Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Swann Season's Greetings

Christmas is still a month away, but Christmas ads have to be completed now to appear in holiday publications. Here's a quick ad I created for David Swann. That's an awful lot of red...I probably should have added a gradient. Still pretty yang, too. And maybe I went overboard with the snowflakes. But sometimes deadlines are pretty short, and you do what you can with the time you have. Hopefully David's message still comes across. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Alberta Liberal Caucus Podcast for November 27, 2010

My colleague Tanara McLean has put together another fun podcast that illuminates the silly side of the serious issues that drive Alberta politics. The songs about Alberta politicians, including Official Opposition Leader David Swann, are a sceram. You can listen to the podcast here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grey Cup, Grey Matter

Jeff and Susan Shyluk have been staying with us the past few days to participate in the Grey Cup festivities. I had no idea that the event lasted more than a single day, but Susan and Jeff have been partying hard since their arrival on Wednesday. Now the game itself has started, and they're in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Sometimes I'm called upon to write speeches for politicians who attend sporting events, and this time was no different. It's always a bit of a challenge for me to write from the heart about sports, since they've never really caught my interest. So I tend to dip into the well of sports cliches and hope for the best. I'm sure the fans are more focussed on the field than they are on the halftime speeches anyway.

Jeff is wearing an old-timey football hat of the sort I remember from a Three Stooges short. These, apparently, were the helmets of the "leathernecks." They don't seem to offer much protection; hopefully Jeff won't be hit in the head by a stray football during the game.

APS X-mas

Every once in a while Sylvia forces me to break out of my shell of introversion. Last night, for example, we attended the Alberta Pension Services Corporation's annual Christmas party, and I surprised myself by schmoozing a little and having a great time. Sylvia was as magnetic as ever, working the room like a pro. In all honesty, perhaps she's the one that should be thinking about running for office. I'd vote for her!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tire Change 1973

Fall 1973, on the road from Leaf Rapids to the Ruttan Mine, just after Mom and Dad and I moved there from Thompson. Mom and Dad think the fellow changing the tire is Donny Rayburn, a family friend. The reason why Dad and I are watching Mr. Rayburn change a tire, or why Mom took a photo, is lost to the mists of time.

From the Archives

I've been scanning old slides and negatives this weekend, and came across this bizarre gem from 1995. I don't remember much about it, except that I posed before this miniature supreme court of accusatory superheroes and asked Jeff Shyluk, "Does this look silly enough?"

"Yep, sure does," he answered, snapping the photo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

C is for cookie - and crisis

I can scarcely believe how Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett reacts to questions in this video.

If you've been following the continuing Raj Sherman story, you'll know that the Tory MLA and (parliamentary secretary for health) attacked first the Premier, then Alberta Health Services, and now former Health Minister Ron Liepert for the emergency room crisis now facing Alberta. Earlier today some reporters tried to track Mr. Duckett down, and as you'll see in the video, he responds with "I'm eating my cookie" repeatedly in a childish falsetto, at one point even shoving his cookie in a reporter's face.

I'm sure Dr. Duckett must be under a good deal of stress right now, and boy, it's really showing.

Alberta Liberal Caucus Podcast for November 19

In this week's Official Opposition podcast, Official Opposition Leader David Swann talks about the Raj Sherman/emergency room wait time crisis affair. Tanara also found an amusing compilation of Bushisms, inspired by Premier Ed Stelmach's odd (but not incorrect) use of the word "ironical" during Question Period.

As an aside, I designed the podcast logo seen at the top of the screengrab above - if you can call the addition of a dot and a word balloon to some text "designing." It only took about five minutes to come up with this, but I think it looks okay nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crossing (Out) the Rubicon

Rubicon was an odd little show. For the bulk of the series, virtually nothing happened - at least, "nothing" by the standards of modern film and television storytelling. The atmosphere was moody and unsettling, the pace glacial, the characters restrained, even ordinary, the plot Byzantine. There's little humour.

I loved it. Of course it couldn't last.

Rubicon was about a small group of intelligence analysts fighting the war on terror. They worked for the American Policy Institute (API), a nondescript little agency in a nondescript brick building hidden away in the labyrinthine urban maze of New York City. Protagonist Will Travers was a cool, distant hero-in-mourning, still suppressing all emotion since the loss of his family on 9/11. As the show opens, Will loses his mentor to a shadowy cabal of mysterious manipulators, including Inspector Sledge Hammer - or should I say, David Rasche, in a more serious role than his most famous. Determined to find out why his friend was killed, Will starts looking behind the scenes at API and slowly uncovers a grand conspiracy that threatens the security - and perhaps even the very existence - of the United States. Like its historical namesake, this was a series about an existential threat to democracy, a country's leadership prepared to cross the Rubicon in the pursuit of wealth and power.

Unlike most other espionage shows, there was very little violence in Rubicon; only three people died onscreen, over the course of the show's single thirteen-episode season. Suspense built slowly as Will and his team slowly unravelled the threads of conspiracy, culminating in a final trio of episodes that rewarded the faithful few who stuck around to watch the entire series.

Rubicon was, in other words, smart television. Or at the very least, it aimed higher than most TV dares these days. But viewership wasn't high enough to justify a second season, and so the series ended just as it began - with ambiguity, uncertainty, and a sense of building unease. There was enough resolution to satisfy those who followed the show, but it's still disappointing that we won't see Will and the others take the next steps toward (or rather, away from, given the show's premise) the Rubicon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Podium Sign Version 2: A Little Less Yang

Jeff was kind enough to note that my original podium sign had a lot of yang - that is, male energy, in graphic design terms. This version is a little softer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11

Here is a speech Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole delivered to the assembled masses celebrating Remembrance Day at the Butterdome on November 11, 2003. Her words here, perhaps unsurprisingly, echo my own feelings.

Ladies and Gentlemen—
I’ll begin today by thanking the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation for a new initiative that will help all Canadians remember those who gave their lives for freedom. The Foundation is creating remarkable posters that pay visual tribute to our soldiers, posters that will remind us of their sacrifice.

It is a tremendously important project, because, after all, the lessons of history are lost if we allow our memories to die, even if those memories cause terrible grief. So to founder Mark Norman and everyone else who made the project a reality, I offer gratitude and congratulations. You’ve done history a great service.
Art alone, of course, cannot keep the past alive; we need to keep the memory of the fallen in our hearts, and we need to pass that respect down to each generation. That is why, every year, we continue to recognize those who came to Canada’s defence in the hours of her greatest need.
The 20th century was wracked by terrible wars time and again, but each time, without fail, Canada’s sons and daughters heard the call and restored peace and order to our world. And as the 21st century dawns, these brave and loyal soldiers continue to give up their lives as they try to bring peace, freedom, and stability to the world’s poorest, most desperate people.

We can never truly repay our veterans for their heroism, but we can, and must, remember it. Not just for the sake of honouring the fallen, but for the sake of the millions of people on our planet—the current generation of Canadians among them—who have never had to endure the horrors of war, thanks to their sacrifices. 
November 11 is the most significant national event of the year, for without Remembrance Day—or rather without the soldiers who gave us cause to create Remembrance Day—we might not be celebrating the other national holidays we enjoy. We might not have reason to celebrate anything at all.
Remembrance Day is one of our country’s most important and solemn rituals, an event that pays tribute to those who died in defence of our freedoms, and the surviving veterans who continue to be haunted by the memories of war. It is the duty of every Canadian to respect and honour the contributions of our soldiers.
But at the same time, we have a still greater duty, an obligation to ensure that the efforts of our veterans were not in vain. For if we remember what our soldiers endured, perhaps we will someday find the wisdom to put war behind us.
The great American general and later President Dwight Eisenhower, certainly no pacifist, nonetheless recognized the tremendous waste and loss of human potential inherent in war. At a speech in 1953, he said:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
Eisenhower was right. Each war must be seen as a great failure of human imagination: a failure to identify the root causes of war, a failure to accommodate the genuine needs and grievances of our neighbours, a failure to address the conditions that give rise of dictatorships, a failure to repudiate violence as a means of effecting change.

Our soldiers pay the price for our lack of imagination, and if we ever hope to close that bloody account, then we must find a way to bring lasting prosperity and freedom to all the peoples of the world.
Peace will never come until all human beings enjoy good food, clean water, strong shelter, excellent schools, modern hospitals, fully stocked libraries, and the fundamental freedoms that we in the Western world take for granted. 
Therefore, the best way to remember the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers is to keep working towards the day when all human beings will at last put aside their petty differences and live as we were meant to: in peace. To do that, we must fight and win one last war: the war on poverty and ignorance.
And given their dedication, bravery, and compassion, I have no doubt that Canadian soldiers will be leading the way, as they always have.

So this Remembrance Day, I believe all of us should do two things: we should pay our respects to the thousands of Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for freedom, and then we should look for ways to ensure that one day, we can enjoy peace and prosperity without those sacrifices. It is the only meaningful way to pay the debt we owe our veterans.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Podium Sign

As a graphic designer I make a pretty good writer, but I think I'm slowly improving, thanks mostly in part to what I learned from Jeff Shyluk last year. Neil asked me to design a sign for the front of our podiums, something that would add a bit of visual appeal to our news conferences. Originally I included our website address and added David's name to the artwork of his face, but they cluttered the design a bit without adding much value in the particular context of news conferences. (Plus, the text would be too small to read anyway.)

The original is 23 x 8 inches; the font is Myriad Pro. I played with Photoshop filters to change a professional photo of David into something approximating art. I added a drop shadow to the slogan to punch it up a little; you may not be able to see it unless you click to embiggen.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Alberta Liberal Caucus Podcast for November 5

My colleague Tanara McLean has produced another fun and informative podcast for the Official Opposition. Listen as we mock the practice of government MLAs receiving perks such as fishing trips, golf rounds and tickets to Lady Gaga and Rod Stewart! Tanara also interviews Official Opposition Environment Critic Laurie Blakeman, and takes a gentle jab at our absent Premier...and I have fun hamming it up for some of the supporting voices.

Listen here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Alberta Liberal Caucus Podcast for November 2

Over at the Official Opposition my colleague Tanara McLean has been creating some pretty snappy podcasts for some time now. But she's really outdone herself this week, with an interview with our Chief of Staff, Rick Miller, about the ins and outs of how we choose what to ask in Question Period. And for the first time, she's added the soon-to-be-infamous Puffball Question of the Week. (At the Legislature, when a Tory backbencher asks a really obsequious, easy-to-answer question that highlights the presumed greatness of the government, Opposition MLAs and staff derisively call it a "puffball.") If you listen carefully, you may recognize a familiar voice...

You can listen to the podcast here.

Hawaii Five Final Straw

On last night's episode of Hawaii Five-O, the new Steve McGarrett had to deal with a hostage situation. He put on a disguise, but gave himself away, prompting the hostage taker to demand, "Who are you?"

"I'm Five-O," McGarrett answers, which is meant to identify himself as a policeman to the alleged criminal. But of course, as already explained earlier on this blog, in the fictional universe of this TV series there's no reason for the slang term "five-o" to exist. This annoying error, combined with the constant use of shaky cam even for the simplest dialogue set-ups (have none of these people ever heard of a tripod?), pedestrian, predictable plots and ADD editing, have put me off the show for good. I'll stick with the original series, most of which is now available on DVD.

For tarnishing the legacy of one of the great cop shows, here's my final verdict: book 'em, Danno - murder one.