard subway to Scarborough. Of course, nobody in the private sector had been consulted. Nobody had done a study to see if it was even feasible. But dammit, Rob Ford felt it in his gut, so it would be!

Except it wasn't. Instead of a proper feasibility study, he asked one lackey to put together a report. This guy came up with "yah, it could happen. If we have road tolls to pay for 60% of it." Road tolls being anathema to politicians in this city. I dunno, New York seems to get by with them. I hear  London has adapted too.

Anyway, along with this report came a legal decision that another councillor had asked for. A prominent legal firm here determined that no, Rob Ford was not, in fact, a king. He couldn't unilaterally cancel a plan that had been approved by the council. The council had to vote on it.

Drats! Democracy again?

And that was the release on the giant boulder at the top of the ramp. Within days of this opinion being released, Ford's plans were being squashed. Karen Stintz, former Ford lackey who he had hand-picked to head up our Transit Commission turned on him. She presented a compromise! A COMPROMISE! THE HEATHEN! She suggested that maybe Eglinton could be unburied a little bit. Not as much as originally, but also not all underground. It could save $2 billion that could restore some of the other plans a bit, and give Ford a boost for his white elephant subway.

The response? NO! NO! NO! Ford gets tantrumy (as is his wont) and his lapdogs on the TTC board turn on their leader and vote her down.

So she says, fine... I tried to be nice.

She gathered up more than half the councillors and had them sign a petition to call a special meeting of council. This is an exceedingly rare occurrence. I'm not entirely sure it's EVER happened before. This meeting was to put forth the original plan in all its glory for final approval. Mayor be damned.


Or something to that effect.

The councillors approached him right up the last minute, offering compromises that would still make him look good. There could still be a subway! Just make an allowance here so the poor (literally) people on Finch can get to work faster.  He refused.

So yesterday, the full council met, made speeches, pleas, and motions. Even then, a compromise was made - Sheppard was left off the table. It would be further explored to see if a subway made sense. Rob still bitched. He tried to get the whole thing delayed - that was defeated quickly, and he disappeared for hours afterwards.

His yes-people spewed blatant lies and the same old misinformation to try and swing the vote and instill fear. They read letters from citizens that sounded hand-written by the mayor himself so effusive of his plan were they.  Those who supported the original plan spoke clearly, used facts, and even a bit of sarcasm and humour to shoot down their opponents. They swayed a couple more votes in the process, and in the end, 58% of the council voted to approve the original plan, and tell the mayor to go fuck himself.  In far more political language of course.

So naturally, the mayor called the meeting "irrelevant", his #1 fluffer said the meeting was an exercise in ramming things down their throats.  Some of his supporters looked a bit ashamed that they were following such a moron who had no respect for democracy.  Some claimed the mayor and the province should just ignore the wishes of council. After all, the mayor was elected, so people want what he wants. The rest of council, also elected and representing citizens, be damned.

Then, our esteemed mayor went out the broke-down, soon-to-be-replaced Scarborough RT and rode it. He asked people if they'd rather a subway than that piece of crap. Unsurprisingly, they said yes. Of course, he didn't ask if they'd rather have ANYTHING other than that piece of crap.  It was a publicity stunt that screamed of desperation.

But, to the chagrin of him, and joy of more than him - the province came out almost immediately and essentially said "We will do what council wants, not one man."

So, now the next step comes. Metrolinx (the overseeing organization) now has to figure out the logistics. The TTC has to move forward with them. The mayor will likely try a few more things to stop it, but for now, the will of the people and their representatives seem strong.  People are fed up with a 3rd-rate transit system in a gridlocked city.

This mayor has been a disgrace, and embarrassment, and a fool. We have him for almost 3 more years. But his defeats are starting to pile up as the level of political activism in my fair city continues to rise. People are involved in the process in a way never before seen. They've realized that their voice counts, and that they can bring change where they want it.  Either Ford has to learn to accept compromises, or he has to get used to losing. His "Ford Nation" is now a small island, and it's shrinking.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Oscar-Winning Annoyance

I suppose I could put this on Filmchaw too, but it's more rant than review.

TIFF runs more than their big annual festival in these parts. They have a rather impressive tower now that houses theatres, workshops, a gallery, and other film-related stuff. In many ways, it's a year-round festival of various films and concepts.

They've just started this season's various series(es?), one of which is Food on Film. This series consists of 6 films about food, followed by a Q&A with a chef of some fame.

Last night kicked off with Babette's Feast and a Q&A with Scott Conant (owns Scarpetta, judges on Chopped, been on Top Chef).  The movie won the best foreign film Oscar for a reason.  Conant gets on TV for a reason. These two things were able to drag this first event above its two shortcomings.

First, the good. Babette's Feast is a Danish film about a small, remote, fishing village/religious sect.  The people live a pious life with little luxury. Meals are a mush of bread and ale, or saltfish soup.  Along comes Babette, a French woman escaping the French revolution of the mid 1800's.  She slowly adjusts these simple meals - a little bacon, a spring of rosemary, some onions. Nothing much, just enough that the locals notice and appreciate it.

Then an anniversary comes up and she offers to make a French feast for the village. This brings up questions of spiritual devotion among the faithful, and memories of one man's greatest meal ever. It's a hell of a feast, and a great piece of film-making.  If you can take subtitles, don't mind a slow start, and like food - it's a must-see.

After the film, Conant showed himself to be affable, confident (almost to the point of arrogant, but not quite in that annoying way), gracious, and a good interview.  Sadly, Jason Bangerter, the executive chef of the TIFF restaurants isn't much of an interviewer.

The night started with the resident Chef receiving an introduction that seemed to go on forever. Every restaurant he worked at was listed in detail. I'm surprised it didn't start with "His first dish was a sublime scrambled egg he made whilst still in utero".  By the end of the celebration of Bangerter, you'd think the guy was the second coming of Joël Robuchon. In comparison, Conant was practically introduced as "some guy who cooks."  I'm not sure how you get away with talking up the interviewer more than the guest.

Bangerter's interview style was very much the "I ask a question, you respond, then I move to the next with wooden grace" style.  Rarely was it conversational, nor did he seem able to follow up on interesting answers.  Or if he did, it was in the middle of another answer, as if it took 2 or 3 minutes for what he heard to sink in. Considering this should be a meeting of peers, where the insights of an accomplished chef add to the observations of a celebrity chef regarding a movie about food, it fell flat. I hope he improves as the series goes on.

But that was overshadowed by the woman in my vicinity who wouldn't shut up. Before the movie, during the movie, during the Q&A, it was an endless stream of patronizing pedantry and agonizing arrogance spewing from her.  "Oh, I'm only seeing this one, because none of the other films hold any interest at all for me."  "That's a black truffle." (said in the "how can he not know that?" tone when an audience member was asking a question).  Commentary loud enough to drown out the dialogue of the film. The ire was already rising by the time she took the mic for the Q&A and felt she had to correct an audience member, and both executive chefs on the stage with this stunning piece:

"It wasn't a cow's head. It was a calf's head."

Thanks. The world needed that minutiae shared. I suppose her point was it was veal demi-glaçe and not a beef one, but throw in the attitude and audacity and I wanted to tear into her. THEN she gets into an "argument" about women in the kitchen with Conant. Her point, "Woman have always been a force in the kitchen in Italy."  This was in regards to an earlier discussion about how women are becoming more prevalent in restaurant kitchens in North America.  Conant's response was along the lines of, "I wouldn't limit it to Italy. There are amazing female chefs in Spain, Hong Kong. Michelin Star chefs. There's one that is easily one of the top 50 in the world in Italy and everyone should try her food if they have the chance."  In short, he agreed and expanded. She came back with "No, but I'm talking Italy. Like, if you go back a few years, they've been big in Italy."  It was like she was expecting an argument and didn't know how to deal with agreement. An obviously annoyed Conant came back with "Sure, there was Catherine de' Medici if you really want to go back."

As she spoke, the nails-on-chalkboard annoyance across the room was palpable.  I'm incredibly happy she won't be at any future screenings in the series.I also gave an internal cheer when she was, once again, answering audience questions to nobody in particular and was just wrong enough to be wrong. [under her breath loud enough for everyone in a two row radius to hear] "It was sour cream."  [Conant] "That was crème fraiche."

But despite these unsavoury aspects, the film and guest were able to elevate the experience. It's a solid concept for a series, and I look forward to the upcoming films. After all, you can't control who buys a ticket.