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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Best Sodas

Recognizing that no one should drink soda save perhaps one can a month...

1. Coca-Cola
2. Orange Crush
3. Coca-Cola Cherry
4. A&W Root Beer
5. Canada Dry Ginger Ale
6. The Pop Shoppe Black Cherry
7. Sprite
8. 7-Up
9. Any no-name grapefruit soda
10. Jarrito's Cola

Saturday, November 29, 2014

LEGO Film Noir

How cool would it be if Lego made a Film Noir line, made exclusively of pieces molded in black, white and shades of grey? Plus pieces to make neon signs. There would need to be minifigures of grizzled detectives and life insurance agents, FBI men, femme fatales, girls-next-door, toughs, goons, police officers walking a beat, sleek roadsters, suspicious times. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Earl Trek Into Darkness

I left work at five this evening, prepared for a long, slow, stressful commute, which Edmonton delivered in spades. After about a half hour I'd managed to make it from 105 street to 124 street, cars all around me, most of them wanting to make the same desperate turn at Stony Plain Road I hoped to take. 

Suddenly, sirens crowed behind me. A fire engine was driving against the oncoming traffic, its lights forcing cars to give way. Serendipitiously, I happened to be parked at one of the few gaps in the long windrows, meaning that if I wanted to, I could stealthily pull in behind the fire engine and travel rapidly north on 124 street in its wake, bypassing traffic with none the wiser and perhaps shaving a half hour from my commute. 

Of course that would be a ridiculously irresponsible thing to do, not to mention selfish, so I resisted temptation. I wonder what sort of fine that kind of driving would get you? 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rebooting Reboot

According to the Huffington Post, 90s animation favourite Reboot is coming back to television...maybe. I hope the planned reboot of Reboot succeeds; it was a fun, smart, clever and funny show, with a fully realized world, sympathetic characters and even considerable drama. Pretty good for something marketed as a kid's show. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Martian: SF or Mainstream?

It took me a few seconds of thought to figure out how to classify Andy Weir's debut novel The Martian. It takes place in outer space and on Mars, so the obvious choice is to call it science fiction. But it wasn't marketed as a genre novel, and in fact everything that happens in the book is grounded in scientific reality; indeed, had space investment continued at a 1960s pace, such a scenario could have already happened.

I waffled, but in the end I called it SF - not because it's set in space, but because it'll eventually be alternate history. But then, every work of fiction is alternate history by definition, making everything SF..!

I guess this is why it's not always a good idea to slot works of art into various genre ghettos. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sources of Joy for November 25, 2014

Aside from my usual sources of joy - Sylvia, family and friends - two products of popular culture are making me happy today. The first is Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off," which I've been bopping to for days, and the second is Andy Weir's debut novel The Martian, which I read over lunch yesterday and today.

I know Taylor Swift's been pretty famous for years, but until "Shake it Off" I don't think I've listened to any of her music. Now I'm going through her back catalogue, because I find this track catchy (I love the horns) and strangely sweet and uplifting - the same feeling I get from The Martian, a very uplifting story of humanity's can-do spirit and our propensity for pulling together in times of crisis.

So thanks, Taylor and Andy, for brightening up the last few days significantly. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

99 and 4/10ths Dead

In Stephen King's The Stand, an experimental flu virus, Captain Trips, kills 99.4 percent of Earth's population. That made me wonder how many people would be left on Earth of the events of The Stand happened today. Simple math reveals that out of 7.276 billion, 43,656,000 would survive Captain Trips, scattered all over the planet. That number of survivors could entirely repopulate Argentina with a couple of million left over; it couldn't quite repopulate Ukraine.

It's only natural to wonder how many Canadians could be expected to survive. The answer: about 200,000 people, or a little over the population of Regina, Saskatchewan. Of course all Canada's survivors wouldn't be concentrated in one place, so let's imagine how many survivors there might be in each province and territory: 

Nunavut: 191
Yukon: 203
Northwest Territories: 249
Prince Edward Island: 841
Newfoundland and Labrador: 3,087
New Brunswick: 4,507
Nova Scotia: 5,531
Saskatchewan: 6,200
Manitoba: 7,250
Alberta: 21,872
British Columbia: 26,400
Quebec: 47,418
Ontario: 77,111

It's pretty sobering to imagine being one of 200,000 or so survivors in a country as vast as this one. Supposing that the electrical grid would take a little while to collapse, I suppose survivors could find each other by frantically posting on Twitter or making YouTube videos, since there's be virtually no competition for being at the top of the new content lists. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Top of the Evening

Last night our D&D plans went south, so like the grownups we are, we decided to spend the evening discussing comic book movies and playing with tops. A good time was had by all. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hitchcock Update

I have now seen 34 of the 50 films in the Alfred Hitchcock canon. That's 68 percent of them, and I've seen everything from 1938 onward. Now I'm working my way back to his earlier works.

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
The Ring (1927)
Downhill (1927)
The Farmer’s Wife (1928)
Easy Virtue (1928)
Champagne (1928)
The Manxman (1929)

Blackmail (1929)
Juno and the Paycock (1929)
Murder! (1930)
The Skin Game (1931)
Rich and Strange (1931)
Number Seventeen (1932)
Waltzes from Vienna (1933)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The 39 Steps (1935)
Secret Agent (1936)
Sabotage (1936)
Young and Innocent (1937)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Jamaica Inn (1939)
Rebecca (1940)
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
Suspicion (1941)
Saboteur (1942)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Lifeboat (1944)
Spellbound (1945)
Notorious (1946)
The Paradine Case (1947)
Rope (1948)
Under Capricorn (1949)
Stage Fright (1950)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
I Confess (1953)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
To Catch a Thief (1955)
The Trouble with Harry (1955)
The Wrong Man (1956)
Vertigo (1958)
North by Northwest (1959)
Psycho (1960)
The Birds (1963)
Marnie (1964)
Torn Curtain (1966)
Topaz (1969)

Family Plot (1976)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Never Claimed to be Cresswell

In the future, critics will look back on a ten to fifteen year period in the late 21st century as the era of Film Blanc, a genre marked by overweening optimism in a period of real-world strife. Critics will point to the overabundance of bright colours, vivid scenery and themes of acceptance, renewal, redemption and love triumphing against inevitable odds. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Green Eye Flames, Why?

So I just signed up for Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop and Lightroom) to play with some of the new features. And like a child playing with fire, I've made a hash of things. Using the pen tool and the new Flame render, you can create awesome special effects...or a horrifying mess. I chose the latter. Well, practise makes perfect...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lone Star Mod for Fallout: New Vegas Coming?

As a huge fan of Fallout: New Vegas, I hope this fan project comes to fruition. Since it seems like it'll be quite some time before we see Fallout 4, a total conversion mod with all-new content would be great to tide fans over. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Today's First World Problem

Had a long post typed out, an accidental combination of keystrokes erased it. And my new PC, which I picked up Wednesday, turned into a lifeless brick this morning. Thank goodness this was a short week. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

From the 1940s to Yesterday

Today I am learning that it takes 13 hours to back up 1.45 terabytes of photographs. They stretch backward in time to the collections of my parents, aunts and uncles and forward to the shots I took yesterday. As Sean remarked, "That's a lot of photos." Maybe one day the'll go in the national archives or something. Actually, the photos Aunt Jean and Uncle John took of the Etsell farm in the 1960s and 1970s are certainly worthy of such preservation...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Agent Boucher Shyluk Style

After seeing my faux SHIELD ID for Agent Sylvia Boucher, Jeff offered to create comic-style art in place of the original photograph. I suggested something Kirby-esque might be appropriate, and voila, Jeff has delivered in spades as always. Here Sylvia looks like a blonde version of Kirby's late-period character Beautiful Dreamer of the Forever People/New Gods - it's really in the eyes, lips and cheekbones...and of course the trademark Kirby dots in the background.

I hope Jeff will post the large version on his blog, JSVB. It's really something to behold. And I should mention that Jeff is a professional, working artist; I've commissioned his work a couple of times and he's always delivered above and beyond my expectations. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Man of Letters

The letters they
Slide off the page and
Bounce off the floor leaving
My book empty
Useless yellow parchment crammed impotently
Between two covers

I slammed it shut too hard last time
Angered by the plot twist
Now ten thousand little black letters
Are stuck in my carpet
I'd vacuum them up but
Then I'd never know the ending

So I'll pick them up one by one and
glue them back in the faint little outlines
I can see on each page

That's a lot of work for a Dan Brown novel

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nerdieth Anniversary 10th Anniversary

I wasn't feeling terribly inspired when I sat down to blog today, and in desperation I wondered "What was happing at this time ten years ago?" Well, I don't have any photos from exactly ten years ago, but I do have this from ten years and a month ago, when we celebrated the Nerdieth Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. And yet it feels like this only happened maybe three, four years ago...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Ice Cube Mystery

We have two ice cube trays, identical in shape and composition. But one tray creates perfect cubes that pop out whole, while the other produces brittle cubes that shatter. Can a scientist explain why this might be so? The water is coming from the same tap, and the trays produce brittle or solid cubes no matter where they are placed in the fridge.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Agent Boucher

Template by "sanchez2007," who kindly made his work available for download on deviantart. This is just a quick mockup - I'll do another one with a better photo before I actually have a physical card made...which I aim to do. Heh heh. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Star Wars: The Phantom Titles

Today we learned the title of the next Star Wars movie; it's going to be called The Force Awakens, which sounds more like a video game than a movie to me at first blush. But perhaps that's not a fair assessment.

According to Hollywood folklore, George Lucas' original vision called for nine (or twelve) movies in a vast saga echoing the structure of movie serials from the 1930s and 1940s; hence "Episode V" and so on. So it's perfectly reasonable that the Star Wars films should have subtitles that sound like the chapter titles of yore.

Compare the chapter titles of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)...

The Purple Death
Freezing Torture
Walking Bombs
The Destroying Ray
The Palace of Horror
Flaming Death
The Land of the Dead
The Fiery Abyss
The Pool of Peril
The Death Mist
Stark Treachery
Doom of the Dictator the subtitles of the Star Wars films:

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
The Force Awakens

Historical revisionism of A New Hope aside, I can't really fault Lucas and his successors for naming the films the way they have, since they're paying tribute to a particular genre and form. The Phantom Menace is my favourite of the titles, capturing both the theme of its particular film and a very 1940s sensibility. It's evocative, while the others are mainly descriptive.

Were I to name the remaining films in the series - despite not knowing anything about their content - I'd suggest the following:

The Forbidden Abyss
The Final Apprentice

I'm being a little cute here, using the same initials for all three films in this new trilogy, both for symmetry and to suggest a traditional three-act structure - only one with a false ending, since in my scheme there will be one final trilogy:

From Long Ago
Planet of Death
Fate of a Galaxy

My first title attempts to evoke the famous "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." line that opens each film; at the same time, the title hints at something even deeper in the past will be crucial to the film's plot; perhaps an ancient threat of some kind looms, or the protagonists need some wisdom or weapon from the past to complete the hero's quest.

Planet of Death is an attempt to create a flat-out hokey title in the spirit of the serials (and Attack of the Clones). The planet of death in question could be a battleground or trap for the heroes, or a long-abandoned place of peril that holds a key secret.

Finally, the last film in a twelve-film epic needs a suitably grandiose title, hence I've chosen something quite literal. Since there's a battle in every Star Wars film, it should end with the biggest Star War of all, the one that decides the fate of a galaxy - literally.

I've no doubt that the titles actually chosen for the remaining films will follow the established pattern, the one started by Lucas himself a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Comix Collage

I have now used Microsoft Surface Collage four times. It is a silly program. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Justice League Apocalypse

After writing about the ideal Justice League lineup, it occurred to me that it might be fun to establish a new League made up only of members who had never before been on the team. (Also, Mike Totman claims my lists are "wrong" and that I should try again, so...) Considering that the various incarnations of the League have included all or most of DC's A, B, C and even D-list characters, that doesn't leave a lot of heroes to work with. I call the team the JLA, or Justice League Apocalypse, because most of the world's heroes have been called to the centre of the galaxy to fight a threat that will keep them conveniently off Earth for, oh, 32 issues (or six months in comic book time).

Prez, First Teen President
In the DC universe Prez Rickard was President of the United States for a single term sometime during the 1970s, presumably displacing Ford or Carter. What if he ran again for a second term in modern times? He doesn't have any super-powers, but hey - he's the President, he RUNS a superpower.

Brother Power, the Geek
A super-powered animated mannequin with ties to the supernatural, described at one point as a failed elemental in the vein of Swamp Thing or Firestorm.

An excellent hand-to-hand fighter and she can teleport, always a useful skill for superhero teams.

Green Lantern (Lana Lang)
There's a long tradition of turning sidekicks into super-heroes in their own right, and Lana's brief career as Insect Queen shows she has the mettle to handle being named Earth's latest Green Lantern.

Lorraine Reilly is a US Senator, which ties in nicely with Prez' presence as leader of the team. She's also an energy-based powerhouse on par with Firestorm.

Basically the Russian version of Firestorm, I figure the idealistic Prez would want Russian representation on the team to further the spirit of international peace and goodwill.

Slam Bradley
One of the original comic-book tough guys, created by Siegel and Shuster before Superman. Adds a dash of pulp fun to the series.

Rex the Wonder Dog
He's a sapient wonder dog! Steadfast, loyal and imbued with all the powers of dogs, but smarter.

A Superman Robot
The Silver Age Superman once built and used Superman robots to cover for him during emergencies. I figure since story reasons prevent him from accepting Prez' invitation to join the team, Superman loans Prez one of his most advanced robot duplicates. Could be darkly amusing to have them get destroyed and replaced every so often.

An alien as powerful as Superman but who looks like Sean Connery circa Zardoz, Vartox's arrogance would be a fun foil for the team.

For whatever reason Aquaman's wife never made the JLA cut, which is weird because she's arguably more powerful and interesting than her husband.

French-Canadian, started off as a villain, brings more international cred to the team as well as an interesting background and powerset.

Young Quraci Davood Nasuur appeared in a few issues of Superman in the 90s, and I was sorry he didn't get more exposure - he was well-written and tweaked Lex Luthor's nose by using Luthor's technology to fight crime instead of perpetrating it. Also cool in that he's an immigrant and a teenager with a loving family to protect.

A former member of the Doom Patrol with energy-blasting powers. Interesting in that as a member of the Patrol he's pretty much seen it all, and to him the League adventures might seem staid and even routine.

Yes, she's another Doom Patrol veteran, but she's also South Asian, a rarity in comics, and she has neat fire-and-ice powers. She's also rather aloof and mysterious.

Tempest and Celsius have both been killed in the comics, but death is never a barrier for long for superheroes. I figure the Chief dumped them both in a Lazarus pit somewhere and after resurrection they left Niles in a fit of pique. (This would be S.O.P. for Doom Patrol characters). 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Weight of Another World








At an undisclosed location somewhere on Earth-5. 

--Panels One Through Two Hundred Eighteen--Page One Splash--Begin: 

"Mr. Woods Goes to Metropolis!"

The visitor awoke in a daze, blinking at the searing light pointed right into his face, grunting with early-morning incoherence. He reached out for Sylvia, but she wasn't there - in fact, he wasn't even in bed, though he was still wearing the t-shirt and underwear he'd worn to sleep.

"GAH!" he screamed, scrambling backward into the corner of the black leather couch he found himself on, staring wide-eyed at the fierce-looking black woman who was regarding him with something between annoyance and contempt. Her voice was granite.

"Listen closely. You won't be harmed and your wife is fine. My name is Amanda Waller and I need your help. This world needs your help."

The visitor froze. "Oh, this is going to be cool," he said, grinning from ear to ear. His lucid dreams often involved superheroic adventures, though nev--

She slapped him.


"This isn't a dream, Mr. Woods. You were right; everything happens somewhere, including the stories you read in your world - the ones printed in comic books. From your perspective, you'd think of this place as Earth-5."

The visitor was still pretty sure he was dreaming, but pain in his dreams felt real enough, so he nodded. Might as well play along.

"We've been waiting for someone like you for a long time," Waller said. "We've had accidental visitors from Earth-33 before, but none of them fit the profile we needed. According to the portions of your blog we've been able to scan, you might just be geeky enough to help us."

"The Justice League has been disbanded. The United Nations revoked their charter."

"Gosh, that's terrible," the visitor said. He found it strange that he'd used the word "gosh" in actual conversation.

"It's worse than terrible. It's catastrophic. We don't have enough time to go over all the details, but as a consequence of recent events none of this world's heroes trust each other, nor do the various government agencies and NGOS with JLA oversight trust the heroes. And the Phantom Stranger popped into my bedroom last night to warn me that 'armageddeon is nigh.' Those were his exact words."

"Holey Moley!"

Waller raised an eyebrow.

"Sorry. I'm not sure why I'm talking like a comic book character."

"This world is as real to me as yours is to you," Waller said. "And it's going to need a new Justice League, an organized, united, and most importantly, versatile group of heroes to defend this Earth from the comic threat. The UN has lost its moral authority to choose the team members, and there isn't one hero that's universally trusted to do the job. We need a neutral observer."

The visitor suddenly understood.

"I get it. I'm familiar with all the DC characters and how they interact with each other, their powers, their secret who better to choose their membership?"

Waller relaxed a little, relieved the visitor understood.

"The Stranger said something else. 'No more than one score.' He wouldn't explain, but these magic types don't lay down rules without good reason. So your JLA is restricted to 20 members or less."

Waller dumped a thick binder in the visitor's lap.

"They're all there in alphabetical order in case you don't remember everyone you have to choose from. I'll leave you to it. When you've prepared your list, press the big orange "Publish" button on the wall and you'll be sent back to your Earth."

The visitor figured he really was dreaming or trapped in a piece of particularly annoying metafiction, but there seemed to be little else to do but compose the list. Well, it was a simple enough task: just imagine the heroes he'd want on the team if it were his world they were defending from an undefined but catastrophic threat.

He contemplated for a while, then scratched down names on the pad of paper Waller had left him:

Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
The Flash
Dr. Fate
Green Arrow
Black Canary
Red Tornado
Animal Man
Martian Manhunter
Elongated Man
The Atom
Captain Marvel
Captain Atom
Power Girl

He added a note:

"Without knowing the exact nature of the threat Earth-5 faces, I've been conservative with my choices while trying to includes heroes who are comfortable in a variety of physical environments and who offer different power sets and intellectual and emotional gifts. If I were Maxwell Lord or the Secretary General of the United Nations and I had a guarantee that every person I picked would agree to serve...this would be my list. Good luck."

He pressed Published, and was gone.