Andrew Snowdon

Random encounters

In Uncategorized on Monday 8 March 2010 at 2:20

I watched the Academy Awards the whole way through for the first time in my life tonight.

I think I love Ottawa.

What I really mean by that is that I think I love living downtown; even then, downtown is loosely defined to include Lowertown (where I live), the Market, Sandy Hill, Centretown, and Downtown proper.

Much of that has to do with the potential for random encounters.

The way tonight started was that I had taken a break from rearranging my bookshelf (as evidenced by the eleven distinct piles of books still blocking the path between this couch and my kitchen) to have a drink and check Twitter. There was some question as to whether a new Mexican restaurant, specializing in burritos (Burrito Borracho) was open for business yet. Since it’s just a ten-minute walk away from my apartment, and I hadn’t been outside during the day, I decided to go check. So I got my coat and shoes on, headed down to Clarence Street, and found that no, indeed, it was not open for business yet (the glass doors were still covered on the inside with brown butcher paper).

As I was running low on tobacco, I decided to walk up William to my favourite tobacco shop (i.e. the only one that stocks my particular brand of pipe tobacco). From there, I was going to walk home along Rideau and maybe dip into the Metro on the way to pick up some food.

Instead, as I was about to cross George, I ran into someone. Out of respect for her privacy, I shan’t say who (and I’ll deny anyone you guess). We are acquaintances, mostly by virtue of accidentally turning up at the same parties. After an enthusiastic chat about a project she was working on, she mentioned she was tired of standing on the street corner.

So she invited me back to her apartment to watch the Academy Awards.

Before anyone suggests anything, unless you consider eating popcorn with chopsticks and having tea and hot chocolate to be untoward, nothing untoward came to pass. We sat and watched the Academy Awards with appropriate witty conversation (at least I hope I held up my end of the bargain) and, when they were over, she ushered me out of her apartment (some people have to get up in the morning, apparently) and I walked home.

The last thing she said before I left was, “I love random encounters.”

So maybe I love Ottawa. Maybe I just love living downtown. I’m not sure, really.

There is one thing I am sure about, though.

I, too, love random encounters.

PS: Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress (it has a much longer name than that, but I forget the exact wording and am too dead tired to look it up). Now, the four other actresses nominated in that category were nominated for, from what I could tell, much better and harder-to-nail roles, and I would wager better performances. I have nothing against Sandra Bullock. I liked The Net, and there are only so many people that can act opposite Keanu Reeves without making him look like a plank of Ikea pine. I did not see the movie for which she was nominated; it’s just clear to me that the other four actresses were pretty much neck-in-neck.

When Ms. Bullock got up on stage to accept her award, it was plain that that’s what she thought too. I admire her grace in accepting the award while making it clear that each of the other actresses deserved it.

What was the Academy thinking?

I can’t say for certain. Maybe her performance really was that much better than Meryl Streep’s, for instance. My personal theory, however, is that Sandra Bullock was a bridge bid.

If you don’t play bridge, well, I don’t play bridge either. My father used to try to explain it to me when I was a kid, and I kind of got the idea of game play, but bidding confused me. Bridge involves… well, you’ve got a partner, and you’re playing against another player and their partner, and the idea is to beat everyone else’s cards; it’s like War or Hearts (or an awful lot like Euchre). If you have a lot of high cards of one suit spread between you and your partner, you can clean up easily, if you co-ordinate. The problem is, you’re usually not allowed to see your partner’s cards.

So each hand of bridge starts with “bidding,” where the players attempt to reveal how strong their hand is to their partner without revealing it to their… to the other pair of partners. I’m sure you can Wikipedia this to figure out how it works; someone bids “four clubs” and their partner may go “five clubs” to indicate that they are strong in clubs. It’s worse than the International Code of Signals.

To make matters worse, there are bids that fall outside of this system; apparently there’s a way to indicate that you have a really piss-poor hand by opening with a specific bid… and that’s where Sandra Bullock comes in.

Here, the Academy was confronted with four performances so equal in excellence that they couldn’t decide which was best. As a matter of fact, I think they perceived that to give any one of them the award would be a slight against the others. Thus, to convey that they did not think any one of the four should win over each other, they picked the fifth performance, Sandra Bullock’s, awarded her the Oscar, and let her say what the Academy couldn’t; that the award belonged as much to each of the others as it did to her.

Okay, so it sounds insane. Maybe Ms. Bullock, who is an incredibly hard-working actress, did clearly win that award, and I’m rationalizing away something I don’t understand.

But the look on her face suggests she might just agree with me.

The opinions expressed in this post are not those of the lovely, talented Sandra Bullock, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or anyone who knows anything about bridge. But you knew that.


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