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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

70s Still Life

Mom or Dad shot this photo of flowers set against glorious early 1970s wallpaper and drapes in our Flin Flon home. We had that end table for many years; I think we finally disposed of it sometime in the late 1990s.

Those of my friends playing Spirit of '77 should try to imagine our characters living with this sort of decor. It's actually kind of understated for the era...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Two Hotels

Here are two more partially-restored slides from the collection of my aunt and uncle. I quite like the graphic design of the signs, particularly the Safari. I wonder if either hotel exists anymore. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Saving Some Slides

Most of the family slides I've been scanning over the last couple of years are in pretty good shape considering their age, but a few of the oldest slides have started to fade or lose their colour. This slide depicts a sheep herd in Monument Valley sometime in the 1960s. Unlike most of our slides, it wasn't taken by a family member; it was purchased as a keepsake. I think it's a pretty cool image, so I was disappointed to see that most of its colour had faded to bright red. Thankfully I was able to use a number of Photoshop tools to restore some of its original colour, though without knowing how the original looked it's hard to measure the degree of my success. It still looks a bit washed out, but it's better than the pinkish-red hue that once filled the entire frame.
This shot from the same set of slides shows how badly the images have degraded over the years.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

All Desire to Sail on the Open Ocean Is Lost

At least, that's how I feel after watching All Is Lost, Robert Redford's one-man show about disaster on the high seas. That being said, watching Redford stubbornly fight everything the Indian Ocean can throw at him makes for very suspenseful entertainment.

It also reminds me of those survival scenarios we used to game in junior high school. This film reinforces the importance of having a supply of potable water, tools for navigation, fishing line, a hat, signalling devices and, oh yes, POTABLE WATER. Poor Robert Redford - by the end of this movie he looks like a clay sculpture that's been completely dried out, covered in cracks.

Despite the film's many merits - it's tense, well-acted, seamlessly edited and tautly scripted (though there's barely any speaking) - there's a moment that really strains credulity and very nearly took me out of the movie. You'll know it when you see it.

In the end, though, All Is Lost is a powerful thriller and a testament to the power of human endurance and ingenuity. Just remember to bring a few extra deciliters of fresh water. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Seaside Salon

Less than a year ago, Sylvia and I enjoyed a boat trip off the coast of Costa Rica. This remains my favourite photo from that trip, though it may not be Sylvia's. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

National Aboriginal Day

Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada, but despite growing up in northern Manitoba I feel woefully unqualified to speak to the complex issues surrounding the relationship between Canada's indigenous peoples and the European settlers from which I descend. My limited experience comes almost exclusively from my mostly long-distance relationship with my paternal grandmother's decades-long partnership with Val Head, seen here a few years ago at their home in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba.

I only saw Val every few years after we moved to Alberta in 1979, but during the 1970s Val was involved in several memorable family adventures, including the time we wound up trapped on an island during a thunderstorm while on a fishing trip; we put baby Sean under the boat. Val was very good at catching, cleaning and cooking fish over a campstove (Mom and Dad were no slouches either); to this day my favourite meal remains fresh pickerel fried exactly that way, even though I haven't tasted it in probably 30 years.

Val also taught me how to utter a moose call, a party trick that I've used to amuse select friends and colleagues over the years, much to their collective amusement.

In recounting these memories I worry that I'm stereotyping Val in the "Indian guide" role; he was much more complex than that. He took care of Grandma, he played guitar, he had a huge collection of old Westerns on VHS, and he loved gadgets; for many years, Grandma and Val were early adopters of a bunch of cool technology, and in fact they passed along a very nice (for the time) video camera that I used through high school and university to make most of the silly movies Paranoid Productions is famous (?) for, including Bitter Litter and Generous Nature.

I'm glad Val was in our lives. I wish I'd asked him how he felt about aboriginal issues; he never mentioned the subject in my presence. He struck me as the type of person who just wanted to get along with others, but I'll never know what his true feelings were. If you fail to take advantage of your opportunities to understand people, you'll lose them. Maybe that's what National Aboriginal Day should be about. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Loud Sound of Silence

I've been asked more than once to write more about music; my standard response is to say that I don't write about it because I don't understand enough about it to say anything meaningful. When it comes to music, I'm reduced to "I know what I like."

And I like - no, love - this Disturbed cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence." I've always been fond of the original classic, but this powerful interpretation spoke to me deeply the very first time I heard it. As it was then, the song now serves as indictment of the forces driving humanity apart. The original was mournful and, to my ear, tries to be persuasive, whereas Disturbed's version reverberates with rage; it's an almost violent call to action, one that speaks to our world of spree killers, rising inequality, never-ending wars on drugs and terror, and all the other ills that beset us in the 21st century. It feels very much like a passionate, if not desperate, wake-up call.

Of course, it's possible I'm reading too much of my own anxiety about the state of the world into a piece of pop art. Maybe I just like what I like. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day 2016

I'm on call this week, which means the Woods family will be celebrating Father's Day next Sunday. In the meantime, here's a shot of Dad teaching Sean how to ride a bike as I look on. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Poet Cried "Midnight!"

There were too many metaphors for time
But not enough time to choose the best
And so the poet flailed and sweated
Ripped the clock from the wall and dashed it to the floor
Dumbstruck midnight

Friday, June 17, 2016

Primary Colours

Another Jungian personality test, another confirmation that yes, I'm an introvert. I could have saved you the trouble...

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Way back in 2007, I helped out at a town hall on affordable child care - or rather, the lack of same in Alberta. Weslyn Mather, an Alberta Liberal MLA at the time, hosted the event because she was passionate about the issue and really cared about the welfare of all children. She passed a few months ago, and Alberta lost a superb, devoted public servant. She made a difference. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Super 8 D&D

I ran across this video on Boing Boing tonight. Boing Boing contributor Ethan Gilsdorf used a Super 8 movie camera to shoot a couple of minutes of he and his friends playing Dungeons & Dragons. "1981!" I thought. "Wow, that's old school. That's got to be at least five or six years before I started playing D&D..."

Then I did the math. When we came to Alberta in 1979, I was finishing grade 4, starting grade 5. In 1980, I would have been in grade 6. In 1981, I would have been in grade 7...and that's about when I started playing D&D with Vern, Paul, Jeff and Ray. My psyche just took 1d4 worth of stun damage. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Realm of Earl June 2016

As noted back in 2012, keeping my map of travel conquests up to date is a tricky business, and this map reflects further refinements to my methodology. I'm trying to map the furthest extent of my travels and fill in the spaces between those outermost points as if they're now Realm of Earl territory. This inevitably leads to some distortions, as connecting the dots creates the illusion that I've been to more places than I have. For example. I've been to Singapore and Honolulu, but I haven't been to the Philippines. Nor have I visited northern Mexico. On the other hand, since that last map I've been to western Costa Rica, expanding my territory slightly southward in the western hemisphere.

A number of priority destinations remain unvisited thanks to various personal circumstances:

  • London, UK
  • Yellowknife, NT
  • Montreal, QC
  • Halifax, NS
  • Charlottetown, PEI
  • Fredericton, NB
  • New York, NY
And as noted last month, I'm hoping to visit Cerulean, KY next year to see a solar eclipse. If we make it, and if we drive as planned, that might add quite a bit of new territory to the map. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Alert for Infochammel

This is the first listed on YouTube's Infochammel channel. It was put up four years ago, and since then it's garnered a little over 700 views. Other videos in the series have as few as a little over 100 views. I guess I'm not surprised, because Infochammel plays like one of those weird 3 am nightmares that aren't quite scary, but you know they could easily tilt that way with just a nudge.

I've been watching the videos in chronological order, and it's slowly breaking my mind. I encourage my braver friends to do the same.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Salty Bald Rage

Nine years ago, Sean wound up with a salt shaker on his head. I don't remember if he successfully punched it off. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Spectre of the Sinister Cellular

10 years ago I was still using my first cellular phone, which I believe I purchased in 2002 and kept for several years after I married Sylvia. Not bad, considering these days we're pressured to replace our "smart" phones every couple of years or so...

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Tonic Water

Somewhere between Edmonton and Flin Flon our old brown station wagon chewed up the kilometres one by one, headlights carving our way through the night. It was hot and I was thirsty, and in the darkness of the back seat I rummaged for a soda. I found a cold, tin cylinder, pulled off the ring tab and took a hearty gulp of the contents.

Instantly, my face twisted and contorted as my tongue recoiled.

"Eeuuugghhh!" I cried. "What is this?"

I looked at the can:

Tonic water. Tasted once, and never again. Apparently Mom and Dad used it for drink mix, once upon a time. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016


Tonight our ATCO Electric/ATCO Power trivia team earned 77 points to earn gold medals at the 2016 Corporate Challenge Team Trivia event. I don't think I've won a medal since...grade 9, maybe? If not earlier. 

I was lucky enough to be on a team with a broad knowledge base. If it had been up to me to answer the sports and leisure questions, we would have been in big trouble, for example. But I pulled my weight in the pop culture, science and Western categories. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Career in the Dumpster

Yesterday Sylvia and I took some stuff to the dump. Along with an old bar fridge, a trio of ancient computers, and a few bits of scrap metal, I also threw away most of my leftover campaign signs from the 2008 Alberta provincial election. I hadn't intended to attribute any significance to getting rid of old junk that was cluttering up the house, but when the signs hit the bottom of the dumpster I must admit I felt a little sad. So I snapped one last photo to mark the occasion.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Sad Fridge Magnets

Spotted on a fridge not my own yesterday. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Texting With Sylvia

Sylvia often demonstrates effective use of emoticons. Sometimes the "askance," emoticon, as I call the one she's using here, is accompanied by epithets such as "savage" or "filthy animal." It's true that sometimes I leave dirty clothes/dishes/Lego/empty Coke cans lying around for days at a time...