Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 1980s-est Book Ever Written

...just might be William Gibson's Neuromancer, which I have at last read, a mere 30 years after it was published. Cyberspace, the matrix, mirrorshades, hacking, exotic drugs, exotic fashion...I didn't expect it to be about AIs, though, nor was I expecting an outer space habitat. You can't learn everything by cultural osmosis, it seems.

As I grow older, catching up on cultural touchstones takes on a melancholy air. I'll only be 45 next year, but even so I feel the weight of time bearing down, reminding me that if I don't get to War and Peace (to use just one example) sometime in the next couple of decades, it's not going to happen.

Well - Neuromancer is off the list, at least. Was it worth the investment? Hard to say. At least now I know what the fuss was about, way back when I was 15.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Lost Star Wars Magazine

It's quite possible I've blogged about this before, but it's a story that still haunts me. Sometime in the summer of 1978, I bought a science fiction magazine at the drugstore in Leaf Rapids.How many science fiction magazines could possibly have been distributed that far north in the 1970s? We had a spinner rack of comic books, Cracked, Mad, and maybe, maybe, Starlog.

And yet I don't think it was Starlog, because Starlog was never in the habit of publishing fiction.

This magazine - I seem to recall that the interior was black and white pulp, like Creepy or Vampirella back in the days of Warren publishing, with a glossy full-colour colour of mostly aqua and yellow - featured at least one very creepy Star Wars short story.

It took place just after the end of the first movie. Luke, Han Leia and the rest were all still gathered at the Rebel base on the forest moon of Yavin. Darth Vader was still spinning out of control in his TIE fighter. Luke and Leia's romance blossoms, while Ben Kenobi's ghost plays...some kind of role. I don't remember.

Han Solo winds up leaving the base, meets Darth Vader and gets turned to the dark side; he even becomes some kind of scary cyborg. Chewbacca is devastated, as are Luke and Leia.

It all goes bad. I don't remember how the story ended, but I do remember I thought it was an awful but compelling way to continue the Star Wars saga.

I wish I still had that magazine.If it ever really existed, I'm sure Lucasfilm's lawyers must have shredded every copy by now.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

10,000 Page Views!

Sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. last night The Earliad crossed the threshold of 10,000 page views in a single month for the first time. I'm pretty excited by this milestone, even if a certain percentage of the hits are almost certainly spambots, judging by the junk comments in my spam folder.

When I started this blog back in 2003, I envisioned a hardcore readership of perhaps a dozen friends and family members. I'm gratified that there's a larger audience than that for my silly nonsense, and I'm very thankful to anyone who stops by to visit. I like making people feel good, and if any of the photos or articles posted here are entertaining, I'm delighted.

Oddly enough, this is my 1,705th post - not quite as poetic as 1,701 would have been, but close enough - 1705 is the Excalibur's registry number, which is still very cool.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dustin the Renegade Tank Commander

Last night I dreamed that our Dungeons and Dragons group was trying out a different roleplaying game for a change of pace, one set in a world of Conan-like high fantasy but with World War II era military technology. So instead of each of us carrying a sword and shield or what have you, each character had his or her own Sherman tank - and the miniatures, as you can imagine, were wicked cool, with each of us standing in the turret of our respective tanks, overlooking the field of battle.

During this session of play, the evil Thulsa Doom was about to sacrifice a maiden strapped down to a stone (plastic, really) altar atop a green felt-covered hilltop. We moved our tanks into position, but Dustin fired his main cannon early, blowing up both Thulsa Doom and his comely captive. My character raced up the hill in his tank to survey the carnage, and aside from the dead Thulsa Doom, the dead princess and a bunch of dead snakes, I spotted a whole bunch of dismembered innocent bystanders, who were represented on the board by LEGO minifigures.

"Dustin!" I cried. Did you sneak in here earlier and kill all these innocent people?"

"They needed killin'," Dustin replied laconically.

Audrey shook her head while Jeff rolled his head around on his shoulders with a "WHOA! Nice going, dude!" Stephen, even though he wasn't the Gamemaster (who mysteriously never made an appearance), took on a GM-like mien and said "Okay, player versus player it is, then."

Somehow I'd become the de facto squadron commander, and I started to issue orders to destroy Dustin's tank. But before the battle could commence...I woke up.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spaghetti Lattice

Sylvia and I tried to cram ourselves into the pantry at the same time a few minutes ago (I was putting away a vase, she was looking for something for the food bank) and as a result our spaghetti flew out of the box to land in this quasi-artistic three-dimensional lattice. It was prettier in real life than this mobile phone photo suggests.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Thought Experiment

For years I've wondered if I could survive falling out of an airplane if I did so while riding inside a giant rubber ball with an Earl-shaped space in the centre. I guess there would have to be enough "give" inside the ball to absorb the impact. Maybe the centre would be a big empty space and I'd be secured to bungee cords in the middle? How many times would I bounce before coming to a halt if I were dropped from parachuting altitude? Would it be safer if I were pushed out of the plane and rolled down a mountainside?

I know, I know, it's ridiculous and I'd be killed. But it's fun to think about.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In the Moth of Madness

There's nothing more unnerving than being on the phone with your wife when she suddenly changes the subject so that she can scream incoherently. Fortunately it was only a moth, which I dispatched with a cloud of Raid and a paper napkin as soon as I got home. But no sooner had I cracked my knuckles in preparation to write my latest brilliant missive did yet another shriek of despair echo through our once-placid domain.

"IT'S BACK! YOU DIDN'T KILL IT! KILLL ITTTTT!"

This time the moth chose to lurk right above the living room couch where Sylvia was resting, which increased the tempo, urgency and volume of Sylvia's pleas. Manfully I stood upon the couch and held the spray can aloft, pressing the trigger home to inundate the stubborn beast with all the fury of modern chemistry. Unfortunately the beast fell straight down, landing on my chest. Frankly I wanted to start screaming too, but I figured that if I started to panic at that point Sylvia might actually lose consciousness, so I merely grimaced and shook the thing onto the couch, which set Sylvia to screaming again.

There could be no mercy this time. I held the Raid at point-blank range over the bug's twitching form and cried havoc, burying it in toxic foam. Then I scooped it up in paper towel and crushed it, only half-deafened by Sylvia's hysterical (and I use the term tightly) wails.

Once the beast was slain, Sylvia relaxed.

"What if it had landed on you when it fell?" I asked.

"I would have passed out," she said flatly. I think I believe her.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Skullthuggery

A couple of days ago my brother Sean informed me that the water pressure in his shower blew the shower head off the wall and bounced it right off his cranium. Naturally I laughed, and the incident reminded me of a time in the distant past, back in the days before even the Bleak House of Blahs, back during the dark era of the University of Alberta Star Trek club, back when, in the summers between university terms, I lived in my parents' basement in Leduc...

I don't remember how many of my friends from the club came over to visit that fine summer day of 1988 or 1989 or 1990, but Jeff Shyluk was surely among them, for it was poor Jeff whose blistering, pain-wracked "EARRRGH!" we all heard echoing off my parents' basement walls. I'd been first down the stairs, but I turned just in time to see a scowling Jeff clap his hands to the top of his head.

"A nail!" he bellowed, and sure enough there it was - a nail, poking innocently into the bare rafters above the stairs, right in the place where a tall fellow, taking the turn in the stairs unawares, might find a strip of skull stripped bare of hair, like a freakish geek at the fair.

Alas! Whichever lazy carpenter had failed to drive the errant nail home, flush with the plywood, was at root responsible for my friend's pain and my unwilling mirth, which pealed forth helplessly even as my mother called down to ask if anyone needed help.

Jeff recovered fully and now lives out his life as a comfortably tortured artist in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Sean's rage level has slowly dropped from "Catastrophic" to "Moderate."


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lego Therapy

A couple of weeks ago, in a fit of nostalgia, I picked up this Lex Luthor versus Superman and Wonder Woman Lego set - mostly, in truth, for the adorable minifigures.  It took me about an hour to put the robot together, and I marvelled at the little touches; if you look closely, you can see that both the robot and the Superman-destroying pistol it's carrying are powered by little chunks of Kryptonite. Good thing Superman called Wonder Woman for help! (A couple of posts back Jeff asked if I'd constructed the robot from scratch. Sadly, no; it came from a kit.)

Building Lex's robot turned out to be surprisingly therapeutic. During the time it took to build the set, I felt all my stress dissipating; it was really quite remarkable. So two weekends ago I found myself at the Lego store in Southgate mall, where I picked up a couple of Lone Ranger sets and an assortment of extra minifigures. Sylvia and I are going to build the Lone Ranger stuff together this weekend.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I'd forgotten why I loved Lego so much as a boy. Now I remember, and not just with my brain, but with my hands. What a great toy. Lego forever!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thor of the Same

Kenneth Branagh's Thor remains my favourite Marvel Studios movie, but despite its forbidding title Thor: The Dark World maintains the first film's winning blend of cheeky humour, inspiring heroics, believable family drama and spectacular production design. While not quite as good as the first film, director Alan Taylor's sequel is very nearly as fun and engaging as the original, hampered only, perhaps, by the implausibility of its storyline.

And yet as my friend Stephen implied in his review, the plot hardly matters in Thor: The Dark World. Dark elves from before the Big Bang view the Marvel cosmology as a horrifying aberration, and hope to return the Nine Realms to the great black nothingness of billions of years ago. (How elves evolved in a void is a question best left unasked.) The crisis is really just an excuse to reunite Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with his mortal girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and to give the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) a chance to wreak more havoc.

As the film opens we learn that Thor, who matured considerably during the course of the first film, has taken his responsibilities as Prince of Asgard seriously and has spent the last couple of years bringing peace to the Nine Realms. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is proud of his son and relieved that he's finally grown into the man he always hoped he would become - ready for the throne.

Of course it's right around this point that the Dark Elves return and Jane Foster fills her role as brilliant scientist/damsel in distress. Some really gorgeous and well-choreographed action sequences follow; there's an aerial battle over Asgard with flying boats, steampunk cannons and blade-like vertically-aligned alien spaceships that made me feel like an 8 year old watching Star Wars for the first time.

As I've often noted, though, visual effects are just meaningless spectacle without human stakes; you have to care about the people involved in the action. In this film, you do. It's really rather heartbreaking to see Loki's mother, brother and father struggling to balance their love for Loki with their repugnance over his actions, and to see Thor pine over his mortal love Jane, who other Asgardians rightly note is a mayfly compared to them; the romance is doomed from the start, since Thor will live thousands of years and Jane might live a century. And Asgard is beautiful beyond compare, as it was in the first film; it hurts to see the Dark Elves ruin so much of it.

Interestingly, most of the action takes place across Realms other than Midgard (where Earth is located), and even when we do see Earth, it's exclusively London, a refreshing change of pace; not a single scene is set in the United States. The climax takes the form of a very cleverly staged battle that pits Thor against the Dark Elves across all of the Nine Realms, shifting from Greenwich to Jotenheim to Asgard to Svartalfheim as a once-in-five-thousand-years Convergence brings the Realms into close alignment. It's ridiculous, but you can't help but be impressed by the scale of the battle and its brilliant twists and turns.

As with the first film, though, I appreciate Thor: The Dark World because its characters evoke the best in us. Thor and his friends have their flaws; they feel jealousy, pettiness, anger. But they're also loyal, courageous, kind and responsible. At their best, superhero stories should inspire us to be better people no matter the odds or our worst impulses. Thor: The Dark World is exactly that kind of story, and I found it great fun.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Info on the Theatre of the Exploding Sun

Last month I mentioned that my cousin Keith Langergraber has a show at the Kelowna Art Gallery. The gallery's website has been updated with more information about the show, including a short interview with Keith. It's well worth watching, especially if you're interested in art, sculpture, film making or fan culture.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lex Lego

Or should it be Lego Luthor? Either way, he's sort of adorable in his giant Kryptonite-powered robot. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And All this Time I've Been Playing Bards and Barbarians

I Am A: Chaotic Good Human Wizard (5th Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-11

Dexterity-10

Constitution-14

Intelligence-17

Wisdom-13

Charisma-15


Alignment:
Chaotic Good A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.


Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.


Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gee Whiz, Superman

For some reason Batman has a reputation for scaring the daylights out of criminals, but as seen in this image from World's Finest Comics #2 (circa 1940), Superman wasn't above threatening bad guys with grievous bodily harm in the cause of justice, at least in the early years of his career. I would have talked, too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Road Salt Rap

I was cruisin' down the street in sunny October
When it seemed as though the sunshine would last forever
I knew winter was comin' but I was in denial
Don't talk to me of snowfalls 'cause I will be riled

But I get up one fine mornin' and the first thing I see
Is snowflakes coverin' my ride and I begin to weep
The homies in the dump trucks were all out last night
Sandin' down Edmonton streets fighting the good fight
But the road salt they lay down while it's groovy with grit
Gets all up in my shoes and I'm so sick of it

Yeah I got the winter blues
I got the winter blues
I'm so [bleeped] sick of all the rocks in my shoes
I know that this complaint is all ancient news
But I am gonna be heard, I'm gonna share all my views

The sanding trucks say stay back at least 10 metres
But if I leave that empty gap it will fill up with cheaters
Who will then curse your name when the road salt hits
And fills their tailgatin' windshields with a starfield of chips

Ohhhhh I got the winter blues
I got the winter blues
I love Edmonton but the snow makes me puke
In the summer you won't find yourself a better home
But we should cover it up with a winter-proof dome

Heyyyy I know that winter gives us Christmas and the Oilers
But all that oil sands oil is burnin' in our boilers
So I propose we turn our planet right upside-down
And turn the capital city into a southern town

Our new council and mayor are extremely progressive
So I hope they'll stop and listen to my road salt rap message
Don't use that property tax to sand all up in our streets
Just turn our face to the south and you'll please all us peeps

I got the winter blues
I got the winter blues
Ain't gonna put up with no more road salt in my shoes
I hope that Braid or Climenhaga will spread the good news
That there's an alternative to road salt in our shoes


Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Always Darkest Before...

From Our Army at War #259, August 1973. I read this comic at a very young age, and I've never forgotten this haunting sequence. Art by the great Russ Heath, story by Bob Kanigher.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Card Sharp

Last night I dreamed I was in the back seat of Arnold Schwarzenegger's car, leaning over the back of the front seat pitching a movie while he drove and chomped on his cigar.

"It's called Card Sharp," I told him. "You're a champion poker player and knife fighter. But a cabal of drug-smugglers using the big Las Vegas poker tournament as a cover for their criminal enterprise have kidnapped your wife because she knows too much."

I then described a few of the film's action set pieces. In one scene Arnie's character infiltrates a backroom poker game being played by a bunch of mid-level henchmen. One of them asks Arnie to cut the cards.

"Of course," he replies. "It's my favourite part of the game."

He then does the 52 pick-up trick and impales a card to each henchman's chest as it falls, save for the last henchman, who he "punches" with a knife so hard that the man goes flying out a window and lands in a bloody heap on the sidewalk below, shards of glass following him down.

"That's what happens when you don't play with a full deck," Arnie quips. "Not too sharp."

Many of the puns and cheesy lines I dreamed up are already fading from memory, but I distinctly remember "Never bring a deck of cards to a knife fight," "Nothing up my sleeve - except these knives," and "I'm not really into poker; I'm more of a poke 'em player." "Poke 'em?" "Yeah, poke poke poke 'em!" (As Arnie stabs another bad guy over and over.)

And of course, at the climax, the main villain has Arnie's wife clutched close to him in the main ballroom, forcing her to dance, implicitly holding her hostage to slow down the hero's rampage. But Arnie flings his knife into the villain's forehead and scoops his wife into his arms, chuckling "May I cut in?" to the villain as he slumps to the floor.

Talk about contributing to a culture of violence; I guess I've done my part for the day.

Friday, November 08, 2013

This Week's Lesson for Myself

Never blog angry, remember your audience, get off your high horse and remember that the world is full of people smarter and wiser than you.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

PVR Mixup

I should do a little work tonight, but instead I think I'll take a break and catch up on the shows stored on our PVR. Yes, every once in a while it's good to relax with Person of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agents of Arrow and The Tomorrow People of Interest...or was that Arrow of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Tomorrow Interest and Person of People..?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

All they are Saying is Give Peace a Chance

A few years back I wrote a Remembrance Day speech for then Lieutenant Governor Lois Hole. At her direction, I made sure that her speech included thanks to the veterans for their sacrifices and made note of their courage and valour. Lois also directed me to include a strong message of peace in the speech, and I did so. While most of the feedback received was positive, several people publicly noted that they were offended by the speech; they felt Lois had gone too far, as if calling for a world free of war somehow took away from the sacrifices of veterans.

At the time I was dumbfounded, but with that experience in my pocket I'm not surprised by the annual vitriol expressed toward those people who choose to mark Remembrance Day not with the red poppy of sacrifice, but the white poppy of peace.Social media is awash with people hurling the worst sort of abuse at people who favour the white poppy over the red, with a few peacemakers stepping in to say "why not wear both?"

That's not a bad solution, but it doesn't work for those who don't wear the red poppy because they believe that the symbol, intentionally or not, has become part of the cultural narrative that says war is necessary and okay. The poppy cannot be apolitical, as some claim, because it's become an integral part of that narrative. Wrapped up as it is in imagery of sacrifice, valour and blood, the poppy can't help but contribute to the central, garish appeal of war: from the outside, it's exciting. Conflict equals drama, which is why there are so many masterpieces that take war as their central theme; as a species, we can't help but be enthralled by it. I'm not immune; I love war movies and literature great and gaudy about war. 

Others avoid the white poppy not because they don't want peace, but because they realize there have been a few times in history when it seems pretty clear - at least if we trust the information we're fed by the custodians of truth and culture - armed intervention was necessary to save lives. The Second World War and various peacekeeping operations come to mind. In a heated moment several years ago I even wished that the UN would intervene to stop the Taliban from destroying ancient Buddhist artifacts, irreplaceable works of art. I might do so again if terrorists threatened the Louvre or the Guggenheim, come to think of it, even though I value human life more than artifacts - even when those lives are maniacal destroyers of art. And of course when people of ill will threaten the weak, I can't help but feel that intervention, even lethal intervention, can be a moral imperative.

But I do admire those who choose the white poppy, because if nothing else they are showing that a counter-narrative is possible. Perhaps a hundred years from now someone will invent knockout gas or stun beams with no side effects, enabling non-violent conflict resolution in even the most extreme circumstances. But that day won't come unless every human being values the life of every other human being, and in that sense I think those who wear the white poppy are performing an important service; at the very least, they're willing to be called some pretty horrible names in the service of peace (which of course is not the same thing as being willing to face bullets and bombs).

I have friends and relatives who have served and do serve in the military, who have risked life and limb because they believed it was the right thing to do. For that reason, I hesitated before expressing my feelings tonight about the poppy and the double-edged sword of remembrance. But I like to think they served so that I could express my views as a free human being, whether my views are right, wrong, or simply naive.

As for me, I wear neither poppy, because my feelings about war and remembrance are too conflicted to express with any one symbol. And perhaps because symbols - from soda brand logos to national flags to those poor innocent poppies - are like lit fuses themselves, just another trigger for conflict.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Slow Burnin' Blog Turnin' Solution Yearnin'

If, like my friend Jeff, you find The Earliad has slowed down to a crawl, give this a try: activate compatibility view on your browser - that is, if you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer. According to scientific tests run by Jeff, this seems to speed things up. Give it a shot and let me know if it works in the comments. If not, I'll have to take more...drastic measures.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Looking Glass Paperback

Every long-running series needs its "through the looking glass" moment, and it's finally arrived for the Nowhere books. Enter the Negative Zone! Escape from the Mirror Universe - if you can!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Jasper Annex

It was harmless curiosity at first. Sylvia and I were bored, so we decided that instead of waiting in the foyer we'd do a little exploring. We ambled down one wood-panelled corridor after another, ignored by security, the hallway floor graded slightly downward all the way. Before long the wood gave way to gleaming walls of silver and black, while the carpeted floor transitioned to hard marble. We came to a single elevator; a bald man with a grey goatee gestured us inside, but didn't join us in the car. I leaned against the back of Sylvia's wheelchair; she looked up at me and shrugged. We were on our way with time to kill.

The elevator door opened and suddenly we were swimming through an underground river, kicking and paddling our way through floodlit stone catacombs. We breached the surface several minutes later and swam into another hallway, none the worse for wear; our clothes weren't even wet. This time the floor was carpeted again, though the walls retained their modern silver and black look. The hall was like a corkscrew driven deep into the earth; down, down and down we walked, passing many doors that led to offices and schools and laboratories.

At last we came to a large set of oak double doors, above which huge bold type declared "OBSERVATORY." But we didn't enter, because a custodian popped out of the wall and waved us over to his side. We followed, and he led us down a darkened service tunnel that ended in a horizontal arrow-slit, through which we peered and beheld a sprawling suburb beneath a cement sky.

The custodian pointed at a drain at the suburb's outskirts, a bottomless black hole.

"That's where we throw all the dirt," he explained.

"Is this a bomb shelter of some kind? A sanctuary?"

The custodian only shrugged. Our hotel room in Jasper, kilometers above our heads, waited. But we'd never return.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Moonhaulers

When I first saw this calendar sometime back in 1977, I'm sure my face fell in slack-jawed wonder. Some villain had knocked the moon out of its orbit, and only the Justice League (and Supergirl) could put it back in its rightful place! The concept is ludicrous, but the great Neal Adams somehow makes it work. Those kilometres-long harnesses bolted across the face of the moon are wonderful, and look at the strain on the faces of Superman and Supergirl. Adams totally sells it. Everyone has a role to play; presumably Green Lantern is either shoring up the harnesses so they don't snap, or helping push; possibly both. Wonder Woman is using her lasso to help arrest the Moon's fall, even though in this era she couldn't fly under her own power, so I'm not sure what's going on there. Compared to the titans putting all their godlike energy into the effort, Hawkman's Thanagarian police cruiser probably isn't adding much thrust to the package, but all for one and one for all. I suppose Aquaman, Green Arrow and Black Canary are on board to provide damage control if the ship blows some fuses.

As for Batman, well...thanks for coming out, Bruce, but standing there and yelling "Push! Harder!" can't be that helpful in this situation.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Rick's Last Gift

Today wasn't an easy day, as Sylvia and I joined hundreds of other mourners to mark the passing of our friend and colleague Rick Miller. But there were a couple of silver linings:  Kevin Taft delivered a stirring and heartfelt eulogy with grace and strength, reminding us of many of the good times we shared with Rick and his contributions to his community. And Rick's passing brought together friends I haven't seen for months, or in some cases, years. While my time at the Official Opposition wrapped up with perhaps more stress than I've ever experienced, it remains one of the singular experiences of my life. Seeing all those people again - David Kincade, Mildred Richardson, Jackie Foord, Tyler Mudrey, Avril McCalla, Kieran LeBlanc, Bruce Miller, Maurice Tougas, John Santos, Susie Sykes, Carmen Remenda, Laurie Blakeman, Glen Rollans, Brian Leadbetter, Kim Dewar, Tanara McLean, Jeanette Boman, Andrew Fisher, Jonathan Huckabee, Raj Sherman, Jack Flaherty and others I probably missed in the huge crowd - well, it reminded me of all the exciting times that kept me in that place for so long.

It reminds me of the closing lines of one of my favourite films, Big Trouble in Little China:

"We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we, Wang?"
"No horseshit, Jack."
"No horseshit."

It was an honour to help Rick and my other friends at the Alberta Liberal Caucus shake a few earthly pillars back in the day. I hope Rick has slung a hammock between a couple of heaven's pillars, and is even now enjoying a cigar, a drink and the company of his departed loved ones. Thanks for being an important part of one of the most fulfilling times of my life, Rick.