Wednesday, December 17, 2003

High Stakes Puns

Last night Sylvia and I cooked steak and potatoes for supper. Before putting the steaks into the oven, I held them at arm's length above my head and looked at her. She stared back blankly for a moment, and I said, "Looks like the steaks are pretty high!"

Get it? "Steaks are high?" I.e., "stakes are high?" Nyuck nyuck...

Anyway, she only rolled her eyes, then sighed and nodded as if resigned to some horrible fate. But one day, she and the world will recognize my comic genius!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-O :-O

Monday, December 15, 2003

Movies I'd Like to See

Somewhere on my hard drive, I have a half-finished story called Radar Women of Mars. I think it would make a pretty good (well, by certain definitions of the word "good") movie, and I so I've imagined a solar system in which many of the celestial bodies are inhabited (or ruled) by women...sexy women.

Each heavenly body (heh, heh) gets her own movie:

Fire Foxes of Sol
Meteor Matriarchs of Mercury
Vampire Vixens of Venus
Saber Wenches of Terra
Laser Libertines of Luna
Radar Women of Mars
Savage She-Cats of Phobos
Photon Damsels of Deimos
Avenging Angels of the Asteroid Belt
Fighting Females of Jupiter
Kung-Fu Hellcats of Callisto
Blaster Bombshells of Europa
Gas Girls of Ganymede
Radioactive Sirens of Io
Saucer Sisters of Saturn
Rocket Lasses of Titan
Dagger D├ębutantes of Uranus
Amazon Mermaids of Neptune
Sonar Princesses of Triton
Pulchitrudinous Ice Maidens of Pluto
Chopper Chicks of Charon
Cannibal Cavegirls of the Kuiper Belt


Of course, for every cheesy, sexist b-picture parody, there should be a matching film that mocks/celebrates male stereotypes. How about...

Beefcake Boors of Beta 9
Hover Hunks of Hyperion
Nervous Nerds of Neptune
Gamma Geeks of Ganymede

Thursday, December 11, 2003

As Heard on TV

Heh. I notice my last blog ("International Cluck Like a Chicken Day") befuddled the blogger ad engine..."This blank space brought to you by..."
I recorded a voiceover for a TV ad for Hole's, so watch CFRN carefully during the holiday season and you may catch me saying immortal lines such as, "Hole's...helping you enjoy the holidays."

International Cluck Like a Chicken Day

I think we might enjoy a more peaceful world if all the planet’s governments, in cooperation with the UN, decided to declare February 25th (my birthday, coincidentally) International Cluck Like a Chicken Day. All over the world, people of all races, creeds, and colours would bend their arms, hunch over, scratch their feet against the ground, and go “buck-buck-ba-GAWK!”

Before you call my plan mad, consider this: on each side of the heavily fortified frontier between Pakistan and India, Hindus and Muslims would consider their would-be foes in a new light, as they scratched, pecked, and clucked together in the spirit of genial mirth. The same happy tale would be repeated between Hutu and Tutsi, Arab and Jew, Fleming and Waloon, Catholic and Orthodox, Trekkie and Warsie.

Or maybe not. World peace would appear to be more complicated than empty gestures such as international adoption of little more than a silly variation of the Chicken Dance. :-(

Friday, November 28, 2003

The Bleak House of Blahgs II: Electric Boogaloo

Some sequels that should never be made:

Unforgiven II: The Bloody Rampage of Will Munny
Leprechaun V: Pot 'o Pot
Vertigo II: Dizzy New Heights
The Return of the Searchers
Straw Dogs II: Revenge of the Mathematician
The Wilder Bunch
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Again
The Thing From Yet Another World
Forbidden Planet II: Embargo Lifted!
When Worlds Collide Again
World War II of the Worlds
Gold Diggers of 2004
Allan Quatermain and the Forbidden Gazebo of Doom
Die Hard 4ever
Rebirth of a Nation
Citizen Kane II: Citizenship Revoked!
The Apartment Next Door
Return of the Green Slime
Ishtar II
Pulpier Fiction
Once Upon a Time in Burkina Faso
Speed 3-D

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Going Round About Capes

Last weekend, my friend Pete noted that DC's stable of superheroes sported more capes than Marvel's. Immediately I started a chart outlining which characters were caped and which lacked same, but the lists quickly grew out of control. The following discussion, then, focusses only on first- and second-tier characters, in roughly descending order of historical importance and cultural prominence. Basically, I've listed important heroes and villains, plus major supporting characters, who either had their own comic book or back-up feature at one time or another.

Let's begin with Marvel:

Caped Flagship Characters
The Mighty Thor
Dr. Strange
Dr. Doom
Magneto
Storm
The Scarlet Witch
The Watcher
Mysterio
The Vision

Caped Second-Tier Characters
The Black Panther
Quasar
Ms. Marvel
The Mole Man
The Black Knight

Capeless Flagship Characters
The Amazing Spider-Man
Captain America
The Incredible Hulk
Mr. Fantastic
The Invisible Woman
The Human Torch II
The Thing
Iron Man
Daredevil
Elektra
The Black Widow
Wolverine
Cyclops
Beast
Professor X
Marvel Girl
Iceman
Colossus
Nightcrawler
The Green Goblin
Dr. Octopus
Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner
The Human Torch I
Rogue
Mystique
Tigra
Galactus
The Kingpin
The Lizard
The Wasp
Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Yellowjacket

Capeless Second-Tier Characters
Stilt-Man
She-Hulk
Spider-Woman I
Spider-Woman II
Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics Version)
Electro
Bucky
Quicksilver
Crystal
Black Bolt
Medusa
Karnak
Scorpion
Nova

And now, DC:

Caped Flagship Characters
Superman (also as Superboy)
Supergirl
Bizarro
Batman
Robin
Batgirl
Captain Marvel (Fawcett/DC Comics version, i.e., "Shazam!")
Martian Manhunter

Caped Second-Tier Characters
Dr. Fate
Dr. Mid-Nite
The Atom I
The Phantom Stranger
Red Tornado I
Red Tornado II
Steel
Krypto, the Superdog
Beppo the Super-Monkey
Streaky the Super-Cat
Comet the Super-Horse
The Weather Wizard
Raven
Huntress

Capeless Flagship Characters
Wonder Woman I
Wonder Woman II
Aquaman
The Flash I
The Flash II
The Flash III
The Atom II
Green Lantern I (Alan Scott)
Green Lantern II (Hal Jordan)
Green Lantern III (John Stewart)
Green Lantern IV (Guy Gardner)
Green Lantern V (Kyle Rayner)
Green Arrow
Black Canary
Plastic Man
The Elongated Man
Firestorm
Zatara
Zatanna
Swamp Thing
The Joker
The Penquin
Catwoman
Poison Ivy
Mr. Freeze
The Riddler
Lex Luthor
Solomon Grundy
Brainiac
Nightwing (formerly Robin)
Jimmy Olsen
Lois Lane
Lana Lang
Perry White
Alfred Pennyworth
Dream
Death

Capeless Second-Tier Characters
Black Lightning
Blue Beetle I
Blue Beetle II
Booster Gold
Fire (formerly Green Flame)
Ice Maiden I
Ice (formerly Ice Maiden II)
Captain Boomerang
Slam Bradley
Dr. Occult
Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt
Mr. Mxyzptlk
The Parasite
Titano, the Super-Ape
Gorilla Grodd
Detective Chimp
Angel and the Ape
Congorilla
Cyborg
Captain Atom
Starfire
Wonder Girl/Troia
Speedy/Arsenal
The Creeper
Shade, the Changing Man
Desire
Destiny
Despair
Destruction
Delerium (formerly Delight)
Brother Power, the Geek
Prez Rickard
Kamandi


This list is by no means comprehensive, but I think I've included most of the heroes and villains that the general public has any hope of recognizing. The results? I think it's clear that Marvel and DC have actually made less use of capes than is generally acknowleged, though it's notable that most of the universally recognized DC characters (Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel) are caped, while those of Marvel (Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America) are capeless.

Did this exercise have a point? I've forgotten. Next time, let's talk about the super-animals phenomenon, or maybe all the different colours of Kryptonite. Whee!

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Bah

Well, that didn't make any difference to the archive problem...double rats.

Anyway, enjoy the new look. Coming soon: the great Marvel vs. DC Cape Controversy.

All New Look!

As you can see, I've changed my blog template and added a couple of links. I'm hoping that this change will fix the archive problem...quite a few old posts are missing, and others require multiple reloads to access. So after I publish this post, I'm going to check the archives again and see what happens...

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Monday, November 10, 2003

A Surreal Short Story: Sidestepping

A failed experiment - an attempt at stream-of-consciousness storytelling. There's a reason good fiction writers get paid; they don't write nonsense like this. Still, I think a couple of sentences, read in isolation, are sort of amusing.

Sidestepping

I folded myself into a painting of a choo-choo train coming out of a fireplace - you know, the one by Dali. Dali fireplace, burning itself to death with green flame!

And then, without warning, the universe belched again, and I was hip-checked into another dimension.

The night was quiet when I entered the saloon...quiet but for the fact that Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova" was playing on the juke...

I thought to myself, "I remember when I thought of this tune as "The Theme From 'Definition.'"

Then the acrid stench of cigarette smoke seared my nostrils, and Icoughed, then sneezed, grey, smoke-stained snot blowing across my upper lip.

"Blurgh!" I grunted in disgust. That was when the lady in red handed me a silk handkerchief. "You know how to whistle, don't you?" she said, "Just put the hanky to your nose...and blow."

Perplexed, I obeyed, and sure enough my nostrils did make quite a whistle as I blew into the handkerchief. But when Iopened my eyes, the lady in red was gone, vanished into the smoky night.

"So it goes," I said to no one, "left with a hanky, but no panky." And so I stuffed the soiled bit of silk into the back pocket of his jeans, wondering...

...BAM! No warning again, falling flat on my face in the dirt, Marty Robbins singing "Devil Woman" as someone tosses an empty whiskey bottle through the space just above my upthrust bum.

I roll onto my back, moaning, and overhear the following:

First voice (male): ...no? I was certain you'd be eating canned bananas. What are you eating, then?

Second voice (female): Taboule. They don't can bananas.

First voice: Oooo, taboule. Fancy.

[Pause]

First voice: Doesn't that have humus in it or something?

Second voice: Nope. Not even fancy. It's just tomato, parsley, and some bulgar-like thing.

First voice: Hmmmm.

[Pause]

First voice: Bulgar...that's like...wheat...or something. If you but marijuana in it, you'd have a taboo leaf salad.

Second voice: [Muffled chewing sounds]

Bad Poems Unfit for Human Eyes

Holy Smashamoley! It's been nearly a month since my last update. Perhaps some bad poetry is in order.

Eye
An EYE
undying
lies amongst
the cries
and anguished
sighs of
those who
failed to
snatch the
prize that
only truth
or courage
buys; and
sees that
ichor in
the skies
rains down
to strike
both witless
and wise.

Silly Nelly and the Jelly
Willy-nilly, silly Nelly spread some jelly on her belly
“Ugh,” she said, “this jelly’s smelly,
But I’ll apply it just for Kelly
So he’ll see me on the telly.”

Poor, poor Nelly! Wed to Kelly
Who’s nothing but a boorish bully
From the wrong side of the gully.

Kelly, scheming, spoke with Sully
(Also from that ghetto gully)
“When those smelly proles see Nelly
With that jelly on her belly
Displayed upon erotic telly
They’ll scream for more, and surely, Sully,
We’ll rake in money willy-nilly.”

“A perfect plan,” chortled Sully,
“Our future’s looking bright and sunny
Our eggs well cooked, no longer runny.”

“And as for Nell,” replied foul Kelly,
“She’ll twitch and grind her sexy belly
Turning men’s minds into jelly
Exploiting supple assets fully.”

Meanwhile, Nelly, feeling sorry
For herself and sick with worry
Consoled herself with rice and curry
Her vision clear, no longer blurry.

“Why should I expose my belly
(sexy though it is) for Kelly?
I should see some of that money
And it better not be funny –
Or they’ll find out in a hurry
Worse than Hell is woman’s fury.”

A tragic trio, watch them scurry
Their lives exploding in a flurry
And unless all three are wary
Their dreams and hopes they soon will bury.

The Individualator
Here I sit at head of class
Flopped upon my flabby ass
Eyes sharp-peeled to catch a cheat
And grind their papers into meat

This I do not want to do
It would leave me feeling blue
So I pray with all my might
That these students know what’s right.

I used to drive a truck
Now I drive a desk
I do not need to say
Which I like the best
I don’t know if it’s permanent
I don’t know if I’ll stay
But while I’m on the firmament
I’ll take it day by day.

You're Not Being Paranoid When They Really Are Out to Get You

Picked up The Zombie Survival Guide a couple of days ago; halfway through it now.

1. Stay alert. Keep a close watch on your environment, and watch for danger signs: increased police activity, hoarding, looting, "random" tests of the Emergency Broadcast System.

2. Equip yourself with care. Keep a two-week supply of provisions on hand at all times, as well as an emergency kit if you have to flee the premises suddenly.

3. Your body and mind are weapons; keep them well-honed.

4. Travel in small groups. Three or four are manageable; anything more is a chaotic mob.

5. And most importantly, be as quiet as possible at all times. If you make any noise, the zombies will home in on your position and eat you alive.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Special Guest Blagh: Susan Shyluk

Blahg reader Susan Shyluk responded to my David Bowie blahg, and has kindly given me permission to post her comments here:

"Hi Earl,
I have been a bit behind in reading your blog, and I finally caught up. I  really enjoy reading it, you have been doing some really great writing.

When I read about how you attended the Bowie concert I thought of  something I would like to share with you. You mentioned that most of these  gatherings are almost always motivated by a desire for money, so I wanted to share with you one I know of that isn't. Where I work we have a room where hospitals, schools and communities can teleconference in groups. Areas all over BC are connected with each other for educational sessions available for staff, and as you may suspect it costs our hospital money for everyone to
attend.

Just recently some doctors have made a wonderful donation of personal conference time to isolated patients. The hospital I work at is a centre for maternity care in the province. We often have pregnant women who are on bedrest for months. Some are separated from their families for the entire time because they live so far away from Vancouver. Because of the donation, we are able to arrange for these women to go on a stretcher to the  conference room and live connect with their families who in turn have gone  to a similar conference room close to home.

Every day I learn about something like this I am in awe how significantly  things are changing. This last weekend I attended a youth conference (I fit  the age category of under 35 by 23 days) and I am pleased to see that the  new generation has taken this is stride. It makes me wonder if humanity is  heading towards the dream that Gene Roddenberry expressed in Star Trek.

Keep on blahgging! Susan."


Thanks, Susan. I found your story quite uplifting; I'm glad you shared it.

Susan's husband Jeff notes that SF author and visionary futurist Arthur C. Clarke should be mentioned, since it was he that originally came up with the idea of communications satellites, a technology without which Bowie's simulcast would have been impossible. So hats off to Sir Arthur, and to everyone who dreams of a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Plans from Outer Space

Edward D. Wood, Jr. has long been reviled as the worst director of all time. But for several years now, I've investigated Wood's films and his strange, twisted life - and I have come to the shocking conclusion that Wood was, in fact, a documentary filmmaker. Glen or Glenda was an accurate portrayal of the director's obsession with angora sweaters; Bride of the Monster, a revealing look at the dangers of atomic power; and his masterpiece, Plan 9 from Outer Space, an expose disguised as a grade-z science fiction film.

As documented in Plan 9 from Outer Space, the unknown humanoid aliens from beyond planned an insidious attack upon our own dearly departed. As the alien Ruler said,

"Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long-distance
electrodes shot into the pinion pituitary glands of recent dead."

Fortunately, brave men of Earth put a stop to this plan, but not before a half-dozen innocent souls fell victim to the aliens' diabolical scheme. But what of Plans 1-8? Until now, the teeming masses of man remained blissfully - but dangerously - ignorant. At last, it can be told - the shocking TRUE FACTS behind the plans that came BEFORE Plan 9...

Plan 1 from Outer Space: Invasion of the Sex Changers (1934)

The Ruler: "Plan 1 involves our agrarian division. Mass planting of our homeworld's gyno beans, planted all over plantations in the continent known as North America. Switching the genders of the people of earth, sundering their sense of self."

The plan failed when alien agents Penos and Shava forgot to take into account the common earth locust, which ate all the gyno bean crops before human beings were even aware of the threat. Endemic drought also contributed to the failure of the plan.

Plan 2 from Outer Space: Carpet Bombing (1936)

The Ruler: "Plan 2, unlike plan 1, cannot fail, for it renders the very sun of this pitiful Earth planet helpless, by means of eliminating the nutrient-rich sun-rays which give life to this pitiful planet Earth."

The plan misfired when alien fiends Gendo and Flebulge surrounded Earth's sun with actual carpet instead of the asbestos sheeting they were supposed to use. The carpet burned, and the "pitiful" inhabitants of earth noticed no ill effects.

Plan 3 from Outer Space: The Sounds of Silence (1937)

The Ruler: "Plans 1 and 2 were flawed because they failed to take into account the strange and special properties of this sun-system, with its yellow star and green-blue third world. But Plan 3, which involves sonic bombardment of Earth from beyond the orbit of their pitiful Moon, will shake, rattle and roll the humans into suffering, shell-shocked submission."

The plan failed when alien Chief Designer Designate Erko forgot that sound waves, no matter how powerful, cannot travel through the airless medium of space. There were no human casualties.

Plan 4 from Outer Space: Bubble Gumfight (1941)

The Ruler: "Plans 1, 2 and 3 failed due to the resistance of those stubborn humans, their mettle greater than even our cleverest Space Generals anticipated. But Plan 4, with its focus on impressionable teens, will send these simple Solarians into a frenzy of begging for our mercy, which we will not offer. According to your Plan 4 plans, this chewy substance called chewing gum, filled with our powerful mind-control drugs, will sour their teenage minds on authority and bring their pitiful national governments to their knees, leaving them ripe for invasion."

Plan 4 went awry when the aliens added their "mind control drug" to the nation's bubblegum supply. Unfortunately for the aliens, human beings consume sugar without ill effect - save to their teeth.

Plan 5 from Outer Space: Time Slaves (1943)

The Ruler: "Plans 1, 2, 3 and 4 failed - but Plan 5 is truly infallilble, relying as it does on the humans' own innate savagery. With the new Atomic Time Hole, we can enslave Earth's mightiest warriors, flinging fearsome Roman Legions, bloodthirsty Zulu armies, and crazed Mongol hordes against Earth's defences. Not even the cleverest Earth generals of 1943 can hope to stand fast against our time-lost zombie battallions!"

Plan 5 was the best plan yet, but the aliens, in their ignorance of Earth history, failed to take into account the technological disparities involved when pitting Roman legions, Mongol hordes, and Zulu armies against the sophisticated war machines of the Axis and Allied powers. The invading forces, armed only with swords and spears, were promptly cut to ribbons by machine-guns, bazookas, and torpedoes wherever they appeared.

Plan 6 from Outer Space: Rain of Terror (1950)

The Ruler: "Ah yes, Plan 6 - at last, a foolproof plan, wherein we superior space-men at last bring the foolish, primitive Earth-men under our heel. We shall seed their stratocumulus cloud layer, which protects the humans from ultraviolet radiation, with Atomic Dust, which will force the clouds to lose altitude and break up into deadly sheets of radioactive rain."

Plan 6 was foiled in the testing stages by a group of precocious teens, though three residents of West Armpit, Nebraska, including the county sherrif, were burned into radioactive ash by the alien weapon.

Plan 7 from Outer Space: Pornographic Priestesses (1953)

The Ruler: "Although our last six plans failed, Plan 7 - and I note that the humans consider 7 a lucky number - is a guaranteed success. For this time, we depend upon the very weaknesses of the very Earthlings we seek to conquer. The human procreative drive is the most powerful in the known galaxy, and our seductive "sleeper" agents will seduce Earth's most powerful men into precarious positions from which they are vulnerable to our black-hearted blackmail."

Plan 7 failed because Earth politicians, long masters of adultery, were proficient at escaping the grip of seductive slatterns and gorgeous gigolos.

Plan 8 from Outer Space: Strength in Numbers (1957)

The Ruler: "Plans 1 through 7 all met with failure, not because the humans are inherently superior, but because we have grown too proud. There is strength in numbers, and by calling upon others who have cause to conquer this irritating world, we will surely triumph. Prepare conference by Electro-Atom Video Phone Screen."

Plan 8, while perhaps the most ambitious of the alien plans, failed when our would-be alien conquerors tried fruitlessly for years to contact Ming the Merciless, Guidance Ro-Man, and the brain from planet Arous, unaware that these supposed arch-enemies of man were in fact fictional human creations.

By 1959, the aliens were discouraged, but no less determined to put an end to humanity, a species they saw as a menace to galactic civilization. The visionary Ed Wood fearlessly documented this plan, and perhaps because of the exposure, the aliens retreated, seemingly defeated. But were all of the aliens truly destroyed, as depicted at the end of Wood's documentary? It seems unlikely. While decades have passed since the failure of Plan 9, it seems prudent to keep watching the skies, for our fearsome foes may put the next plan into motion when we least expect it. Ed Wood knew the power of persistence, and so too must we, dear readers, be tirelessly vigilant in our defence of this green and noble world. Are you prepared to face the shocking facts about...Plan 10 from Outer Space?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Cuts Like a Bowie Knife

My brother and I went to the Silver City Imax last night to see the David Bowie interactive concert. Not only did Bowie and the band put on a great set, but the man was quite charming and funny during the Q&A that followed. It was quite neat; Bowie and a moderator sat in a studio in New York while audience questions were transmitted from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janiero. There were a few technical glitches, including some bizarre audio looping when Paul, the guy in our Edmonton audience chosen to speak to Bowie, asked his question. Bowie looked a little confused, and no wonder - Paul's voice was echoing back and forth, along with the laughter of our audience when the problem became apparent. Trippy. But he was a trooper and answered the question ("Do you enjoy working in the studio more, or performing live?") with candour.


I couldn't help but ruminate on the phenomenon; fifty thousand people from half a dozen countries, linked via technology in mutual appreciation of a talented artist. I felt something close to elation when I considered the possibilities, tempered by the understanding that such gatherings are almost always motivated by a desire for money. I can't fault Bowie for that - I've always respected his talent, and he doesn't seem to be in it for the cash - but it's still somewhat sobering.

And yet, I can just imagine giant town hall meetings, people from North and South coming together to hash out the inequities between rich and poor, formulating plans to take back this planet from the robber barons and the scoundrels.

One day...one day.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Mister Tambourine Man

By the way, I do not, in fact, own a copy of William Shatner's masterpiece "The Transformed Man," but one day I will indeed have a copy...MISTER TAMBOURINE MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!

Special Guest Blogger: Alex Zukowsky

Alex Zukowsky of Edmonton amuses his coworkers by sending Top Ten lists via his work email account, and he's graciously provided a new Top Ten list especially for Bleak House of Blahgs readers. Thanks, Alex!

Top Ten Perks to Owning Your Own Website

10. The money
9. Always have the last word in every argument
8. When pulled over for speeding can get out of ticket by flashing your "web designer" badge
7. Can work on website wearing nothing more then a smile
6. Al Gore personally calls you up to apologize for his "invented the internet" claim
5. The women
4. With pasty white "indoor only" skin you do a great imitation of Michael Jackson
3. Free Dilbert calendar for every 1000 site visitors
2. Ability to explain purchase of William Shatner's 1968 "The Transformed Man" album as work related

and the Number One Perk to Owning Your Own Website...

1. Can misspell word like "Blahs" and come off looking like a genius

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Victory is Mine

At last, after sixteen arduous games of Scrabble, I've tied Sylvia. We each have eight wins apiece.

I'm back at work and the pace is frenetic...

There's a mosquito in the apartment!!!!! :-O

Thursday, August 28, 2003

A Hot Time in Radium Hot Springs



Sylvia and I are back from Radium Hot Springs. Much fun was had, even though our intended journey through BC was cut short BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE! We drove right by a burning mountain - the biggest fire I've ever witnessed. Quite a sight. After making it through that with barely a singe, we were nearly caught in a rockslide near the Yoho bridge, currently being refurbished. Okay, it was a small rockslide, but still worrisome, and I got dust all over my car. :-(

Our hotel room (at $95 per night, quite a steal) had a built-in private jacuzzi. Talk about relaxing - I nearly fainted in there. And at the hot springs, for that matter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Shots to the Teeth

Susan Shyluk notes that her brother Steven Neumann won the Earl blog pool by being the first in their clan to be mentioned in the Bleak House of Blahgs. It's strange I haven't written about Steven, Susan, or Susan's husband Jeff before, since there are so many great stories about them.

Jeff, for example, has taken several punishing blows to the teeth in the time I've known him - ironic, since he tells a great Teeth Tale himself, about a young man who shattered his teeth on a gymnasium floor. But that's another tale.

Two of Jeff's teeth torment tales take place in the office of the University of Alberta Star Trek Club, still located in room 620 of the Student's Union Building. I don't quite recall the chronology of events, but during one incident, ST and Scuba Club member Andrea MacLeod was bouncing a nickel off the desk. An errant bounce caught Jeff in the upper incisors, and the sound was like...well, like a nickel smacking headlong into a defenceless set of choppers. Jeff yelled and clapped his hands over his mouth, eyes watering.

The Star Trek Club teeth story had similar roots (if you'll pardon the pun). I (or was it Tony Longworth?) was flicking a plastic paper clamp across the desk, using the spring action to propel it, when it flew into the air and smacked Jeff - you guessed it - square in the teeth. He yowled and clapped his hands over his mouth, eyes watering.

Later, a bunch of us went down to Hawrelak Park to play frisbee. Well, not frisbee - we were tossing one of those flying rings around. We stood in a large circle, passing the toy back and forth, and for whatever reason, the circle got smaller, until Jeff and Susan were only three or four metres apart. The ring came to Susan, and she flung it with all her might at Jeff, not noticing how close he was. Jeff's arms were outstretched, and it looked like he was attempting to catch the ring in his teeth. Well, he caught it in the teeth all right - the ring mashed Jeff's lips against his brutalized incisors with a rubbery "twang," then rebounded into some bushes. Jeff howled and clapped his hands over his mouth, eyes watering.

Poor Jeff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy!!!!

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy!!!!

Ahem. Sorry. Little excited.

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

DVD ALERT!

HOLY SMASHAMOLEY!!!! The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy is out on DVD!!!!!

I've seen the preview for this little-known film perhaps100 times, and it never gets old. As a clunking, clanking contraption of rivets and steel drums menaces mankind, to the rescue comes - THE AZTEC MUMMY! A shambling monstrosity, now mankind's ONLY HOPE!!!!!!! :-O

In the preview, the announcer screams, "The ROBOT - versus the AZTEC MUMMY!!!!" And that's just what I'm screaming now! The ROBOT - versus the AZTEC MUMMY!!!!!! Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!!

Since there are several "Aztec Mummy" films, I'm betting the Aztec Mummy wins, but even so, I can't wait to see this little gem. I mean, judging by the preview, it has several elements true cinephiles drool over:

1) A fake-looking humanoid robot that wreaks all kinds of havoc, sending villagers into a wild panic
2) An aztec mummy
3) An aztec mummy smashing through walls
4) A robot fighting an Aztec mummy
5) Underground tunnels
6) Loopy, completely insane dialogue delivered with the utmost gravity

Shout it out, my homies! THE ROBOT - VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Clowns

Clowns, clowns, they're evil and weird
Even young children and pets have they jeered
Clowns, clowns, with faces all painted
Even strong men when confronted have fainted

Who was the sadist who came up with clowns?
Those merry mad demons who joyfully drown
All hopes and all dreams and all manner of joy
Who cheerfully laugh as they eat little boys

If I had two wishes, the first thing I'd do
Is wish all clowns away, and for wish number two
I'd erase all the clowns who lived in the past
(Like Fatty Arbuckle, alleged pederast)

Clowns, clowns, they juggle and jape
Those terrible, tortured, juggling jackanapes
Harlequin horrors under the big tops
Backstabbing jesters, dagger-toothed fops

Clowns, clowns, Pagliacchis and Jokers
Stabbing your eyes out with gleaming hot pokers
Joy buzzers and spritzers and fools stuffed in cars
A pie in the face, and Bozo on Mars...

Clowns, clowns, they won't go away
No matter how much little boys and girls pray

Friday, August 01, 2003

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean

Sylvia and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean last Friday. Here’s my review:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is the best pirate movie since the days of Errol Flynn. The film succeeds because of two key elements: sincerity and a great sense of fun.

The first step in creating a good film is to write a good script. This is common sense, but it seems almost a lost art these days. Lo and behold, Pirates not only has witty dialogue, but a logical plot that unfolds with precision and clarity. Most action films these days are just a collection of expensive set pieces connected by the most fragile threads, but not so here; each bit of action is integral to the story.

And a good story it is, with likeable (or appropriately detestable) characters who have actual motivations for their actions and understandable goals. The predicament of the villains, led by Geoffrey Rush’s pirate scourge Barbossa, is so ghastly that you even root for the bad guys a little, if only out of sympathy.

And who can help adoring Johnny Depp’s lovable rogue, Jack Sparrow, the pirate without a ship? He’s the Hunter S. Thompson of the seas, looking and acting as though he’s taken a lot of really good drugs to shore up his courage for his many acts of derring-do. Of course, any man who takes a date to the film will have to put up with some swooning over Depp, but that’s all right; there’s plenty of scenery for the men to admire, too.

Orlando Bloom as blacksmith Will Tanner and Keira Knightley as damsel-in-distress Elizabeth Swann play the straight roles here, commoner and noblewoman who are clearly meant for each other, no matter that society forbids fraternization between classes. Bloom reminded me very much of Errol Flynn, in fact; he buckles his swash with extreme flair, and Knightley is spunky and independent without being overbearing. Plus, she looks great in a corset.

There’s a lot of fun to be had from the supporting cast, too, most especially the British navy men, whose upper lips are so stiff that I’m sure they could repel cannonballs. Jack Sparrow’s pirate friends are only sketchily drawn, but they’re likeable nonetheless; the black female character can even be seen as a progressive element in the film; her race and sex are never commented upon, and yet she’s presented as a pirate captain in her own right, and takes the helm of the Interceptor during the key naval battle.

The action sequences—chiefly swordfights and ship-to-ship combat—are spectacular, an overused adjective that nonetheless applies here.

The battle between Barbossa’s Black Pearl—usurped from Depp’s character before the film begins—and Sparrow’s stolen British ship, the Interceptor, is a thrilling spectacle, with cannon fire aplenty, grappling hooks flying everywhere, a suspenseful chase, and a brilliant maneuver that I’ve never seen before, but which seems so logical that I’m surprised this is the first time we’ve seen it in a film.

The special effects are seamlessly integrated into the film, used only when appropriate, and they’re very effective. Special effects should always be used to serve the story, never the other way around, and it’s a huge relief to see them used properly.

Klaus Bedelt’s score is perfectly suited to the raucous goings-on, and reminded me of the glory days of Erich Korngold. There’s lots of crashing percussion and soaring brass, all appropriately nautical—perfect music to shoot cannons and cross swords by.

Clearly, the filmmakers approached this material with an abiding respect for the genre, but neither are they afraid to send up its excesses. The key animal sidekicks—monkey and parrot—have been included, there’s a desert island, rum, a stodgy colonial governor, scurvy dogs, pieces of eight, the skull and crossbones, flintlocks, broadsides, the plank, the obligatory comic relief, and almost all the other pirate trappings. The only things missing, as far as I can determine, were a character with a peg leg and someone with a hook for a hand. Maybe in the sequel.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is pure escapist entertainment at its best. It’s lighthearted, funny, exciting, romantic, and it does all this without pandering to the audience. It’s my second-favourite film of the year, after X2.

By the way, don’t be in a great rush to leave as the credits roll; as is becoming increasingly common in films these days, there’s an extra treat at the very end. Call it the “post-credits coda.”

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Dreaming of Days to Come in This World and Others

May the cube be with you!

Last night, I dreamed that my girlfriend Sylvia was reading my first novel, hot off the presses. It was called The Secondary, and it featured a balding, bespectacled man examining a compass, of the sort you use to draw a circle.

Since every dream is simply a brief glimpse of a parallel universe, I can't help but wonder if the Earl living in that world is pleased with his success. I hope so - and I wish I could ask him what the story's about, and who or what "the secondary" may be.

Hmmm. Perhaps a better question is: can I come up with my own answer to that question?

Be seeing you...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Tony on the Radio

Like a faithful servant, my clock radio awakens me each weekday at 0700. Most days, I'm wrested from the loving arms of Morpheus by the latest vat-grown pop icon, but today I heard instead the stentorian strains of an old friend, one Tony Longworth. Tony's been working at CompuSmart for a few years now, and the company is using him in their ads.

It's clear that Tony is getting a big kick out of the job; he gives it his best over-the-top reading. "I'm Tony, product manager, and if you can find a better price on high-quality computer gear...I'LL MATCH IT!"

Heh. Good for you, Tony. We may not see each other much anymore (and the last time was a happy accident), but it was good to hear your voice.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Happy Canada/Dominion Day!

 136 years old and counting...

The fireworks are scheduled to start at 11 PM, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to see them from my window. Probably not. Still, it was a good day. Sylvia and I continued our Scrabble grudge matches, and I've nearly caught up to her; she leads six games to five. If it hadn't been for one remarkable play ("WHIZ" on a triple word score that's worth 57 points!), we'd be tied up. Curses!





We played our second-to-last game outside, on a picnic table close to my apartment. Sylvia's got a bit of a bug phobia, and she let out a piercing shriek when a spider leapt from her hair onto the table. I felt my heart seize up for a second, and when I recovered, I expected to hear police sirens. It was that loud.

I discovered today that people I don't even know are reading this blog, so thanks and salutations to Frank Lucas and Alex Zukowsky; I hope this little project remains entertaining.

FAME! I want to live forever...

I'm going to steal a page out of my friend Leslie's blog...

Today I like: thunderstorms.

Today I dislike: rude, crazy waitresses who don't even bother to hide their disdain. Hey, I know you're not making nearly enough money to put up with me, but oy! It'd be nice to order my lasagna without fear. (On a side note, that guy with the very distinctive voice who plays the incredibly annoying poltroon on a million commercials - you know who I mean, he used to be on Popcorn Playhouse - was seated just a few feet away from us.)

Movies That Need to Be on DVD so I Can Buy Them Right Away:
The Green Slime
Robot Monster (Criterion Collection)
The Six Million Dollar Man Season One Box Set
Gilligan's Island - The Complete Series
King Kong


That's all for now...

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Distant Earl-y Warning

Having a girlfriend sure keeps you busy! But not busy enough to dissuade me from accepting yet another writing assignment: the “Small Scout Ships” book for the Traveler roleplaying game. That should get me some more geek points! My friend Colin Dunn has been writing a number of supplements for Traveler and Jovian Chronicles, and he was kind enough to foist this on off on – I mean, to give me the opportunity to put my own spin on this particular SF universe. Cool! I’m writing fiction – for MONEY!

Not much money, and it is a game supplement, not a novel, but still…

A strange idea popped into my head a few weeks back: what if I were to take some old science fiction novels and movies with “Earth” in the title and replace “Earth” with “Earl?” What kind of stories would result?

Well, I discovered that if I actually wrote the stories, I could actually construct a far-reaching narrative – dare I say, an epic? Check out this list of novels in the life of a mythical Earl, arranged in chronological order:

The “Day” novels (AKA the Earl-y Years):
When the Earl Was Young
The Day the Earl Stood Still
The Day the Earl Caught Fire
The Day the Earl Got Stoned
The Day It Came to Earl
The Day the Earl Moved
The Long Afternoon of Earl
When the Earl Tilted

The “Anatomy of Earl” series, comprising the novels:
Bones of the Earl
The Brains of Earl
The Monster from Earl’s End
Earl Made of Glass
Earl’s Oddities
Worms of the Earl
Terraforming Earl

The “Earl Enslaved” series, comprising the novels:
Earl Enslaved
The Stubbornest Broad on Earl
Subjugating the Earl
Dibs on Earl
Earl Can Be Fun
The Last Man on Earl
…And the Earl Did Not Swallow Him
The Man Who Fell to Earl
The Greatest Show on Earl
Earl Girls Are Easy
Twixt Heaven and Earl

Inside Earl:
The Hollow Earl
Cave Pirates of the Hollow Earl
At the Earl’s Core
Tarzan at the Earl’s Core
Maureen Birnbaum at the Earl’s Core

The Swashbuckling Years:
Earl, the Marauder
Earl vs. the Spider
Report on the Recent Outbreak of Entertainment from Earl
The Menace from Earl

Emperor Earl:
Imperial Earl
The Empress of Earl
Representative of Earl
Foundation & Earl
The Dalek Invasion of Earl
Galactica Discovers Earl
The Little Green Men Send an Ambassador to Earl
Prisoners of Earl
The Shrines of Earl
Exiled from Earl

Earl’s Offspring:
The Naked Earl
Before Earl Came
Earl Comes
Earlseed
Earlborn
Farewell, Earl’s Bliss
A Child of Earl and Hell
A Child of Earl and Starry Heaven
Daughters of Earl
Inherit the Earl
The Girls from Earl

“The Madness of Emperor Earl,”
An Earl Gone Mad
Cursed Earl Asylum
A Paradigm of Earl
This Island Earl
The Rise and Fall of Earl

Earl on Trial:
The Defendant Earl
The Case for Earl
I Speak for Earl

The Clone Wars:
Earl 2
The Fourteenth Earl
Earl Eighteen
Earl’s Other Shadow

Earl Under Attack:
Target…Earl?
Tom Swift and His Atomic Earl Blaster
Earl vs. the Flying Saucers
Invasion: Earl
The Day Mars Invaded Earl
Battlefield Earl
Suicide Ship to Earl
Earl Factor X
The Man Who Stopped the Earl
The Earl in Peril
Earl Needs a Killer
Retreat from Earl
The Ship That Saved the Earl
Invaders from Earl

The Twilight Years:
Pilgrimage to Earl
But What of Earl?
Ecce and Old Earl
Dawn for a Distant Earl
The Songs of Distant Earl
The Legend That Was Earl
Earl Abides

The Death and Resurrection of Earl:
Assignment: Earl
The Last Days of (Parallel?) Earl
The Earl Killers
The Destruction and Exculpation of Earl
The Man Who Killed the Earl
Earl on Fire
The Dying Earl
The Earl Dies Screaming
How Death Came to Earl
Exit Earl
The Late Great Planet Earl
When the Earl Grew Cold
Cold the Stars Are, Cold the Earl
Requiem for Earl
Soliloquy at the Tomb of Earl
Lest We Forget Thee, Earl
When the Earl Lived
The Spirit of Earl
The Man Who Saved the Earl
The Earl Doth Like a Snake Renew
The Earl is on the Mend

The Search for Earl
Earl Does Not Reply
The Quiet Earl
The Earl is Missing
Echoes of Earl
Earlsong
20 Million Miles to Earl
Five Million Years to Earl
Northwest of Earl
One Step from Earl
The Far Ends of Time and Earl

Earl’s Return
Earlbound
The Bridge to Earl
The Earl Gods are Coming
Earlblood
Earl in Transit
Earl Triumphant

Of course, there would be television spin-offs, including From the Earl to the Moon, Gene Roddenberry’s Planet Earl, and Gene Roddenberry’s Earl: Final Conflict.

Collectively, this massive work shall be known as The Earliad.

Oh, come on. You know you’d buy at least a couple of books in the series…

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Bulbs Selling Like Hotcakes

Lois Hole's Favorite Bulbs has sold out in a couple of places (I checked), and Lois is getting fantastic audience response to her speeches. Plus, I think Vegetable Favorites Mark II is going to be quite good.

In other news, I took Sylvia to the Hole's BBQ on Saturday. It was quite nice, aside from the mosquitoes, but Karen from cutflowers loaned us some Kids Off (great stuff - no nasty smell), and that took care of the worst of the bugs. Had a brief but very enjoyable talk with Leslie, got to know a couple of Hole's people a little better, and then went out to Steve Fitzpatrick's place to see the visiting Rob Day. Sylvia fits in with the geek crowd quite nicely, despite having a very low geek quotient herself.

Speaking of which, I took the online Geek Test and scored over 66% - which apparently puts me at #3 on the all-time list. I really hadn't expected such a...er...stellar/shameful result. I guess I'll just try to enjoy my status as Geek God.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Some Days You Get the Bear...

...some days, the bear gets you. Sometimes the bear is an endangered species and you should call a forest ranger! Sometimes the bear is actually a robot guarding the Beam.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

More Curse of the Bloody Skeleton

Perhaps you noticed a cryptic blog entry a few weeks back: the opening teaser of a horror film screenplay. I've decided to move forward with the story, and here's what I've got thus far...

FADE IN on

5. EXT. Main Street at dawn, just outside Pop’s Soda Pop Shoppe. It’s dawn, and POP PRUITT, a balding, greying senior, rail-thin, is sweeping the sidewalk before his store, whistling. Gentle music informs us that this is an idyllic small-town scene, in sharp contrast to the horror we’ve just witnessed. A young woman on a shiny red bicycle, a perky teenaged brunette, rides into view. This is PENNY PRUITT, POP’s daughter. She comes to a stop in front of her father.

PENNY: Hi, Daddy!

POP: Good morning, my dear. Where are you off to today?

PENNY: Chip and I are meeting some friends at the old amusement park. We’re going to set up some tents and camp out!

POP: I hope you’re not thinking of going near any of those old rides. They should have sealed off that place – it’s dangerous!

PENNY: We’re not going to fool around with the rides…we just want to camp out close to the beach. We won’t be anywhere near anything dangerous.

POP: Well, I don’t know…if your mother were alive…

PENNY: Daddy, what could possibly happen? Don’t worry – I’ll see you in a couple of days!

PENNY rides off, leaving her father shaking his head. As PENNY rides into the distance, he returns to sweeping.

CUT to

6. EXT. Further down Main Street, PENNY rides along. TRACK with PENNY as CHIP COWAN, her best friend, pulls alongside on his shiny blue bicycle. CHIP is around PENNY’s age, with close-cropped brown hair and fresh, exuberant features. He’s the All-Canadian boy.

CHIP: Hi, Penny! Is everything set?

PENNY: The guys already have the campsite set up! All we need to bring is…us!

DISSOLVE to

7. EXT. The beach. Gathered here beside a huge 50s-esque Cadillac are PENNY and CHIP’s friends, CHEST BONEWELL, JULIE NYMFO, CHASTITY DYKE, PITMAN SPEER, LANCE BOYLE, APRIL RAYNE, FENTON NG, PREETA HUJANDULEEP, JACKSON BOWMAN, SHIVA MCANDREWS, SIOBHAN KADESHI, DILTON PUNK, ROBIN-SHIELA JAMSPLATTER, and JAMES “JIMBO” JOENS. All are dressed in bathing suits or shorts and t-shirts.

In the distance, we see the hulking ruins of the old amusement park, not overtly sinister, but still somehow unsettling.

In a series of quick scenes, we introduce the major players.

ROBIN-SHIELA, an attractive young African-Canadian, is conferring with CHEST, a bespectacled Caucasian beanpole. The others amuse themselves by playing Frisbee, tossing baseballs, etc.

ROBIN-SHIELA: Chest, weren’t Rick and Elaine supposed to be the first ones here? They had all the sleeping bags and tents!

CHEST: They were working on a case for the Junior Detective Squad. Something about the Spectre of the Sideshow.

ROBIN-SHIELA: Not the Junior Detective Squad again!

CHEST: Yes, apparently there were strange, ghostly sounds emanating from the abandoned sideshow. Rick and Elaine speculated that one of the sideshow candy vendors, who was crushed by a falling roller coaster car the day before the fair closed forever, returned to haunt the park.

ROBIN-SHIELA: Bah! I don’t believe it. Why don’t our friends join the cool clubs, like cheerleading or baseball.

CHEST: Well, I’m on the debate team.

ROBIN-SHIELA: The debate team is not “cool.”

CHEST (hopeful): I’m going to be editor of the yearbook club next year.

ROBIN-SHIELA merely stares.

CUT to

8. The beach. CHASTITY DYKE and SHIVA MCANDREWS are playing Frisbee.

CHASTITY: Shiva, I’m so horny, even you’re starting to look good. You’re cute, but I’m not into girls.

SHIVA: Chastity, don’t you think about anything besides sex? Don’t worry – sunset’s only an hour away, and I’m sure one of the guys will be more than willing to service your needs.

CUT to

9. The beach. PITMAN SPEER and FENTON NG are laying out towels. PITMAN is a muscular black male; FENTON, a thin, reedy Asian-Canadian.

PITMAN: So, you going to make your move on Shiva tonight?

FENTON: Nah. She’s way out of my league. Besides, she’s had a crush on Lance since she was eleven.

PITMAN: Lance is a dillweed. Besides, he’s had his eye on Siobhan all year.

FENTON: Yeah, but Siobhan obviously has a huge Sapphic crush on Preeta.

PITMAN: Which is ironic, because Preeta is totally into Chastity, who doesn’t have a lesbian bone in her body despite having a last name like “Dyke.”

FENTON: Can you put a lesbian bone into a body?

PITMAN: Anyway, don’t let Lance stand in your way. Brains will win out over brawn every time.

FENTON: Except when it comes to getting laid.

PITMAN (considering): Hmm.

CUT to

10. Bikini-clad damsels PREETA HUJANDULEEP and JULIE NYMFO are stretching out on their towels to do some tanning. PREETA is watching CHASTITY play Frisbee; JULIE watches PREETA watching.

JULIE: When are you going to figure out that Dyke…isn’t?

PREETA (sighing): I can dream, can’t I? The only girl in school who isn’t bisexual, and I fall for her.

JULIE: We all want what we can’t have.

PREETA (singing): I can’t get no…na na na…Sapphic action…na na na…

JULIE (exasperated): Here, let me rub some suntan oil on those huge boobs of yours, paying special attention to your turgid nipples.

As she moves into position to do so, we CUT to

11. EXT. the beach. LANCE BOYLE and JACKSON BOWMAN, sitting on the rear bumper of the Cadillac. The trunk is open; we can see coolers behind them, presumably containing food and beverages. LANCE is a long-haired, athletic Caucasian, with the beginnings of a goatee. His friend JACKSON is African-Canadian, also athletic, but with a swimmer’s build.

LANCE (watching SIOBHAN, who is standing a bit farther down the beach with APRIL): Dude, I think Siobhan is finally warming up to me. I really cleaned up at the track meet.

JACKSON: She’d be more impressed if you cleaned up your act. We all like to let loose once in a while, but Siobhan’s a straight shooter – if she finds out you’ve been doing crack again, your chances will go from zero to…uh, less than zero.

LANCE (wounded): A little cocaine never hurt anyone!

JACKSON looks a little startled by this pronouncement.

CUT to

12. SIOBHAN KADESHI and APRIL RAYNE, standing ankle-deep in the surf, looking out towards the abandoned amusement park.

APRIL: Kinda spooky, isn’t it? Like the skeleton of some huge, ancient dinosaur that died just before it was able to devour its prey.

SIOBHAN: Nice simile, April. I guess Rick and Elaine were out there last night, investigating some spook or other.

APRIL: And they still haven’t arrived. Maybe they started investigating each other.

SIOBHAN (pensive): I’m worried. Rick and Elaine are usually so dependable. They were going to bring the root beer.

APRIL: Well, as founding members of the Junior Detective Squad, maybe you and I should do some investigating of our own. Maybe the Spectre of the Sideshow was too much for Elaine and Rick to handle!

SIOBHAN: No, let’s give them a little more time. If they’re not here by sundown, let’s see if we can convince the others to start a search.

CUT to

13. EXT. the beach. DILTON PUNK and JAMES “JIMBO” JOENS are throwing sticks into a pile, getting ready to start a fire.

DILTON (conspiratorially): Did you bring it?

JIMBO: Yeah, man, quit worrying.

DILTON: This is gonna be so bitchin’. I can hardly wait to see…

DILTON breaks off as ROBIN-SHIELA and CHEST approach.

CHEST: Look, I brought matches.


****

That's all I've got thus far. Yes, it's dumb as hell, but I'm having fun.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The Play's the Thing

I've introduced Sylvia to one of the very best shows on television: Homicide: Life on the Street, via the Seasons 1&2 DVD box set. She loves it, much to my delight - the girl's got class. Remind me to write an analysis of the show's opening credits; I've been meaning to do so for a long time.

My friend Allan is telling me, via instant messenger, that he's working on a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He's doing the sound and lighting. Very cool.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Walk to the End of the World

On Sunday, I joined my friends Leslie Vermeer and Nicole Brenda for the annual MS Walk. I raised $120; not as good as last year, but hopefully enough to help. This year’s t-shirt is fire-engine red with a big yellow diamond in the middle, populated by shadow people. Nifty.

Midway through the walk, Leslie went running through some unsuspecting homeowner’s lawn sprinkler to cool off. She attempted to do so a second time at a different address, but she was foiled by beer-swilling sentries.

If her courage hadn’t failed her, I wonder what could have happened…

EXT. A city street in Edmonton, Alberta. A warm, sunny morning. NICOLE, EARL, and LESLIE, each dressed in an MS shirt, are walking purposefully down the street. LESLIE breaks away and dances through the spray of a lawn sprinkler, much to the shock and horror of two BEER-SWILLING SENTRIES.

LESLIE: Tra la la, whee!

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #1: Tarnation! That gal is plumb jumpin’ all over our fresh green lawn!

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #2: I reckon we gots to teach her a lesson!

LESLIE: Oh oh!

NICOLE: Ulp!

EARL: D’oh!

LESLIE, NICOLE, and EARL run for their lives. The BEER-SWILLING SENTRIES give chase.

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #2: Y’all walked on m’grass! Come back for yer whuppin’!

LESLIE: No way!

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #1 trips and falls, barking his shins against the curb.

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #1: MY SHINS! Oh no, I barked ‘em good! MY SHINS! Jumpin’ banjos, MY SHINS!

EARL: Good Lord! (choke)

NICOLE: That’ll teach you for wearing sandals when you’re giving chase to sprinkler-hopping fugitives!
BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #2 stops to aid his fallen companion. He shakes his fist at the retreating trio.

BEER-SWILLING SENTRY #2: You haven’t heard the last of this!

EARL: Nice of you to invite us to your little SHIN-dig! Ha ha! Losers!

FADE OUT as the triumphant walkers continue their quest.



Well, it could have happened.

Monday, May 12, 2003

A Venomous Comeback

Yesterday was Stephen Fitzpatrick’s birthday, and the night before, a few of his faithful friends gathered at Steve’s to celebrate.

I was, as usual, the first to arrive. Stephen and his wife Audrey have two daughters; the eldest, Fenya, is four. It was she who greeted me at the door when I arrived.

“This is a cobra,” she said, wielding a purple plastic snake. “It’s really mean, and poisonous.”

I played along as Fenya showed me the signature hood and the deadly fangs.

“Well,” I said, somewhat condescendingly, “You’d better be careful – you don’t want to get bitten.”

She gave me a look full of exasperation and rolled her eyes. “It’s only a toy,” she said.

Now I know why W.C. Fields didn’t work with kids. They always get the best lines.

***

It was a pretty busy weekend all around. Friday night Sylvia and I went to Ikea; she bought me a picture frame and a lamp. The picture frame is for the bathroom; she wants me to hang something that will go with my film noir shower curtain. I thought maybe I’d create a single enigmatic question mark to place within the frame, to hang above my toilet. Or perhaps the word “OBEY.”

Sunday was Mother’s Day, of course, and Staff Photo Day at Hole’s. Routine is comforting; Mom and Dad came out for brunch, I gave Mom one of Hole’s signature hanging baskets, and then I came home to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Wouldn’t life be so much better if we coexisted with cartoons? Maybe then, we’d realize how absurd the whole affair is.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Curse of the Bloody Skeleton

I'm a big fan of horror movies, including an important sub-genre: the cheap 80s slasher film, in which teenagers are punished for having sex, doing drugs or simply spitting on the sidewalk. Here's the beginning of a screenplay that I hope satirizes these tropes with sufficient whimsy.

1. INT. the funhouse of a haunted amusement park. Precocious teens RICK and ELAINE are hunting for clues in the empty, run-down funhouse. ELAINE comes across a box, filled with what she thinks are circus peanuts.

ELAINE: Rick, look - this box is full of circus peanuts!

RICK: Could this be our first clue? If we can solve the mystery of the Spectre of the Sideshow, the other members of the Junior Detective Squad will finally take us seriously.

ELAINE picks a peanut out of the box and pops it into her mouth.

ELAINE: If I can determine the freshness of this circus peanut, we can deduce how long it's been since this funhouse has been occupied. Hmmm, chewy. And I think it's gone stale.

ELAINE, chewing, begins to look concerned.

RICK: No one just abandons a box of perfectly good circus peanuts.

ELAINE: This isn't a circus peanut - it's a styrofoam packing peanut! I'M CHOKING!

ELAINE'S hands fly to her throat, and her eyes bulge.

RICK: Good grief! Elaine!

RICK, panicking, punches ELAINE in the stomach, hoping to dislodge the peanut. ELAINE doubles over, clutching her stomach, face twisted in pain. She continues to choke.

RICK: Oh no, oh no! What do I do? What do I do?

ELAINE: Gak! Choke!

RICK wets his pants. ELAINE drops to her knees, her face turning purple.

2. EXT. the funhouse. A shadowy figure steps into the frame, cloaked in black robes. The being gazes up at the funhouse, listening to the cries within.

3. INT. the funhouse. RICK is pulling his hair, wide -eyed, as ELAINE's limbs twitch and spasm. At length, she goes still...dead, her tongue lolling. RICK, blubbering, turns and runs.

4. EXT. the funhouse. RICK exits at a run, arms windmilling. He spots the cloaked figure and screeches to a halt.

RICK: You've got to help me! My girlfriend - she's in there - choking on a styrofoam peanut!

The cloaked figure lifts a hand to pull back his hood. The horrible visage of the BLOODY SKELETON, a skull caked in wet, dripping blood, is revealed. RICK recoils in horror, but it's too late - the BLOODY SKELETON wraps bony fingers around RICK'S throat and throttles him to death.

FADE TO CREDITS

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

At the Movies Again

Go see X2. Do it now, because it rocks. I love intelligent science fiction. I love stories with integrity. And I love perfect casting. Even non-geeks will love this film.

What a find at the video store - not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Mad Mission films - all in one spectacular DVD box set!!!!! :-O I didn't even know there were four Mad MIssion movies!

Mad Mission! Mad Mission! MAD MISSION!!!!!!!! It's mad, I tell you! MAD!!!!!

There aren't enough exclamation points in the universe to express my glee.

In other news, Sylvia and I cooked a steak tonight. This whole cooking deal isn't as hard as people make it out to be. Take that!

Work on the Chaos/Order database continues. I'm working on Minion #63, Smoking Gardener. This is turning into quite a job.

Monday, April 28, 2003

At the Movies - Featuring Bitter Litter

Oops...or maybe it IS working. In safe mode. Hmmph.

At the Movies

Time to take a break from speechwriting. Now the question: call girlfriend (I'm calling her my girlfiend, ha ha) or update the blahg? Why choose when I can do both?

Sylvia and I went to see Identity on Saturday. I went mostly because the previews made the film look like one of those high-concept flicks I love, and because two of my favourite actors, John Cusak and Ray Liotta, star. I also went because this was the film in which Spring Gardening 2002 had a chance to appear. (We received a letter from Columbia Pictures a few months back, asking for permission to use the magazine in a scene from the film.) Sadly, they went with Better Homes & Gardens. Dang.

My verdict? I enjoyed the film, but I was hoping for a twist with a scope that was just a little grander than the one that was eventually revealed. It's still a good film, don't get me wrong, but there were far cooler possibilities...

Afterwards, I dropped Sylvia off at her apartment and went over to Dustin's for a proud tradition: the Stoopid Movie Night. We watched Mike's bungy-jump video - he went to New Zealand and leapt from heights that made me a little queasy, frankly. I'll never be that brave/reckless/daring. Looked like fun, in a way, but I don't think I'd ever have the nerve to leap off a precipice and face a 2000 foot plunge into the abyss. Remember, Mike - when you plunge into the abyss, the abyss also plunges into you. Or something.

After Mike's display of derring-do, we watched the Yul Brynner classic, Westworld, and the three Wallace & Gromit shorts.

And now, presenting for the first time anywhere, the fabulous screenplay you've all been waiting for...

BITTER LITTER

Screenplay Earl J. Woods
Director Earl J. Woods

CAST

Vengeful Man Ron Briscoe
The Robot Steven Neumann
The Mad Scientist Susan Neumann
Basil Jeff Shyluk
Victim/Voice of the Artificial Intelligence Earl J. Woods


SETS
The Institute
An apartment

LOCATIONS
A city street



1. INT. the INSTITUTE. Close-up view of a striped shirt bearing an AIPD (Artificial Intelligence Programming Division) badge.

Credits and theme OVER as we DISSOLVE to

2. INT. the INSTITUTE. Close-up view of a computer monitor, bearing a crudely-drawn happy face.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: I am the world’s very first and only artificial life form, doctor! Are mutants proved so successful?

DISSOLVE to

3. INT. the INSTITUTE. Credits continue as we see female hands preparing a syringe.

DISSOLVE to

4. INT. the INSTITUTE. The MAD SCIENTIST administers the syringe to the ROBOT, who is seated in a high-tech chair.

MAD SCIENTIST: You are just about alive. As soon as you drink the secret formula, Methazolamide, you will be able to arise!

She hands the ROBOT the drink.

The ROBOT drinks.

MAD SCIENTIST: Yes, my creation, you may now arise!

The ROBOT stands.

MAD SCIENTIST: It is amazing! He is alive! I have done it!

CUT to

5. INT. INSTITUTE
ANGLE on the ROBOT.

ROBOT: I am alive.

CUT to

6. INT. INSTITUTE.

MAD SCIENTIST: Enter!

BASIL enters.

BASIL: Yeah, what do you want, Doctor? Oh, you got the android working? Oh, he’s so lifelike, but does it really work?

The ROBOT reaches out to grasp BASIL’s wrist.

ROBOT: Is this not obvious?

BASIL: Wow! Oh, Doc, that’s amazing. But let me check out his brain readings with the machine.

BASIL waves his brain meter over the ROBOT.

BASIL: I’m getting some funny readings, Doc. Are you sure he’s okay?

MAD SCIENTIST: I have tested him out completely. He is fine. In fact, I am sending him out for his first test run into society in just a few minutes.

BASIL: Are you sure that’s safe, Doc? I dunno – something’s kinda funny here with his head!

Cut to

7. INT. INSTITUTE.

ANGLE on the Robot. As BASIL waves the brain meter before the ROBOT’s face, the ROBOT grabs BASIL’s wrist again, seemingly offended.

CUT to

8. INT. INSTITUTE.

ANGLE on the MAD SCIENTIST.

MAD SCIENTIST: Don’t be bitter, Basil. He is going out for his test run into society today.

CUT to

9. INT. INSTITUTE.

ANGLE on the ROBOT.

MAD SCIENTIST (V.O.): Remember, Basil, don’t be bitter. Because bitterness leads to death and destruction, and we cannot have death and destruction in society. Just remember – don’t be bitter.

FADE to

10. EXT. CITY STREET

A man is enthusiastically blowing his nose. He discards the tissue, dropping it at his feet. The ROBOT enters the frame.

ROBOT: You should not be bitter.

VICTIM: Bitter? I’m not bitter, all I did was litter.

ROBOT (malfunctioning): Bitter. Litter.

The ROBOT twitches, then menaces the VICTIM.

VICTIM: You’re not human…don’t hurt me! No! Aiiieeee!

The ROBOT chokes the life from the hapless victim.

The VENGEFUL MAN steps into frame.

VENGEFUL MAN: My – my god – you killed that man!

ROBOT: Must return to the Institute.

VENGEFUL MAN: The Institute..!

DISSOLVE to

11. INT. the VENGEFUL MAN’s apartment. The VENGEFUL MAN takes a gun out of his closet and cocks it.

VENGEFUL MAN: This’ll stop that metal monster!

CUT to

12. INT. the INSTITUTE

The MAD SCIENTIST and BASIL examine the ROBOT.

MAD SCIENTIST: He has returned.

BASIL: I dunno, Doc. Something funny about him! Funny reading on the brain machine – I think some of his programming is – I dunno!

The MAD SCIENTIST grabs at the brain scanner, examining the readings herself.

MAD SCIENTIST: Let me see this.

BASIL: Doc!

ROBOT: I went out. I found litter. I told him not to be bitter. He will no longer be bitter anymore.

BASIL: What’s he talking about?

MAD SCIENTIST: These are completely normal readings.

Cut to

13. INT. the INSTITUTE

The VENGEFUL MAN bursts onto the scene, gun in hand.

VENGEFUL MAN: There you are. You killed my brother!

Cut to

14. INT. The INSTITUTE.

MAD SCIENTIST: That does it... he is fully recharged –

BASIL and MAD SCIENTIST react to the VENGEFUL MAN.

BASIL and MAD SCIENTIST: Who are you?

Cut to

15. INT. The INSTITUTE

VENGEFUL MAN: You created that abomination, now you die!

The VENGEFUL MAN shoots the MAD SCIENTIST, killing her in a flash of light. Then, he turns to BASIL.

VENGEFUL MAN (chuckling): Now it’s your turn.

BASIL: No, you can’t shoot me!

VENGEFUL MAN: Why not?

BASIL: I don’t wanna be shot, I’m too young to die!

VENGEFUL MAN: You were an accomplice. Now, it’s your turn.

BASIL: Noooooo!

The VENGEFUL MAN takes aim, but his gun jams!

VENGEFUL MAN: Oh, hell!

BASIL sees his chance and takes hold of the cord that connects the central processor of the brain-o-meter to the sensor wand.

BASIL: My mother told me never to be a quitter!

BASIL steps behind the VENGEFUL MAN and uses the cord as an impromptu garrote.

VENGEFUL MAN: Arrrrgh!

They struggle.

BASIL: I’ll strangle you, you fiend! Strangle you!

VENGEFUL MAN: Arrrgh! Stop!

The VENGEFUL MAN dies. BASIL, his mind snapping, laughs maniacally.

CUT to

16. INT. The INSTITUTE. The ROBOT, impassive while all this has been going on, finally reacts.

ROBOT: Bitter…quitter. Bitter…bitter…

The ROBOT takes a hammer in hand and swings it into BASIL’s skull, killing him.

ROBOT: I have littered. I must take out the trash.

Cut to

17. INT. The INSTITUTE.

The DIRECTOR appears, holding the same hammer that the ROBOT used to kill BASIL. He looks paranoid, and makes his way across the room to hide in a closet as he delivers the film’s coda:

DIRECTOR: This has been another Paranoid Production.

FADE TO BLACK.

Malfunction

Is this thing working? I can't seem to post from home anymore...

Friday, April 25, 2003

Spider-Mite

Looks like that last blog did indeed get posted, but my attempt to plug Bruce and Leslie's blog failed miserably. That's what I get for attempting to use HTML, grumble grumble. Here's the address: http://moreblaze.blogspot.com/

Sorry, you'll have to cut and paste that into your browser. :-P

I know everyone's eagerly awaiting the Bitter Litter screenplay, but I don't have it here at work. Hmmm...perhaps a poem will do:

Spider-Mite

Spider mite, spider mite
The unfortunate spider mite
Eats my plants, makes them die
Sends their souls to the sky
Watch out! Here comes the spider mite

Do they breed? Listen bub
They’ve got randiness in their blood
Do they swing from a thread?
Take a look, your plant’s dead
Hey there! Here comes the spider mite

In the heat of day
They will breed millions more
You can’t keep them out
Even if you shut the door

Spider mite, spider mite
Unfriendly ravenous spider mite
Spins a web, looks real gross
On the plants in my house

To him, the garden is one big banquet
Where ever plants are hung up
You’ll find the spider mite!

...well, it was a big hit at work...

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Various and Sundry

Note: For two nights in a row, I’ve tried to post this blog from home, only to be thwarted by server errors. Let’s see if a post from my Mac at work is accepted…
Blog-readers, forgive me, for I have sinned; it's been fifteen days since my last entry...

First, a plug: anyone reading this blog (all six of you) should check out another blog, at
. There you'll find the blog of my friends Bruce and Leslie and their son Zak (who has yet to post an entry, I note). Bruce and Leslie also happen to be colleagues; Bruce is the publishing department manager at Hole's (and my nominal boss, although he doesn't like to invoke the hierarchy too often), and Leslie is an ex-boss and often my editor. Both of them are very entertaining, so check out their blog for some cool stream-of-consciousness stuff.

As soon as my friend Allan starts his blog, I'll post a plug here, too. Don't back out, Allan! If I can share my deep, dark secrets with the world, you can, too.

On to other business. I've almost finished watching Gerry Anderson's UFO (see previous blogs, faithful readers!), and the series has taken an interesting turn midway through. Remember how I mentioned that the aliens looked completely human, save a couple of cosmetic changes? Well, as it turns out, something even more sinister is going on...the intrepid men and women of SHADO discover evidence that the humanoid aliens aren't the true forms of the UFOites (oogh) at all. They speculate that the beings they're fighting are a new kind of "machine life..." Kind of a cool precursor to nanotech, although I'm sure that's not what the writers had in mind. I'll have to see what the final four episodes bring.

Coming soon: the screenplay of the Paranoid classic, Bitter Litter!

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Alarming

Sylvia's alarm clock scared the wits out of me. It went off like a bomb and I must have leaped four feet in the air. Yikes.

Things Are Going Well

I'm so glad Colin and Julie introduced me to Sylvia. She's very special, and our relationship is developing fast.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Ted Hole, 1926-2003

Mr. Hole died last Wednesday, and today I was one of the thousands who went to the Winspear Centre to pay their respects. It was a beautiful memorial, held in a beautiful building, with beautiful music.

I really only knew Mr. Hole as Lois' husband, but despite our casual acquaintance I did feel a connection with Ted. He made a point of telling me what a great job I was doing, and I admired his quiet dignity and wry sense of humour. He was a philanthropist, a gentleman, a man who appreciated the fine arts, a man who never hesitated to give anyone a helping hand. Family friend Donna Powell, Ted's sons Bill and Jim, his granddaughter Kate, and U of A President Rod Fraser all spoke eloquently of Mr. Hole. It was probably Bill who moved me most, if only because he was so obviously distraught; the Holes generally keep a tight reign on their emotions in public, and it was a little shocking, if understandable, to see Bill cry.

At the reception, I ran into Carol Mellors, who had been playing timpani with the Edmonton Schoolboys Alumni Band at the beginning of the program. Carol used to serve as a director of the Western Board of Music, the outfit I used to work for. As we were chatting, Lois passed by, and she touched my shoulder; I almost didn't see her, and all I had time to say was "Hello, Your Honour" before she and her escort were off. Then, just a few seconds later, Bill passed us, and he reached out and gave my shoulder a firm squeeze, saying, "Thanks, Earl." And then, almost as if they'd timed it, Jim came by and squeezed my shoulder as well, giving me just a nod.

I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person, but for some reason, those three brief moments of human contact really meant a lot to me. If anything I did (and I really did very little for this sad event) made any of this any easier for them, I'm very glad, and very grateful.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Memory Alley

I've told myself many times never to look through my old photo albums, but the Hole's morale committee is having one of those "guess who this is" photo contests, so I had to find a suitable picture of myself. I found one, but the search brings back those old familiar feelings of deep melancholy - along with something new.

Those photos show what a privilege it is to live life as a young Canadian. All we had to worry about was homework and fitting in, and some of us didn't particularly care about even that. To think that all of us harboured such angst, when we were living in paradise.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Drooling Nostrils

Well, I have a cold. A bad one. It started Friday night, and it's gotten progressively worse. Pity me, for rivers of yellow bile are streaming from my recalcitrant nasal orifices.

I'm actually having company on Friday night, so I've been madly cleaning my apartment, wheezing and hacking all the while. Mom and Dad came over on Sunday to pick up two and half years worth of pop cans - turns out they were worth almost 57 dollars. So I bought my parents lunch and now the kitchen floor is clear of cans, which means that I can mop it. Not that I've been feeling well enough to do that...

There's some kind of grody stain on the bathroom floor. I don't know what it is, and it won't go away, no matter how much bleach I use. I think I need to pick up a sandblaster. Or maybe I'll simply cut up that piece of tile and put something on top of it - a statue or maybe a bathmat.

If I had people over more often than once a year, maybe I wouldn't have these problems.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

More Cryptic Messages

I found another sheet of paper. None of the handwriting is mine:

"Target: March 27 & 28 Wed & Thurs

To the world
you may be only one
person
But to one person
you may be the
world."

I remember finding that among my notes during the time I was directing The Importance of Being Earnest at Lister Hall. Sometimes I like to imagine that it was written for me, but it's more likely that it just got mixed into my stuff during the chaos of the production. I liked it enough to keep it, though.

Strangely enough, just last night I was talking to a friend about memories, and how so many of them fade, even the ones that may have seemed so very important while they were happening. It makes me very sad when I think about all the collective experiences completely lost to humanity because of our imperfect brains. How much more civilized could we be if we remembered every lesson? (On the other hand, how savage could we be if we remembered every slight?)

If I could design an afterlife, all those memories, good and bad alike, would come flooding back when we arrived in heaven. And we'd use our collective experience to unlock the secrets of the universe.

And maybe I'd meet the person who wrote the note.

Embrace Your Inner Geek

Right now I'm working on an Excel spreadsheet, one that describes, once and for all, the names, appearances, origins, and abilities of the canonical Paladins of O.R.D.E.R. and Minions of C.H.A.O.S. In an effort to ensure accuracy, I must of course do some research. So I've been perusing my old binders, and I discovered some old character sheets from my Dungeons & Dragons days. Among these sheets is a cryptic piece of paper that lists "Turtle Treasure." Apparently, one of my characters managed to haul the following items out of some demon-infested dungeon:

"Robe, brown - radiates evocation/alteration magic
Horn of fog production
Girdle of many pouches
A wooden sword: a folding boat
Cube of frost resistance
A net of sharing
Quall's Feather Token of the Fan
Cloak of the Elvenkind
Stone - unidentified grey rock, radiates high magic
Mirror of past scrying"

All this was found in "room #71," or so another scribbled note suggests. (There's also a phone number for "Halls of Adv. + Magic." I don't dare call...)

This many years removed, I can only guess what amazing properties these items may have possessed. The brown robe, radiating evocation/alteration magic, seems as though it may have been useful in such mischief as casting fireballs or turning people into badgers.The horn of fog production doesn't seem very useful, unless you're working as a special effects man on a John Carpenter movie, or if you need some fast cover for a hasty retreat. "A wooden sword: a folding boat" was written exactly that way, colon and all, so it seems that the wooden sword somehow turned into a folding boat...or maybe it's some kind of cryptic Zen koan, who knows?

Cube of frost resistance...not an ice cube, I guess. "Quall's Feather Token of the Fan." Is this one item, or two? Let's see...either Quall (whoever he or she may have been) had a token representing a fan made of a feather, or I simply stolle Quall's Feather, along with a Token of the Fan...a fan? Isn't that sort of anachronistic? I guess it could have been one of those manual fans like geishas have...maybe it was a token of a fanatic...I'm getting a headache.

Cloak of the Elvenkind seems simple enough - a cloak giving me some sort of elven abilities, maybe the ability to see in the dark or what have you. The mirror of past scrying seems self-explanatory, too; presumably, if you looked into the mirror, you could catch a glimpse of the past.

Mind you, given the limitations of the speed of light, you're looking into the past every time you peer into a mirror anyway, even if it is only a nanosecond or so...

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Bulb Enlightenment

Well, it's finally here - Lois Hole's Favorite Bulbs. The first copies of the book came off the presses today, and everyone at Hole's jumped about gleefully as the quality of the finished product set in. It really turned out well; I'm glad I played a role in its creation. The photography is absolutely spectacular; the colours just blew me away.

But, there's no rest for the weary - there's always another book on the horizon, and I started work today on one of our next big projects.

In other news, I had a chance to redeem myself at Sylvia's with another round of Scrabble. But just as I was building up an impressive lead, our pizza arrived, and my plans for sweet revenge were cruelly foiled. By the Gods! Is there no justice? :-O

Ha ha ha...I'm watching another episode of UFO as I write this, and Sky One was just launched to intercept a possible "you-foe..." and it turned out to be a weather baloon. Whoops. Another hundred million pounds down the drain.

Ouch! And a sexy reporter just whacked Straker over the head with an ash tray. Excellent! Except he should have said, "Ow! No one makes an ash out of me!"

Why aren't I writing TV scripts?

Friday, March 07, 2003

UFO-OH

Whoops...in my last blahg, I made a boo-boo. I called a UFO character "Ken Freeman," when his first name is, in fact, Alec. I'm not sure what I was thinking...

In other news...there is no other news.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

UFO

I've been watching Gerry Anderson's 1970s TV series, UFO. It's a post-Thunderbirds, pre-Space: 1999, live-action romp, with all the familiar Anderson hallmarks: transcendent Derrick Meddings model work, peppy music, bizarre fashions, creative sets, a multiethnic mix of characters, and a futuristic setting.

Gerry Anderson's live-action shows, including Space: 1999 and Space Precinct are generally regarded as inferior to his puppet-based, "Supermarionation" efforts - Fireball XL-5, Thunderbirds, and the like. But UFO has surprised me thus far; it shows far more internal consistency than the schizophrenic Space: 1999 ever did, and it's far more tightly written than Space Precinct.

Here's the basic premise: it's the year 1980, and UFOs of unknown origin are swooping down upon a largely unsuspecting Earth, harvesting her citizens for organs. Earth - or rather, the UK - has created a top secret organization, SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization) to stop the aliens. SHADO command, hidden beneath a London film studio, is the hub of a far-reaching defence network, including a functioning moonbase with a trio of deadly-looking interceptors, SID (Space Intruder Detector), an artificial intelligence housed within a satellite in Earth orbit, Skydiver, a submarine capable of launching Sky One, an atmospheric fighter plane, and the SHADO mobiles, tracked land vehicles used to hunt down aliens who've managed to penetrate the outer defences and make a landing on Earth. The models are remarkably creative, inspiring a silent "gee whiz!" from anyone who appreciates fine craftsmanship.

American Ed Straker is the show's protagonist, a hard, bitter man who pretends to be a movie producer but secretly commands far greater responsibilities, for he is the commander of SHADO. He is assisted by a much warmer human being, Ken Freeman, his second-in-command and the moral centre of SHADO's claustrophobic universe. These two men, and their huge cadre of secret agents, fighter pilots, submariners, psychologists, and astronauts, fight a silent war for the fate of Earth.

The pilot episode sets the tone for the series: the first hapless humans who spot a UFO are graphically machine-gunned into oblivion by its spacesuited inhabitants, with realistic blood spatters that have excellent shock value even today, let alone in 1970, when the show was originally aired. One member of this unfortunate trio survives his wounds and winds up joining SHADO, but his sister is captured by the aliens. Later, a UFO crashes and an alien is taken into SHADO custody; we discover that the alien has that young woman's organs. It's a chilling scene.

The aliens aren't very alien at all; they're basically human beings with green skin and funky contact lenses. But even as I was thinking to myself, "How cheap; they're just people with bad makeup," one of the characters says, "They're practically identical to us - this green stuff is just chemical residue from their breathing tanks, and these are just contacts to protect them from the sun." By drawing attention to the low-budget makeup, the producers have effectively given us a better mystery to consider: why do these creatures look exactly like us? It should be impossible. But it does explain why they want our organs, or at least it explains why they have a use for them at all.

Commander Straker pronounces "UFO's" as "U-Foes." I'm not sure if the producers intended it, but I interpret this reading as "Unidentified foes," or simply, "you foes." Cool.

The moonbase is populated by three purple-haired British women; one of them, Lt. Ellis, seems to be the nominal commander of the outpost, although in one episode a male, Colonel Foster takes the job, seemingly temporarily. I find it interesting that the producers were willing to position three women as the first line of defence, even if they did put them in skintight silver uniforms and give them fetishistic wigs. Not that I'm complaining...

The show has its faults; often, the aliens appear to be ineffective. In episode after episode, SID detects a UFO (usually a single ship; never more than three), Lt. Ellis scrambles the interceptors, and the UFOs are destroyed. If they slip past the interceptors, you can almost guarantee that Sky One will shoot them down in Earth's atmosphere. Why do they only send just a few ships at once? Why not en masse, since Earth seems to have only three moonbase interceptors and one airborne fighter to defend it? To make matters worse, even if they make it to Earth's surface, UFOs break down in Earth's atmosphere very quickly. The organ harvesting can't be going well with all these limitations, and one wonders why Straker and company are so concerned.

On the other hand, the aliens can be very sneaky. In one memorable episode, a UFO takes advantage of sunspots to slip past Moonbase tracking and lands just a couple of kilometers away from the base. A suited alien steps out with a rifle, creeps towards the base, takes careful aim, and shoots a hole through one of the base's windows. Explosive decompression is the inevitable result, and it's only blind luck that only a single crewman dies. And he's not even blown out the window - the air simply evacuates, and the man slowly suffocates, dying in the airless silence.

The life of a SHADO operative is rarely easy; Commander Straker loses his young son in one episode, largely because of Straker's responsibilities to SHADO. His ex-wife isn't happy, and clearly Straker is shattered by the loss. The atmosphere at SHADO headquarters is almost always tense; there isn't much humour in this show, nor should there be.

Though I've watched less than half of the show's 26 episode run so far, I have to say that I'm impressed. This is one of television's lost gems, and I'm glad I ran across it.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Canadian Authors Share Their Experiences at Grant MacEwan Talk

I don't have much to write about tonight, so I thought I'd share an assignment I completed a couple of years ago for a Grant MacEwan journalism course. If you have any interest at all in writing, perhaps this will be of interest.

Canadian Authors Share Their Experiences at Grant MacEwan Talk

An informal discussion on the life of a typical writer turned into a sometimes-heated debate on the ethics of the editorial process.

Canadian authors Alberto Manguel, Peter Oliva, and Thomas Horton were the guests at the seminar, held at Grant MacEwan Community College on Thursday. The talk was entitled “Calling or Mauling?” in recognition of the struggles authors often face when attempting to make a living as a writer.

Horton began the discussion by relating the experiences leading to the publication of his novel Icefields. “I wrote my own comic books as a kid, but it took me a while to realize that I could actually make a living as a writer.”

Horton said that the first time he’d shown his creative writing to anyone other than family members was at a creative writing course at the University of Alberta taught by Greg Hollingshead. There, Horton began working on a short story that eventually evolved into Icefields.

“It took a while to figure out what the hell I was writing about,” he said.

Horton passed the book on to another noted Alberta author, Rudy Wiebe. A member of the editorial board of NeWest Press, Wiebe recommended the book for publication. Icefields has since become an international bestseller.

Oliva, who operates a Calgary bookstore in addition to his writing career, said that he got into writing because he was “very bad at mathematics.” While studying computer science, Oliva rediscovered his love of stories and decided to change his field of study.

“I have to give some of the credit for my success to my dad, who was pretty famous back home for his different versions of 'Jack and the Beanstalk,'” he said.

Oliva, too, took a creative writing course in university.

“There, criticism was used like a farm implement. You’d wield a pitchfork like a samurai sword, and you had to develop a thick skin.”

Oliva sent his first novel, Dreaming in Darkness, to several publishers. When the post office asked him how much the package was worth, Oliva simply wrote “thousands” in recognition of all of the time and effort spent in creating his manuscript.

“What I didn’t know was that Canada Post sends stuff worth over $500 with armed guards, so the publishers took notice when this package showed up.”

Manguel, a Canadian of Argentinean origin, is the co-author of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, the author of A History of Reading, and a noted anthologist. He noted that his experience had been very different than his younger compatriots. “In Argentina, the notion of having creative writing courses is totally alien. Indeed, no one expects writing to provide financial support.”

He called Canada “a society in which writing is cushioned in every possible way.”

Manguel admitted to being “shocked by the arrogance” of editors. “In Argentina, the writer writes, and the publisher publishes. There is no editor. Indeed, I am enormously wary of the intervention of editors.”

Manguel alluded to a “lost literature” of Canada, the unchanged, unedited works of Canadian authors. He went on to say that Cervantes and Shakespeare certainly never had to endure the interference of editors.

This sparked a heated reply from Rudy Wiebe, in attendance at the event.

“Shakespeare’s early plays are idiotic,” he said, “do we want to live in a 16th century world? Editors make better books.”

“Aren’t writers often editors?” another member of the audience asked.

“The nasty answer is, they’re frustrated writers,” Manguel replied, “but of course that’s not always the case.”

Manguel admitted that editors could have a positive influence on authors, citing his own editor Barbara Moss.

“She would ask me of my stories, ‘Why are you telling me this, a perfect stranger?’ That question always helped me to create better works.”

On the calling of writing, Manguel said “If you ask yourself ‘Should I write?’ the answer is no.”

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Scrambled Ego

I visited my new friend Sylvia last night for a no-holds-barred Scrabble session. But the unthinkable happened - I was soundly defeated, not once, but TWICE in a row! INCONCEIVABLE!

Well, not really that inconceivable. Still, I must plot my revenge. I can only shake my fists over my head screaming "INCONCEIVABLE!" so many times before I need a new schtick.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

An X-istential Crisis

An X-istential Crisis

I'm starting to get sick of the letter X. Once upon a time, X indicated something strange, mysterious, beyond the norm. The letter X had a proud history: there were the X-Men, of course, and X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The X from Outer Space, The X Files, X-rated movies, the Sesame Street skit featuring Cowboy X, and even American History X. In all these x-amples, the X had a reason to x-ist.

But now pop culture is suffering from an x-treme overdose of X. There's the horrifying superhero tv show Mutant X (or as I like to call it, "Mutant X-Crement"), the grotesque James Bond ripoff xXx, the brain-deadening accident clip show Max X, and all manner of "x-treme" sports shows. And even more maddening, my own generation has been stamped with the letter X. Do any of these things deserve the mysterious X? Bah! Even diapers and ice cream flavours are being rated X.

Let's return our favourite letter to its proud status as a harbinger of the truly weird, mysterious, and dangerous. Let's x-terminate the overuse of our beloved X, before future generations have a reason to x-communicate their foolish ancestors.