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Sean Montgomery

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Kingsman: The Secret Service [Mar. 1st, 2015|11:27 am]
Sean Montgomery
All last week, Karen had had a craving for Ethiopian food, and so a dinner at Lalibela was arranged for last night with our friends Dennis and Lissa. And then that plan expanded into dinner-and-a-movie. Karen asked if there was anything out that I was interested in seeing, and I mentioned that a few of my friends on Facebook had been saying positive things about Kingsman. Dennis was immediately on board for that plan, and so that's what we did.

My review? Overall, it was a lot of fun. Simultaneously an homage to and a parody of 1960s spy stories (James Bond, The Avengers), shows which I enjoyed watching as a kid. Throw in a bit of Men in Black, a dash of My Fair Lady, and some topical social commentary. Some Colin Firth playing a pretty convincing bad-ass, and a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. I wish I could say that I loved it without reservations. But with me being me, I couldn't let some things go.

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Brief Dad Crisis [Mar. 1st, 2015|10:16 am]
Sean Montgomery
Friday afternoon, my mother sent me a message at work through Facebook which began with the words: "Hi Sean, an update on Dad. They have finally moved him out of the emergency area..." And my first response was 'what?' What emergency area...since when? It turned out that my mother had phoned our home land line on Wednesday, and left a message saying that my father had started violently vomiting after dinner and producing blood. He'd been taken to St Joseph's hospital and diagnosed with a case of pancreatitis. I didn't know this because I let Karen check our home phone messages, and we get so few that she'll go 2-3 days without listening to them.

Anyway, I stopped by the hospital after work on Friday, and my father was doing fine. Dosed with morphine, and already being given some solid food again. He's being sent home today. No word on what may have caused the inflammation...it certainly wasn't excessive alcohol consumption, and doesn't appear to have been gallstones. But he's okay now, so that's the main thing.
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(no subject) [Aug. 31st, 2014|10:15 am]
Sean Montgomery
I had a dream about school last night, for the first time in a while. Probably triggered by a conversation I was having at a party last night, about how September feels more like 'New Years' than January does - since all those years of schooling made me permanently associate the month with new beginnings. Details of the dream are kind of fuzzy now, and it really made no sense. A series of unconnected episodes. I was back at Queen's University. In one part of it, it was the first day of classes, and I entered a studio space, where everyone was picking a standing easel to work at. But I was too slow and ended up having to use a seated 'donkey' easel instead. Then I looked at my schedule and discovered that I was in the wrong classroom anyway...this was a first year class, I should be with 4th years (although I think it may also have been a realization that I shouldn't be there at all, because I has already graduated). In another part of the dream, I was looking forward to showing my new paintings to my professor, because I had been feeling inspired and I thought it was good work. And at the end, I was somehow flying in the air above Ontario Hall (the building where my art classes were), and I could see smoke rising from it. I landed by the front doors, which were stuck shut, and pulled them open - allowing people to escape.

There was also another dream last night that I remember even less about...it seemed influenced by Lord of the Rings. There was some king-ly character (like Theoden) who was trying to lead a charge into battle, but he couldn't run because he was starting to turn into a tree.

I wish I remembered more of my dreams!
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(no subject) [Jun. 1st, 2014|10:30 am]
Sean Montgomery
Okay, these 'improvements' to Livejournal are getting ridiculous. Now, when I look at my friends' feed, it's squeezed down to just 1/3 of the frame, with a second third reserved for widgets I don't use, and the final third empty. I tried finding a settings feature where I could change this, but I can't find one. So annoying.
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(no subject) [May. 29th, 2014|12:14 am]
Sean Montgomery
I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I've been back on the 60 hour a week work schedule for the past month. And I can't even talk about what the project is. Well...one more week of overtime next week, and then I anticipate getting a little 'furlough' time before I start on the next season of Thomas and Friends. Then, I'll be able to write a proper update.
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Finding Vivian Maier [Apr. 6th, 2014|02:15 pm]
Sean Montgomery
About a year ago, I saw the trailer for a forthcoming documentary (funded through Kickstarter), titled 'Finding Vivian Maier'. It caught my attention for two reasons. First, the story was intriguing. John Maloof, president of the Jefferson Park historical society on Chicago’s Northwest Side, decided that he wanted to write a book about the neighbourhood; and as part of that process he went looking for vintage photographs. In 2007, this brought him to an auction where he took a chance on a box full of negatives priced at $400. Unfortunately, a quick glance at what he had didn't reveal anything relevant to his project, and he put them aside. Then, a while later, he pulled out the box again and began scanning some of those negatives. And what he saw is the second reason the film caught my eye: the photos were amazing.

All Maloof knew was that the photos had been taken by someone named Vivian Maier. There was no information on Google about her. She had never shown any of her work publicly. Who was this woman? Answering that question led him to make the film. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but I was unable to get a ticket. Thankfully, it's finally making its way onto theatres, and Karen and I got to see it on Friday.

As it turns out, there's quite a bit to the story, and I found it to be rather fascinating. Maloof returned to the auction house where he'd obtained the original box of Maier negatives, and began doing deals with other people who had scooped up her work (edit: I just read an interview today in which Maloof indicated that he had to pay increasingly large amounts of money for the other photos, as word started to get out about her. One collector has already begun publishing some of the images). By the time Maloof was done, he had assembled some 150,000 images (which represents about 90% of Maier's pictures). Them, in 2009, he tried another Google search on Vivian Maier....and this time, he got a hit: her obituary notice. Maier had died in April of that year.

Maloof was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The boxes of negatives contained receipts with street addresses (it seemed that Maier had been something of a pack rat). Maloof checked out one of the addresses, and the family who lived there knew Maier: she had been their children's nanny. For that is what Maier did for her entire adult life: look after children. Now, two storage lockers full of her possessions were about to be thrown in the trash, so Maloof took possession of that material as well. In them were stacks and stacks of newspapers, 16mm films, and hundreds and hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film.

Maloof wound up meeting and interviewing most of the kids that Maier had nannied for, and a more detailed portrait comes together. She'd been born in New York, but her parents separated while she was still a young child, and she wound up spending the first years of her life in a small village up in the French Alps. She was blunt, inquisitive, and politically left-wing.

Now, at this point, your enjoyment of the film may vary. Clearly, she had been an intensely private person, keeping her possessions and her photographs locked up and out of sight. She never married or had any romances, had no close friends, no local family. How would she have reacted to this kind of prying? Not well, one would think. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Maier was a full-on hoarder, who became increasingly reclusive and paranoid in later life. A couple of people opine on camera that there surely must have been some deep trauma in her childhood, or some degree of mental illness, to account for her behaviour. For some, this kind of speculation may be a bridge too far. Karen, for instance, was mostly just interested in the photos themselves, and didn't need to know all about the artist. But for me (as someone who likes puzzles, and understanding what makes people tick) it was fascinating. And it relates to my opinion about good art: it's not just about being able to accurately draw something, or create an appealing arrangement of colours. It's about communication. It's about being able to see the world through the eyes of another human being, and feel a connection with that person, or with the subject of the work itself. And Maier's work does that expertly. She did most of her shooting with a Rolleflex camera which hung on a strap at waist level - so they're shot from the eye level of a child. For me, this makes her compositions remind me of childhood memories, from when my family lived in Montreal. And knowing more about the circumstances of Maier's life helps me to appreciate the possible meaning behind her choices in subject matter, and feel a deeper connection with it. It can be appreciated in human terms, not just in formal ones.

It's certainly a shame that Maier was never recognized in her own lifetime. She died penniless and alone. Maloof's mission to bring her work to light seems to be driven by genuine appreciation, but he is also the financial beneficiary, as books and prints of her pictures get published. Still, at least we have the work now.
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The Ice Storm [Dec. 22nd, 2013|09:04 pm]
Sean Montgomery
All week long, weather forecasts were warning that a storm was coming our way for this weekend, and that depending on temperatures it could bring as much as 20 cm of snow. Well, as it turned out, temperatures hovered right around the freezing mark - creating the perfect conditions for an ice storm. It rained through most of Saturday, and the precipitation began to freeze on contact with everything it touched. Karen and I were supposed to attend Raquel's annual 'Roast Beast Feast' last night, but as our departure time approached, the roads were becoming treacherous, and we knew the situation would be worse by the time we'd be heading home. So we cancelled. In hindsight, we probably would have made it home okay, but it's best to be safe. Because when we woke up this morning, things were pretty bad indeed. Two trees across the street from us had come down, and the cars were coated in half an inch of ice. We had power, but checking the news revealed that hundreds of thousands of others in the area were not so lucky. In other words, a good day to stay home, and that's just what we did. Eventually, we ventured out to clear the sidewalk and driveway. Thankfully, Karen had a spade for the task, because the plastic shovels weren't going to cut it. To clear the cars, we poured buckets of hot water onto the windows and the tops of doors. Eventually, we got the job done.
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Found [Oct. 1st, 2013|10:17 am]
Sean Montgomery
Karen just messaged me. The police called, and Karen's mom was located alive and well on Manitoulin Island. She'll be home in a few days. Very strange.
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Book Meme [Dec. 27th, 2012|10:41 am]
Sean Montgomery
1. What are you reading right now?
I have two books on my night stand: 'This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly', by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff; and 'Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012', by Mickey Huff and Andy Roth. I started the first of those about three weeks ago and found it a bit dry, which allowed me to be quickly distracted by the latter (which I'm actively reading).

2. What did you last finish reading?
'Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt', by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. A clever blend of Hedges' prose and Sacco's illustrations, it looks at capitalism's 'sacrifice zones' across the United States (including Camden New Jersey, and the coal mining operations of West Virginia). I recommend it.

3. What will you read next?
Too many choices! Either 'The Untold History of the United States' by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, or 'The Energy of Slaves: Oil and The New Servitude' by Andrew Nikiforuk. I'll probably wind up jumping back and forth between them, as I often do with books.
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Dispatch From Cancún [Nov. 15th, 2012|11:24 am]
Sean Montgomery
Karen and I have been in Cancún Mexico since Sunday, and I'm finally getting around to saying something about that topic. Not that there's too much to report. The trip has been marked primarily by massive amounts of sloth, interspersed with periods of eating. Which is precisely what Karen and I both needed. Well, the sloth part, anyway.

This time around, I booked with Sunwing Vacations instead of Westjet, since it saved a couple of bucks. Unfortunately, the jet we were on was an older model with cramped, uncomfortable seating - which made the flight down feel longer than it was. On the plus side, they had a free in-flight meal (a serviceable pasta dish). Back on the negative side: the movie shown was 'The Magic Of Belle Isle'. Next time, we're switching back to Westjet.

While waiting for the plane in Toronto, I was reminded of how the airport falls down in comparison with other big hubs (Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, even Charlotte). A ton of money was spent on the huge new terminal building, but the shopping and dining options are seriously lacking. We didn't have time for breakfast, and all that was available at the airport were muffins and bagels from Tim Hortons.

We were greeted by gorgeous weather, as expected. While we had to wait almost half an hour for our shuttle van to arrive, we didn't mind too much. The drive to the resort took us through the heart of Cancun's hotel district, and we passed the infamous Coco Bongo. I actually appreciate that our resort is out of the city. I prefer the quiet here.

As we arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and were greated by the customary cool towels, glasses of champagne, and scent of citronella candles in the lobby, I was curious to see what would happen at check-in. Would they recognize us as repeat customers? Would there be free upgrades offered? Alas, no. But we got the room we wanted. They'd booked us into a room near the central pool, but we asked for and got a swim-out by the spa instead - which we appreciate for...you guessed it...the quiet. After dropping our bags, we headed out to get a little snack: a basket of tasty nachos.

The following day, there was acknowledgement of our loyalty to the resort - the manager sent up a bottle of champagne, and a gift bag containing a ball cap, polo shirt and tote bag. Nice! One issue: Karen wanted the bag and cap, leaving me with the shirt...but it was a Medium size. I requested a Large, but was told that they didn't have any available. No biggie. There was also a selection of full-size liquor bottles in our room (no extra charge)...I don't remember that from last year.

The only real thinking we have to do down here is where to go for dinner each night. We started with the Mexican restaurant, which had refreshed its menu since last year. Previously, they had offered a selection of 'Tex-Mex' dishes, but those were scrapped in favour of more traditional offerings...a move I had no problem with. I can get Chimichangas at home anytime. I had some Yucatan style chicken, which was pretty good - but our order was a bit late coming out because we arrived at the same time as a big corporate group (From 'Medieval Times', I believe...which is a business partner with the company that owns the resort). We hustled back to the room so I could catch the Monday night shows on Strangeways radio, and I used room service to order some chocolate cake for dessert. Such luxury!

Tuesday, we returned to the French restaurant that we'd enjoyed last year. I feasted on quiche and filet mignon, with creme brule for dessert. Awww, yeah. And last night we tried their tapas restaurant, 'Flavour Market'. It was a pleasant surprise...some really delicious offerings. Alas, service was pretty slow there too...but hey, we're on vacation, so what's the rush - right? :)

Yesterday, I wandered over to the activity board to see what was going on, and decided to partake in the game of bingo going on by the pool. Instead of numbers, the caller was pulling flash cards with pictures of Mexican flora and fauna. Three rounds were played, with each one yielding a bigger prize bag. Winners were commanded to call out the phrase 'Bingo Bingo, papasito Edwinsito (the caller's name), in Cancun we shake it like a boom-boom-boom'. Players who said the phrase incorrectly were subjected to 'punishment': having to get up and dance in front of everyone. And I wound up winning the final round, which required a full bingo card. My prize was a polo shirt exactly like the one I won at music trivia last year...and a gift card for a free 'marine wellness' treatment at the spa! *That* was unexpected. I let Karen have it, and her appointment is at 4 p.m.

I do wish we had come down for 7 days instead of 5. While Karen and I miss the dogs, I'm really enjoying this downtime. Although I suspect if I stayed here for much longer I'd wind up weighing 300 lbs! I think we might try another resort next time. We *do* like it here, but I wouldn't mind investigating other options...maybe a place close to some Mayan ruins, so we'd actually get off our asses for a couple of hours.

While I know that I tend to be happier and more relaxed when I stick to a vacation 'media fast', I haven't been sticking to that this time. We've watched some CNN, and I've been browsing my usual circuit of depressing news websites. I have so far been successful at restraining myself from posting snarky comments on the Facebook walls of Jewish friends who are busy repeating Israeli propaganda about their latest bombardment of Gaza. And yes, I have also been unsuccessful at avoiding Facebook. But it's fun for me, so what the hell.
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