Runaway Future


On last words

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 12:35

So it came out yesterday that Steve Jobs’ last words were ‘Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.’

Hardly eloquent stuff, but I’m sure the fanboys will try to decipher much from it (good joke I heard already: “Oh Wow was the name of his childhood sled”), which I guess is the point of last words. Usually, they aren’t great bits of insight into the character of the deceased or particularly meaningful.

I always assume that my own last words will be something along the lines of “I’m done with this pudding” and I really hope that at the time, someone misinterprets that to be extremely deep.

But I spent the morning looking over WikiQuote’s Last Words page and it’s an interesting mix. For every quote that is sweeping and grand, there’s just as many that are simply asking for water or saying goodbye to someone. The distinction between the two doesn’t follow any lines of greatness or wealth. With death being the great equalizer, leaders and heroes are just as likely to say something ordinary as criminals are to say something profound. It’s a thought that’s actually captured in someone’s last words:

  • You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.

In any case, here’s some of my favourites:

  • I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.
    • Who: Thomas J. Grasso, d. March 20, 1995
    • Note: Executed by injection, Oklahoma.
  • Maybe they only had one rocket
    • Who: Lawrence Beeter, WWII British soldier who was taking cover in a bunker after they were hit by a rocket. A second volley destroyed the bunker and Beeter was killed.
  • Nobody shot me.
    • Who: Frank “Tight Lips” Gusenberg, American mobster murdered as part of the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre.
      • Note: In response to a police officer who asked “Who shot you?”
  • Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking with your boss.
  • This isn’t Hamlet, you know. It’s not meant to go into the bloody ear.
    • Who: Actor Laurence Olivier supposedly said this when a nurse, attempting to moisten his lips, mis-aimed.
    • Note: In Shakespeare‘s play Hamlet, the title character’s father is killed when poison is dripped into his ear while asleep.
  • Why, yes, a bulletproof vest.
    • Who: Domonic Willard
    • Notes: Willard was a small time mobster during the Prohibition. Just before his death by firing squad, he was asked if he had any last requests.

These two are notable simply because Farley tried to emulate Belushi so much.

  • Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.
    • Who: Chris Farley
    • Said to a prostitute as she left his hotel room following a weekend-long drug and sex binge. When she turned around, Chris Farley had collapsed.

  • Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!
    • Who: Karl Marx, asked by his housekeeper what his last words were


An Evening with Michaelle Jean

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 0:48

On Monday evening, I attended the first annual Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture at King’s College. Kicking off the series was former Governor-General of Canada Michaelle Jean who was there to talk about social change.

Ignoring the obvious technology shortcomings that plagued the show (a key video that apparently would have served as a powerful focal point in the middle of the presentation failed to load, leading to a 20 minute break before the decision was made to forge ahead without it. As I’ve learned from our own events at work, always have guaranteed means to deliver the video (ie not streaming off the Internet)), I came away disappointed with Jean’s presentation.

She started by talking a bit about herself, which is a strong story for sure. A refugee from Haiti, she rose the ranks as a journalist in Quebec before being named to the post of Governor General.

But she made a misstep by offering a glossed over look at Nova Scotia’s own history, while trying to herald the province as the starting point for social change and political action throughout history in Canada. One folly was saying how the local indigenous people welcomed European explorers and than settlers with open arms, a statement that seems to ignore the infamous Edward Cornwallis’ scalp bounty during the so-called Father Le Loutre’s War. This is hardly an event that has been lost in the history books. In fact, it still lives on in present day with a junior high school in Halifax formerly named after Cornwallis opting to have their name changed over the summer.

Another historical oversight was talking about how Nova Scotia welcomed Loyalists to their province during the American Revolution and she made a strong effort to mention that this included Black Loyalists. Coming from the South Shore of the province, and growing up not far from where the Black Loyalists settled, it’s troublesome to watch that particular bit of history be misrepresented and I felt that the struggles that Black Loyalists faced (though not slaves, they were hardly welcomed into the homes of Nova Scotians) when coming here.

All in all, the speech didn’t resonate and it never really grabbed a tight hold onto what the actual topic was aiming to be about. I was expecting something meatier than just “get out and vote” and “write your local political representatives about your views.”

As can be expected, with the topic of social change and the state of the world today, she was asked about the Occupy movement which has captured the attention of many around the world. Her answer was measured in a way that could even be considered condescending. She called the movement “healthy” and said that utilizing the right to protest is “productive”. She formerly represented the Queen in our government, and while a safe and self-censored answer to that question could be expected, I had again hoped for something with more substance.

Unfortunately, that’s how the whole evening felt. I would have been interested to hear the story and the passion of Michaelle Jean, the former refugee who worked hard to become a noted journalist, not just in Quebec but in Canada as a whole. Instead, it was a very safe talk by Michaelle Jean, former Governor-General, taking considerable care to not say anything too controversial.

A shame.


Sundays at 7: Inherit the Wind

Filed under: The Daily Grind — forbes @ 22:55

Starting at the beginning of September, I’ve been fortunate enough to regularly view classic films with a neighbour of mine.  I’m going to attempt to chronicle those sessions in a new section that I’m calling “Sundays at Seven”.

The second week featured Inherit the Wind, a 1960 film based on a real-life court case in 1925 regarding the teaching of evolution in the classroom. It features an all-star cast with Dick York, from Bewitched fame as the teacher, Gene Kelly as a wise-cracking journalist and Spencer Tracy as the defense lawyer. Tracy’s Henry Drummond character matches up against Fredric March’s Matthew Harrison Brady, a Bible-thumping blowhard with political aspirations, who time is already passing by. Harry Morgan, who played Sherman Potter on M*A*S*H plays the judge for the trial. In the end, the school teacher is found guilty, but his only punishment is to pay a pittance of a fine.

The film pits religious fervour against scientific method and in that way it would be equally relevant in today’s political climate. One can only imagine the response from the right side of the political spectrum that this film would garner if released today. Perhaps for that reason, the re-releases in 1965, 1988 and 1999 were all TV films with much less fanfare or attention drawn to them. The story is based on a play that was intended to talk about the McCarthy trials in the 1950s, but the actual case was the Scopes Monkey Trial. As last week with the Heiress, another very contemporary and relevant story, although in this case, for much different reasons.

This was followed by another two episodes of the Twilight Zone

The first was Printer’s Devil, where Burgess Meredith plays the Devil who helps a newspaperman revive his failing paper. As always the case, a deal with the Devil is fraught with danger and everything that Meredith commits to type comes true, including disasters around the town. Eventually, the Devil plans to kill the newspaperman’s girlfriend and it’s only quick thinking by the newspaperman (who looks somewhat like Seth MacFarlane) that saves his girlfriend and sends the Devil on his way. Burgess Meredith (famous for playing the Penguin on Adam West’s Batman and playing Rocky’s trainer Mickey in those films) absolutely kills as the Devil, with sadistic grin on his face, clamping down on a bent cigar.

The second Twilight Zone episode was You Drive. Out of all four Twilight Zone episodes we’ve seen so far, I liked this one the least. The premise is a man is involved in a hit-and-run with a kid on a bicycle and after returning home and lying to his wife, his car develops a conscience and urges him to do the right thing. The man tries to go about his life and also nearly frames one of his co-workers, but the car continues to rebel against him. The climax is the man being chased down the street by this ghost car before finally relenting, jumping in and being driven to the police station.


Sundays at 7 : The Heiress

Filed under: Sundays at Seven — forbes @ 15:49

Starting at the beginning of September, I’ve been fortunate enough to regularly view classic films with a neighbour of mine.  I’m going to attempt to chronicle those sessions in a new section that I’m calling “Sundays at Seven”.

In our first week, we watched the film The Heiress. Made in 1949, the film is set in the mid-1800s and focuses on a young woman (the titular heiress) who has been unlucky in love, but then finds herself the object of affection for a smooth young man. Although his intentions are never made completely clear, her father suspects he’s more interested in her inheritance than her love and certainly the suitor’s actions mirror these suspicions.

The film doesn’t have a happy ending for any of the main characters. The heiress ends up alone, the father passes away and the suitor is rejected and continues to be penniless.

I really enjoyed this film, not just because of the strong acting (the actor who plays the father is particularly effective as a cruel parent who often is eager to point out his daughter’s shortcomings), but also because despite the actual film being more than 60 years old and the story itself being set much farther back, it still felt extremely contemporary in story. It felt like something that could be told in today’s cinema. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the only one to think that: the film was remade in 1997 as Washington Square.

We also watched two episodes of the Twilight Zone.

In the first, The New Exhibit, a man becomes obsessed with the wax figures of five famous murderers (creepily done as heavily made-up actors, it was unnerving to see them stand there as wax figures, swaying ever so slightly). Bringing the figures home, they eventually begin to murder anything that threatens their existence, including the man’s wife, brother-in-law and former boss, before turning on their care-taker.

In the second, Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville, a businessman who has achieved everything that he wishes to do and is as successful as he can be, makes a deal with the devil to go back in time to his old home town and start all over again. As with any deal of the nature, the devil is in the details (to excuse the phrase) and things don’t work out as planned, leaving the man lost and making a bad deal to return to the future, where he finds that it was his janitor who enjoyed the success that he once celebrated. Julie Newmar is nothing short of stunningly attractive as the devil, while Albert Salmi is a very convincing blustery and boasting businessman.

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