Tuesday, March 23, 2010

House Buying

We found a place we liked a lot. It's got a lot of light, the second floor is the bedroom with a railing and no walls so it's wide open. The spare room/office in the back has a closed door. It's got two bathrooms and lots of nice new hardwood. We put an offer in and accepted the counter offer. Now assuming the mortgage goes through fine and the house passes the inspection, we're in.

We'll be moving in June, we've given ourselves a couple weeks over lap so we can sand and varnish the wood stairs and railings. We don't want to be living in it with varnish fumes all over.

The place is at Amerst and St. Catherine, right near downtown and near our first place in the city. Instead of being just west of Parc Lafontaine we're just south. We're at the part of St. Catherine that gets shut down all summer so the patios can spill out onto the street, wicked.

There's also about everything else we can ask for walking distance including a grocery store and my gym. There are Irish pubs, sports bars, fine restaurants as well as less than fine restaurants. We're an underground walk from a Metro that links three different lines too. It's quite ideal.

In French news I've got four tests in a row starting Wednesday. Once those four classes are done I'll be finished the 3rd of 5 classes towards my French certificate. I'm going to take the summer off from Concordia but I'm going to find out what my options are from Emploi Quebec. A number of people have told me about getting paid to take French full time so we'll see if I qualify for that. It will be really good for me since these Concordia classes are fairly advanced. There's no practice speaking in French, it's all about rules, some quite difficult. So I think that with some basic classes I'll prosper. The government French classes are less about advanced rules and more about being able to comunicate with people so there will be lots of practice. I won't learn any grammar I don't already know but as it is I don't understand much of what my Concordia prof says making the rules hard to understand and learn. He's not using vocabulary I don't know, I just don't have an ear for the language yet. That's why these government offered classes will really help. It will be slower and more intent on you being able to communicate, not intent on driving grammar rules into your head. If I can get paid for it then it's going to be a good summer. I also assume they'll be cool allowing me to leave for a couple weeks to work since the point of the organization is to help people get jobs.

So that's the crap I've been up to these last few days.

Back From The Hammer

As Sam Gamgee would say "Well, I'm back." The trip to Hamilton was supposed to be more profitable than it was but I can't complain too much. I arrived Tuesday morning after an overnight bus from Montreal to Toronto and then a GO bus from Toronto to Hamilton. I was supposed to volunteer on the camera crew Tuesday till Friday. The Director of Photohgraphy not only agreed to let me volunteet but I think he was looking forward to the help but we had to double check that I could go with the co-producer. That's when things got crappy. He was worried about insurance, what if I got hurt? I don't know how much of a deal that really is, especially since I've volunteered on grip teams on shows with this same co-producer. I guess he didn't know those times. So after many phone calls that dragged over to Wednesday I ended up buyhing my own insurance for 25 bucks a month. However by the time that was done Eric had worked out three paid days for me in the PA department. I want to know it all so I figured I'll do that now and maybe I can use my insurance the next time I head down. It takes 3 weeks for it to kick in anyway. So I got three paid days doing PA work.

What is PA work you may ask, well as soon as I got there on Thursday afternoon, my shift was 2pm to 2 am, I was asked to drive to Toronto to pick up dailies (edited clips from the previous day). So in traffic I went there and back, as soon as I got back I was asked to pick up the executive producer and drive her to the airport, again traffic made it long and we were in a rush to get her there in time, a feat I acomplished. The exec producer asked me what I wanted to do and I told her about my desire to work a camera and how I couldn't this time. She told me next time I come back I could be her personal guest on set, and she said I could hang out in the cutting room with the editors too. I think in the film industry these kinds of things are thrown around easily but after my French is done I'm going to try and take her up on it, hopefully she'll remember me.

The rest of the time I worked a photocopier, making call sheets and prep schedules along with a host of other documents I have a vague understanding of. I read three scripts while waiting for tasks. Yes there is not much for a PA to do when the office is empty, Eric and I had the night shifts Friday and Saturday, 7pm to 7am both days. Although on Friday I made another trip to Toronto between 1 and 4 so that day I guess I put in 15 hours. It's all good though I'm not there to worry about my rights as a worker, I want to learn and show that I'm a team person, all that crap.

So people liked me although I met few people form set, I reocognized a few people form previous jobs although I don't know if they remembered me. Hopefully they saw a familer face and jsut thought I was one of the crew.

The office we worked in was an old elementary school with a very strange layout and ceilings of different heights all through the place. The paint was peeling, it was creepy to say the least. It was one of the sets for the movie Silent Hill, one of the rooms had gels still on the flourescent lights, made for an eerie glow to the room.

So I think I've just now finally got my sleep schedule back on track. It was a good trip in the long run, next time hopefully it will be even better. Upon my return home little had changed. I was missed but everything important was taken care of in my abscence, I have many extra duties now that I'm unemployeed.

The foster cat Tatoo has taken a turn for the better, he is much more agressive in attacking us. Yesterday he sliced a finger and put a deep hole in another to go with the usual feet attacks. Often in the mornings he comes on the bed, he'll lay on our legs, attack our feet. Usually if we move to pet him he runs away but this morning he allowed both Kate and I to pet and rub him so that's a really good sign.

You'll have to wait till my next blog post to find out the really big news but since I'm going to post it right away and the order of the blog is latest first, you'll have probably read it already.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel Trade

I know usually I write about the crap I do but today I thought I'd write about something that has been the talk of Leaf Nation for some time now. As you know I'm a Leaf fan living in Montréal so I don't get to discuss the Leafs very often. If I do find a hockey fan they usually either know little about the Leafs and don't have much of an opinion or they just don't like them and only want to talk about the Habs. So for this season I've been reading article after article about the Phil Kessel trade and having brief discussions via email about it. Last night I met up with a former co-worker who is a Leaf fan so of course we spoke at length of the Kessel trade. Then this morning I read and article written my Steve Simmons trashing the trade. I figured since I don't get to discuss the topic too often I would just outline my opinion here as I don't agree with the majority that the trade was a poor one and let me explain why.

First let's all agree that Phil Kessel is a very young player(22) and that he's going to be a great goal scorer for us. He had 36 goals last year and 23 for us so far this year with 16 to go. Let's also not forget the fact the he missed training camp and the first 11 games due to an injury. Commonly people agree that missing training camp puts a player behind the eight ball so to speak so had Kessel not missed camp and played in those 11 games let's say he would at least already be over 30 goals. He's going to be a consistent goal scorer for us there is no doubt about that.

Now I'm not saying that we didn't pay a huge price for Kessel but for a young guy like him you have to pay a huge price or not get him. So we gave up 2 first round picks and a 2nd. Burke said he expected this team to play for a playoff spot so what he thought he was giving away was a mid round 1st and next year who knows maybe an even lower pick. Instead he's probably going to give them a high 1st and next year maybe a mid round 1st. I thought the team would be better too but they're not. Right now they've won two straight and got points in their last 4, if they can continue that the Bruins will probably not get a top five pick. But let's say they do. There's a lottery so even if the Leafs finish 3rd last or 2nd last the Bruins may not get a top two pick and if they don't get a top two pick they will not be getting a player near Kessel's quality and next year ideally the Leafs will improve and the Bruins won't get a top two pick then either. So let's admit it's possible the Bruins will get 3 potentially sound players that don't come close to Kessel's skill level, in which case the Leafs win the trade hands down. Not let's say they get Taylor Hall, the player expected to go first overall, they get him but probably only two potentially solid players with the other two picks. Picks I may add that won't be solid players for a few years. Hall of course may produce right away. If the Bruins get Hall we've lost the trade for sure but what are the odds even at this point that they'll get Hall? Less than 50% easily.

Now let's look at what else Burke has done, this will give us an idea of why he was willing to give up 2 first rounders. He's signed a number of college players and traded a couple guys looking for big contracts for young players. Now all of a sudden we have, Bozak, Hanson, Stalberg, Caputi, Gustavsson plus a bunch of other young guys that were already on the team. We're a team that could be good soon. If these guys work out, we sign a vet or two maybe trade Kaberle for another young player, we could be looking at a playoff team next year and in 2 or 3 years we could be watching a contender. That at least is what Burke's plan is and personally I like it.

Many teams build contenders from the draft sure. People say Pittsburgh, Malkin and Crosby. Hall is not Crosby for one but whatever, I agree building from the draft has been proven successful but it's not the only way to win a cup. Burke wants to win now so he goes and he signs all this young guys. If we wait for this year's first round pick and next year's first round pick to develop we're looking at 5 years from now until we contend and there's no guarantee that these first round picks are going to be good picks or good players, it's a crap shoot that we have to wait 4-5 years to see the outcome. Kessel is good now and he will be for awhile. We didn't just pay to get Kessel we paid to turn a 4-5 year wait to a 2-3 year wait. We'll have lost the trade in player for player value but the extra that we gave is payment to make a 5 year plan a 3 year plan, worth it.

Let's say we didn't make the trade and we don't get a top five pick. Now we have a guy that will take a few years to develop and no Kessel. Is that better than what we have now? There is also the possibility that we get into Chicago type salary cap trouble in which we have all these great guys that want big contracts at the same time, let's not forget who owns the Leafs. Granted that's a good problem to have as Darryl put it, but it's also a good problem for other teams to have when we're looking to acquire such players. This team is not going to make a cup run with the young guys listed above and Kessel, it's going to be them plus at least one or two other big names. Burke is going to continue to sign young free agents to replace draft picks and some of them are going to turn out to be solid players just like some drafts picks are going to turn out to be solid players.

I like the direction Burke is taking this team in and I don't mind giving up the draft picks, at least not yet. Let's wait to see where we finish and what else Burke does to make next year's team better. Then we can really know if we won or lost this trade but at the least consider that Kessel is a proven 1st rounder, Hall and others are not. People in Ottawa were pretty excited about Daigle and the Leafs have a long list of horrid first round players themselves.

The youth movement is still on, which many fans have been begging for, we're just not taking the slow draft route for it. Stalberg had two goals last night, Caputi two assists, Bozak and Kessel scored the other two goals. Get used to hearing those names.

In this case you're up to date on the crap I think.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Pro Photo Shoot

I don't have much time to write since I have an entire day planned of going to the Gym, the movies and the language lab but I wanted to get an update out there since some good stuff has happened.

Kate got me a job shooting photos of the actors they're filming for some new commercials. I went to the shoot and when they were finished filming I took some photos. I was a bit nervous since it was my first job and I wouldn't get a chance to redo them if I screwed them up. I don't think they were perfect but they were good enough because the feed back I got was that they were of great quality and the ad agency was pleased with them. They're going to be used on various marketing materials. I learned a lot taking these pictures. I needed ten photos for each actor of which there were 8 so I took a couple hundred pics (gotta love digital) and selected the best 80 or so. I learned that the flash is garbage and if you can get away with not using it then awesome. Unfortunately unless you have great lighting you really do need the flash.

Basically it was a paid learning experience and I don't know if there's anything better than getting paid to learn, except maybe for getting paid more to learn. So now I'm technically a professional as I head of to Hamilton to volunteer my time on the camera crew of a werewolf movie. Man I can't wait. When they're filming there are not many people that get to be in the room, the director, the actors and the camera crew (along with a miscellaneous group of others). Oddly enough last night I saw parts of one of the movies I worked on Wide Awake. It was quite fun to see the scene's that I helped create. There was one scene where Eric had this shiny board and they were filming a scene of two guys in a car. Eric's job was to bounce the light off the actors faces once in a while to fake passing cars. I saw that scene and saw the light bouncing off their faces, awesome.

In other news I had my french oral presentation last night. I did it on Jacques Mesrine a gangster from the 60s and 70s. A few people commented on how interesting it was and I didn't stutter out my words like I used to doing stupid oral presentations so hopefully I got a good mark on it. At the very least I'm glad it's over, so as a reward I'm going to see The Crazies this afternoon. It's not in 3D, which is freakin awesome by the way, but I don't think I can see Alice without Kate since there are few movies we agree upon but I think the 3D movies are going to be some that we can agree upon until they become more common. I look forward to Clash of the Titans in 3D as well, I just wish we didn't have to wear those stupid glasses.

Oh yeah and I signed up for a Camera class at Concordia. It's for photographs not film but I may be able to make more money taking pictures then making films to start. I've already got more work on Saturday helping Kate's company Distributel and I was asked about doing some head shots. I suspect there is a lot of work for an amateur photographer with a kick ass camera.

So now you're updated on the crap I've done.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Updates

The good news is that I have a new movie idea, not that the first one is finished yet but its probably good to have multiple projects. It's all practice. The bad news is I got 61% on my last French test. It was a grammar test and I didn't do bad in one particular area but rather all of them. I did do well in the Passe Compose vs Imparfait section but there is little else good to take from the test.

Next week I have an oral presentation. I've decided to use Jacques Mesrine as my subject. We can speak on anything French and of course I want it to be interesting so I picked a gangster, not to be confused with a gangsta. When first told of my topic Kate asked me why I would do my presentation on a French rapper, knowing I'm not a huge fan of rap. But no I informed her he's not a gansta but rather a gangster, the kind with guns that steal and kill people that get in their way or don't show them enough respect, wait now I'm confused. Mesrine was a bank robber, committing crimes in the 50s, 60s and 70s. He even came to Montreal for a bit where he also robbed banks, evidently sometimes two in a day, that's ambition.

So this Mesrine character should be interesting and it gives me the oppourtunity to explore some interesting French words. Part of the assignment is to have 5 vocabulary words for the class. So one of my words is 'braquer' which can mean either to hold someone up at knife/gun point or to turn a steering wheel. If it's reflexive 'se braquer' it means to refuse to listen to a point in a conversation. Of course this is all just my roommate Ludo's definitions so I still have to do the research to make sure I have the meanings exact.

After my 61% I'm determined to do well on this oral exam. I've not a fan of public speaking, at least not on topics I'm uncomfortable with or in a language I don't know so it will not be pleasant for me but hopefully if I prepare well enough I'll be able to pull a good mark out. And thankfully I got that good mark on the reading comprehension test, I wish all our tests were reading comprehension.

My volunteering time has been postponed again, filming was set back a week making the first week of filming the same week as my oral exam, which is Wednesday even. So now I'll be out in Hamilton for the week after, including St. Patty's Day. I understand that Eric will be rapping that night so that should be pretty freaking fun. I will of course bring my camera and record the session, maybe we'll even have time to film a few other things but we'll see. One of my problems, if you can call it a problem, is that I have football Saturday nights. I would like to have a weekend in Hamilton to shoot some stuff but I'm going to have to head back to Montreal every Saturday and since filming is Monday to Friday it leaves little time to do anything else. The hours of course being long. I want to play next season but I don't want it to interfere with work and I don't want to let the guys down by making the team and then not playing. I have a few weeks to see how it plays out but my renewed football career may be coming to an end.

That's a pretty full update on all the crap I've done so I'm off to write my French oral and make some fried noodles with tofu. I know it doesn't beat chicken but meat that wasn't treated like it had no nervous system or desire for clean air is expensive and tofu just tastes like whatever you put on it so whatever.