Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grand Illusions


I've often expressed my gratitude for the invention of the Internet. It gives voice to so many talented creators who might otherwise have toiled in obscurity.

Grand Illusions is a YouTube channel in which a distinguished British fellow named Tim demonstrates the operation of a variety of marvellous old toys. It's an utterly charming channel that never fails to evoke feelings of warmth and serenity in me. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thompson Peaks

I find it kind of hard to believe I didn't think of this back in 1990, but better late than never. For those who don't recognize the background, it's a photo I took of Pisew Falls back in 2009, near Thompson, Manitoba. Thompson would be a great place for a Canadian version of Twin Peaks, although Leaf Rapids would be even better...but "Leaf Rapids Peaks" doesn't sound right. Actually, I guess "Leaf Rapids" works as a title on its own...I'm rambling, I'll stop. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Frog's Dream

Ribbbit. Ribbbit. In the spirit of Jeff's Ungood Art, here's even Ungooder Art. I was attempting something other than this, and it all went wrong. So I present...The Frog's Dream. Digital image manipulation, 2017. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad and Granddad

For Father's Day, it seems appropriate to look back and see Dad with his Dad, back sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Today Dad looks a lot like his father did back then! Sadly, Sean and I never got to meet Granddad, but at least there are some photos. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Suicide Squash

When the garden was threatened
When blight and pestilence loomed
When netting and fences weren't enough
There came a hero
He called himself Zebediah Zucchini
To his friends, he was Zeb
But the world would know him as

SUICIDE SQUASH

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

That Damn Rock

Like thunder it cracked when it landed--
WHAM!
The birds launched themselves away, wings aflutter
The deer leaped into headlong flight
And a fisherman, baiting a hook, shouted
"DAMN IT!"
When he jerked in surprise and impaled his left index finger
While the wriggling minnow danced away to freedom in the turbulent river
Only to be swallowed up by a passing Grizzly
Who ignored the rude meteorite completely

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Patience

The machine stops
Just short of the beckoning reeds
Inside a man watches the gentle waters
Polish the helpless stone to nothingness
It takes a mere 10,000 years
And then, curiosity satisfied,
He drives away, tires kicking up
The sun-blasted desert sands

Monday, June 12, 2017

Flotsam

The dead things gather at the shore
Bleached white
A warning
To those who would follow
In the stone footprints of the damned

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Regaling Frequencies Open

Last night I was surprised by a FaceTime call from my old friend Steven Neumann, who dialed me in to briefly join a celebration of our mutual friend Jeff's 50th birthday. I was quite touched to be included in the celebrations at a distance, and watched as Susan lit Jeff's big 50-shaped sparklers. It was quite a festive conflagration!

Inspired by the call, early this morning I celebrated Jeff's birthday in my own way, with a silly email based on some shared in-jokes that go back over a quarter century...which means that Jeff and I have known each other for longer than we hadn't known each other--rather a sobering thought.

Here's the story, which will make little sense to anyone except for Jeff, his wife Susan, her brother Steven, and my wife, Sylvia, who you may spot in this story as thinly-disguised analogues of themselves. And after you read the story, be sure to visit Jeff's blog and buy some art!

*  *  *

Captain Wolverine's knuckles, white with fury, clung to the jewel-encrusted arms of his command throne. No other hint of turmoil crossed his Saturnine features. Coolly, he swiveled the throne to face his elegant yet disdainful - one would almost say insubordinate - communications officer, red-skirted, blonde-beehived, Lieutenant Feral.

"Repeat that last, Lieutenant!" barked Wolverine. It came out as a dare. Feral rolled her eyes.

"There's an incoming transmission from the U.S.S. Encounter," she said. "Admiral Woods has a message for you."

Resigning himself, Captain Wolverine turned his throne to face the bridge's main viewer.

"Put him on," he sighed.

The screen flickered from a starfield to the rakish, dashing visage of Admiral Woods himself, who was currently leaning forward in his own command chair, one eyebrow raised, his slash of a mouth forming an insouciant grin.

"Captain Wolverine," he said. "I hear congratulations are in order."

"Yes," Wolverine replied casually, leaning back in his chair, crossing his legs insolently. "You speak of course of our successful first contact with the Sequential Analog Loving Intellect Validator mark 8 machine culture. Really, the credit goes to my Chief Medical Officer, Commander Steadfast, and her brother, our Science Officer, Commander Ice. They're the ones who..."

"I wasn't actually talking about the SALIV-8 matter, though of course it was quite an accomplishment. No, I brought you something. Transporter room, beam over the package."

In the space just above Captain Wolverine's lap, a swirl of matter suddenly coalesced into a small paperback book, which plopped gently onto his crossed legs.

"What's this?" Wolverine wondered, opening the book to a random page. "'There no doubt existed computer dossiers in half a dozen capitals on the sexual tastes and proclivities of Jonathan Emeric Anderson. Whoever had selected Charla Boyd knew exactly what they were doing; she looked as if she had been literally materialized out of Jack's own sexual fantasies...'"

Wolverine put the book down and looked askance at the Admiral. "Message, Woods?"

The Admiral shrugged innocently. "None that I am aware of, except of course...happy birthday."

Wolverine grimaced. "How did you find out?"

"Well, I could be mysterious and say something like 'It's my business to know," but to be honest your wife and brother-in-law ratted you out."

Wolverine threw an annoyed glare at Steadfast and Ice. Steadfast responded by leaning in behind the command throne and gnawing on Wolverine's throat, while Ice chuckled dryly (his nickname was, in fact, "Dry Ice.").

"You run a tight ship, Captain Wolverine," Woods mocked gently and somewhat hypocritically, being no paragon of discipline himself. "Report to Starbase 50 immediately for R&R, and by the way, I'm poaching Lieutenant Feral from you; her transfer to my command will take effect as soon as you dock."

Feral rolled her eyes again. "It's not real, Earl."

Woods shook his fists over his head theatrically. "I'm doing a bit, Monkey! Also, down with metanarrative."

"I hate when you do this," Wolverine said.

"I wonder," Woods replied. "Anyway, happy birthday, and may you enjoy many more to come."

"Channel closed," Feral reported. "Can we wrap up this story so I can put on some real clothes and get out of these dumb pajamas?"

"Set course for Starbase 50," Wolverine said, making finger-guns at the viewscreen. Alexander Courage's trumpet fanfare rolled across the bow as the ship banked to port, credits superimposed over the VFX before the image faded to black. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Cherry ZigZag Gum Ad Rough Sketch

This afternoon, it occurred to me that the gum mentioned in Twin Peaks a quarter-century ago hasn't yet been identified. I thought perhaps the universe of Twin Peaks might contain a very special brand of gum: Cherry ZigZag, the gum that makes kids say, "Wow, Bob, Wow!" The gum itself would be white with dark red cherry zigzags, much like the floor of the Red Room in the Black Lodge.

I quickly sketched a rough draft of what an ad for the gum might look like. Sometime in the next few days, I'll work up a real design in Photoshop. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Cat and Kevin Bacon


"Someday," thought Kevin Bacon as he acted his heart out in a key scene of Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), "This'll play on TV and some damn cat is going to be sleeping over my head."

Seconds after that thought made its way through Bacon's mind, the director called "Cut!" and waved his arms over his head. "More energy!"

That damn cat, Bacon thought.

Years later, Alex the cat leaped onto the television of a perfectly average suburban home and basked in the warmth of electron-sizzled Bacon. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This restaurant - seen here sometime in the mid-1990s - sits at the south end of the High Level Bridge, near the University of Alberta campus. Sometime in 1990 or 1991, I went for supper there, along with Carrie Humphrey and perhaps some combination of Paul Allen, Tony Longworth, Ron Briscoe, Steven Neumann, Susan Neumann, Andrea MacLeod, Jeff Shyluk, Allan Sampson and Jim Sandercock: the core, in other words, of the University of Alberta Star Trek club, as it was in the all too brief months before I earned my degree.

The only thing I really remember about that evening out was that Carrie flung ice cubes at one of us and missed, striking another diner. Sheepish apologies were handed out and the breach was forgiven.

I'm not sure why that memory has stuck with me, when I'd much rather remember what we might have been talking and laughing about. Cruel, cruel entropy.  

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A Tiger at the James Farm, 1972

Our family has some slides labelled "James Farm 1972." Here's a scan of one of those slides, in which we see a tiger behind some chain-link fencing. A Google search using various combinations of "James Farm," "zoo," "animals," and "Canada" produced no results that seem to match.

Does anyone out there remember a "James Farm" that put exotic animals on display in the early 1970s? I don't believe this was Al Oeming's Alberta Game Farm; I have slides of that, too, and it doesn't look like the same place.

Poor sad tiger. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Divinity at the Dump

On Saturday, Sylvia and I paid a visit to Edmonton's state-of-the-art waste reclamation facility, AKA "the dump." I know it's not really a dump, but I suppose I've been conditioned to think of it that way; it's the place where you dump things.

After our journey, Sylvia remarked how satisfying she found the trip. We both felt that way; dropping off a carload of cardboard, old electronics, our malfunctioning sump pump, and assorted household waste too awkward for the curb gave us a strange secular-spiritual lift, a materialist cleansing. Out with the old, the vanquished, the spent; give us room to breathe again.

Obviously it was just a trip to the dump. But I find it reassuring that both Sylvia and I take so much simple pleasure in it. 

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Lord British's Folly

Powder kegs
Stored in unsafe places
Next to the kitchen
On the staircase
Behind the fireplace
And yet Lord British does nothing

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Geeky Movie Night: 1982

On my drive home today, I recalled how much I'd enjoyed the movies of 1982. It was a great year for lovers of science fiction and fantasy: that year I marvelled at Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner, Airplane II: The Sequel, Firefox, Tron, Swamp Thing, and Conan the Barbarian.

I also put up with E.T.. No year is perfect.

There were some films I was too young to see in 1982: The Thing, Cat People, Creepshow, and Poltergeist, among others. But I caught them later, and The Thing in particular became a favourite.

As I drove, I wondered if perhaps I should arrange a 1982-themed movie night. But with such a wide array of great movies to choose from, how could I possibly pick just two or three representing the SF/F/horror/cult sphere of that incredible year?

If I had to pick one film that captured the zeitgeist of my early teens, it would have to be Tron. At that age I was obsessed with computers, video arcades, and home computer games, and Tron held out the mind-bending possibility that one could enter a whole new digital realm. It also looked and sounded like no other movie.

For a second feature, I would probably choose Conan the Barbarian, which is almost the polar opposite of Tron; it's low tech, it presents a world of fantasy and magic, and the hero is a man of brawn rather than brain. And yet it's just as exciting and fun as my first choice, and the two films share the spirit of adventure that I adore most in escapist film.

Choosing a third film is considerably more difficult. As a Trekkie, I'm tempted to pick the most highly regarded of all Trek films, Wrath of Khan. It's a legitimately great movie, and holds up to this day. But it's also part of a larger story, and it feels a little weird to view a sequel without its larger context.

Blade Runner is tempting, but for authenticity you'd have to screen the original version with the happy ending and voice-over, which I think most fans of the film would see as inferior to the later director's cuts.

In the end, I'd have to wrap up my 1982 movie night with John Carpenter's The Thing, still one of the creepiest and bleakest horror movies of all time, with a terrific story, claustrophobic atmosphere, and perhaps one of the most nihilistic endings ever. It also serves as a nice counterpoint to my more upbeat choices.

How about you? I've posted a poll at right to measure my readers' favourite cult, fantasy and science fiction films of 1982. I'm interested to see what three or four or five films you might choose for you own movie night. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Facets of Madness

Here's another in a quickly growing array of bad self-portraits/lazy blog posts. At least there'll be a Wonder Woman review coming soon! 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Turn That Frown Upside Down with Bonus Horror

Yesterday Jeff suggested I should turn my smile upside-down for an even more horrifying self-portrait. I think this is pretty chilling, but it's almost tame compared to the accidental monstrosity below:
I was trying to paint out my mouth with the band-aid tool to make it easier to lay in the upside-down grimace, but Photoshop interpreted the data by filling my mouth with eyeballs. I couldn't have pulled this off if I'd been trying, that's for sure. Eurrrghh! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Going A*P*E

I've seen a lot of terrible movies, but A*P*E (1976) takes the cake. Apparently made on a budget of literally just thousands of dollars, A*P*E omits the traditional second and third acts of a normal movie and gets straight to the climax, which is of course the typical military-versus-giant-beast showdown. Setting (and shooting) the action in Korea adds a tiny bit of interest, as does the 3D format, but the performances, direction, editing and effects are so slipshod that it's hard to believe this thing ever got released. Still, it's worth a few laughs, and the in-your-face 3D gimmicks make for some cheesy fun. 

I watched A*P*E on Kino-Lorber's new Blu-Ray disc. The folks at the 3D film archive have done their usual bang-up job of restoring the image (for what it's worth), and the included commentary by Chris Alexander is informative and funny as hell. I don't know that I'd recommend this as a buy even for my bad-movie-loving friends, but it's worth at least one watch. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cousins

Front left: Darwin, Earl
Ladies: Diane, Barbara, Kathy
Gentlemen: Bruce, Evan, David

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mystery Viking

Sometime in 1972, either my parents or my aunt or uncle shot a slide of this impressive statue, reproduced here as a scan. Without a living person in the frame, it's hard to judge the statue's scale, but it looks pretty impressive to me. Does anyone know where I might find this statue? 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Visions of G&G XII

Earlier this month, I joined my G&G brethren in celebrating the twelfth (!) annual Gaming & Guinness gathering. By now, anyone who follows this blog knows the drill: once a year, I meet with some old buddies and we play games and drink Guinness (well, most of us; Scott and I are teetotallers). Every year is special in its own way, and this time around three highlights stand out: the swag, the group photo concept, and my successful attempt to make X-Wing more efficient.

You can see the swag above: Island Mike and Rob collaborated to mint challenge coins for the group. Not only are they quite handsome works of art, they bring the challenge coin tradition to G&G; for those unawares, members of any challenge coin group are meant to carry their coin at all times. If you run into another member of the group, you can challenge that person to present their coin; if they don't have it with them, they need to buy you a drink (or perform another service of similar value). If they meet your challenge, you buy them a round, and so on.

Jeff came up with the idea of staging a photo that presents us as a bunch of back-alley gamblers.
Since we were all wearing our jerseys from last year, we took the opportunity to shoot them from the rear:
As for X-Wing, I learned from last year's mistake of having everyone take the time to custom-build their own fleets. It's fun in principle, but it adds at least an hour of preparation to the game. I avoided that this time by pre-building ship options and limiting ship choices to those few that were to be used in the scenario I developed, which pitted a squad of basic TIE fighters and a Firespray against a hodgepodge Rebel fleet trying to get away with a stolen TIE fighter and a freighter full of defectors. The Imperials won this particular engagement, and the game flew by quite quickly. Lesson learned!

And now, some selected photographic highlights from the festivities...








































































































































































































































Congratulations to Steve for winning Circvs Maximvs for the first time, and to Jeff and Scott for reaching the podium. And thanks to Mike for hosting!