Saturday, August 31, 2013

Granddad's Forge

Today Sean and Sylvia and I went to visit Mom and Dad. I was delighted to discover that Mom has since restored her father's vintage hand-cranked forge, which he used decades ago to make horseshoes.
Mom cleaned off the thick layer of grime that hid most of the forge's features. Today, it looks brand new.
Here, Mom demonstrates how the forge was used. Turning the crank blows air up into the forge's bowl, which is normally filled with red-hot coals. Unfortunately the anvil, hammer and tongs are long lost, but we still have the original ladle, though it hasn't yet been polished up as finely as the pieces you see here.

It's amazing to think that just two generations ago, back on the farm in Virden, my grandfather was forging tools in much the same manner as humans did thousands of years ago.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I'm Looking Through You

Today I took a leisurely stroll downtown to meet my friend Leslie for lunch. While heading north on 105 street I noticed a woman walking toward me. I glanced at her as passers-by do, and noted that her top was revealing enough to show the upper portion of what appeared to be a full-torso tattoo.

My eyebrows moved upward imperceptibly as I realized what the tattoo portrayed: a cutaway view of the woman's internal organs. There were her ribs and sinew, her lungs, a network of veins and arteries. In the brief glimpse that politeness allowed, I had enough time to assess the tattoo's merit: somewhat macabre, but, from what I know of anatomy, remarkably accurate and realistic, with a very convincing three-dimensional quality.

As I said to Leslie a few minutes later, I can't decide whether I admire the tattooed woman's gumption or if I'm appalled by the gory garishness of the art. Either way, it's certainly her right to express herself, and I can't help but think of the tattoo as an interesting way to combat the male gaze. 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The New Adventures of Tarzan

In Tarzan's Quest (1935), Tarzan, Jane and a monkey are granted immortality. I've always thought it a shame that the Burroughs estate hasn't allowed writers to continue the Tarzan stories into the modern era, since Burroughs himself made such stories possible. Tarzan's canonical adventures end around the time of the Second World War, and I think it would be fascinating to see how Tarzan reacts to the post-colonial era that emerged through the following decades - not to mention all the drama that Africa has faced from then until the present day. Imagine Tarzan taking part in the Suez crisis, or the revolution in Algeria! He'd take the side of the colonial powers, of course, but a good writer could use those conflicts to moderate Tarzan's views and perhaps make him a more well-rounded, modern character.

And of course there are less weighty adventures to be had. Why not send Tarzan to the moon in the early 1970s, to discover, no doubt, some magnificent underground civilization? Or perhaps he could spend some time voyaging with Cousteau, fighting sea monsters. What fun!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Flames of the Luau

This probably would have turned out better with a tripod, but I think it's still a pretty cool effect. Long exposure of a fire dancer at Germaine's Luau in Hawaii, 2008.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Transgression

There came a time in ancient Callidar when that great southwestern city was rocked by a terrible wave of primal criminality. The people were puzzled, for was not life in Callidar rich and good, and every day full of new pleasures? Was not every belly filled with food, every child protected and educated, every soul sheltered? And yet crime ran rampant, despite the best efforts of the courts, clergy, judge, jury and constable.

At the height of the crime wave the streets became unsafe. Drivers crept along thoroughfares, eyes darting back and forth, searching for the lawbreakers who might leap into their path at any moment. Pedestrians eyed each other suspiciously, wondering who among them had broken the laws that kept everyone safe.

One day Constable Sorbonne caught a criminal in the act - an innocuous young man with fine blonde hair and a ruddy complexion reddened by the blistering sun of Callidar. Constable Sorbonne followed kept his hands clasped behind his back as he followed the young man, putting on an air of carefree innocence, never giving any hint of his suspicious. The blonde had that look of incipient chaos about him.

And at last, as they passed a bustling Labanno's ripe with the scent of steamed gizzle and fluir, the blonde stepped toward the curb, casting his eyes left and right down the street. There was a controlled intersection only meters away, and yet - and yet! - the man stepped boldly into the street.

"Stop right there!" bellowed Constable Sorbonne, and the young man shot bolt upright, hopping back to the sidewalk, his face flushed with shame, head hanging low.

"What were you thinking?" said the constable as he place a firm hand on the youth's trembling shoulder. "You could have caused an accident, or been injured!"

"But the crossing is all the way over - " the youth began, pointing. But Constable Sorbonne would have none of it.

"The good books teach us that civilization works when we act in harmony and with consideration at all instants," the constable misquoted (though not badly). "How many seconds would you have saved crossing here, even had you avoided disaster?"

"Perhaps five or six," the youth admitted, his purple eyes troubled.

The Constable nodded. "Lad, how much police time do you think jaywalkers such as you have cost the community this year alone? Time that could have been better spent helping elders with their groceries or guiding lost children home?"

"I don't know," moaned the youth miserably.

"Four full days," intoned the constable, quoting, absolutely correctly this time, the latest statistics.

"I'm sorry," mumbled the young man.

Sensing the ineffable air of true remorse, Constable Sorbonne allowed a soft grunt of begrudging approval to puff past his thin lips.

"Very well, then, a warning it is," decreed the constable, and the small crowd of onlookers that had gathered released their held breath as one organism, a sigh of communal relief. "Next time and all other times, use the crosswalks. They're for your protection."

"Yes sir!" beamed the young man, bouncing off to the corner and making a show of pressing the pedestrian walk signal.

Constable Sorbonne tipped his hat to the youth and resumed his patrol, whistling happily once more. The crime wave wasn't over, but he'd made a substantial contribution today.

So it was in ancient Callidar, its peace disturbed for long weeks before serenity returned.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Wolverine To-the-Point Review

Who would have thought that a series midquel with a merely personal scale could nearly redeem one bad film and build anticipation so cleverly for the next? A sharp choice.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Grandma's Satellite Dish

Mom or Dad shot this sometime in the late 1980s on a trip to visit Grandma in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba. I wasn't on that trip, but I'm sure I would have been impressed by Grandma and Val's new satellite television antenna, which loomed large in their back yard for several years. Cranberry Portage is just a few minutes' drive from Flin Flon, so it's not as isolated as some northern communities, but the presence of this dish is a sign of the technology needed to tie tiny frontier settlements to the outside world. I remember being very impressed with their collection of movies on VHS, too. Up north, entertainment options were limited to fishing and whatever movies you could import from down south.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quagmire Snack

The scent of salt and carbohydrates
Beguiling but lethal
Mixed nuts tossed into the Nuts and Bolts
For a semblance of nutrition
In French they call it Meli-Melo
Do they even eat Nuts and Bolts in France?

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Sigil of the Sky People"

"Sigil of the Sky People," acrylic on deer hide, Earl J. Woods, 2013.
As part of a work-related educational experience I had the opportunity to build and paint my own authentic First Nations drum this week. It really works! I attempted to paint the company logo onto the drum, but failed miserably at creating even a single straight line. Since my crude curve vaguely resembled the Starfleet delta made famous by Star Trek, I decided to revert to type and pretend I was creating a prop from the original series. There are several episodes that depict the Enterprise crew interacting with aboriginal peoples of distant planets, so I imagined that one such episode needed an alien drum prop painted with a crude representation of the delta and the red, gold and blue uniform colours of the crew.
Obviously I'm not ready to join the art department quite yet, but I really enjoyed this experience nonetheless. I'll never be a painter, but it's important to explore different creative outlets every so often.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sourdough Daguerrotype

Jeff offered some suggestions to make my last Photoshop project look a little more authentic, so I followed those suggestions and wound up with this. Of course the aspect ratio probably doesn't match the period, but scissors existed, so let's assume this represents an altered print.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mike and Mandy Married at the Muttart!

Tonight my friend and former Alberta Liberal Caucus colleague Amanda Krumins married Michael Somkuti, an inspiring young teacher I interviewed for the Alberta Teachers' Association last year. Sylvia and I had a fantastic time at the wedding, held in the Muttart Conservatory - great food, great music, great times with friends old and new. Congratulations, Mike and Mandy, and may you enjoy many centuries of wedded bliss! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Departure of the Sourdough Sled Team

While this photo was actually shot in the 1970s in northern Manitoba, I thought with a little manipulation it could appear as though it were taken a hundred years earlier, during the Yukon gold rush. In reality, these 20th-century folk are watching a modern-day sled dog race; in my imagination, they're watching their loved ones make a mad break for fortune and glory, searching for gold at the edge of what was then the final frontier. A little film grain, lighting effects and sepia tinting help sell the illusion - I hope!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Earl and the Parachutist

Sometimes as I work my way through the Woods photo library I discover utterly befuddling images. This photo was shot during our trip to Expo '86 in Vancouver; that's me in the car in the foreground, staring in what must be shock or awe at the parachutist descending to earth a few metres away.

I have no memory of this incident. In the high resolution version of this photo, You can barely make out that the man appears to be wearing only a bathing suit and tank top, as though he anticipated a water landing. At first I thought this was a parasailing flight, but he's flying toward the camera and there's no boat dragging him from that direction, so he must have jumped out of a plane. Six of his friends appear to be waiting for him to land - or perhaps they're like me, innocent bystanders caught in the middle of some unlikely stunt.

You'd think that this would have left a stronger impression on me than it did.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Classic TV History Blog

No one in my circle of friends seems as fascinated by television as me, at least not that they've admitted thus far, so perhaps the following link won't be of much interest. But if you think television is worthy of study as an art form, if you have an appreciation for old television shows, or if you simply enjoy good research and scholarship, then you should visit Stephen Bowie's Classic TV History Blog.

I've been slowly working my way through Bowie's blog over the last few days, and the man is full of fascinating stories, from a behind-the-scenes look at the infamous flying turkeys episode of WKRP in Cincinatti to the weird directing career of Ben Casey himself, Vincent Edwards.

My favourite article so far is Doing it Right, a conversation about the merits of physical media like Blu-Ray discs over the ephemeral pleasures of streaming television. As a streaming skeptic and a huge proponent of the idea that you should own the art that you buy, I found this discussion incredibly relevant and valuable. Check it out.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Just Another Manic Monday

It was a dark and stormy night and thus my dreams were lit with flashes of lightning penetrating my subconscious. I slept fitfully, tossing and turning until at last it was time to rise. Grumbling, my vision sleep-blurred, I stumbled through my morning routine and decided to drive to work rather than ride the bus; we needed groceries, and I could stop at the supermarket on the way home.

Despite my lack of sleep I felt reasonably refreshed and aware by the time I climbed into the car. Because I've been making an effort to eat breakfast more consistently, I stopped at Tim Horton's for a toasted bagel and a hot chocolate.

I ate the bagel without incident, waiting for the hot chocolate to cool as I headed downtown. Just as I was turning into the parking lot, I thought this would be an opportune time to peel back the lid of my beverage and enjoy a shot of sugar and caffeine.

But capricious Fate was up to her old tricks, and as I fumbled with the hot chocolate I hit a bump in the parking lot. The car lurched upward as my fingers thrust down, and in an instant my hand thrust violently through the lid and into the (thankfully) lukewarm drink. A geyser of hot chocolate erupted from the wounded cup.

Hot chocolate covered my hand, my sleeve. Hot chocolate sprayed across the console, the stick shift. Hot chocolate coated the steering wheel, filled the cup holder. Hot chocolate soaked my phone. Hot chocolate spattered my glasses. Hot chocolate matted down my hair and filled my right ear.

In shock, I phoned my boss and said I'd be a little late. Dripping with sugary muck, the stick shift and steering wheel wet with wasted libations, I turned around and drove home to change, shower and quickly detail the cockpit of the car. When all was said and done I was only about 45 minutes late for work, but it wasn't the sweet start to my day I'd hoped for.

Then, at about 2:30, Sylvia phoned. Clearly alarmed but remarkably composed considering her bug phobia, she reported that she'd had to kill a centipede that had nefariously wormed its way into the living room. The creature's corpse now slumbered beneath the tea towel that Sylvia had resourcefully used to snare it before stomping it to death with extreme prejudice. Sylvia's feet are tiny but not to be trifled with.

Given the events of the day, we decided to cancel the grocery shopping. Fate tempted thrice is often unkind.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Six Years and Counting

Six years ago today, Sylvia and I were married. Here we are at our early anniversary getaway last week, visiting Dinosaur Provincial Park. Happy Anniversary, Sylvia!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Courier by Night, Part II

Captain Hawrelak gripped the armrests of the U.S.S. Edmonton's command throne with white-knuckled fingers. "Romulans!" he barked. "And they're targeting the ambassador's shuttle! The butchers!"

G'gnarly, the Edmonton's Tellarite first officer, scowled. "Red alert. Raise shields, ready all weapons," he ordered, choosing to interpret his commanding officer's remarks as an order to go to battle stations.

"Encounter reports she's gone to Red Alert," said Lieutenant Trombone, the helmsman and second officer.

On the main viewer the sleek, hawk-like Romulan cruisers swooped like birds of prey, lunging for the damaged, practically defenceless shuttle.

That metaphor's a little too apt - or perhaps raptor - for my liking, punned Captain Hawrelak silently.

Meanwhile, aboard the U.S.S. Encounter, Captain Wolverine clenched his already-stressed teeth in an agitated grimace.

"That fool Hawrelak is bringing us in too fast," he muttered. "We have to stay out of range of those plasma torpedoes!"

The Romulan destroyer, Skyhawk-class, bore down on the shuttle, pushing her engines to the limit. Wolverine watched in horror as the impetuous Hawrelak took the bait, chasing the Skyhawk down, leaving the Encounter no choice but to follow. And as Wolverine anticipated, the heavier Romulan Battle Hawk-class cruiser hove in from behind, her plasma cannons glowing as they charged up.

"Lieutenant Slendercaaf, signal the Edmonton to put some distance between us and that cruiser!" barked Wolverine. Slendercaaf nodded, one hand touching her earpiece, but it was too late.

Aboard the shuttlecraft, Fox and Gomez watched in horror as the Romulan cruiser spat forth a deadly gob of swirling orange plasma straight up the nacelles of the Edmonton. The Federation cruiser lurched, shields collapsing in a helpless flare of dissipating gluons and anti-neutrinos, her hull scorched.

"This is some rescue," muttered Fox. Gomez could only swallow glumly.

"For the love of--!" sputtered Captain Wolverine aboard Encounter as he watched the Edmonton founder. A salvo of Romulan phaser fire lanced across the stricken vessel's stern, sending precious hull plating careening across the nebula. "FIRE EVERYTHING!" he screamed, and the Encounter's weapons hurled their fury across the void, splashing across the destroyer's shields, then raking the cruiser with photon torpedoes. It was little use. Another pair of plasma torpedoes almost casually reached out to envelop the Edmonton, and then the cruiser simply vanished.
Aboard the shuttlecraft Gomez and Fox hung on to their seats as the Romulan destroyer bore down upon them, backlit by the explosion of the Edmonton. Gomez fired the shuttle's puny point-defence phaser turret, but the Romulan didn't even slow down, merely reached out with beams of deadly green light to burn across the shuttle's roof. The control panel in front of fox began to spit and spark dangerously, on its way to overload.

"Look out, sir--YEARRRGHHHHHHHH!" cried Gomez as he leapt between the console and the startled ambassador just as it exploded in a shower of lethal sparks. The mortally wounded redshirt slumped backward across Fox's lap, coughing, gasping.

"Wh-why can't they p-put fuses aboard these damn ships..!" groaned Gomez with his last mortal breath.

Captain Wolverine knew his position was hopeless. "All nonessential personnel to the escape pods," he said to Lieutenant Slendercaaf, who gave the order and then, sheepishly, left the bridge to find a pod of her own. Valiantly Captain Wolverine released another volley of photons and phasers at the lead Skyhawk, heavily damaging the Romulan destroyer, but not before he watched the ambassador's shuttlecraft flare like a campfire doused in lighter fluid.

"That tears it," he said as the other Romulan ship's phasers lashed out at the Encounter from behind. He slammed his fist down on the emergency intercom built into his command chair. "All hands abandon ship! All hands abandon ship!" Then his thumb slid down to the "EJECT POD" button. In an instant, curved metal sheets slid from the base of the command chair to form a sphere around it, encasing the captain in a fragile bubble of life. An instant after that, the ship's bridge dome flipped open and the pressure of escaping oxygen blew Captain Wolverine's lifepod through the opening.

The Encounter was blown to fragments only seconds later. Captain Wolverine had to admit that he at least had a fantastic view of his ship's destruction. He waited for a few long moments, wondering if the Romulans were feeling vindictive enough today to kill the vulnerable survivors, floating about in lifepods like his own. But soon the two victorious Romulans wheeled about and headed back for their side of the Neutral Zone, leaving floating bodies and debris in their wake.

Captain Wolverine knew that he'd probably never understand why so many had died here today. He sent out a distress call and leaned back in his chair to meditate.

A few kilometres distant, Ambassador Fox's charred corpse pinwheeled through the cosmos, the data jewel in his pocket nothing more than a blackened cinder now, the recipe for bootleg Romulan Ale wiped by phaser and plasma radiation from its memory crystals.

Nebula starfield map painted by Jeff Shyluk. Romulan ships painted by Sean Woods. Federation ships painted by Earl J. Woods.

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Courier by Night

Map painted by Jeff Shyluk. Shuttle painted by Earl J. Woods.

Ambassador Fox paced up and down the narrow aisle of the shuttlecraft, fists tightly clenched behind his back, his once freshly-pressed robes wrinkled and smeared with space soot. 

"So there's nothing you can do?" he asked for the fifth time.

Red-shirted Ensign Gomez pressed his lips together to bite back an exasperated retort. Instead he shook his head mutely as he worked the shuttle controls in a futile effort to at least shut down the malfunctioning impulse drive.

"The Edmonton and the Encounter are on their way," he reminded the ambassador. "They'll pick us up in minutes, and then we'll be on our way home.

Fox leaned over the empty co-pilot seat and peered out the transparent aluminum solar windshield. Space writhed with the pink-violet hues of the Etsell nebula. "I don't see anything." 

Gomez restrained himself from sighing. "They're still hundreds of thousands of kilometres away - hang on." 

A small red light began to flash on Gomez' control panel. Gomez winced. 

"Two contacts bearing 323 mark 7, coming out of the Neutral Zone," he reported. "Romulans." 

Fox began to sweat. His worst case scenario was materializing before his eyes. Damn T'Challa and her schemes! This was supposed to be an honest, if clandestine, attempt to build a bridge or two across the mine-littered frontier of the Federation-Romulan border. The data jewel in his trouser pocket suddenly felt leaden as a gravestone.

He put a hand on the security man's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Gomez," he murmured. 

Gomez looked up confidently, then pointed at the bow as two Federation starships blinked out of warp space only a few kilometers distant. 

"Don't be," Gomez replied. "The cavalry's here." 

Not the cavalry, Fox thought. Custer.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Tricked-Out Hat

During my lunch hour walk today I spotted a suavely-dressed young man wearing a black baseball cap with the word "HAT" in huge white capital letters emblazoned upon it.

HAT - on a hat! How meta. I was delighted, astounded.

I'm shy, and I rarely approach strangers. But I loved this hat, and I couldn't stop myself from pointing at it and saying "That's an awesome hat!"

"Pardon?" he said, popping an earbud free of his ear.

"Your hat - it's great," I repeated.

He chuckled a little self-consciously and smiled. "Oh, ha ha. Thanks." I could almost hear him thinking "Crazy old man."

Still, 'twas a superb hat.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Cypress Hills Pelican

When I posted a photo similar to this one on Facebook, I misidentified the bird as a heron. It is, apparently, a pelican, as my friend Bruce immediately pointed out. Well, I'm no biologist, I just take pictures and write stuff. In any event, I photographed this fine pelican as it was floating on Reesor Lake in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park - a gorgeous place. I'd planned to visit the official dark sky preserve on the Saskatchewan side of the park to try my hand at astrophotography, but the sky was too cloudy. Still, I'm pretty happy with the snaps I wound up with.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Driver of the Purple Sage

Our point-and-shoot Canon features a bunch of silly creative modes, and one of these must have been inadvertently activated when Sylvia snapped this photo of me at Cypress Hills on Saturday. Not only is the effect kind of accidentally cool, but I also like the composition - the flowing curves of the door frame and the door itself seem, to my eye, to flow nicely with the hillside.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Project Burger Baron: Jasper Place

The Burger Baron at Jasper Place fades with quiet dignity on 156 street and 110A avenue, kitty-corner to MacEwan University's bright orange west-end campus. It's the Burger Baron closest to our home, and the one Sylvia and I frequent most. In a neighbourhood that's starting to look a little worn, this particular Burger Baron offers genuinely friendly service and a rare menu option: the Denver sandwich.
The Jasper Place Burger Baron features a number of Burger Baron standards: the pizza burger (my usual choice), the royal burger, the Hawaiian, corn fritters and Texas Fried Chicken. Once upon a time this location wasn't open on Mondays, so today I originally stopped at the Burger Baron on 111th avenue first. To my surprise, they were closed (with a wooden board in place of the broken drive-through window), so I went to Jasper Place instead. Apparently their hours have changed, and unless my memory is playing tricks on me, the milkshake sizes have increased.
Not all the changes are positive, though, at least from my perspective; they've changed the French fry formula, and now this location's fries are the sort that have that odd crispy breaded feel. Some people like fries like this, but I'm a plain steak fries or skin-on, Swiss Chalet-style fries kind of guy.

This location appears to be family-run, and they never fail to greet Sylvia and I with a smile and pleasant chatter.

The paint may be cracked and fading, the neighbourhood aging and in need of revitalization, but the Jasper Place Burger Baron is weathering the years with pride, offering reliable comfort food to the diverse denizens of west Edmonton.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Cypress Hills Rainbow

Sylvia and I took a day trip to Cypress Hills yesterday. We were somewhat disappointed by the rain, but once the skies began to clear some beautiful views revealed themselves. And then there was this.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Drumheller Tractor

In May 1981, Miss Sklarenko took her class of Grade Six students from Leduc's East Elementary on a field trip to Drumheller. I fell down a hoodoo on this trip and rolled through a patch of cactus, but I still had a great time. I probably thought I was being clever when I took this photo: a parking lot in the badlands, with a lone tractor its sole patron. Maybe I thought it was some kind of metaphor? "The tractor was nothing but a pile of rusted bone and cracking rubber feet, its era long past..."