Thursday, May 29, 2014

2P or Not 2P With TV

Tonight Sylvia and I accompanied her father, cousin and a friend to the Cactus Club restaurant attached to West Edmonton Mall. The company and the meal were fine, but when I retired to the bathroom to wash the juices from my very messy lettuce-wrapped Thai chicken from I hands, I was stunned to see how well-appointed it was. A luxurious leather easy chair occupied one corner of the loo, but while unusual that's not what really caught my eye. No, the bulk of my attention was drawn to the television monitors place above each urinal, a baseball game unfolding on each screen.

Have we come so far, I wondered, that even during the few seconds it takes to urinate we need to be entertained by the idiot box? I'm a fan of popular culture and television, but honestly - what a waste of resources. It struck me as decadent in the worst sense of the word.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Poem for Owen Meanie

Owen Meanie you
Hid behind that old dumpster at the back of the school and
Hit me on the head with a half-full jug of spoiled milk
It burst and the curds got tangled in my hair
Some got in my ear
You rotten bullie ill fix you

One day ill have a convertible
And on a warm summer day ill drive past
And shower you with germaniums
And leave you behind forever

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Founder on G&G IX

My own story of G&G IX will have to wait a few days as I'm still sifting through the hundreds of photos I shot (I almost filled a 32 GB card). Steve, however, was liveblogging the event and I heartily recommend his amusing take. See what Steve had to say about G&G IX here:

G&Goodies for the G&Gang
Fleet Maneuvers
Doom in the Dunes

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Wrong End of the Camera

How cool was it that even back in the 1980s we had teachers who encouraged students to write a short screenplay and then shoot it? Judging from the way I'm handling this video camera, I had a lot to learn. Eventually I got it pointed the right way around, and the resulting film was pretty good for a three-student production with no budget. Sadly, that film is lost. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In the Shadow of Godzilla

The human characters in Gareth Edwards' masterful interpretation of Godzilla are small, frightened creatures who barely make a difference in the film's outcome - and that's as it should be. When faced with a natural catastrophe of this nature, we are as ants before a brushfire; this movie is all about the monsters, who show more personality than the people. 

Some might see this as a weakness, but I wonder if Edwards' made an intentional choice here - and even if he didn't, it works in the context of this film. 

It turns out that our experiments with nuclear energy have awakened Goliaths millions of years old, alpha predators of immense power. Two such awakened creatures will soon mate and doom the world. Another, Godzilla, is a counter-acting force of nature, a thing of balance. 

The humans in this film behave realistically and with intelligence and valour. Their efforts simply don't matter - except, perhaps, at one juncture. That single act raises the possibility that people can have an impact if they make the right choice at the right time. But for the most part, all the guns and planes and boats and science in the world are as useless as stone knives would be against threats of this magnitude.

Edwards uses the by now ho-hum fear of nuclear apocalypse as a lens through which to grapple with today's existential horrors. The giant beasts cause tsunamis that wreak utter havoc, just as the rising oceans are likely to do in decades hence. They also threaten the end of technology, taking away the tools we've used to dominate and perhaps cripple the planet. 

Godzilla and the two other titans he faces represent the two ways in which we fear the world might react to our stewardship: with obliterating wrath or harsh but compassionate correction. 

The film makes it clear that had humans done nothing at all, the outcome of the film would have been the same as with our hapless intervention. (With perhaps - and only perhaps - the one exception I mention above.) It is a film that reflects our current anxieties. We're not worried about nuclear apocalypse so much any more (although we should be), but we do worry about being diminished, losing control. As the world has grown smaller, so, it seems, have we. Compared to the forces around us - economics, governments, nature, a growing understanding of cosmology and evolution - we struggle to find meaning in our lives. And we realize that all our hopes and dreams and aspirations could be swept away at random, as though we mean nothing, the billions of years leading up to and extending beyond our flickering existence so gigantic, so heavy, that we are as singularities, crushed to a point smaller than we can comprehend. 

And yet Godzilla itself, at two moments in the film, regards humans with just enough respect (unless we are merely imagining it) that we wonder if we do matter, just a little, to a universe so vast and cold. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Cliff and the Flames

One of my recurring dreams changes over the years. In the dream, I am leading my friends and family along a densely wooded path that gradually curves upward until we are ascending a nearly vertical slope. I alone know that we have to reach the top of the mountain we're climbing before a nuclear apocalypse wipes out all life in the valley below. As I lead the charge along the path, I look back every so often to ensure that everyone is keeping pace, and I'm confident that we'll all make it. 

But when I haul myself over the top of the cliff and look back, my moment of triumph turns to horror as I see everyone far behind and below me, struggling to catch up. I leap to my feet in panic, jumping up and down, waving my arms, screaming at them all to hurry. But then the bombs go off like gigantic, hellish fireworks, pop-pop-pop, and everyone below me is first skeletonized and then reduced to ash. 

What changes? I age mostly in real time, so now when I make the climb I'm roughly 45, although in my dreams I'm always in much better physical condition - I'm not sure if that's vanity or just a deeply ingrained sense of self-perception formed when I was thin. 

And the line of people grows. The first few times I dreamed this dream there might have been, oh, ten or fifteen people - my parents, my grade-school classmates. Now the list of doomed refugees is in the hundreds. If you're reading this blog, you're almost certainly among them. 

It's a deeply frustrating and terrifying dream that I wish would go away, like the log cabin dream and the green hand dream. But it doesn't look like I'll purge it any time soon. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Toe-talled

TOE STUBBER STRIKES AGAIN!

Today's life lesson: don't rush up the stairs when someone knocks at the door. If it's important, they'll knock again. At first the pain was so intense I thought I'd broken my toe, but it looks like I've merely cracked the nail in half. OUCH! And now it can be revealed that I have hairy-knucked Hobbit feet. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Still Watching the Best Pictures

It's been a couple of years since I last posted my updated list of which Best Picture-nominated films I've seen. Time for an update.

While being nominated for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Picture award is a pretty good indicator that a film has some kind of merit, the award represents only a narrow field of opinion (the tastes of Academy members), and often superior films are overlooked each year at the Oscars. But I find the list useful because it's exposed me to a wide range of styles and genres and led me to other great works. In other words, when I finally watch all of these films, it will really only be the beginning of my exploration of the art form.

Since my last update, I've seen the following additional nominees:

Shanghai Express (1931-32)
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931-32)
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1932-33)
She Done Him Wrong (1932-33)
State Fair (1932-33)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
Dodsworth (1936)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
The Long Voyage Home (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Mrs. Minniver (1942)
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Oliver! (1968)
Funny Girl (1968)
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
Hello, Dolly! (1969)
Z (1969)
Cabaret (1972)
The Emigrants (1972)
Sounder (1972)
Cries and Whispers (1973)
A Touch of Class (1973)
Lenny (1974)
The Turning Point (1977)
Coming Home (1978)
Midnight Express (1978)
Breaking Away (1979)
Raging Bull (1980)
Atlantic City (1981)
The Big Chill (1983)
The Dresser (1983)
Places in the Heart (1984)
A Soldier's Story (1984)
A Room with a View (1986)
A Few Good Men (1992)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Elizabeth (1998)
Life is Beautiful (1998)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Seabiscuit (2003)
Frost/Nixon (2008)
The Artist (2011)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
The Help (2011)
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Moneyball (2011)
The Tree of Life (2011)
War Horse (2011)
Argo (2012)
Amour (2012)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Django Unchained (2012)
Les Misérables (2012)
Life of Pi (2012)
Lincoln (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
12 Years a Slave (2013)
American Hustle (2013)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Gravity (2013)
Her (2013)
Nebraska (2013)
Philomena (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Years in which I've seen every nominated film: 1962, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1994, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013

Years in which I've seen all but one nominated film: 1939, 1954, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006

Years in which I've seen none of the nominated films: 1958

Earl's favourites among this batch of nominees: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mrs. Minniver, A Man for All Seasons, Z, Midnight Express, Raging Bull, Django Unchained, Gravity, Her
Earl's least favourites among this batch of nominees: Three Coins in the Fountain, Funny Girl, The Turning Point, Seabiscuit, The Help, War Horse, Amour, Zero Dark Thirty

From now until my next update I'll see if I can finish off a few of those "seen all but one" years and if I can put a dent in 1958. I have Gigi on Blu-Ray, so watching that will be a start. 

If I've counted correctly, I've now seen 319 out of the 512 films nominated for Best Picture, or a little over 62 percent of the nominees.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Constantine: Hellblazing New Ground?


John Constantine was introduced as a supporting character during Alan Moore's amazing run on Swamp Thing during the 1980s. The irascible, sardonic British magician, with his trademark trenchcoat and ever-present cigarettes, was quickly spun off into his own long-running series, Hellblazer. For decades John Constantine has compelled comic readers with his dry wit and utter ruthlessness. The Hellblazer comics never shied away from soul-searing horror and controversial plotlines, so it's somewhat surprising that NBC would choose to bring this character to the small screen - and judging by the trailer above, to do so in a way that would seem, at first blush, to treat the character and his world with respect. Most importantly, it looks genuinely scary.

If the show is as good as the trailer promises, I'll be tuning in and hoping it prospers. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Quick Peek at The Flash


This is a great time to be a comic book fan. The Marvel movies have been ranging from good to excellent to truly great, Arrow is great television and now it's joined by The Flash, which looks like it could be just as well-produced as Arrow but with a lighter touch, as befits the Scarlet Speedster. It looks like good, infectious fun, and I love the logo! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Might Yet Be

After years of searching used book stores for Alternate Heroes, the second book in the What Might Have Been series pictured above, I finally bit the bullet a couple of weeks ago and just ordered it from Amazon. On a whim I lined the books up side-by-side and the commonality of theme struck me: these books all reinforce a cultural norm that's been drilled into citizens since the invention of history: that conflict is part of existence, it's accepted.

Alternate Empires. Alternate Heroes. Alternate Wars. Alternate Americas. Why not Alternate Romances? Alternate Democracies? Alternate Saints? Alternate Friendships? It's not like such stories would have any less potential for gripping human drama - or even potboiler entertainment of the sort offered here.

I'm not at all criticizing these books or the writers who contributed to them; there's value in exploring these themes. But I find it fascinating how popular culture reflects and directs what we believe about the world around us. For a series based on the concept of alternate history, it's interesting that their collective subtext is one of historical and cultural inevitability. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mom and the Dinosaur

Mother's Day is a good time to reflect not only how important our mothers are in our lives, but to wonder what their lives must have been like before we came along. I certainly wonder that sometimes, at least, especially when I run across old photos like this one, which depicts Mom in 1966 sitting on the tail of a dinosaur. The slide was pretty degraded, and it's going to take some more work to properly retouch it, but even as it is I find this image a fascinating glimpse into the past. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Who Knew NuWho Would Woo Woods?

Way back in 2005 I watched the first episode of the revived Dr. Who, "Rose." At the time the episode didn't leave much of an impression on me, and so I let the new series slide. Since then, of course, the show has earned great critical acclaim and the high opinion of several of my friends, so I've given the show another try. 

I'm a little over midway through the Eccleston season, and I must say I'm already won over. The show is a lot more fun that I remember, and much more ambitious than I anticipated. And perhaps most importantly, it's joyous - an important quality in an era drowning in irony and pessimism. 

From what I've read, apparently the series gets even better as it moves forward in time. I can't believe it took me this long to catch up on the Doctor's adventures, and I look forward to great things to come. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Moment of Melancholy

How sad that there will likely never be a Blu-Ray box set of Toilet Chase, Pipe Maniac, and Toilet Chase III: Flush Point

Monday, May 05, 2014

Keep an Ear Out

Photoshop's pen tool is the scariest of all Photoshop tools, so I gritted my teeth and experimented with it to create the curvy tagline worming its way into this eerie ear canal. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Spectre of Shakespeare

Even the 20th century's greatest skid row Renaissance man, Edward D. Wood Jr., must have felt, as all writers do, the silent approbation of history's most celebrated scribe. I've been working on a story called "The Crawling Ear" and LEGO Shakespeare's wry gaze seems to condemn me to Wood's fate - as a forgotten hack of cheap, tawdry dime novels. Well, I can think of worse fates...plus it inspired me to shoot this (I hope) amusing photo. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Freefall with Nathan

Two nights ago I dreamed I was spacewalking outside a Russian space station with Nathan Fillion. We watched as a Soyuz docked at the station, then he turned to me, the stars his backdrop, and said, "Well, I guess we should be heading back to Earth."

By way of reply I saluted jauntily and let myself fall freely toward the planet, for after all that's how astronauts returned, not in spaceships, but by simply allowing ourselves to be recaptured by the gentle tug of gravity. At first our descent was slow, but then Nathan pulled off his helmet and tossed it aside, and that seemed to accelerate us; we drilled man-shaped holes through the clouds, hooting and cawing in delight as we hurtled through the sky.

Nathan disposed of the rest of his spacesuit and I was unsurprised to see that he was wearing his Captain Mal costume from Firefly. But I was comfortable in my marshmallow-like costume, and I performed midair antics as we fell; I made silly faces (unseen, of course, through my helmet), posed like Superman, relaxed with my hands on my head as if I were napping in a hammock.

It was in that relaxed pose that I slammed into the ground, at the same instant as Nathan, and each of us created a massive network of splinters through the already-cracked desert landscape.

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "Those last few meters sure come up fast!" I finally pulled off my helmet and began the beat the dust from my spacesuit. Nathan had landed on his feet, which annoyed me a little; he had remarkable poise.

Suddenly I was alone, looking up at an azure sky that faded to deep black, and the stars above gleamed.