Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My Girlfriend the Geek

Early in our relationship, Sylvia noticed that I enjoyed Star Trek. I had all the DVD sets, and when we first started dating, I was working my way through Deep Space Nine, the second spinoff of the original series. Just after I started watching the third season, she decided that the show looked interesting, and we've been watching it together on and off since then.

We just started the seventh and final season. At this point in the show, the curmudgeon with a heart of gold, Mr. Worf, is mourning the death of his wife, Jadzia Dax. There's a touching scene in which Worf demands a holographic crooner (don't ask) to sing "their song." The singer balks, but Worf insists, and so the song is played and Worf, of course, loses it, yelling and smashing furniture as Klingons are wont to do.

While I'm enjoying all the mayhem, I notice that Sylvia's lower lip is quivering, and that tears are forming in her eyes. I was a little shocked.

"Are you...crying?"

"Poor Worf!" she sobbed.

Sylvia Boucher. Fashion maven, girly-girl...Trekkie.

Heh, heh, heh. You cannot resist the POWER of the Dork Side...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Syllabus Shocker

Today at work I Googled my co-author Jim Hole's name to see if there were any new reviews of his latest book, What Grows Here? Volume Two. I found a couple, but way more interesting was the link found at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The syllabus for their Master of Liberal Arts programs includes a quote from a piece Jim and I wrote for last year's issue of Spring Gardening. Here's the relevant excerpt from the syllabus:

LBS 511: Topics in Literature and Language: The Writer in the Garden

Special Instructor Linda McCloskey, Dept. of English
MW 6:30 - 9:50 p.m.
In his essay, "The Art of Interpretation," Jim Hole states, "Even the most modest garden is a work of art in its own right, if you've imbued it with your own personal vision." In this course, we will explore the garden in literature as both literal and symbolic, including each writer's personal vision and expression of his or her relationship with nature, from the Biblical Garden of Eden through the secret garden of children's fiction to the contemporary garden essay. Emphasis will be placed on the connection between personal reflection and universal meaning. Students may investigate interdisciplinary depictions of the garden in painting, sculpture, film and history as well. A visit to the gardens at Cranbrook is planned as part of the course. Students will learn to hone their literary/personal essay writing skills, and garden essays will be gathered to produce a collection at the semester's end. Course requirements also include regular attendance and active participation in class discussions. Required texts:

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. (The Modern Library Classics
Roger Evans, The Writer in the Garden.
Jane Garmey, editor, The Writer in the Garden.
Jamaica Kincaid, My Garden (Book)
Bonnie Marranca, American Garden Writing: An Anthology.
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education.
Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden.

I'm so psyched. I know it's silly, but I really feel like this helps validate the work I've been doing for Hole's. Sure, it's likely that the instructor was just searching for something reasonably quotable for the syllabus description, but it's still darn cool that she picked something I wrote. Woo woo!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hububble: A PostModern/PreSpec Rap by E.J. Gummy Sean

What Up, Gum
Dubble Bubble, Toil and Trubble

Tossing Rubber Through the Rubble like I got a

telescope called Hubble

Fo' Shizzle the Floating Hubub of the Bubble

The works all gummed, irreason rules

More precious than the family jewels

Like gumballs flyin' through the air

balder than if you shampooed with Nair, yo

I'm a supplicant to plastic gods

My prayer's a shout-out to all the rods

that burst the bubble, Yo Yo Bubble
What up Gum, I'm Dubble Trubble

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Engagement Photos

All Photos by Akemi Matsubuchi

I'm feeling too lazy to provide an entry with any substantiative comment tonight, so for your amusement I'll post a few more engagement photos of Sylvia and me. Don't forget to Click to Embiggen!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Market Forces Again

Well, I finished Market Forces over lunch today, and I'm very pleased. Not the ending I may have expected, but logical and satisfying nonetheless. Morgan has a way of making you care about even the most despicable characters that's quite unnerving - you find yourself rooting for the guy who regularly cheats on his wife, or the one who just murdered a colleaugue in the most brutal fashion possible.

Here's yet another book in which Canada survives a future crisis, one of the last lights of hope in a decaying world. It really is a theme, or at least a significant bit of background, in plenty of postapocalyptic and distopian literature, and I'm beginning to wonder why so many authors, most of them not Canadian, choose Canada as "the place that made it through." In Market Forces, there are only a couple of references to Canada, but it's implied that Canada is one of the few nations that still tries to participate in humanitarian aid, as well as one of the last with a free and independent fourth estate. Pretty cool - I only hope the author's optimism is warranted.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Only Logical Choice

Photo by Akemi Matsubuchi

Sylvia and I will be getting married on August 4, 2007! Will our pairing be as classic as Nick and Nora? Green Arrow and Black Canary? Buffy and Angel? The Professor and Mary Ann? Gumby and Pokey? Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl? It's impossible to say, but I look forward to finding out what kind of future we build together.

A little over two years ago, before I met Sylvia, I couldn't imagine ever being in this situation, and I suppose I can expect some ribbing for all the skepticism with which I treated romance. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, I'm happy to dine on some humble pie and enjoy my terrific fortune. Sylvia's a great catch, and I'm very glad that I took a risk when I met her and decided to be open to all the possibilities she offered.

Now the planning begins. Sylvia wants a girly wedding, while I want something a little more...eccentric. There's going to be a little give and take, pushing and pulling, and in the end I think we'll come up with something unique. In any event, it's going to be one heck of a party, and I know I'll be checking out Andrea's site more carefully for clues and tips on how to proceed.

Wish us luck!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Market Forces

I'm only a little over a hundred pages into Richard Morgan's Market Forces, but I've already found a lot to like. It's a near-future SF novel in which the corpratist agendas rule the world, with departments like Conflict Investment and Emerging Markets exploiting war and the third world, respectively. Society is more sharply divided than ever into haves and have-nots, with the poor walled into special risk zones. The well-heeled can enter these zones if they like, at their own risk, and they're entitled to use whatever means of self-defence they find necessary. Naturally, this tends to pretty cavalier use of force - modern armaments against crowbars and zip guns, and the law often turns a blind eye to the excesses of the rich.

The book is satirical, which allows for suspension of disbelief when it comes to the author's vision of climbing the corporate ladder: executives must take to the roads in souped-up cars to perform autoduels against rival partners and associates. It's an idea I remember from an old Harlan Ellison story, only taken to even more ridiculous extremes, and so far it works; the matches are often televised, and winning executives can become quite famous.

What's interesting is that the main character, Chris Faulkner, is clearly conflicted over his participation in the system. Like many limosuine liberals, Chris does the job because it's what he's good at, yet he's mocked by his partners because he's too soft - he often merely incapacitates the losers of his duels, rather than killing them.

Here's what Chris' boss has to say about Conflict Investment:

"Conflict Investment is the way forward!

Yes, yes, we've heard it called risky, we've heard it called impractical, and we've heard it called immoral. In short, we've heard the same carping voices that free-market economics has had to drag with it like a ball and chain from its very inception. But we have learnt to ignore those voices. We have learnt, and we have gone on learning, piling lesson upon lesson, vision upon vision, success upon success. And what ever success has taught us, and continues to teach us, again and again, is a very simple truth. Who has the finance...has the power.

Human beings have been fighting wars as long as history recalls. It is in our nature, it is in our genes. In the last half of the last century the peacemakers, the governments of this world, did not end war. They simply managed it, and they managed it badly. They poured money, withouth thought of return, into conflicts and geurilla armies abroad, and then into torturous peace processes that more often than not left the situation no better. They were partisan, dogmatic and inefficient. Billions wasted in poorly assessed wars that no sane investor would have looked at twice. Huge, unwieldy national armies and clumsy international alliances; in short a huge public-sector drain on our economic systems. Hundreds of thousands of young men killed in parts of the world they could not even pronounce properly. Decisions based on political dogma and doctrine alone. Well, this model is no more.

All over the world, men and women still find causes worth killing and dying for. And who are we to argue with them? Have we lived in their circumstances? Have we felt what they feel? No. It is not our place to say if they are right or wrong. It is not for us to pass judgement or to interfere. At Shorn Conflict Investment, we are concerned with only two things. Will they win? And will it pay? As in all other spheres, Shorn will invest the capital it is entrusted with only where we are sure of a good return. We do not judge. We do not moralise. We do not waste. Instead, we assess, we invest. And we prosper. That is what it means to be a part of Shorn Conflict Investment."

The attitudes and methods of the corporation personified, right there.

Another interesting note: on a trip to one of the restricted zones, one of the working poor, a black man, asks Chris if he's related to "William" (Faulkner). Chris doesn't get the reference, which I find very telling - despite his privileged upbringing, Chris is missing something important, something that the black man hasn't forgotten.

In fact, I haven't read any Faulkner yet, though I at least know who he is, and I share Chris' angst over participating in a system that I know is unfair at best, downright evil at worst. And like Chris (thus far), I haven't figured out a way to be true to my convictions without surrendering the lifestyle to which I've grown accustomed.

But then, perhaps no one can. I look forward to finishing the book, to learn the author's take on the problem.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Earl's on Film...Earl's on Film

A work in progress: cover for special edition DVD of Generous Nature

Cover for a DVD Field Guide of Chaos/Order Agents

One of the current frustrations in my life is my DVD burner's inability to, well, burn. It plays DVDs, loads software off DVD-roms, but will it actually do the thing I bought it for - namely, archive my home movies? NO.

So I work off some of my frustration by using Photoshop to fool around with DVD covers. The top cover is, obviously, a work in progress, a cover for the eventual DVD of a film we of the U of A Star Trek club completed back gods, I guess it must be 1988 or 89. Yikes. Anyway, I chose fonts that I hope evoke a Mob sensibility, and a black background to hint at the darkness of the story. A few stills adorn the back, but I'm going to need to put a blurb of some kind back there, too. The film itself is only five minutes long or so, a simple story in which Roarke Norway, played by the inimitable Jeff Shyluk, has his teeth ripped out at the command of the merciless "Boss," played by the irrepressible Tony Longworth. It's probably most famous for this exchange of timeless dialogue, by Shyluk and his future wife, Susan Neumann:

"Oh, Roarke! I love you so much!"
"And I love you too, my darling!"
"Oh, Roarke! Kiss me!"

And he does.

The second cover is for the eventual DVD archive of my completed Chaos/Order project - which is, believe it or not, moving forward, in between speeches, blog entries, and my entry into the Strange New Worlds contest.

If any graphic artists out there have suggestions or critiques, I'd be glad to read them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Yesterday's airplane crash in Toronto reminded me of something I read on a web a few months back: according to some expert or other, five-point harnesses in airplanes wouldn't do much good very often, since many plane crashes occur at such speed that even if the harness decelerates you safely, the inertia acting upon your internal organs could rip your heart, lungs, etc. out of place, ripping your insides loose from their moorings.

What a ghastly thought. I'd never considered it before, but of course it makes sense. Human beings are not solid masses of undifferentiated tissue, but interlocking systems of bone, muscle and other gooey bits.

When I was a teenager, I came up with an idea I thought was really cool: a big rubber ball, solid except for a crawlspace and just enough room for a person to stand up inside, completely engulfed by rubber. (I hadn't considered the problem of how to breathe.) I reasoned that a person inside a solid rubber ball could be rolled off a cliff of any height and be just fine, bouncing off the bottom gleefully, completely safe from harm. But I guess if the impact speed was high enough, you could wind up smashing your heart against your ribcage.

Cheery thoughts.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Canada's Generic Holiday

While in Edmonton, visit...Fort Edmonton.

I love Canada for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that we have a holiday called "Civic Holiday." There's no religious or historic occasion, no dead white male to celebrate, no rhyme nor reason for a national day off. It's just a long weekend, a time to goof off.

So Sylvia and I made the most of it. On Saturday, we visited Mom and Dad and my brother Sean at Fort Edmonton. Mom and Dad were staying overnight in the Hotel Selkirk for their 40th anniversary (albeit a week late, I didn't book in time), so we thought we'd meet them for lunch. And then we had adventures.

A sweaty salesman peddles furs to a skeptical customer.

Father Earl, Preacher of the Damned, with his glowing eyes straight from the fiery pits of Hell itself!

Naturally I had to ham it up at every opportunity.

Sean hijacks a caboose.
As did my brother.

Sylvia smiles, Sean skulks.

Sylvia, always a good sport, puts up with the family eccentricities no matter what the occasion.

I just like this picture.

It's no SLR, but my little Pentax is capable of some pretty nice shots.

"But I, sir, am no gentleman. As you shall soon discover."

Fortunately, I had no hat. Anyone remember "Harriet's Magic Hats?" Hey, how come Ladies didn't have to remove THEIR hats?

Look out for J. Lauder!

What is the shocking secret of the Mad Butcher's superb sausages?

What Sean Woods would look like if he came from the planet Carggg. 50 geek points to the first person to get the reference.

All in all, it's just another Sean on the wall.

Earl contemplates past, present and future.

I.E., "Why didn't I wear sunscrean? Will this self-portrait turn out? When do we get ice cream?"

Sylvia points the way.

You'd think that after all the excitement of Fort Edmonton, we'd relax. But no! For on Monday, we attended Heritage Days, Edmonton's wonderful multicultural festival, where Albertans come together in the spirit of international solidarity and our common cause: to scarf down ethnic food and marvel at the throngs of other people.

Scott Friel brought his charming new daughter to Heritage Days. Note, however, that he wears the symbol of the dread Empire upon his breast.

My friend Scott Friel is a new dad. Gawk in wonder at his spawn!

This happy fellow handed out balloons all day, making people smile. By the way, I hear Western Union is the best way to send money fast.

Ah, the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when every man, woman and child became a billboard, working cheap to sell goods and services we don't really need.

Jump for the Balloon God!

But on the other hand...hey, free balloons.