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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Farewell Gotham

So apparently DC is moving from New York to L.A. In the great scheme of things this means nothing at all, and yet I'm a little disappointed, for it's always been a dream of mine to visit the New York offices where some of my favourite stories were written and drawn. The trope of the costumed hero took root in New York, and it seems somehow wrong that Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their friends are being transplanted to the west coast. Oh, not that the stories will take place there, but I can't help but think it'll be tougher to capture the feel of Metropolis or Gotham from California.

First World problems? Earth-Prime problems, perhaps.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Loadin', Loadin', Loadin'...Keep Those Pages Loadin'

On a couple of occasions readers have noted that my blog sometimes experiences extreme slowdowns. Jeff made inquiries and Blogger itself has offered a suggestion to speed up the Earliad experience. If The Earliad loads faster for you now, please let me know in the comments.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Are Dimes Smaller than Nickels?

Today I took the elevator down to the third floor with $1.10 in hand for the Coke machine. As I was rummaging through the change in my palm I wondered for the umpteenth time why the dimes were smaller than the nickels - smaller, even, than the pennies, back when pennies were still a part of our daily lives.

From doubloon to loonie to quarter to dime, there's a nice progression - smaller size equals smaller value. But once you hit the nickel, calamity. It's bigger than the dime! And while the penny, at least, was smaller than the nickel, it, too, was larger than the dime!

Oh sure, once upon a time nickels were made of nickel, dimes were made of silver and pennies were made of copper, and each coin was sized so that the face value matched the amount of metal in the coin, and since silver was worth more than copper or nickel, of course it would take less metal to make ten cents' worth of dime than five cents' worth of nickel or a penny's worth of copper. That sounds like wafer-thin reasoning from the mint to me, but that's the argument. Now that nickels aren't made out of nickel nor dimes out of silver, why continue to bow to tradition? Resize the coins! Or to simplify matters, make the nickel the dime and the dime the nickel, now that the penny has dropped.

To coin a phrase, our change needs change!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Very Boucher Birthday

Yesterday's sad news serves to remind me - as if I needed any more reminders - of how lucky I am every day to have Sylvia in my life. Happy Birthday, Sylvia!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rest in Peace, Rick Miller

This morning former Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Rick Miller - also a former boss of mine, a loving husband and father, and a good friend to Sylvia and me - lost his battle with cancer. He was a hero in many ways.
Shortly after I started working at the Alberta Liberal Caucus in 2006 - then Alberta's Official Opposition - Rick rappelled down the side of the Sutton Place Hotel in a Batman costume to raise money for charity. This was the sort of thing he did. As an MLA and the Official Opposition Finance Critic, Rick was always incredibly busy, but he made time to help not only his constituents and his caucus, but people he'd never meet.
Rick loved being an MLA. You could sense it emanating from every fiber of his being. He loved talking to Albertans on the doorsteps, welcoming them to the Legislature and serving as a voice and an advocate for the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Rick was in politics for the right reasons; it was because of people like him that I was drawn to work for the Alberta Liberals in the first place.
And Rick loved Sylvia, which of course endeared him to me even more. His kindness and respect shone through whenever we were together, whether at political events like open houses or just hanging out at the Legislature Annex.
I felt terrible when Rick lost his seat during the 2008 election. But it wasn't long before Rick became the caucus' new Chief of Staff, and he filled that role with the same kindness and consideration as he did as an MLA. He treated the staff like family.
Rick was a lot like your favourite uncle. If it was time to relax and kick back with a beer (metaphorical, in my case), he was a great guy to hang around with. And if trouble was brewing, you wanted him on your side.
Rick had a rich life beyond politics, too. He loved hang gliding, and had seriously offered to take Sylvia riding tandem with him one day. And although it never happened, I loved Rick for making that offer. She would have been so excited and joyful to be up there with him, soaring in the clouds.
During Rick's illness he made sure to spend as much time as possible with his friends and family. I'm immensely grateful that Sylvia and I had a chance this spring to spend an hour or so with Rick, just enjoying a coffee at Tim Horton's. And thanks to Andrew Fisher, I saw Rick one last time, on May 31, just a couple of days before starting my new job. He looked healthier and happier and I allowed myself to hope for a miracle.
It wasn't to be.

When I left politics in 2012, I was burned out, depressed and cynical. The stress of the job, the frustration of our failures took a toll on me. Rick's passing, and more importantly his life, reminds me that our time on Earth is too short to give in or give up. Rick Miller fought the good fight in the face of personal tragedy and repeated disappointments at the ballot box. More importantly, he took good care of the people he loved - and there was a lot of love in his heart.

Rest in peace, Rick. You earned it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Redjac Revealed

Back in the 90s, before the blogging era, I used to produce a photocopied newsletter called Blazing Earl News and mail it to my friends. One recurring story featured the immolation of a rubber Spider-Man figure my brother or I found lying in the street; we put him in a Star Wars Droid factory, lined up a bunch of action figures as the audience, set Spider-Man afire and photographed the event. Later I decided that there had to be a reason for the mostly heroic figures to participate in such a time, so I surmised that one of them had been possessed by Redjac, AKA Jack the Ripper as portrayed in the original Star Trek episode "Wolf in the Fold." Still reading? You're probably not Sylvia, then. In any event, to accompany the story I used Microsoft paint to depict the shocking revelation that Redjac had possessed Captain Kirk himself. Why everyone else went along with the burning was never revealed.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Vanishing Line

I shot this photograph in Grade 8 as part of the Industrial Arts curriculum. It was supposed to show we grasped the concept of depth of field. I don't remember what grade I received for the photo, but it makes a nice backdrop for experimentation. In this case, the photo brought to mind an imaginary documentary, done in a faux silent film style. If I were an animator, the glow in "Hammer and Tongs" would move from left to right and end with some sparks clanging off the "s."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bellyache Haiku

Innards churn loosely
Bile fills my bitter mouth now
Green flesh pales sickly

Wasted days taunt me
Two of them lost to time now
Overtime in my future


Monday, October 21, 2013

The Road to Nowhere

Both Mom and Sean asked if I were going to include a Saskatchewan cover in the Nowhere series, so here it is. Initially I tried to include Saskatchewan's shape much as I had the other provinces, but because Saskatchewan is a rectangle I just couldn't make it work. So instead I used the provincial flag as a base; it, too, is rectangular.

Initially I had ambitious plans to make the road through Saskatchewan resemble a heart rate monitor signal, with a peak in the middle. Instead, I wound up using Google Maps to plot the route from Lloydminster to Flin Flon, hit the "print screen" key, selected the route, copied it and applied the pillow emboss blending effect. I think it looks kinda cool.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Love Out of Nowhere

For the latest entry in the fake "Nowhere" series, I learned how to create my own pattern, the Quebec flags you see here superimposed over la belle province.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Easterly View of Nowhere

No sooner did I publicly note the seeming unpopularity of these fake book covers did the page views suddenly skyrocket (in Earliad terms, of course). So by popular demand, here's another sequel. Unlike Alberta and Manitoba, Ontario's shape is horizontal, presenting me with a tricky problem. Blowing up the province to the size of the cover omits most of the province, and I didn't want to turn it on its side. So I shrank it, changed the traditional position of the title and hoped for the best. I also tried to choose colours more carefully this time, opting for secondaries.

Friday, October 18, 2013

There Are No Geeks and I Must Scream

I'm quite enjoying my new job, but there's one thing I miss: fellow geeks. Sure, there weren't many at the Alberta Liberal Caucus, but at least a handful of my colleagues (Nik, Amanda, John, Ryan, Neil, a few others...) could be counted upon to get my SF and comic book references.

Just the other day our team met briefly to discuss a Hallowe'en costume contest.

"We could go as Transformers," one of my colleagues suggested. "One of us could be Iron Man, or..."

"Wait, wait," I broke in. "That's the Avengers. The Transformers are the Autobots and Decepticons - you know, Optimus Prime, Starscream..."

I trailed off. No, they didn't know. You'd think by now I'd be used to baffled stares and "Wow, is he ever a geek" looks, but I keep forgetting not everyone is as immersed in popular culture as me. Or is obsessed a better word?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If Not the FF, Then...

As Steve pointed out in yesterday's post, it's unlikely the Fantastic Four will debut as a live-action television series anytime soon. Not only do intellectual property holders have an irrational phobia about allowing characters to appear in competing media at the same time (we viewers are too stupid to understand the differences between a television Batman, for example, and a movie Batman), the Fantastic Four would be an incredibly expensive show, more expensive by far than even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Steve and Sean suggested some of Marvel's urban crimefighters could headline their own show, which makes sense; heroes like Iron Fist and Power Man have relatively simple powers, though the suggested '70s period setting, while cool, might also make such a show prohibitively expensive.

So. If I had to guess which four shows Marvel might be working on - and leaving out the Incredible Hulk and the proposed Agent Carter show, which have already been suggested - here's what I'd gamble on...

Hugh Jackman is too expensive to offer more than a cameo from time to time, so why not produce a series about his female clone? It could follow the same general format as the old Incredible Hulk show; hunted by her creators, X-23 wanders North America, running from her own past to try and find a home.

Hail Hydra
This would be the anti-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; while the do-goodniks of S.H.I.E.L.D. have their adventures, Hydra plots to take over the world. Lots of potential for crossovers, and ABC could run the shows back to back much as the WB ran Buffy and Angel back to back years ago.

Captain Marvel
They might save her for the Avengers movies, but Carol Danvers is probably Marvel's most bankable heroine, next to She-Hulk or the Invisible Woman. Give her Jessica Drew as a best friend and you have the makings of a new Odd Couple of the superheroine set. Could make a great dramedy.

Television executives love to ape success, so with Arrow on the air and doing well, Marvel's carbon-copy archer could hit the airwaves despite his involvement in the movies.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Could Fantastic Four be the Next Star Trek?

Deadline reports that Marvel has an ambitious plan to bring more of its characters to television. While this report only specifies one possible show, I hope Marvel is considering a new Fantastic Four series. If done right, such a series could fill the empty space left by the absence of Star Trek.

Consider the fundamentals of each story:

Star Trek features a tightly-knit group of adventurers exploring strange new worlds in time and space.

The Fantastic Four are a tightly-knit family exploring strange new worlds in time and space.

Star Trek's characters can be defined by their logic (Spock), leadership (Kirk), heart (Bones), youthful exuberance (Chekov), grace under pressure (Uhura)...

The Fantastic Four are defined by logic (Mr. Fantastic), leadership (Mr. Fantastic again), heart (the Thing), youthful exuberance (the Human Torch), grace under pressure (the Invisible Woman)...

Star Trek's colour palette consists of the bright primaries of the early colour television era.

The Fantastic Four's colour palette consists of the bright primaries of mid-twentieth century printing technology.

Star Trek's characters face colourful, larger-than-life villains such as Trelane, the Klingons, Khan, V'Ger, the Doomsday Machine...

The Fantastic Four face the Mole Man, Galactus, the Skrulls, Dr. Doom...

Star Trek's strange new worlds include the Guardian of Forever, the shore leave world, Yonada, the great barrier at the edge of the galaxy...

The Fantastic Four has encountered the Microverse, the Negative Zone, the Blue Area of the Moon...

Frame a Fantastic Four series in the Star Trek mold and add the FF's inherent family drama and I think you could have a real winner. I'd certainly watch.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Man and the Lake

In 2003, Mom and Dad drove the Alaska Highway. Along the way, Mom captured an excellent photo of Dad overlooking a lake somewhere up north. With a little image manipulation, Mom's photo becomes yet another faux work of art from my growing gallery. This might actually work if I could figure out a way to make the join between images less jarring.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Original Boy Running Down a Mountain

Paul Totman asked me to post the original photo I used to create yesterday's faux painting, so here it is. I shot this with my first camera in Grade 6. All of the photos from this trip have that same ribbon of red light at the top; I think some light must have leaked into the camera and slightly exposed the film. Or maybe it was a flaw in the lens. Either way, Mom and Dad gave me a better camera a couple of years later.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Boy Running Down a Mountain

Sometimes it all goes very wrong. I unearthed a somewhat interesting (to me) photo of one of my Grade Six classmates running down a hill in the Badlands. He's too far away to identify. I experimented with the different layers of the photo, wondering if I could make the intersections of the three hills in the original image somehow look more three-dimensional. As you can see, I failed utterly, and instead I have something that looks like a screen capture of an early Intellivision game.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Three Fall Haiku

Bronze leaves drift earthward
Dance nimbly across concrete
Winter is coming

The sun shies away
Hides alone beyond the moon
Her warmth months away

Careless obstacle
Lies in wait without pity
The man skins his knees

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Theatre of the Exploding Sun

So, this is a pretty big deal: my cousin Keith Langergraber has an exhibit at the Kelowna Art Gallery. It's called Theatre of the Exploding Sun, and runs from October 5 to December 29.This time around, Keith is exhibiting some short films and sculpture.

Some years back I wrote about another of Keith's exhibitions, The Society of Temporal Investigations at Vancouver's Western Front gallery. I was very impressed with Keith's show and his presentation back then, so I can only imagine how much his art has progressed in the intervening years. Hopefully I'll have a chance to visit the show in Kelowna before the exhibit ends! 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Watch This

I'm not sure if I'll ever buy the 21st century version of Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio, but this commercial is pretty darn cool.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nowhere in the 80s

Never one to leave well enough alone, I could not help but imagine how the covers of the Nowhere series might have looked had Paranoid continued publishing them into the 1980s. All right, they probably wouldn't have looked like this at all, but I think they might have gotten a little more futuristic and a little less pulp. For this exercise I learned how to type text on a curve using Photoshop's pen tool! I used that trick to create the list of contributors to the anthology, friends of mine who've written short stories in real life and who, in a parallel universe somewhere, wrote stories for this nonexistent book. Of course they would have been children at the time, come to think of it...

Anyway, I chose to superimpose a rainbow on a black Alberta as a rather obvious visual joke: it's a rainbow over a pot of black gold, a promised land for the many Canadians who immigrate here during boom times. Why would a bunch of Albertans write stories about Leaf Rapids? Maybe in the parallel universe Leaf Rapids became a tourist hub on the scale of Churchill, attracting notoriety and mystique of sufficient quantity to attract storytellers.

This cover is rather a garish mess, but many book covers share that quality. You have to design a lot of bad stuff before you can design any good stuff.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Conquest of the Edge of Nowhere

Oof! Judging by the falling page hits garnered by this series of posts, I guess I'm among the few who finds these book covers amusing. Never fear, this is the last in the series for now.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Battle for the Edge of Nowhere

The fun of doing these lies in the fake review blurbs and the banner copy running along the top of the cover. How many variations on nothing, nowhere and no one can I possibly come up with? Oddly enough, the exercise of creating the blurbs is actually forcing me to imagine the events contained in these fake novels.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Friday, October 04, 2013

Beneath the Edge of Nowhere

I suppose I'd be better served if I finished writing my books before creating fake covers for them, but I cannot resist the lure of instant gratification.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


This image looks better than it originally did, with the contrails masked by power lines and a gawking crowd willing about below. Still, I haven't gotten the colours quite right; the original vibrancy of the day is missing. This might also work better if I painted out the hangar at left, or if I'd captured more of the control tower at right. Ooo, if I were really ambitious I could clone the tower and flip it to built a complete one...maybe next time.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Aquarium Selfie

I like to say that as a photographer I make a pretty good writer, but if you take enough pictures, eventually you get something cool. Sylvia and I are captured here along with our friend H. Steven Neumann, who used his connections to take us on a grand tour of the Vancouver Aquarium back in 2009. As you can see by the smiles on our faces, we all had a great time.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Leet Beeks

I shot this photo of a bird on the shores of Waikiki back in 2008. A little image manipulation and bam, an incomprehensible work of (?) art. Needless to say, this was heavily inspired by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the Jimmy Olsen "This Robot is Trained to Smash Your Camera" meme.