Sunday, June 30, 2019

Azul

Last night I played Azul with Steve, Mike, and Pete. In Azul, players shop for tiles as they work to build a mosaic. You earn points by building columns or rows of tiles, with bonuses for completing full rows or columns or for filling in all the spaces assigned to a certain colour or design. It sounds simple, but the scramble for tiles makes every choice critical; it's as much about sabotaging your rivals as it is completing your own mosaic. 

The game itself is handsome indeed, and the tiles are beautiful and weighty and smooth, a pleasure to handle. The rules are easy to grasp, but the depth is rich, with a wealth of strategies to pursue. The action is pretty quick and breezy, despite the way the game encourages players to second-guess themselves as the availability of tiles shifts, demanding agile thinking. We played twice, and I each game took a mere half-hour or so. 

Azul has both beauty and brains, and I'd happily play it again. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sean Trims a Bush

Today Sean and I tried our hand at landscaping, helping Mom to trim some bushes. Sean was daring enough to try the hedge trimmer; I stuck to shears. We each suffered some minor lacerations until Mom asked why we weren't wearing gloves. Putting the gloves on helped us avoid further injury, although I'm still finding sap in my leg and arm hair. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Battle at the G8

During tonight's episode of Villains & Vigilantes, Northern Shield, our supergroup, was tasked with rescuing Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin from a group of nefarious mercenaries. We rescued Trump, but the kidnappers got away with Putin. I...don't know how to feel about any part of this outcome. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Earl in the Shadows

Sean took this photo of me shrouded in darkness. It's too bad I was smiling; a grim expression would have been more interesting. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Oak Lake by Night

It's just a campground. But kind of eerie somehow. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Desk at Hole's

Over 21 years ago, I started working at Hole's Publishing in St. Albert. Here's my desk and Apple computer; I think it was a IIc with a  monochrome monitor. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

5,773 Films

Early last year, I saw my 4,000th movie and posted the number of films I'd screened by the decade of their release. I've now seen 5,773 films; here's an update to those numbers.
As before, the chart shows I try to watch films from across the decades, but that decades before the 1930s are underrepresented and decades after the 1970s are overrepresented.

Here's the breakdown of films seen per decade, from most to least represented. The number in brackets indicates whether or not a decade moved up or down the ranks or stayed the same since last time.

1980s: 722 films (no change)
1990s: 613 films (no change)
2010s: 604 films (up one) 
2000s: 599 films (down one)
1950s: 532 films (up two)
1970s: 526 films (down one)
1940s: 511 films (up one)
1930s: 472 films (up one)
1960s: 466 films (down three)
1890s: 275 films (up one)
1900s: 165 films (up two) 
1910s and 1920s (tie): 131 films each (no change and up two)
1880s: 16 (up one)
Undated: 8 (down one)
1870s: 2 (no change) 

Total: 5,773 films

The number of undated films has been cut in half, meaning The Movie Database is doing a better job of including release dates for even the more obscure films. And I've finally seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

I'm also getting closer to my goal of seeing at least 500 films from each decade, adding the 2000s, 2010s, 1970s, 1950s, and1940s. Of course, The 1870s and 1880s are frozen at 2 and 16 films, respectively, since that's all the films that were made in those decades, and I've seen them. (At least according to the database, which is subject to change as new discoveries are made.) 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Written in Sand

Just a little playing with scale, filters, layers, and selection tools in an attempt to create a scene using an Eaglemoss K-7 space station and a 3D-printed Federation tug I painted and decalled myself. Might also serve as inspiration for next year's A Call to Arms: Starfleet scenario at Gaming & Guinness...

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Short History of Transair by The View from Seven

Way back in the early 1970s, I flew for the first time. Mom will have to correct my memory, but I believe we flew from Winnipeg to Thompson on a Transair 707, then from Thompson to Leaf Rapids on a much smaller propeller-driven plane.

At least I think that's how it happened. I remember Mom bought me an inflatable Transair jet, which some time later shifted in the closet while I was sleeping and terrified me, causing me to bolt downstairs in a flash into the arms of my parents because I thought it was a monster.

Transair was a short-lived Winnipeg-based airline with a brown and yellow paint scheme--very 1970s. I'm not sure why I was thinking about it today, but to my delight someone's actually written a capsule history of the airline. If you're interested in flying or Manitoba history, read about Transair here

Friday, June 21, 2019

Behold...Bowmaniac!

I used to spend five or six hours a week playing City of Heroes, the one and only truly great superhero-themed MMO. I created at least a couple dozen different superheroes, each with different powers, costumes, and backstories. I had a heck of a lot of fun patrolling the city and hanging out with other gamers. City of Heroes remains the only multiplayer experience I've ever really consistently enjoyed.

Sadly, the company that owned the game abandoned it, shutting the servers down several years ago. Like thousands of others, I briefly mourned the loss of a signature amusement and moved on.

But as it turns out, someone released the game's source code into the wild, and just recently a group of volunteers has set up servers to get the game going again. I dove in and recreated one of my favourite characters Bowmaniac, pictured here. If you click the photo to embiggen, you'll see his tongue-in-cheek character profile. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Pocket Fisherman


In the 1970s, when the summers came, we fished. It was a short drive from Leaf Rapids to the Swanee River campground, where we parked the camper (or the tent trailer, in the early years) and set off in the canoe or the motorboat to cast our lines into the rivers or lakes. 

Mom and Dad did most of the casting. I usually read a book, though from time to time they coaxed me into working with rod and reel. Out of all those summers (was it really only seven or eight of them before we came to Alberta?), I caught perhaps three fish, all of them jackfish, all thrown back into the water because they were too hard to clean. I never caught a pickerel or a perch, the tastiest fish, but luckily Mom and Dad made up the deficit. 

We had at least one Pocket Fisherman, and I remember being fascinated by its design. To my surprise, you can still buy a Pocket Fisherman today. I find that comforting. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Grandma and Granddad's Wedding

Way back in 1931, my maternal grandparents were married. Almost 90 years ago! Mind-boggling. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Vision of Future Past

Previously on Jedi/Superman...
Last Son of the Republic
Growing Up Under Twin Suns
Chariot of the Gods
The Emperor's New Genocide
The Quality of Mercy
A Job for Supermen
The Green, Green Glow of Homicide
A Dream of Droids

From the cockpit of his fighter, Luke Skywalker sensed, of course, that Leia planned to surrender; he knew it before the transmission even reached his headset. Therefore, his only course of action was to disobey that final order to rendezvous with the fleet. He would save the Princess and the others from themselves somehow. . .

No. That was the voice of his younger, undisciplined self. He couldn’t just charge off like some gladiator from the old stories. Retreat was the order, and it was a sensible one. The remnants of the fleet could regroup—he and Wedge and Biggs would come up with a rescue plan—they could save Ben and the princess and the others before—

Obey this order you must not. Trust your feelings, seize this act of Defiance. 

Luke’s eyes went wide.

Master Yoda..? 

Luke wept. It was impossible; Yoda had been gone for years. But he felt the Master’s presence like a warm essence all around him.

Time for questions I have not. Is difficult to reach across so much time and space. Stand with your father. Stand with your brother. Stand with the princess. And beware the dark heart of Krypton—beware…! 

The voice faded as if exhausted. “Master Yoda?” Luke called into his cockpit. “Master, come back! The dark heart of Krypton…what is the dark heart of Krypton?”

But there was nothing more. Luke knew what he must do next.

He deactivated his communications systems and used the Force to mask his X-Wing’s emissions. Poor R9-D8 couldn’t even protest; he’d been fried by a TIE blaster bolt early in the losing battle for Yavin. But in some ways that made his next task easier.

As luck—or the Force—would have it, the Defiance wasn’t far away in astronomical terms. Luke set a course for the frigate and flew it into the open hangar bay well before the frigate entered visual range of the nearest Imperial ship’s sensors. And just in time, too; the hangar doors immediately slid closed just as a large escort of TIE fighters formed up to lead the frigate into the Empire’s clutches.

Luke hurried to the bridge, much to the consternation of Princess Leia and General Dodonna. Ben Kenobi only sighed in resignation.

“I gave all pilots a direct order to retreat and rendezvous,” Leia fumed, poking Luke in the chest with one regal finger.

“I couldn’t abandon you,” Luke replied, his eyes soft and infuriatingly sincere. Leia threw up her hands and turned away to stare out the window, watching the Death Star and its squadron of Star Destroyers loom steadily larger. General Dodonna joined her, and the two talked in muted voices about next steps.

“Well, we’re in the lion’s den now, my boy,” Kenobi said. “What possessed you to return?”

Even in these circumstances, Luke couldn’t stop himself from smiling.

“Ben…Master Yoda spoke to me. Just now. He spoke to me.”

Kenobi was stunned. He’d heard legends of Jedi Knights past transcending the barrier between life and the dark eternity, but he’d never taken the old tales seriously. The Force was powerful indeed, but powerful enough to reach from beyond the grave..?

But he could sense the truth radiating from Luke. “What did he say?”

“He told me I had to come here, to stand with you. With all of you,” he gestured. “But…is Clark all right? The Death Star had a bead on him…”

“He’s fine,” Kenobi said. “I hid him below to recover. The radiation did terrible damage to him, but just a short time in bacta revived him. Miraculous. But I felt you reach out to pull him from the beam’s path, Luke. He would not have survived if you hadn’t intervened.”

Luke sighed, relieved. But then he remembered the last thing Yoda had said.

“Ben…what is the dark heart of Krypton?”

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day 2019

It's our first Father's Day without Dad, and it's hard. Here's something Mom found online a few months ago: a photograph of the church and manse in Rocanville, Saskatchewan. Dad was born in that manse in 1942. Miss you, Dad. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Thursday, June 13, 2019

When You See It...


When I recommended the Crazy 80s Games channel, I had high hopes for quality content. My expectations have already been exceeded. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Starring...Sean


Sean makes his professional acting debut in this short commercial for Alberta Health Services' wellness tips service. He did a great job! I'm very excited for him. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Unicorn Horn as Played by Crazy 80s Games


YouTube user Crazy 80s Games has uploaded what I hope is the first of many gameplay videos of obscure Atari 8-bit computer amusements. My brother and I played a lot of Atari 8-bit games back in the 1970s and 1980s, but we never got wind of Unicorn Horn, which looks pretty darn trippy. 

Sunday, June 09, 2019

An Artist that I Used to Know


I suspect most casual lovers of music remember Gotye best as the artist behind "Somebody that I Used to Know," the tune that introduced me to Kimbra. Just recently though, I discovered this delightful song about an electronic organ. It reminds me very much of my family's experiences with our electronic organ back in the 1970s. Of course, none of us went on  to a career in music like Gotye did...

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Quick Take: X-Men: Origins

On Gavin Hood's X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): No wonder I waited a decade to finally get around to watching this. Decidedly not worth the wait.

Friday, June 07, 2019

It Came from the E-Mail Thread

Mike: I prefer prose, preferably purple. 

Earl: 
Purple prose, it's in my veins
Bad novels driving you insane
Purple prose, mixed metaphors
Ten manuscripts in the bottom drawer

Purple prose, less than profound
A hundred adverbs for every noun
Is it art or pulpy trash?
Whatever it is, it was written while high on hash

Read me
Read me
Ohhh, no no

Oooah ah
Oooah, ahhh
Oooah, ahh
Oooh, mauve, yeahhh!

Purple prose, blood in my eyes
Lurid lines make me fantasize
Mary Sue, and Marty Stu too
Read it until your balls are blue

Ooooh
Help me
Yeah, yeah, purple prose
Ohh nooo oohhhh
Oh, help me
Stop it, stop it, purple prose
I can't keep reading this
Purple prose, you're destroying my mind
Purple prose, no, noooooo
Purple prose...

Mike: I deserved that. 

With apologies to Jimi Hendrix. 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Quick Take: The Desperate Trail

The Desperate Trail (P.J. Pesce, 1995) asks us to treat its villains as heroes and its heroes as villains without giving us any reason to buy into that narrative. A huge waste of the brilliant Sam Elliot.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Quick Take: The Projected Man

The Projected Man (Ian Curteis, 1966) is reasonably atmospheric, with good makeup and sound effects, but too plodding and dry to hold much interest. There is one unintentionally funny moment: the protagonist shows hilariously bad judgement in forcing his completely unqualified, non-scientist assistant to operate an experimental teleporter. But then, had he not done that, we wouldn't have a monster movie, would we...?

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Batmobile in Miniature

Should I be lucky to live long enough to enjoy a post-scarcity society, I'll definitely replicate a 1960s Batmobile to tool around in. Sylvia says she would refuse to ride with me, though. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Brooklyn Beach

We return to New York, but this time we stay in south Brooklyn, our hotel on the very shores of the Atlantic. Something goes wrong; we awaken in the ocean, chest deep, dressed in shirts and shorts, as if for a sunny day out. The morning is overcast, a uniform foggy grey, the waters tempestuous, threatening to drag us to our doom. We clasp hands and walk through the churning ocean, the beach a mile or so away, digging our bare feet into the submerged sand, step by difficult step. To our left and right, we see other couples cast into the same predicament. Shouting encouragement back and forth across the waves, we all stagger more or less together onto the beach, the surf still tugging at our ankles as if hoping to pull us back into the ocean's clutches.

There follows a brief interlude of confusion and questions, but none of us have any answers. Soaking wet and exhausted, we return to our hotels.

The next day, you decide to rest while I head into the city. To my astonishment, I spot a floating businessman; he's soaring, legs crossed, a couple of metres above the sidewalk. He's wearing a white suit with a matching porkpie hat, and he is laughing as though all his cares had been forever banished.

I wave him down, and he flies over effortlessly.

"You've got to try this," he says, reaching overhead to pluck what looks like a square couch cushion out of the air. It's black and white, about a meter square, and as soon as he pulls it to the level of his chest, gravity suddenly renews its hold on him and he drops to his feet.

He hands me the square; it's soft, malleable. I regard it dubiously, but then tentatively raise it over my head and let go. It remains suspended above me, and I find that I am suddenly weightless; but better than that, I can will myself forward and back, up, down, sideways, wherever I want.

It is euphoric. I rise above the city like Superman, swooping to and fro, diving to within a hair's breadth of the earth, grass tickling my chest, then rising to the edge of space. After a few minutes of this, I return to the street where I saw the businessman. With real regret, I return his device.

"Is it magnetic...no, that can't be right. Does it somehow block gravity..?"

He just smiles and says he thinks it's going to be a big hit. A little later, I return to our hotel room and I tell you about it; you're skeptical until we see a commercial about the flying machine.

We relax on the couch together, and darkness closes in until the light of the television is snuffed out. 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

The Oreo Ice Capp

Why did I
Even attempt to consume
The treacly froth
Brown as sewage
I deserved this

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Gaming & Guinness XIV Days 4 and 5

The final days of G&G are always bittersweet, as our revels now are over...or about to be over. I was pretty pleased this year with my Battletech performance; I actually managed to contribute to our team's victory, and didn't get killed until the very last moment of the game. That's a much better showing than last year, when I killed myself by overheating.
The chariot race! Fanfare! Extravaganza!
Jeff took home the covered G&G Circvs Maximvs trophy for the fourth time, with Mike T and Mike P nipping at his heels. I tried to take more risks than I usually do, and wound up flipping my chariot for my pains, resulting in a DNF. Maybe next year...
After midnight, we finally got around to playing Speak Out, the game where everyone jams a plastic device into their mouth and struggles to say certain phrases coherently. The prospect filled me with so much glee that I had a protracted laughing fit before the game even began. Mike Totman captured my paroxysms.

And that was that! I can't wait for next year.