Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Shock Fight

I looked on in bemusement as Jeff and Tony shuffled across the carpeted floor of Tony's apartment in their sock feet, attempting to build up electrical charges sufficient to zap one another with static electricity.
 
It was a shock fight.
 
The combatants taunted each other as they pointed fingers dangerously rich in electric potential, two young, gaunt men, one brunette, one blonde, cackling like madmen as their friends, I among them, watched.
 
Our grins were tolerant, our sidelong glances slightly mocking. How silly, we said silently, for two grown men (ah, but how young we really were, scarce more than teenagers) to gambol about like little boys on a playground. Soon, we imagined, they would tire of this juvenile pastime and we could all re-focus on more important matters, such as the latest episode of Twin Peaks or our progress through the Wasteland on Tony's PC.
 
The shock fight rose in intensity, socked feet wearing tracks into the abused carpet, Jeff's lips twisted back in a snarl, Tony's eyes feverish with combat-lust. And then time slowed as the unthinkable happened:
 
The men closed in on one another, socks sparking invisibly, flesh tingling with tightly bound energy aching to be unleashed. Jeff's guard was down for an instant as Tony's hand rose in a graceful arc toward his foe's brutish visage. My eyebrows climbed toward my hairline as I experienced a sudden dark warning of disaster, but too late, for in that instant a bolt of miniature lightning formed an eldritch connection between the tip of Tony's outstretched index finger and the bulge of Jeff's unsuspecting right eyeball. There was a loud snap, followed by a wail of agony as Jeff clapped both hands over his quivering eye.
 
"MY EYE!" he screamed. Tony stepped back, pressing his hands over his mouth in surprised horror, his own eyes wide with shock as he realized what he'd done.
 
"Oh no!" Susan screamed, her hands, too, leaping to a mouth agape in horror.
 
"Good Lord," Ron said, chuckling, hands on hips, as Steven shook his head and sighed. Andrea merely rolled her eyes.
 
As for my hands, they went to my then-firm belly as I roared with laughter, my head tossed back in glee, lost in a fit of sadistic mirth.
 
Jeff's yelling and cursing steadily decreased in pitch and volume as the swelling went down, though hot tears streamed down his flushed cheeks. Tony, unabashed, regained some of his earlier bravado and taunted Jeff further. I cackled on the couch for a while until I was breathless, then paused to catch that breath only to lose myself in hilarity again. Jeff's pain abated long before I finished.
 
While silly and perhaps even dangerous, I'll never forget the sheer spectacle of that evening's shocking entertainment. You could even say I got a real charge out of it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Safety Systems Susan

One day in the summer of 1993, Jeff and Susan and I went to the air show in Namao. At one point Susan wound up in this costume; I don't remember why. A added a sepia filter and some background blur to give the photo an old-timey look. I'm not sure what safety systems Susan was checking, or if she's a qualified aircraft mechanic. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Self Portrait, 1987

Feel the angst oozing from every pixel. Shot with Mom and Dad's Canon T70 in colour, cropped and desaturated in Photoshop. I remember feeling a lot of anxiety about having only four more years of school (i.e., university) to go. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Appalling Apollo Art

45 years ago this week, Apollo 11 made its historic voyage to the moon. A couple of decades after that, I drew and coloured this. I think it speaks for itself, but thankfully in space no one can hear you scream. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bacon Bullets

The only conservative thing about me is my palate, often to my detriment. But today, joining Doug, Pete and Ellen for lunch at Taste of Edmonton, I decided to try something new: Bacon Bullets from Sabor Divine. Bacon is hardly daring, but I was wary of its presentation: wrapped in dates stuffed with cheese. I abhor dates, but for reasons I don't understand I decided to - literally - bite the bullet.

Superb. Bacon is tasty enough, and I love cheese, but the date added a sweet tang that somehow enhanced both the cheese and the bacon. To use an exhausted but appropriate metaphor, each bite caused a gunpowder-like explosion of flavour in my mouth. Biting the bullet never tasted so good. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Manitoba Woods and the Banana Republic

This morning I woke up laughing because of a dream.

I was Indiana Jones' new sidekick. Harrison Ford was a young man in his twenties, while I was a teenager. We were struggling to cling to an out-of-control stagecoach while being chased by Max Von Sydow and a trio of thugs. We couldn't outpace them because they were riding in an open trailer hitched to the stagecoach.

There was an open crate of bananas on top of the stagecoach. My job was to peel them, then hand the fruit to Jones, who flung each peeled banana at the villains. One banana slapped Max Von Sydow right in the face, and when he opened his mouth to scream, Indiana flung another banana that went right down his throat, making him cough and gag.

That's when I woke up, laughing and laughing and awakening Sylvia. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

What if Everyone Had the Right to Vote in Every Constituency?

In our system of parliamentary democracy, each of us votes for a candidate who will represent us in the House of Commons. Voters are clumped together by geography, and our collective wisdom (or passion, or ignorance) sends one candidate to Ottawa.

Unless we're lucky enough to live in the riding represented by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Leader of the Third Party or a cabinet minister, we might not even know the name of our Member of Parliament, unless we're particularly politically engaged.

The current system also assumes that we're selfish, that we have an interest only in our particular island of humanity, the few thousand people we share some neighbourhoods with.

But as a citizen, I'm interested in the welfare of every Canadian, whether they live on the west side of Edmonton, on the shores of the Arctic ocean, in one of our great metropolises or a small prairie town. I'd like everyone to have the best representation possible.

I might feel, for example that the NDP's Linda Duncan is the best choice for Edmonton Strathcona and Liberal Kent Hehr the best for Calgary Centre. I might even feel there's a good Conservative candidate out there somewhere who would make solid contributions in the House of Commons.

If everyone had the right to vote in every constituency, we'd all get the chance to vote directly for the eventual Prime Minister. In fact, you could vote for any combination of Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau - all of them or none, if you feel that the other candidates in their respective ridings would make better MPs.

Of course few Canadians have the patience to research three hundred and eight individual races, and many would vote straight Liberal, straight Conservative, straight New Democrat, Bloc, Green or even Marxist-Leninist. It would be a chaotic, messy, infuriating system.

But if everyone took it seriously...if everyone had a personal stake in every corner of the country...well.

I wonder what would happen? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An Unwatched Pot Can Boil Over

Remember, when browsing through the library of much more interesting posts on The Earliad, ensure that you haven't left more important matters unattended! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Everyday Blahg Blahs

I admit it - posting every single day is taking its toll, as my ten or fifteen readers have almost certainly noticed. Sylvia suggested something simple: "Thanks for the break in the heat wave! Have a nice day!"

I will say I'm happy that Kent Hehr is seeking the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Calgary Centre. Kent's a great guy, a hard-working politician, and a smart, realistic progressive. He'd be a great federal candidate and an even better MP - cabinet material, even. I hope he wins both the nomination and the seat. Of all the MLAs I worked with - and I worked with some very good ones - Kent always impressed me as the one with the most potential to go very far and do some real good for the country.

That's certainly no slight against Darshan Kang, who's also leaving provincial politics and hoping to win another Calgary seat for the Trudeau Liberals in the riding of Calgary Skyview. Darshan became an MLA in the same 2008 provincial election as Kent, and I enjoyed working with him as well. I remember Darshan as a particularly effective champion for the tunnel underneath the new runway at the Calgary International Airport, as well as just a plain generous human being who always treated his staff very well.

Good luck to both of them.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bloody Failure

I went to donate blood after work today and failed; the nurses couldn't find a vein. I thought I'd downed enough fluids over the last couple of days, but I guess not. It wound up being A Negative experience (my blood type).

Well, if at second you don't succeed, try, try again. More water, please...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gaming & Guinness IX: Day Two

For day two of our G&G adventure in May, Jeff brought along a simple but challenging card game, Firefly: Out to the Black. This cooperative adventure pits the players, taking on the roles of the characters seen in SF cult favourite Firefly, against their nemesis, the Alliance. Jeff, Mike, Pete and I sought out Jobs (mostly illegal) and did our best to avoid the Alliance, but eventually they caught up to us and now our shenanigans will have to be confined to an Alliance re-edumacatin' centre. Life's rough in the black!
We fared better in another Firefly game, this one a gift to Rob for his birthday. In a heated competition, Mike's motley crew emerged victorious, though I was behind by only one turn.
Unlike Out to the Black, in which each player takes on the role of a character from the show, Firefly: The Game is a competitive battle and each player leads his or her own ship into the deeps of space.
It's a handsomely designed game, with quality pieces. It takes a while to set up, but once you get the hang of it the game runs smoothly.
Meanwhile, Rob, Scott, Island Mike and Steve were downstairs preparing for their annual Warhammer skirmish. Rob's models were being used for the first time in years - another reason we gathered in Ottawa.
It would have been too hard to lug all of Scott and Steve's scenery across the country, so they made do with papercraft obstacles, plus some of Rob's home decor.
Prime Guinnesster Steve.
I continue to be amazed by the superb paint jobs on these models.
I was particularly charmed by these papercraft shipping containers.
Warhammer usually takes the guys about four hours to play. It's a complex game with dozens (hundreds?) of individual pieces.
Here, Island Mike carefully considers where to place one of his tanks.
In the end, it was a victory for the Eldar. Perhaps playing on home turf helped Rob's side.
Where there is gaming, there must be Guinness. These are called "car bombs," if I remember correctly.
Stay tuned for Day Three! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Project Burger Baron: Leduc

Leduc's venerable Burger Baron hasn't changed much over the years; it still looks much the same as it did back when we moved to Alberta, save the "Grad '79" graffiti that used to adorn one side of the rooftop was eventually painted over ten or fifteen years ago. I'm not sure it's been painted again since then.
Sean and I ordered Leduc Burgers, the house specialty: the requisite beef patty topped with a thin slice of ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and 1,000 Island "secret sauce." If you get the double it's sort of a poor man's Big Mac, only more expensive. And better, frankly.
To amuse himself while we waited for our food, Sean experimented with forced perspective photography.
The proprietors used to write amusing slogans on their sign, but today it featured a standard advertisement. Note how the smoke from the Northwest Territories forest fires add a golden glow to the atmosphere.

Leduc's Burger Baron is a tried and true favourite for the Woods Brothers - always reliable, always tasty, comfortably predictable food in a plain brown wrapper. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gaming & Guinness IX: Day One

It was, as Brian Taylor's poster notes, the ninth time we did this: gathered for five days of gaming & Guinness. This time, however, we assembled in Ottawa to celebrate a milestone birthday for Rob Day, who hosted this year's event in the nation's capital.
Never missing an opportunity to travel, Sylvia caught the same flight as Steve, Jeff, Scott and me. We both thought there might be an opportunity to spend a couple of hours together in Ottawa, but both of us wound up with schedules so jam-packed that we didn't see each other again until the return flight home. Sylvia had some fascinating adventures, though, which I'll let her share.
This year Rob and Mike T organized the swag - the requisite t-shirts, but also handsome beer glasses and travel bags with the official G&G IX logo.

It was around this time we learned that Mike and Mike, having arrived first, went out for breakfast earlier in the day only for our rental van to be broken into and some of the Mikes' stuff stolen. Quelle domage, as they say in Canada - an inauspicious beginning!
The first day of G&G is usually pretty casual, as travel and staggered arrival times make organized gaming difficult. It's really mostly about catching up, particularly with Rob and Island Mike, who don't live in Edmonton.

Catchphrase is a simple electronic game in which two teams try to guess what word or phrase is displayed on the game itself, seen here in Steve's hand. It's a little like charades, only more panic inducing as there's an audible timer that counts down as you struggle to describe "banana pancakes" or whatever without using those words. Each team earned one victory.
The two Mikes got everyone else's rocks off once each in the zen-like game of Japanese pathfinding, Tsuro, consigning our stone playing pieces to blissful oblivion.
Island Mike's carefully orchestrated strategy availed him naught, for Scott's mighty citadel outshone all other efforts.
"I brought the game, so I'd better damn well win it," thinks Scott.
Jet lag and drinking took its toll on some of our crew.
I earned my first victory with Cards Against Humanity, the game of guessing which sick phrases your friends will like best. This game famously causes me to break my self-imposed "no swearing" rule, as I feel compelled to quote accurately if presented with written text.

Our first day in Ottawa was a chance to get organized, relax and gird our loins for the days to come. It would prove to be an eventful week. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What David Bowman Saw

"My God, it's full of books." What David Bowman saw when he looked through the monolith. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Miracle Workers

Generally speaking I don't think Star Trek and Star Wars mix very well, but this could have been a pretty incredible pairing. I think Artoo and Scotty would have gotten along quite well after some initial friction. 

"Not the flux capacitor, I need the bloody oscillation overthruster, ye damn bucket 'o bolts!" 

"Puh-wheeoo!" 

"Aye, all right, maybe that'll work but don't be sayin' 'I told ye so' or I'll see if Mr. Spock needs help with his statistical analyses!" 

"Buh-wooo." 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Mom in Black

Today was Mom's birthday, and after dinner I learned (though apparently Sean had already heard this story) that Mom and a room mate secured permission to leave their dorm at the teachers' college in Brandon, Manitoba, in order to go see Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings in concert. First of all, who knew that Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings had ever played in Brandon, and how cool is it that Mom saw them in person?

Nifty. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Christmas Play

Here are some happy, some bored, some bemused children at the Leaf Rapids Education Centre sometime close to the Christmas season in, perhaps, 1975, or perhaps '76, or perhaps '77; surely no later than that. I recognize Melvin in the plaid vest and blue shirt standing in front of the stage, centre left, and I believe that's my cousin Carol Ann kneeling next to me on stage in the second row of children; I'm wearing the green vest, which I believe my mother sewed for me. Was this the year I portrayed the Wizard of Garbage in the play of the same name? I don't remember. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Light-Hearted Dark Between the Stars

Today on "History's Most Deceptive Book Covers," we examine Poul Anderson's 1981 collection of short stories, "The Dark Between the Stars." Are the contents as chilling as the books macabre cover promises?

"Where the Universe ends, the Horror begins," claims the tagline, hovering over the foreboding tableau of a young girl astronaut, seemingly the only survivor of a spaceship crash, about to be devoured by some horrifying alien monster.

The universe ends in none of the stories in this collection, and while one or two of the stories contain a dab of horror, it's of the mildest sort. A couple of the stories have downer endings, a few others are ambiguous, and at least three of the stories have very happy endings indeed - one ends with a wedding proposal right out of 1950s romantic comedies.

Still, the title's collection is wonderful, if misplaced. And the cover art is laughably off-base. It's interesting that even Poul Anderson, a powerhouse of SF in his day, wasn't able to command a more appropriate image. Perhaps he just didn't care. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Perogy Passed Over

Today I had an opportunity to take a photo of myself pretending to have a stomach ache while standing beneath the world's largest perogy  on a fork. But in order not to inconvenience another person, I forsake the opportunity. Another fork in the road - and the perogy - not taken. 

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pointless Update


  • There is still one episode of Star Trek: Voyager I haven't seen
  • I still haven't read The Lord of the Rings
  • I still haven't analysed the title credits of Homicide: Life on the Streets
  • I still haven't finished, Fringe, Farscape or new Dr. Who
  • I still haven't reorganized my office to make better use of the space
  • I still haven't fixed the doorknob
  • I still haven't figured out what to do with my comic books
  • I still haven't made a will
  • I still haven't saved enough money to retire
  • I still haven't seen over 30 percent of the AMPAS Best Picture nominees
  • I still haven't sold my second short story
  • I still haven't written a novel
  • I still haven't gotten back down to 135 pounds
  • I still haven't travelled east of Ottawa or south of Singapore
  • But I'm lucky. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Proletariat's Progress

While on a walk at lunchtime yesterday I stumbled across an interesting feature set into the side of a building - a vertical manhole of sorts. The feature reminded me of nothing so much as Charlie Chaplin's magnificent Modern Times, so I desaturated my original iPhone image, added an old-timey title and slapped fake film threads atop it. I think it's pretty convincing, though I didn't age the faux film at all, which might have helped its verisimilitude. Then again, perhaps The Proletariat's Progress has been recently restored for Blu-Ray...