Senpai notices Edmonton

Well, more like senpai notices other senpai blew up Edmonton.

Meanwhile, Rest of Canada argues over which city is Best Girl. Thank you, Grauniad, for your Guardian Canada week focusing on cities and topics across the country.

For increased amusement, check out the comments on the Toronto article, where Canadians alternatively defend and attack the T Dot whilst simultaneously claiming they don’t care if foreigners think Toronto is a world-class city.

Although having said that, I must admit I’ve been obsessively reading each piece in the series. What can I say? I also obsess over what the world thinks of Canada.

Spies in the night

I love spy stories. I especially love ones that are based on real events. That’s why I was fascinated by this news article about the only known Soviet agent to have infiltrated the CIA. The entire thing is a great read, but I especially liked this part:

In a psychological evaluation from that year, [the Czech intelligence service] described Koecher as “over-confident, hypersensitive, hostile towards people, money driven, showing a strong inclination to instability, emotionally unstable, possessing an anti-social almost psychopathic personality, touchy, intolerant of authoritarianism”.

In other words, just the man for the job.

Samurai Jack and Jill

Recently I saw A Boy and His Samurai, a Japanese movie about a samurai who inadvertently time travels to the present day. Don’t ask how, you didn’t really care how the thingy worked in Big or Freaky Friday, did you? In fact, structurally it’s a lot like Big, with the magic at the start, the funny stuff early on followed by the serious adult stuff, then the magic again to wrap things up.

So it’s a comedy-drama – the samurai gets taken in by a single mother and swears fealty to her as her feudal retainer, then as time goes on he becomes an up and coming pastry chef. There are the expected fish out of water jokes, but the movie’s also a thoughtful examination of class and gender in the 21st century, particularly how modern society is still structured around the nuclear family while steadily breaking down the systems that produce nuclear families. The film’s not a didactic women’s studies manifesto, but it does illustrate exactly how tough it is to be a single parent and how gender and class expectations tie into that difficulty, all wrapped up with a sweet story about a boy finding a surrogate father.

The Devil went down to Los Angeles

So Lucifer is actually good. Yes, I’m surprised as much as anyone. The Devil quitting hell to run a nightclub and solve crimes in LA is inherently dumb as a premise, but so deliciously stupid it’s brilliant. I can’t even find a trailer representative of the show, as every official one makes it seem blander and more formulaic than it is. I’m just going to stick the opening scene here instead:

Watching the show is a guilty pleasure, like back when True Blood or Sleepy Hollow were good. It’s based on the Vertigo comic book series, but very, very loosely. For one thing, the Lucifer on the comic book was a big ole sourpuss, whereas the TV one is delightfully hedonistic. The show appreciates its dumbness and just runs with it. The ridiculousness is the point. I’m glad that the show was renewed for a second season and look forward to folding many loads of laundry while watching it.

Also the theme song is pretty rad, but here’s one of the official trailers if you insist on seeing it:

Science: School is for losers

Most amusing, Guardian. This is a rather droll observation:

It’s uncertain whether universities are delivering on their core purpose. One recent study tracked thousands of students during their time at university. It uncovered a rather disturbing picture: after two years at university, 45% of the students showed no significant improvement in their cognitive skills. After four years, 36% of students had not improved in their ability to think and analyse problems. In some courses – such as business administration – students’ cognitive abilities actually declined in the first few years.

Note the last bit about MBAs. Scientific evidence proves it makes people dumber!

Welcome to the postmodern jungle

I just discovered Postmodern Jukebox and have been making my way through their videos. They take pop culture hits and reinterpret them as pieces from an older, classier age. Like Welcome to the Jungle imagined as some kind of jazzy orchestral thing accompanied by a concert harp and a cello.

I could easily imagine this playing in the background of a black and white noir film as a hard-boiled detective narrates something cynical and harsh in the foreground.

Or for something peppier, how about a soul version of Hey Ya! by Outkast? The guy behind this also did some arrangements for the alternate history game Bioshock Infinite like this blues version of Fortunate Son.  Really, there’s so much to discover in the back catalogue of this group.