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Sandan

Judo Cana­da has rat­i­fied it, so it’s offi­cial: I have my san­dan rank. In Eng­lish, I have my 3rd degree black belt in judo.

For this one, I had to learn (or per­haps re-learn is a bet­ter way to put it) the katame-no-kata, aka the ground­work kata. I quite like it, and hope to sharp­en it up for pos­si­ble com­pe­ti­tion.

Thanks to all who have sup­port­ed me along the way.

Christmas movies

still from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Is Die Hard the best Christ­mas movie? I dun­no, I’ve always leaned toward The Night­mare Before Christ­mas*, myself.

But this arti­cle makes a com­pelling point for oth­ers, too. I just re-watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in the sum­mer­time, dur­ing my writ­ing retreat. (How is that five months ago already? Man, time flies.)

[M]ost of his films [have a] fairy-tale like sheen, sim­i­lar to what makes Die Hard so suc­cess­ful. And mak­ing it Christ­mas in L.A. (which the major­i­ty of his films do), offers a dif­fer­ent sen­si­bil­i­ty to the use of the hol­i­day on film.

—Emi­ly Ash­er-Per­rin, Die Hard is Great, but Shane Black is the King of Christ­mas Explo­sions

* Oh who am I kid­ding? Night­mare is sec­ond; A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas is first, even if it’s only about half an hour long.

Arabian Stars & Constellations

A fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle on the Plan­e­tary Soci­ety web­site: Whose Stars? Our her­itage of Ara­bi­an astron­o­my:

Gre­co-Mesopotami­an con­stel­la­tion fig­ures bear Latin names. Their bright­est stars are des­ig­nat­ed with let­ters of the Greek alpha­bet, yet most of them bear prop­er names that derive from Ara­bic. Even so, many of these star names are Ara­bic descrip­tions of Greek con­stel­la­tion fig­ures, not Ara­bi­an ones.

Learn more about the Ara­bi­an star and con­stel­la­tion names, like, for instance, ath-Thu­raya (aka the Pleiades) and her Hands (one ampu­tat­ed, one hen­na-dyed), Alde­baran (the Fol­low­er), al-Jawza’ and the Shi’ra sis­ters, and more.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing, and at least part of the rea­son I’m post­ing this is to book­mark the arti­cle for lat­er re-read­ing. I think it might be a use­ful thing for a sci­ence-fic­tion writer to know about.

Head­er image: Pleiades (or I guess ath-Thu­raya), tak­en by me in 2015.

Geminids

In the pho­to above, I caught what I think was a C-130 Her­cules turn­ing. I think the mil­i­tary might have been doing some flight train­ing.

I caught a few mete­ors on cam­era tonight. It was mild in town, but the wind out in the coun­try made it very cold.

I think I might have seen more mete­ors than I pho­tographed, actu­al­ly. They were all over the sky. And even the bright­est two, in the pho­tos below, bare­ly show up.

I guess I’ve got some more learn­ing to do about shoot­ing mete­or show­ers.

 

The Old Man and the Gun

Still from The Old Man and the Gun

Last week­end I watched The Old Man and the Gun at the Evans The­atre. I loved it.



For­rest Tuck­er (played by Robert Red­ford) robs banks. We meet him as he’s rob­bing the lat­est one. He’s polite, he’s charm­ing, he’s got a gun that he shows the man­ag­er (but that we don’t actu­al­ly see till much lat­er). He makes his get­away, and after he’s switched cars he spies a truck bro­ken down on the side of the road. It’s dri­ven by Jew­el (Sis­sy Spacek), whom he offers a ride home (after the cop cars go scream­ing by, hunt­ing a get­away car he’s no longer dri­ving).

For­rest is in a gang with Ted­dy (Dan­ny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). The media dubs them the Over-the-Hill Gang. They don’t seem to need to rob banks, not for the mon­ey, at least; they seem to enjoy it.

(Aside: Teddy’s tragi­com­ic Christ­mas sto­ry was my favourite scene in the movie. It’s got noth­ing to do with the sto­ry, but it says some­thing about his char­ac­ter.)

Round­ing out the sto­ry is the police offi­cer John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who is deter­mined he’s going to be the one to nail the Over-the-Hill Gang. Will he suc­ceed? Will our plucky anti-heroes get away with their next heist? Will For­rest and Jewel’s meet-cute turn into some­thing deep­er? Watch the movie to find out. It’s worth it.

Few things in this movie are stat­ed out­right. What appears at first glance to be an old-timey hear­ing aid is more like­ly a police-radio scan­ner, and this rev­e­la­tion makes it eas­i­er to under­stand how Tuck­er man­ages his get­away in the open­ing scenes. As men­tioned, we don’t actu­al­ly see his gun for quite some time, and it’s unclear by the end of the film if he’s ever even loaded it, much less fired it. One of the cen­tre­piece heists isn’t even shown on-screen; we see a bit of the plan­ning, a lot of hand-wring­ing by the Over-the-Hillers (“Can we even do it? Is it worth try­ing? I can’t run near as fast as I used to”, etc), and then a news report about the crime as Tuck­er puts the loot into its hid­ing place.

It’s a fun movie, a fun­ny movie, and a sneaky, sly movie. I loved it.

I read recent­ly that Robert Red­ford decid­ed to retire after mak­ing The Old Man and the Gun because he want­ed to go out on a fun movie. I think he did a fine job.

Sunday morning police blotter

Police Car -- from Unsplash

This past Sun­day I had to run a cou­ple errands. As I left the house, I noticed there was a police car parked fac­ing the wrong way on the street in front of the house a cou­ple doors down.

When I returned there were about four police cars. I went up the back alley, plan­ning to loop around and park in front of my house. But there was police tape strung across the back lane, and anoth­er police vehi­cle block­ing the way. I backed out and parked fur­ther up my block. I made a men­tal note to check the police web­site lat­er, to see if there were any details in the dai­ly media release as to just what was going on.

Well, there were:

On Sun­day morn­ing at approx­i­mate­ly 07:52am, Police were request­ed to attend to a res­i­dence in [my block] for a female who had been stabbed mul­ti­ple times in the arms, legs and mid-sec­tion. Police learned sev­er­al items includ­ing the victim’s vehi­cle were stolen at the same time. Police believed two male sus­pects were involved [note: turned out it was a sin­gle sus­pect] and may be armed with firearm. […] At approx­i­mate­ly 6:10pm, the sus­pect was observed leav­ing the res­i­dence on [anoth­er street]. Police con­duct­ed a high risk vehi­cle stop and the sus­pect was arrest­ed.

—Police media release

So yeah. Wow.

Pho­to by Tam­my Gann on Unsplash. Not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the police cars around town.

Stairs

You go up, you go down.

I saw this stair­way on Twit­ter, and thought it looked, well, amaz­ing. It made me nos­tal­gic for the stairs in my child­hood home, to wit:

Dad made the ris­ers. They’re var­nished wood, crazy slip­pery in sock feet, shaped like the end of a canoe pad­dle. The cen­tral col­umn, if I recall cor­rect­ly, was weld­ed by a close fam­i­ly friend, Gilles.

Man, I loved those stairs. They were the best.