Monday, September 30, 2013

Kaiju Dreaming

I work for an electric utility and I've been watching a lot of Godzilla movies lately, so perhaps it's only natural that I dreamed last night of Godzilla's rampage through Alberta and his wanton destruction of our electricity transmission lines. It was a pretty short dream; there were just a few vivid images of Godzilla tearing through southeastern Alberta, bringing down towers and power lines, followed by a cut to me in my office, lamenting the destruction but thinking "At least this'll make a great story for the company newsletter."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fish Farm Factory Freight Train

Fish Farm Factory Freight Train. The f-words found purchase in the fjords of my frontal lobes even as my eyes flicked across Jeff's sketches, fantastic flights of fancy from the fiddling fingers of a fine friend. Fish farm factory freight train? Forsooth, these funky frescoes flummoxed me. For what purpose did Jeff find himself fondly doodling four facsimiles of fundamental freakanomics? For fame? For fortune? For fun?

Fin!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Singularity Sky in a Single Sentence

Singularity Sky, Charles Stross' debut novel, is a scintillating steampunk space opera, a fast-paced, scientifically plausible novel of war,  romance and the singularity that earned its Hugo nomination and puts the reader on immediate lookout for Stross' next work, Iron Sunrise.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hey, Yuri!

When we visited Expo '86, I was fascinated by the Soviet pavilion. Like the US pavilion, it focussed on the nation's achievements in space travel, and of course Yuri Gagarin played a huge role in that pursuit as the first human being to reach outer space. This massive statue greeted visitors to the pavilion, and inside there was a full-scale Soyuz capsule. I was agog.

No one imagined that just a couple of years later the Soviet Union would collapse, ending history. Or so the theory goes...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Green Bug

On our way to Expo '86, Mom felt compelled to show off this large caterpillar. Ick.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Yesterday's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was better than most Joss Whedon pilots, which means the show that follows could be even more amazing than Firefly, Dollhouse, or maybe even Buffy or Angel. Time will tell.

As Agent Grant Ward noted in yesterday's episode, "Someone really wanted our initials to spell S.H.I.E.L.D." In the show, the initials stand for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Espionage and Logistics Division. That's pretty tortured. Surely the writers could have come up with something smoother, like...

Super Hot Insanely Erotic Living Dolls
Shadow Hegemony In Extremis Living Dominion
Special Hazard Ignition Explosive Lethal Demolitions
Silly Hippies In Extremely Ludicrous Denial
Soldiers, Hunks, Ingenues Evade Lethal Danger
Sacrificed! He Is Exact Life-Model Decoy

And of course...
Spider-Man, Human Torch, Iceman Excluded Licence Disney

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Best of Geekquinox...For Now

It was the best of times, it was the...well, actually it was simply the best of times. On Saturday night Pete once again treated us to another Geekquinox feast to celebrate the autumnal equinox. Unlike previous Geekquinoxes, this dinner didn't follow a specific theme; instead, it was a "Best of" compilation, with appetizers, entrees and dessert chosen by popular vote. Here, Jeff serves Pete one of the winning appetizers, a Hamachi shot. Served cold in a clear tumbler, the Hamachi shot is composed of...well, I'm not entirely sure, other than there's fish in it, and peppers, and some green stuff, and delicious sauce. They went fast.
Jeff, Steve, Audrey and Mike relax as a late summer storm brews overhead.
The Hamachi shots are real crowd-pleasers.
Hidden behind a row of Hamchi shots are ABTs (Atomic Buffalo Treats). Pete is applying raspberry sauce to them.
Atomic Buffalo Treats combine bacon, sausage, cream cheese, jalapenos and raspberry sauce. They are superb. I downed half a dozen, much to the chagrin to my gastrointestinal tract. But my taste buds won that argument.
This is as close as we came to a group photo this time around. Frankly, I was too busy enjoying the food to take as many photos as usual.
At right, a plate of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus awaits cooking in the big green egg.
The finished product. As Steve said, "If all my vegetables came wrapped in bacon and cream cheese, I'd eat a lot more of them."
Pete charred sweet bell peppers, a vital component of the entree. 
This delicious spicy chicken will fill those peppers.
Pete pushes poulet into pepper.
Pete's hands, covered in batter, ready to slather the delicious goop onto the exterior of the peppers.
Heather and Mike eagerly await the chicken-stuffed peppers. Ellen prepared her popular lime margaritas (available full-strength or extra-virgin), a refreshing antidote to the heat of the entree (and the appetizers, for that matter).
Almost everything is better deep-fried. Well, maybe if you only eat this way once every six months...
Served in butter sauce, naturally.
Steve digs in. Try as I might, I could not finish my delicious chicken relleno. I managed to eat about 80 percent of it, and every bite was utterly scrumptious.
Ellen was a gracious hostess once again, ably assisting Pete while entertaining the guests.
Salty! 

Once again Pete put together a dinner that left his friends stuffed not only with magnificent food, but full to bursting with the heady wine of good fellowship. A toast to the chef!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Charred Pepper

Feeling a little under the weather today - might be a flu coming on - so today's post is short and sweet...sweet pepper, that is. Last night Sylvia and I attended another magnificent Geekquinox, and these charred peppers played a key role in the main course. More details when I'm feeling better.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chilling in Tubes

Here's the next in a series of oddly-posed campground photos. This one's a little more normal than the others, but note the can of Garbage Can-dy on the picnic table. I'm actually starting to wonder if these photos were taken in Leaf Rapids, though - it's possible that this is Alberta, shortly after our move to Black Gold Country.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Campground Portraits

Here's another pair of photos from the same camping trip as "Campground Portrait." I'm fascinated by the oddly posed quality of all three photos.We're acting like characters in a painting. Sure, we've posed in some other family photos, but always in the typically awkward way families pose for obligatory photos at Christmas or family reunions. These are more like publicity stills for some weird backwoods horror drama.

It's a shame these two photos are so very dark, given the surreal composition; this is as clear as I could make them without introducing unacceptable graininess and noise.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ruth's Plants

My friend Tanara crafted a cute story for Breakfast Television about Ruth the Legislature Plant Lady. Ruth came in to water the plant in my Official Opposition office once a week, and it was always nice to see her. In Tanara's story you'll learn more about Ruth, and you'll get to see some of the places that became all too familiar to me during my time at the Alberta Legislature: the Lieutenant Governor's office, the Opposition Lounge, the rotunda. Thanks for bringing back some nice memories, Tanara!

Here's Tanara's story.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sinkful of Sean

The Earliad's audience jumps whenever I post about Sylvia, Sean, or Leaf Rapids. This post combines two out of three, so I'm expecting big numbers. Here's Sean in the kitchen sink at 8 Churchill Place in our Leaf Rapids townhouse. Note the garish 1970s colours: bile yellow countertops and puke green paint and curtains. It was in this very kitchen that Sean once threw a tantrum so severe that Mom tied him into his high chair with a tea towel - not before Sean managed to hurl his breakfast cereal onto the floor, though. Sadly, I don't have a picture of that.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Campground Portrait

If it weren't missing a boat, this photo would cover pretty much everything that encapsulated our life in Leaf Rapids: the camper, Dad's Acklands hat, a library book, Sean's stuffed rabbit, a fishing pole, the axe and cords of wood, the grill, the pine needles and of course the endless woods that stretched for thousands of kilometres. During our time in Leaf Rapids we must have visited the Suwanee River Campground dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

I usually slept near the ceiling, in a cupboard that converted into a fold-out bed. One night I rolled out of bed and fell two and half metres to the camper floor. I woke up utterly unharmed, but startled, still nestled in my sleeping bag.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Spokane Askew

During our trip to Washington in 1983, I shot this oddly-angled photo of Spokane. This was probably the first time I'd experienced that feeling tourists get when they visit someplace famous: "Oh, I saw this on TV!" I saw Spokane on TV all the time because its PBS affiliate was the one picked up by cable systems in Edmonton. During the pledge drives the PBS spokespersons would often make special mention of supporters in Alberta. I was too young at the time to donate, and yet I felt unjustifiable pride.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Pretty Big Day


Voyager 1 has left the solar system, the temperature reached 32 degrees C in Edmonton today, and most impressively, Sylvia was accepted into MacEwan University's Human Resources Management program! Definitely a day to celebrate milestones.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Intertubes are Clogged

My Internet connection is slower than the proverbial January molasses tonight, and it's already eaten two posts. Will this be the third? I hate to interrupt my once-a-day posting streak for a trivial technical glitch...


Portrait of the Artist as a Sphere

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Scooped Again

Well, it's full disclosure time here at The Earliad: a few days ago I thought I was being clever when I suggested the plots of some hypothetical post-Burroughs Tarzan novels, including one set in Hollywood. But today I started Tarzan and the Lion-Man, in which Hollywood comes to Africa to shoot a jungle adventure movie. It's not exactly the scenario I described, but Burroughs, it turns out, already had something to say about Hollywood's treatment of his most famous character, and didn't need hacks like me to restate the obvious. Back to the drawing board!

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Little Boy and the Metaphor Monster

Yesterday I watched Ishiro Honda's offbeat 1969 Kaiju film All Monsters Attack, the tenth entry in the original Showa series of Godzilla movies and the one often derided as "either the worst or second-worst" of all Godzilla films, at least according to Richard Pusateri's audio commentary. And yet I was charmed by this simple yet genuine little film, which focusses not on monsters but on the plight of a little boy facing a reality often cruel.

Little Ichiro lives in the seemingly endless rust-hued industrial wasteland of postwar Kawasaki, Japan. He is a latchkey child, both parents often working late to make ends meet. Ichiro wishes his parents were home more often, but his loneliness is somewhat abated by a kindly, eccentric neighbour - an inventor of toys - and his own fertile imagination.

Ichiro's nemesis is Gabara, an older boy who bullies Ichiro on the way home from school. Ichiro is too small and scared to fight back, and either runs away from his tormentor or meekly submits to his wishes. It's humiliating, and like many bullied little boys, Ichiro escapes into fantasy.

Using the sort of psychedelic dream sequence transitions that have been out of style for decades, Honda transports Ichiro to Monster Island, where Ichiro admires the fighting prowess of the mighty Godzilla, King of the Monsters. He also makes friends with Minilla, Son of Godzilla, who can apparently shrink down to little-boy size and speak Japanese. Just as Ichirio is about to wrangle an introduction to Godzilla out of Minilla, he's rudely woken by the neighbour, who tells Ichirio that his mother can't come home tonight because she has to work late. The inventor consoles a stoic but clearly upset Ichirio by inviting him over for sukiyaki beef.

At this point the b-plot intrudes on our tale - the police enter to warn of a pair of dangerous "50 million yen thieves."

The rest of the film's running time dances adroitly from the framing sequence to the Monster Island scenes, with Godzilla teaching little Minilla to fight his own monster battles. In the real world, Ichiro finds himself kidnapped by the bank robbers, and must take inspiration from his own fantasy world to escape.

One can see why most Godzilla fans don't like this film much; the famed monster battles consist almost entirely of stock footage from other, better films, and the child's perspective is a little too juvenile for (supposedly) more sophisticated viewers.

But I think it's pretty amazing that after nine films Honda and the producers decided to break formula so thoroughly. Imagine if, say, one of the middle films in the Star Trek or James Bond or Star Wars series had been set in the real world, with Roger Moore or William Shatner or Harrison Ford playing "imaginary" characters (in the world of their respective universes). A lot of fans might claim that such a structure ruins their enjoyment of fictional worlds they've come to treat as internally consistent and "real" in that particular context.

Actually, nothing in the film explicitly states that Godzilla and the other monsters are imaginary. For all we know, the world of Ichiro's framing story is one in which Godzilla exists; no one is surprised by Ichiro's fantasies. To them, perhaps it's natural that little boys would imagine adventures with such fearsome creatures, as a way of coping with their very real menace. (On the other hand, no one in the film states that Godzilla is real, either.)

In any event, just as Minilla learns to breathe radioactive fire like his father and defeat the monster Gabara (a dinosaur-like creature given the same name as Ichiro's bully), Ichiro uses his wits to escape the robbers and even deliver them into the hands of the police - and in the film's coda, he confronts and defeats the real Gabara.

By no means is All Monsters Attack a great work of cinema. But it is genuine, well-made, honest and sincere. And I'll take that over virtually any of this summer's supposed blockbusters.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Broken Window

Once the slow beauty of sunrise painted a farmhouse window each morning
Weightless rays caressing and warming clean glass
Obscuring those within, reading folded newspapers over toast and Cheerios
Now the glass is gone and the sun hides her face behind the clouds
And behind the empty frame lurk only shadows
And the whispers of ghosts long gone.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Bedrock of the Community

If you squint you can see Sean and I at the base of the Flintabbatey Flonatin statue at its original location in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Today it stands on a grassy hillside, but I prefer this spot, which shows the bare bedrock I associate so closely with my memories of northern Manitoba.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Postwar Tarzan

Last week I noted that Tarzan's adventures could have continued indefinitely, given his immortality. Readers' last glimpses of the canonical occur during and just after the Second World War, and I find myself wondering what might have happened later in Tarzan's life, given the events of the second half of the twentieth century. The last book, Tarzan and the Castaways, might have been followed by:

Tarzan in India
Set in 1946, Tarzan travels to India, fights tigers, rides Indian elephants and is probably pined over by a beautiful Indian princess. Tarzan, as a British peer, is somewhat discomfited by India's march toward independence, but is won over by a brave Gurkha warrior.

Tarzan in Hollywood
In the summer of 1949, Tarzan, Jane, Korak and Meriem visit Tarzan's old friend Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs, growing old and fearing the spectre of death, passes a secret to Tarzan - a secret that requires the ape man to navigate the treacherous waters of the film industry!

Tarzan and the Undersea Kingdom
In 1955, Tarzan finds himself aboard the first atomic submarine, the Nautilus - and while under the north pole, discovers the mythical underwater domain of Atlantis!

Tarzan and the Algerians
In 1958 Tarzan's affection for France and experiences with Arabs tempt him into taking the colonialist side in the Algerian war. But the conflict's complexities, along with his experiences in India, prompt Tarzan to broaden his worldview.

Tarzan the Fearless
In 1962, Tarzan averts nuclear holocaust by infiltrating the Soviet Union.

Tarzan and the Moon Maid
By the early 1970s, the race for the moon has been won by the Americans. But when NASA discovers evidence of a mysterious Moon Maid, they recruit the legendary Tarzan on the strangest adventure of all - within Earth's moon!

Tarzan, Lord of the Urban Jungle
By 1985, Tarzan's African estate is an island of wealth on an impoverished continent. Seeking investors, Tarzan travels to New York, where he must match his jungle wits against wily and treacherous stockbrokers.

Tarzan, Warlord of Africa
In the 1990's Africa is torn apart by war, encroaching upon the peace and prosperity of Tarzan's estate and the Waziri tribe. No stranger to useful violence - that of self-defence or the hunt for food - Tarzan is nonetheless reluctant to take up arms in war, for, as ever, he holds most of civilization in contempt. But he cannot allow his beloved Africa to be torn apart, and having made up his mind to make war, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, is determined to finish it - on his terms!

Tarzan and the New Millennium
The world - and the jungle - grow smaller, and Tarzan and family are left wondering if they still have a place. Older, wiser, less sexist, less racist, Tarzan leaves the jungle behind and takes his place as a British peer, hoping to build a better world while following the rules of civilization - but can he hold the beast at bay? Should he?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Boot Garden

Earlier this summer Mom or Dad arranged some flowers on an end table. I thought they were pretty, and took a photo. The photo wasn't superb, so tonight I compounded my sin with some amateurish use of Photoshop filters. Perhaps I've muddied the image so much you can't tell anymore, but the flowers were placed in a glass boot and a little teacup. How quaint it was.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Where No Rug Has Flown Before

My new USS Enterprise throw rug arrived from Think Geek moments ago. More excited than Scotty with a new batch of technical journals, I ripped open the packaging and slung the two-dimensional ship before the theatre room's recliner. A perfect fit! Now I can watch all the episodes in style (and you know I have them).

Monday, September 02, 2013

Modest Sunflower

This isn't an especially good photograph. I cropped off the bottom edge of the subject, for one thing, and the lighting is kind of wonky. But I do like how one leaf wraps around the "face" of the sunflower, as if the plant were a blushing girl.

Mom and Dad wound up with a couple of volunteer sunflower plants in their garden thanks, probably, to wandering birds dropping seeds.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Beet Generation

Mom and Dad grow vegetables in their back yard, so when we visited yesterday we happily accepted a bountiful harvest of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. But neither Sean nor Sylvia nor I are fussy about beets. However, recognizing that home-grown vegetables are often superior to their store-bought counterparts, Sean gamely tried a bit of beet, pickled by our parents.
Sean expressed his displeasure by scrawling beet juice graffiti onto his paper plate.
He also held the beet under my nose with his fork so that I could smell the juices. And in that instant, while my nostrils were still quivering, stung by the scent of beet, a droplet of malodorous beet blood dropped earthward to splat prettily upon my Coronet dinnerware. While beets may be the root of all evil, still they are capable of moments of accidental beauty.