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Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Social Media Aware PC MLAs

There's a new site for members of the government caucus: In all fairness, it's a pretty good site, but I'm a little puzzled by this section, which seems to offer Albertans advice on how to use social media.

The title of the page reads, "The Nine Commandments of Social Media," and reads more like something of interest to politicians aiming to manipulate social media than a guideline for ordinary Albertans. My favourite bits:

Thou Shalt be Honest – it’s a pretty good maxim to live by in all areas of life but it s particularly true online. If you’re telling a lie or trying to pull a fast one, you will always get caught out. Bad news travels fast, so any lies you do tell are certain to come back to haunt you.

Thou Shalt Have an Opinion – if you are scared to voice your point of view you will struggle to get anyone to listen to you. There’s a level of professionalism we should all strive for but it’s a lot lower than you might think!

Was this page really intended as advice for Albertans who sign up for facebook and twitter? If so, what's it doing on This reads more like an internal document, intended for MLAs who are thinking about using social media...if so, why give away your secret social media marketing tricks?

Strange indeed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Superman vs. the Pocketbook

(Click to enlarge)

In this peculiar scene from Action Comics #562, Superman encounters some folks who have been stuck to their cars by a strange form of magnetism. Of course Superman has to rescue them, but were I the fellow in the first panel, I'd be less concerned about my belt and more concerned by Superman firing his heat vision, which can incinerate continents, so close to my crotch.

And the lady with the handbag, while a little rude, does have a point - why would Superman snap the strap when it's clear that all he has to do is lift it over her head to free her?

Then again, who am I to question how Superman does his job? After multiple exposures to every type of kryptonite from pink to silver, not to mention thousands of concussions, a couple of deaths and resurrections, mental manipulation, body transferrals and who knows what else, I'm sure his judgement has probably suffered some permanent impairment.


Aquaman, aside from being the most-mocked member of the Super Friends, is also the King of Atlantis, the underwater kingdom comprised of the ancient cities of Poseidonis and Tritonis. In his role as King, Aquaman has certain duties as head-of-state. But see how he blows off his responsibilities in this late 1970s issue of Adventure Comics:

Canada gets little respect in the comics. Is meeting the Canadian ambassador so dull a task that Aquaman will grasp any straws necessary to avoid it? Testing Mr. Weisbogg's robot, indeed.

Of course, I suppose they couldn't call it Adventure Comics if the stories revolved around diplomatic meetings...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Itty Bitty Bumper Boats

Shrunken tourists at West Edmonton Mall.

Canada Day 2005 in Miniature

A "small" crowd showed up for the Barenaked Ladies concert on Canada Day, 2005.

Honey, I Shrunk the Car

In 2006, I brought Sylvia on a road trip to Leaf Rapids, Manitoba. The shrinking car phenomenon was not the strangest part of that journey.

The (Really) Little Church

In 1981, my grade six class went to Drumheller for a field trip. We saw the famed Little Church, and I took this photo from atop a hill. Thanks to tilt-shift trickery, now the church really does look little.

Mini Honolulu

Here's a far more convincing example of the tilt-shift process. I actually shot this from a helicopter over Honolulu, but it looks as if you could reach down and play with the miniature buildings and boats.

The Earliad in Miniature

Tilt-shift photography creates an illusion that reduces life-size scenes to the scale of model railways. Here's an example I created by using the tools at

They may look like toys, but that's our camper and my grandparents' farmhouse circa the early 1970s.

The technique seems to work best when photo subjects are at middle to long distance.

Trek Bowl

According to TrekMovie, an ad for the new Star Trek movie will air during this year's Super Bowl. Now I'm faced with a real conundrum: do I sit through three or four hours of sports on the off-chance of seeing some new footage from the film? There's a good chance they might just air the same old trailer. On the other hand, Super Bowl ads are famous for their cleverness - what if Paramount comes up with something really cool?

Ay ay ay. What to do, what to do? I suppose the ad will run on the Internet the next day, anyway...

2 II or not 2 II...II

(Notice the irony in the title of this post...)

In response to a comment on the last post, here's how I might retitle parts II and III of the Back to the Future films:

Escape from the Future
Back to the Ranch

The Rambo films had an odd titling sequence. The first film is First Blood, followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II, followed by Rambo III, followed by Rambo.

How about...

First Blood
Rambo's Revenge
Blood of Patriots (the ham-handed flag-waving and violence in this film has to be seen to be believed - I think this title really suits it)
Last Blood (I haven't seen Rambo, but judging by the previews, this film looks bloodier than the first three films combined. Last Blood gives the film the ghoulish finality I imagine it needs.)

To be fair, there are plenty of good sequel titles out there. I was quite tickled by the irreverent Live Free or Die Hard, and I've always loved Scream, Blacula, Scream.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2 II or not 2 II?

I watched French Connection II a couple of days ago, and it occurred to me that it might be the earliest incidence of a Roman numeral being appended to a sequel. I think Quatermass 2 might be the first numbered sequel, period.

Personally, I prefer the James Bond approach when it comes to sequels - a unique name for each film. Imagine if the producers had gone the other route, and Dr. No had been called James Bond, followed by James Bond II, III, etc. James Bond XXII doesn't look nearly as good on a marquee as Quantum of Solace. Everyone understands that Chinatown and The Two Jakes are connected narratives; how lame would Chinatown II have been? It sounds like a new subdivision.

Sometimes a numbered sequel makes sense. Not only was Quatermass 2 the second film in the series, it's also the name of a rocket in the film, Quatermass' second ship. Robocop 2 employed a similar conceit.

But French Connection II is, well, just a convenient, marketing-friendly name for the sequel to a popular film. This is how it goes with a lot of sequels - tack a number after a brand, and bam, you're good to go. Sometimes it makes sense, but other times you wind up with abominations such as 2 Fast 2 Furious or TR2N. (How do you even say that? "Tr-too-n?"?)

Take the Superman films. Superman was followed with II, III and IV, subtitled The Quest for Peace. Superman is at least as recognizable as James Bond - there's no excuse for lazy titles like these.

Superman II featured three Kryptonian bad guys who survived the explosion of Krypton thanks to Superman's dad, who had thrown them into the Phantom Zone (read: "space jail") before the planet blew up. So in a sense, Jor-El was a father-figure not just to Superman, but to the three villains; he gave them deliverance from doom, if accidentally.

The three villains dressed in black for the entire film, and they had all of Superman's amazing powers. However, being villains, they used their powers for evil. Superman II could have been called, say, Dark Legacy, and marketed thusly, aping the Bond style:

"He saved his only son from a doomed planet..."

"But Earth's greatest champion wasn't Jor-El's only legacy..."

"Christopher Reeve is Superman - the Man of Steel - in Richard Donner's..."


In French Connection II, Popeye Doyle, the protaganist of the first film, continues his obsessive pursuit of an elusive French drug lord. Doyle steamrollers over all opposition to pursue his goal, but on the way he winds up getting hooked on heroin himself. Since the film is about obsession, and the drug comes in the form of white powder, the film could have been called White Whale, with a nice double meaning.

In Superman III, Clark returns to Smallville, rekindles an old romance, and faces (of course) kryptonite. If the producers could have seen the future, they could have stolen a great episode title from Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - "The Green, Green Glow of Home."

What about films that take their titles from TV shows? Star Trek is the first example that comes to mind, and the first film in its big-screen series was called Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

That is a terrible name for a movie - at least from an artistic perspective. The original story was called "In Thy Image," an evocative title that would have been a far better fit for the film's ponderous dignity. At the very least, they should have just called it Star Trek - we know it's a motion picture, there's no need to hit us over the head with the information. At least the new movie is going that route. (But then, what choice did they have? Were they going to call it Star Trek: The New Motion Picture?)

Sequel or not, a film's title is an integral part of the work, as important to the feel of the piece as any other facet of the art. I wish more producers would recognize that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mr. Woods Goes to Metropolis

As chronicled in Superman #359 (May, 1981), I was once compelled to fight Superman with my awesome psionic abilities. But with my mind addled, I didn't stand much of a chance. Here's the whole battle (click to embiggen!):

Strangely enough, if I had psionic abilities, this is probably exactly how I would approach a battle with Superman - with goofy dialogue, a silly costume and jousting.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I Don't See the (French) Connection

Actually, I just finished watching 1971's Best Picture. It's unlikely I can add any new critical insights to a well-regarded, thoroughly analyzed film that's nearly 40 years old, but one thing struck me; the music sounds like it belongs to a different kind of movie, perhaps a Hammer horror film, something with Ingrid Pitt and Christopher Lee.

The music is pretty minimalist - just an eerie, sustained tone or two whenever there's a need to build suspense. Just an unsettling "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..." as Gene Hackman hunts through an abandoned building with his gun drawn, or when he spots someone suspicious across a crowded room. It sets up a disturbing dissonance, and I can't decide if it's a matter of directorial intent or an artifact of the times that doesn't play today the way it did in the early 1970s.

It's possible that the unsettling music is meant to comment on Popeye Doyle's mental state. He's an obsessive type, who doesn't seem to care how many innocents are hurt during his relentless pursuit of...I was going to say justice, but Doyle's motivations are never really fleshed out. He pursues criminals because he's a policeman, seemingly without any thought of higher ideals. When he accidentally kills a fellow policeman near the end of the film, he expresses no remorse whatsoever. When he regards suspicious citizens, he looks at them with the eyes of a predator, and the music seems to paint Doyle as a dangerous creature.

And yet, this film doesn't attempt to reverse the typical good/evil dynamic. The cops might be rough around the edges, but the villains cause enough mayhem to justify (in the mind of the audience) the brutal police response.

The music doesn't seem so out of place when you consider the world in which the characters live. It's a dangerous, dirty place, full of world-weary cops and ruthless criminals. Ordinary citizens barely figure into the film at all, and when they do, they are almost always victims.

Perhaps The French Connection is a horror movie after all...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Remember Wrong-Way Feldman?

Wrong-Way Feldman, of course, was the famous aviator who made two accidental trips to Gilligan's Island, and failed to rescue the castaways both times. He was an inept navigator.

I was driving down the one-way section of 118th avenue today, returning from a New Year's brunch at Michael and Naomi Snyder's place. And lo and behold...what's this? That''s going the wrong way, a la Goggles Paisano! The Amish casserole I'd just eaten gurgled menacingly as I gaped in disbelief.

I gulped as the vehicle bore down upon me, like the malevolent trucker in Duel. Was this the end of Earl J. Woods?

Well, no. As you can see here, the truck was actually being towed backwards.

The Promise of a Better Tomorrow

Sylvia and I rang in the new year by wearing these silly hats and playing two games of Settlers of Catan (Cities & Knights expansion). Both games were very close, and we won one each. Sylvia sure is competitive...

Things I'd like to do this year:

1) Finish "Journey to the Edge of Nowhere."
2) Visit friends in Vancouver and Victoria.
3) Write and sell something with my name on it.
4) Buy a recliner and/or sectional.
5) Relax on said furniture and read the Harry Potter books. (No spoilers, please!)
6) Watch the new Star Trek film in IMAX on opening night.
7) Host some board game/wine and cheese/bad movie nights at our place.
8) Work out. Seriously. It's getting ridiculous.
9) Build my bookshelves.
10) Post at least 100 times to this blog - hopefully with content worth reading rather than the usual filler.
11) Take a photography course.
12) Take a graphic design course.

I'll post when I accomplish each of these mighty quests! Not a bad project for 2009.