Saturday, April 04, 2020

Birthday at a Distance

It's Sean's birthday today, so Sylvia and I drove to his apartment to drop off his present, a peanut buster parfait, and some hand-me-down blu-rays. Only a few weeks ago there were plans for us to meet Mom in Devon to celebrate at a restaurant owned by one of Sean's friends, but, well...it'll be a while before that happens, given COVID-19.
Happy Quarantined Birthday, Sean! 

Friday, April 03, 2020

Earl and Darwin II

It's still 1971, and Darwin Jones (right) and I are captured here sampling goodies during the 40th wedding anniversary celebration of our maternal grandparents. Once again, this photo was scanned by our mutual cousin David Newton. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Earl and Darwin, 1971

Thanks to my cousin David Newton, who scanned this image of me putting a funnel on the head of our mutual cousin Darwin Jones. 1971. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Caught with Packages

Sylvia often teases me about the number of packages I receive from Amazon and other online retailers. From my point of view she exaggerates, but she certainly caught me red-handed a couple of weeks ago. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Some Thoughts on Mr. Robot

Sylvia and I binge-watched Mr. Robot over the course of the last month or so, and we both found it rewarding. It's very difficult to describe the show without spoiling it, so I will only list a few of the highlights:


  • A compelling, timely narrative with a well-earned, satisfying conclusion
  • Rich, nuanced characters
  • Excellent performances
  • Innovative editing and direction
  • Heartbreaking pathos
  • Superb music that complements each scene perfectly (I bought all seven volumes of the soundtrack)
I can say this much without spoiling things: The show is about a troubled young man who, for reasons to be revealed over the course of the show, decides to hack capitalism itself in an effort to, as he puts it, "save the world." Does he succeed? And if so, at what cost? Watch and find out; I don't think you'll regret it. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

If I Had a Billion Dollars

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy a black house (I'd buy a black house)
And if I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy mannequin limbs for my house (a collection of arms and legs and heads for sure)
And if I had a billion dollars
I'd buy a Batmobile (a rather showy automobile)

And if I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars I'd hire actors for our estate
They'd play roles from central casting and never be late
If I had a billion dollars maybe we could build a bridge simulator in there somewhere
(You know we could just go down and play Star Trek)
(Like shoot Klingons or watch movies on the bridge with popcorn and soda for us)
(With surround sound and exploding consoles, hmmm)
(Exploding consoles and gimbals in the floor)
(Do you really think that's safe? Well yeah!)

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you your own house
(Because living in my madhouse would be cruel)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd build a tunnel to your house (so we could hang out all the time)
And if I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy you Louis Vitton (so he could make you your own handbags)

And if I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars we wouldn't have to cook and clean anymore
And if I had a billion dollars we'd hire chefs and butlers 'cause they all cost more
If I had a billion dollars we wouldn't have to eat taco kits
(But we would eat taco kits)
(Of course we would, we'd just eat more)
(And buy really expensive seasonings with it)
That's right, all the expensive Dijon taco seasoning, mmmm)

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy you a "Don't" shirt (and yes a real "Don't" shirt, that's cool)
And if I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy us some art (a Vallejo or a Wayne Boring)
If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd call you my monkey (but don't I already call you my monkey?)

If I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd be silly

Friday, March 27, 2020

Squiggle Me This

A long exposure experiment failure shot ineptly on Mom and Dad's Canon T70. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Diner Before Callahan's

It's now a dental office, but once upon a time this building just north of the High Level Bridge housed a restaurant I used to frequent with my friends in the University of Alberta Star Trek Club. No, the restaurant wasn't Callahan's - at least not at first - but the one that preceded it. (I shot this photo sometime after leaving university, I'm sure.) Despite all my fond memories of the restaurant that was here before Callahan's, I can't remember its name. Can anyone help me out? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Genres by the Numbers

According to Letterboxd, the 6,808 films I've seen in my lifetime thus far fall into the following genres, in descending order:

Drama: 1,832
Comedy: 1,814
Action: 1,230
Science fiction: 1,045
Thriller: 989
Animation: 859
Adventure: 850
Documentary: 640
Crime: 636
Horror: 633
Romance: 603
Fantasy: 543
Family: 492
Mystery: 356
Western: 354
Musical: 262
War: 231
History: 199
TV movie: 158

These numbers add up to higher than 6,808, but that's because many films fall into multiple genres. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mom and the Forge

One of the hardest things about COVID-19 is the cold reality of social distancing. I talked to Mom on Sunday about the pandemic and how our family is managing it, and while I recognize how lucky we are - both my brother and I are working from home, Sylvia is also safe at home, and Mom is retired - it's still tough to know that it's not safe to see Mom in person, because she's over 65 and thus at high risk of getting very sick if she gets infected with the coronavirus.

Mom is very tough, which I think I attribute to her childhood as a farm girl, and then years as a teacher and mother in Canada's north. But I still worry, and chatting with her on the phone on Sunday really brought home that it won't be safe to visit in person for weeks, or maybe months. On the flip side, that will make our next in-person visit that much more special.

Love you, Mom. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's All Been Forgotten Before


A few days ago, my friend Bruce shared this video of Surrender's "It's All Been Done Before." I'd forgotten that this song had ever existed, which is surprising given how much I enjoy it. Thanks, Bruce!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Two Must-Read Stories on COVID-19

Here are two well-researched articles about COVID-19, the threat it poses, and why we must all, collectively, around the world, take action now to prevent a serious health catastrophe. The first article is the one that convinced me to stay at home. The second shows what we may be in for, depending on the actions that we take or do not take.

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Quick Takes: Cool World

Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992) Meandering, unfunny, mean-spirited, nonsensical, full of unnecessary plot points (Why did it matter Gabriel Byrne's character murdered his wife? Why did it matter Brad Pitt's character lost his mother in a motorcycle accident?)...this is just a mess. The trailer is far more stylish and interesting; at least you get to hear The Art of Noise doing Peter Gunn.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Trekspertise on Terrorism in Star Trek


One of my favourite YouTube channels, Trekspertise, has released another well-produced, thought-provoking video essay. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Marbula One


Jelle's marble runs never fail to entertain, but he's really started to up the production values of his videos. And he did it without losing the fun and whimsy that make these videos special. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hardware Connections

A few days ago I watched Color Out of Space, a pretty decent adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's creepy Cthulu Mythos tale. After logging the film in Letterboxd, I reviewed the rest of director Richard Stanley's filmography, and was surprised to discover he directed cyberpunk thriller Hardware, a considerably less accomplished film, in my view.

However, Hardware features a pretty catchy tune by Public Image Ltd., "The Order of Death," or as I always remember it, "This is what you want...this is what you get...this is what you want...this is what you get..."

I haven't seen Hardware or heard the song in years, so I was surprised earlier tonight to hear "The Order of Death" featured in a late season two episode of Mr. Robot, which Sylvia and I are working our way through. (An excellent series, by the way.)

It means nothing, of course; such connections are all around us. But it still struck me as a little weird. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

My Corona

My Corona
My Corona
Ooh, my little pretty virus, my COVID-19,
When you gonna give me the flu, Corona?
Ooh, you make my fever rise, my fever rise
Got me self-confined, Corona
Never gonna shop, not goin' out, I got my TP
For the next few months no one is gonna see me
My, my, my, my, aaahh-CHOO!
M-m-m-my Corona
My Corona


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Object d’Earl

This is one of the ash trays I made while stumbling through the ceramics unit of junior high industrial arts. I don't know why I made even a single ash tray, let alone multiples, considering Mom and Dad had quit smoking years before and Sean and I never started. We went to visit Mom today, though, and lo and behold she still has one of my ash trays. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

One Nation Under Isolation

The strange days continue. Like many others, I'll be working from home for a while in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19. If, collectively, we succeed, we may just save the health care system from being overwhelmed, and maybe some lives will be saved. 

Like many middle-aged folk, I miss the vitality I had in my 20s and 30s. Aside from my weight, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin--but now, more than ever, I wish I had that old spark. Not just because of COVID-19, but because I feel like youth would make it easier to bear the other existential threats to our civilization: climate change, the unsustainable gap between rich and poor, regular assaults on critical thinking and truth itself, and the return of right-wing authoritarianism. 

Some of that is nostalgia talking, of course. And in truth, things are not entirely bleak. Even at this early stage of crisis, I've witnessed people pulling together, making smart decisions, listening to experts. And yes, there's been some panic buying, some hoarding. But people do crazy things when they're afraid. And then they calm down and do the right thing. 


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

28mm Chair

So this 28mm scale plastic replica of Captain Kirk's chair was something like $7 on eBay and I just had to have it. I even have a use in mind for it - rather, a couple of uses. I look forward to painting it. 

Monday, March 09, 2020

CKXM 100 and the CBS Radio Mystery Theater

Today it's 100.3 The Bear, but from 1979 to 1988 it was my favourite radio station, CKXM 100. I listened to it in my bedroom on an old, rectangular, wood-panelled radio with analog dials and switches and a glowing green tuner. I liked the station for its selection of light pop; I still remember hearing my favourite Elton John song, "I'm Still Standing," on that radio while tuned to CKXM.

While I liked the music, the real reason CKXM was my favourite was because they broadcast the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, memorably hosted by E.G. Marshall. "Come in...welcome...I'm E.G. Marshall." Much like Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, Marshall introduced tales of weird, macabre madness with wry, pithy commentary. Perhaps most interesting, CBS Radio Mystery Theater wasn't a rebroadcast relic of the past; it was a new program, broadcast from 1974 to 1982. Because we didn't move to Alberta until 1980, I only had access to the last couple of seasons, but what an impression they left each night as I listened before bed.

CBS Radio Mystery Theater and CKXM led me to discover the pleasures of old-time radio; I sought it out wherever I could find it. Back then, that meant saving my allowance to buy the occasional old-time radio compilation cassettes at one of Leduc's record stores. I still have those cassettes!

Nowadays, old-time radio is available via satellite and on YouTube. It's easier than ever to enjoy the format...the trouble is finding the time. As ever...

Saturday, March 07, 2020

The Films of Mark Pirro

Years ago, Pete told recalled his experience of Deathrow Gameshow, a film he described as perverse and hilarious. On a whim, I decided to search for the film's director on Letterboxd. I expected that anyone who directed something called Deathrow Gameshow might have a strange filmography, but I wasn't expecting Nudist Colony of the Dead, Curse of the Queerwolf, Buford's Bikini Buddies, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, or Rectuma ("The terror lurking behind you could be your own behind!")

Clearly Mark Pirro knows exactly what kinds of films he likes to make, and he sets out to make them.


Friday, March 06, 2020

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

You Meet in a Bar...

These are all prepainted minis. If only I was this good! 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Whither Polybius?


It's over an hour long, but if you're interested in hoaxes and 1980s arcade games, Ahoy's Polybius - The Video Game that Doesn't Exist is a fascinating watch. 

Monday, March 02, 2020

The Quirky Genius of Norman McLaren

The National Film Board of Canada has a streamable collection of some of the works of famed Scots/Canadian animator Norman McLaren. Perhaps most fascinating--or at least most educational--are the five parts of Animated Motion, a series of educational films by McLaren and his often-collaborator Grant Munro. Part 1 is pretty elementary even for those with a passing interest in animation, but the animation principles revealed become more fascinating with each successive section of the course. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Creepy Footprint

I just returned from an evening of gaming at Sean's place to find this wet footprint on the ramp leading into the house from the garage. The print looks like it was made by a bare foot, and it's larger than my foot...the main garage door was closed...I'm at something of a loss. I know Sylvia certainly didn't make this footprint, as she doesn't walk in bare feet and her feet are tiny. Did someone manage to get through the main garage door while I was gone and then try to get into the house? Yikes. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Fountain

This fountain may be my most ambitious painting project yet. I don't consider it finished. Why is the statue painted? Because my friend Jeff informed me long ago that in ancient times, statues like this were painted quite brightly; we only see them as white today because the paint has long faded. At least, I think that's what Jeff told me; if that's untrue, the blame lies with my faulty memory. 

Still needs shading for better definition, of course, but I'm getting slightly better at attaining full paint coverage without straying "outside the lines" too much. Except for those blue toes on the god's right foot...ah well. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bounty Board

Here is my freshly-painted bounty board! I used technical pens to scrawl some tiny details onto the papers tacked to the board. I think they'll be pretty effective at this tiny scale. 

I also used the technical pens to add a bit of shadows and weathering to the crates below the bounty board. The next technique I really need to explore is shading. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Earl’s Brown Period

Here is a lot of brown stuff: pallets, a trough, hides and tanning racks, a rabbit being spit-roasted, a cooking pot, a suit of armor, some wares and shelves, and a couple of wells. It's not all brown, but there's a lot of brown. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bad Idea of the Day

Glass floors on double-decker buses. It came to me during the second part of a two-part dream I had last night. In the first, I was part of a Starfleet crew that had been captured and taken aboard a Romulan bird of prey; we managed to overpower the Romulans and set the self-destruct on their ship before beaming back to our own vessel. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Grilled Applewood Smoked Cheddar and Parmesan on Sourdough, 2020


I cooked this a few minutes ago, and then I ate it. It was really good! I can cook! I can cook...this. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Safety Moment

These are not my hands
And these are not my flames
It's plasma flaring and
I am not to blame

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Crates and Barrels

I'd like these to look a bit more weathered, but they're not bad...maybe? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

There's Something About Mary Tyler Moore

A few weeks ago I picked up The Mary Tyler Moore Show on DVD. The price was right, and the show has a superb reputation on top of my fond memories of the few episodes I saw back in the 1970s in Leaf Rapids.

I've watched the first dozen episodes, and the show holds up; the comedy is organic, character-based, rarely cheap, and the dramatic moments are well-earned. Yes, there's an annoying laugh track, but that's part of the package for TV programming of this era.

For reasons I'm struggling to articulate, however, this show has struck a deeper chord than simply enjoying well-crafted entertainment. From the moment I started watching the pilot episode, which begins with the famous theme song played atop a montage of Mary's move to Minneapolis - her new beginning after a failed engagement - tears sprung to my eyes, despite the hopeful theme of both the music and the narrative. The show is about Mary building a new life for herself in an exciting environment, making new friends, and being free and single at 30. There shouldn't be anything sad about that, and yet as I watch the show I can't help but react strongly to everything that's been lost from that era; not just the surface things, like the fashion, the interior decor, the old analog technology, but also the sense that western civilization was not yet a dystopia. Decaying, perhaps, and ridden with crime, malaise, and poverty, but somehow still alive and vibrant and rich with the promise of better days to come.

This is of course not a true reflection of the show, but my own particular demons at this moment in time. I think I must be looking for escape to a simpler time, even if I know that, objectively, the 1970s was as fraught with existential threats as the 2020s.

I'd feel differently, I think, if the past wasn't sealed off; if we could visit once in a while, like we would another country, just for a month, a week, a day, even. Just to smell the air and rediscover things long forgotten. Maybe then I'd feel like we might just make it after all. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Warriors Three

A rifleman, a barbarian, and a legionnaire went into a computer lab...there is no punchline. The legionnaire isn't quite finished, but I think the rifleman and barbarian look okay. In the background are two retro computer terminals; I spent a little extra time on them to make the display screens look like they might actually be showing some data, at least at table scale. 

These are the last three of five metal 28mm miniatures that came with the special edition of Civilization V. Technically, they are an infantry, a brute, and a swordsman, according to the lexicon of the game. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Quick Takes: The Intruder

In The Intruder (Roger Corman, 1962), William Shatner delivers a delightfully hateful, coldly calculating, and ultimately unhinged performance as a racist who, with insidious charm and diabolical plots, riles up a southern town against the then-new integration of public schools.

The Intruder is cheaply made but powerful; its low budget and c-list distribution might very well have contributed to its frankness, because lacking in production value the screenplay and direction really had to sell the narrative. And a challenging narrative it is, holding nothing back when it comes to the open vitriol and hatred many whites had (and have) for their black neighbours. Kind old ladies, children, and respected businessmen alike toss around the n-word and hateful stereotypes openly and without provocation, assuming everyone with white skin shares the same views. And in this film, virtually everyone does, with exception of one public school teacher and the wavering newspaper editor and his wife and daughter.

This isn't an easy film to watch, because it doesn't gloss over deep-seated hate, nor is the ending really a happy one. Shatner's character gets run out of town when one of his schemes finally goes a little too far, yes, but with the exceptions noted above, the people of the community are as hateful as they were prior to Shatner's arrival. Its black citizens are no more welcome, especially the vulnerable black children and teens who will have to continue living with the hate and scorn they endure at the newly-integrated public school. 

The Intruder is an overlooked gem I'd never heard of until a few days ago, and while an uncomfortable watch, I think it's an important one. How far have we really come, deep down?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Painter’s Progress


Here's some 28mm furniture I painted today. The barrels and table probably look best, but the bookshelves were more ambitious. I'm still having trouble properly applying thin, even coats, and there are still tiny unpainted spots that really bug me. But little by little I'll get better. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

My 2020 Valentine


How lucky I am to share my life with this wondrous person! Happy Valentine's Day, Sylvia. It's too bad we're both too sick to go out for dinner like we planned, but there's always tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Earl and a Garden Gnome

Here's another of the images my cousin David sent over: me with a garden gnome, maybe a day or two before or after yesterday's image. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Summer of '70

Here's a nice discovery - a photo of Mom and Dad and me that I've never seen before, shot in the summer of 1970 in southern Manitoba. My cousin David has been going through some old family photos and thoughtfully sent this along. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

My 2020 Oscar Ballot Results

20 out of 24! That might be my best showing ever. And for the first time in years, I really have very few quibbles about the Academy's choices. (I saw all the Best Picture nominees, nine out of ten of the screenplay nominees, all of the sound and VFX nominees, all of the production design nominees, all of the score nominees, all of the editing nominees, all of the costume design and cinematography nominees, two out of five of the documentary features, and about 75 percent of the acting nominees. I didn't see any of the feature films or the shorts, only one of the international features, and only two of the makeup and hairstyling nominees.)

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Earl's 2020 Oscar Ballot

Here are my best (read: wild) guesses as to which artists go home with Oscars tonight. I'll update after the show is over, which I may or may not watch live. The writing bug has hit today and if my creative juices keep flowing, I don't want to stop them prematurely. 

Saturday, February 08, 2020

The Fall of Seafall

Tonight, after  two  three years to the month of playing, Scott, Sean, Mike, and I completed SeaFall, a so-called "Legacy" game with a board, pieces, characters, and rule set that evolve as you play.  In SeaFall, players take on the role of a provincial leader who competes with other leaders to explore the sea and unlock its secrets and treasures. Players earn points for building colonies, upgrading ships, finding treasures and secrets, trading goods, and accomplishing tasks. Player choices alter the way the map looks and plays, as well as their own characters and ships, and there are several important strategic and tactical decisions to make every turn, and, more widely, over the course of the long arc of the total number of games that it takes to finish the game. 

The game has a number of strengths and weaknesses. Exploring the sea and its islands and uncovering its secrets for uncertain rewards is fun, and provides a sense of progress and accomplishment. You get to customize your ships, colonies, islands, and advisors with names of your own choosing, often to humorous effect. Each game ends with a set of rewards commensurate with the number of points you earn, and those who finish last need not fear, because there's a balance mechanic that gives you a leg up on other players the next time you play. 

On the other hand, it's very hard to switch your overall strategy midway through the campaign, so once you focus on a particular playstyle, you're incentivized to stick with it or fall further and further behind your rivals. We also suspected early on that Scott was going to run away with the win, and that certainly proved to be the case. Congratulations, Scott, Emperor of the Provinces! 

All in all, I'd say it was a rewarding experience, but having completed the game, I can't say I'm tempted to return to it for the post-conclusion play options. Our heroes have earned their rest. 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Dune Thing

Washed ashore, this fine debris
Hard-shelled bounty from the sea
Found by Gilligan, first mate guy
Baked by Mary Ann into coconut cream pie


Wednesday, February 05, 2020

52-48

Fib
Poem
Good fit
For today
Don Trump's acquittal
Gives lie to the lie that lies count

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Wax On, Beard Off

Sometimes I wonder how many times a man would have to wax his facial hair before follicle damage stops it from growing back, freeing him from the tyranny of shaving. If you started at, say, the age of 15, would your facial hair stop growing by 25? 35? Would you eventually get used to the pain of ripping out your beard?

Hmmm. 

Monday, February 03, 2020

Today's Little Frustration

For many months now, I've followed all the tips and tricks I can find to get my Windows 10 computer to recognize my iPhone 7 for long enough to transfer over my movies and sync my music. But noooo, I'll get one or two images across from one folder to another, or midway through a sync, and then the dreaded "lost connection to computer" appears. Man is this frustrating, especially when the recommended solutions do nothing. Yes, I'm running the latest version of Windows and the latest iOS and the latest version of iTunes, yes, I've restarted both the computer and the phone, yes, I've updated the drivers, yes, I've tried on other computers, yes, I'm using an official Apple lightning cable, yes, I've tried more than one official Apple lightning cables...sigh.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Arrow Strikes Home

Arrow has had its ups and downs over its eight-year journey, from the heights of the early seasons to the lows of the middle seasons to its final course corrections in its final years. Arrow's eighth and final season was devoted mostly to serving as the lead-in to the ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, and that role reinvigorated the show with new storytelling techniques and the highest possible stakes to keep the action and drama taut and exciting. While the final season stumbled with its dreadful penultimate episode, a backdoor pilot to yet another spinoff, the show's finale features all the best elements of the series - its character building and its exploration of what it means to be a good person - combined with a well-earned, bittersweet happy ending for all concerned. It's also chock full of cameos from seasons past, and it all feels very organic and authentic. The final episode also teases what's to come in Arrow's world even though we won't get to see it all onscreen, but those teases, and one in particular, should delight fans of the show and the world it's created.

Plenty of television shows leave their fans with weak finales that make us feel like we wasted years investing our time. Arrow's finale leaves us glad we stuck with the show. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Man of Le Mans

Steve McQueen has only a few lines of dialogue in Lee H. Katzin's Le Mans, and most of his screen time is spent behind the wheel of his race car. And yet, he's extremely compelling and believable as a man who must race, because for him, it's what makes life worth living. It's a message he communicates in one quiet conversation with a racing widow, and one reinforced by his eyes, his body language, and his ineffable, enigmatic charisma.

The racing sequences are spectacular, particularly the crashes, which are visceral, shocking, and put you right in the action alongside the unfortunate drivers. Great visceral thrills in a film that is at the same time somehow quiet, contemplative, and steadily placed. There are strange contradictions in this film, but it's a winner nonetheless. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Dad on the Alaska Highway

Dad would have been 78 today. I hope he's still enjoying his travels. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Bogart's Oasis

Sahara (Zoltan Korda, 1943) is a taut, well-crafted war flick with a fiendishly simple but incredibly effective plot: a ragtag mixture of Allied tank crew and medics are nearly surrounded by Nazi forces in Libya, with only one way to escape: through the unforgiving sands of the Sahara desert. With water already in desperately short supply, they encounter a Sudanese soldier with an Italian prisoner and shoot down a Nazi pilot, further stretching their resources. Humphrey Bogart is the tough sergeant who has to make the even tougher decisions about their shared predicament, and in the end there's a very well-staged last stand at an old ruin with the only well for hundreds of miles around. The thrilling climax is a true surprise, but it's earned, and the good guys don't all pull through. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Door into Rescue

Steve spent some time painting the doors and walls of our Arena: The Contest game. They look great! He and Jeff and I navigated these spooky corridors last night, defeating a fearsome vampire and his sultry minions, rescuing some blood-drained captives along the way. Harrowing! 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Reason to Hope: The Empathy of Exotica

I can't be sure, but I believe it was my friend Leslie who urged me to watch Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994) shortly after its release back in the long ago and far away 1990s. And yet it took me a quarter-century to finally view what has instantly become one of my favourite films.

Exotica is something very rare in film. It is a story without villains, even though its characters act in ways that could be considered criminal, or at least seedy. It's set mainly in a strip club, and it is erotic, but it's a kind of eroticism that is somehow made wholesome by subverting certain dangerous tropes and turning prurience into the most powerful kind of empathy.

And I think that is why I love this film. Its characters, struggling though they do with jealousy, lust, rage, and horror, each find within themselves not merely tolerance, not merely forgiveness, but the strength to reach out and help--to care for one another even as they struggle with their own unbearable trauma.

How beautiful this film is in its profound decency, how elegant in its delicately unfolding temporal structure. And what a comfort to be reminded that people really do behave this way, finding love to defy horror, finding hope when all seems lost. It's a thing to be celebrated, and Exotica is a truly great celebration of all that's good in us.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The 15:17 to Paris

Maybe this movie would have been better if it were 15 minutes and 17 seconds long. Clint Eastwood has created some legitimate masterpieces, but this film about an incident on a train turned out to be a trainwreck. The dialogue is weirdly stilted, the characters mawkish, the action scene completely pedestrian...he's done so much better than this. Maybe there just wasn't enough interesting material in the real-life story to make into a compelling film, which seems odd given the event itself was so dramatic. So again - perhaps better as a short? 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Picard's Promise

SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard





Star Trek: Picard is off to a promising start with "Remembrance," as a retired Jean-Luc Picard is rudely awakened from a metaphorical slumber to remind humanity of its better angels.

There's a lot to love here. Patrick Stewart slips into his Jean-Luc Picard persona with authority and grace, and yes, his age is showing - and the showrunners aren't afraid to hide it - but the character's charisma, charm, and essential, inspirational decency remain. The supporting players, particularly Picard's live-in friends, a pair of Romulan refugees, are well-drawn and well-acted.

Star Trek fans tend to love touches of continuity, and the showrunners deliver a myriad of plot points and easter eggs to connect this show to those that have come before. They even manage to craft a potentially interesting storyline from the dreadful final Next Generation film, the lamented Star Trek: Nemesis.

It's clear that Star Trek: Picard is going to explore the issue that has, in some sense, defined Star Trek from the very beginning: our civilization's ongoing quest to move past the fear and hate that creates the Other, moving forward to recognize our common humanity, whatever our language, skin colour, and other ultimately trivial differences. In this latest iteration, the approach is two-pronged: the question of human rights will be addressed through the lens of a refugee crisis (much like the ones people are going through today) and the more metaphorical (so far) question of whether or not artificial beings (the latest Other, in the world of the Federation) are part of the human family.

There are some intriguing mysteries to explore. Why do (some) Romulans want to kill Data's daughter(s)? Why no mention of Lal, particularly when the writers are clearly being very careful with respect to continuity? Why did androids attack Mars 20 years ago? And why are humans and Romulans using a Borg cube as a "Romulan Reclamation Centre?"

Looks like the human adventure is just beginning...


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Choose Your Pain

Freedom was just moments away. Sean careened down the final passage, boots slamming against concrete as sirens wailed and the emergency lights painted the steel walls red. He rounded the last corner and -

 - stopped in his tracks as a barricade slammed shut in front of him, cutting off his escape.

Sean cursed, his internal rage meter pegged at maximum, metaphorical steam ready to boil from his flushed ears. An instant later, a rectangle flipped open at the centre of the barricade, and atop it rested several snacks:

  • A large barrel of pork rinds
  • A 1 kg bag of "Goodies" brand liquorice allsorts
  • A 24-count box of full-size Big Turk candy bars
  • A 12-count box of Cherry Blossom chocolate cherry candies
  • A 24-count box of Bounty candy bars
  • A 48-count box of Nose Candy
  • A 36-count box of black liquorice cigars
  • A 500 g bag of generic Halloween molasses taffy
  • A 500 g bag of Halloween candy corn
  • 5 generous servings of rice pudding with raisins
A disembodied voice boomed from above: 

"NAES! You have foiled my plans yet again, but this time I shall take my revenge. I can't stop you from escaping...but I can make your escape miserable. This barricade will open when, and only when, you have consumed the full amount any three of the snack items before you." 

"You monster!" Sean scowled, his stomach turning already. But he knew he had no choice. He fumed and deliberated, until at last his hands reached out...

*   *   * 

WHICH combination of vile snacks will Sean choose? Leave your answers in the comments! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Spazio 1975

What a wonderful toy this was, and remains. It's a circa-1975 Space: 1999 Eagle Freighter, made by Dinky. Mom and Dad bought it for me in Leaf Rapids in the mid-1970s, and I had many adventures with it alongside my friend Kelvin Bear, who had the Eagle Transport model. For a toy only a few years younger than I am, it's in great shape, missing just a few stickers, the tow rope that once raised and lowered the nuclear waste barrels, and some small plastic bits. This is one item I don't think I'll ever depart with. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Soil & Vinegar

Tonight I discovered that if you pour leftover oil and vinegar salad dressing into your toilet, it creates a spectacular and authentic diarrhea effect. A great gag to play on your significant other! 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Blue Moon

Damien Chazelle's First Man (2018) can be summed up in just a few words:

Sad astronaut goes to the Moon and sighs.

What a disappointment.