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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Neon Streams

I shot this sometime in the fall of 1986. I think it might be a long exposure of the McDonald's on the outskirts of Leduc. Very ungood!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Open and Shut Cases

Here's a pair of painted treasure chests in both their open and shut configurations. These aren't board game pieces; they're intended as set decoration for tabletop roleplaying. I'll probably wind up offering them up as set dressing for the Villains and Vigilantes game I'm participating in. 

As you can see, I'm still having a hard time colouring between the lines at this scale. On the other hand, I had to experiment with different colours to get the gold doubloons to turn out, and I think they did! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Into the Mid-Season Hiatus We Go


With this week's follow-up to last week's less-than-stellar outing of Star Trek: Discovery, we move from the show's weakest episode to its strongest yet, ending the first half of the season on a high note. 

"Into the Forest I Go" picks up where "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" left off, with the Discovery in orbit around the peaceful planet Pahva awaiting the arrival of the Klingon Ship of the Dead. Captain Lorca seems genuinely concerned about the Pahvans, and takes pains to stay and protect them even as Starfleet orders him to retreat. What follows is a remarkably, even cinematic, sequence of derring-do that depicts the Discovery's crew coming up with a means of breaking through the Klingon invisibility screen: to wit, Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler sneak onto the Klingon vessel to plant a couple of sensors that will provide enough data for a computer algorithm to penetrate the cloak. This sequence is easily the highlight of the season, with exciting pacing, sharp editing, great moments of suspense and peril, and a victory that feels well-earned. This episode shows how important it is to get the small details right to add verisimilitude and strike the right emotional chords: the jump cuts illustrating the many spore drive jumps needed to accomplish the sequence's key tactic, for example, and the great sound design that illustrates the use of the universal translator. 

Beyond this deft action sequence, we get to see Lorca's character fleshed out a little more. There's a great moment where he puts in his eyedrops to protect his damaged eyes so that he can look right into the explosion that marks the death-knell of the Klingon sarcophagus ship, a nice callback to the origin of Lorca's disability and a window into his warrior's soul. He's also clearly relieved by the rescue and ultimate recovery of Admiral Cornwell, even though her wellbeing presents a risk to his career. 

Speaking of Cornwell, she gets a great moment onboard the Klingon sarcophagus ship, putting her medical training to use to help Ash Tyler, who's on the ship assisting Michael Burnam during the aforementioned action sequence, get through an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm not a medical professional, but this scene had the ring of truth to it. A follow-up conversation between Tyler and Burnham about the episode is sensitively handled, too. 

However, this episode pretty much confirms the very badly-hidden rumour that Ash Tyler is actually the Klingon Voq, who, you may recall, hasn't been seen since Tyler's appearance. It appears that Tyler is actually Voq, surgically altered to appear human, and that his memories of being abused by L'Rell are actually memories of the painful surgery (and brainwashing, presumably) he endured to become "Tyler." Or perhaps this is all a red herring, and Tyler is indeed a human being. We won't know until after the hiatus. 

And then there's poor brave Stamets, who navigates the spore drive through the dozens of jumps necessary to calibrate the sensors Tyler and Burnham have planted. He comes through the sequence okay, if a little dazed, but in the episode's coda, he agrees to make one last jump back into safe Federation territory...and that's when you know things are going to go wrong. While the scene went by pretty quickly it appears as though Captain Lorca sabotaged the spore jump sequence from his command chair; in any event, the ship jumps to an unknown location and Stamets goes white-eyed, flopping to the deck and babbling about " many permutations." Best guess is that the Discovery has jumped, either accidentally or through Lorca's betrayal, to a parallel universe. Given Jonathan Frakes revealed earlier this year that he's directed a Mirror Universe episode, three guesses where the Discovery crew has wound up...and the first two don't count. 

I really cannot praise the direction and editing of "Into the Forest I Go" too highly; the creatives involved delivered a very satisfying hour of television, and I look forward to seeing what the second half of the season brings. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

That's One Way to End a Five-Year Mission

Well - not bad! Especially for a fan/semiprofessional production. The end of the Enterprise's five-year mission has been covered in the comics, novels and fan fiction, but "To Boldly Go" feels like a fitting end, dovetailing with "Where No Man Has Gone Before," bringing the show full circle. On the other hand, it could be argued that a show like Star Trek should have ended with the voyages indeed, one could argue, they have.

I remain amazed by the talent of these volunteers, who do a very credible job of replicating 1960s-era Star Trek, sometimes even bettering the production value. Even the acting has improved over time, and somehow the producers manage to convince actual SF authors to produce teleplays. What a time to be alive. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Gaggle of Germans

By painting this assortment of WWII German troops, I have finished painting all of the pieces for Fortune and Glory, in plenty of time for the next Gaming and Guinness. As you can see, I experimented with different uniform colours. I Googled "German infantry World War 2" and got a whole bunch of different results. So I made some tan, black, grey (that turned out more like silver), and one green plastic Nazi. The tan ones are sort of cool, the black nice and sinister, but the grey/silver ones show off the most detail. The green one just doesn't feel right at all. All in all, though, I think these turned out pretty well. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Vanquished by a Vending Machine

A couple of weeks ago, I bought this Snickers bar purely because I had to know what "Pleurnichard" meant. Did that translate to "Snickers?", I wondered?
It did not. Who am I when I realize I've fallen victim to clever marketing? Agacé

Friday, November 10, 2017

If You Seek Star Trek, Prepare for Discovery

"Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"

In "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" ("If you seek peace, prepare for war"), Michael Burnham, Saru, and Ash Tyler visit a truly gorgeous alien planet, Pahvo, that may hold the key to rendering Klingon invisibility screens useless, thereby turning the tide of the Federation-Klingon war. Meanwhile on Discovery...well, not a lot really happens on the Discovery this episode, except for one very well-executed space battle that does a good job of displaying Captain Lorca's humanity and giving a couple of minor characters brief moments to shine. There's also a weird scene with Stamets and Tilly that seems to have nothing to do with the main plot of this episode, but provides some hints on where Stamets' character arc might be going. 

Kudos to the production team for making Pahvo feel like a really alien world, and for introducing a pretty need alien species, mist-like folks who build gigantic crystal towers stretching toward the stars. The Pahvans are extremely dedicated to peace, so much so that poor Saru, who for the first time finding himself in a place where he doesn't feel fear, winds up turning on Burnham and Tyler and insists that the landing party should abandon their mission and live on Pahva in peace. At first I was a bit put off by this development, since it seemed at first to hew a little too closely to the plot of "This Side of Paradise," but it turns out that Saru wasn't overly influenced by the aliens; he just made some bad choices. We learn that Saru is actually pretty badass, running at ludicrous speeds and horse-kicking humans so hard they fly several meters. Ouch! 

This episode ends on a cliffhanger, as the Pahvans, instead of helping the Federation win their war, invite the Klingons over for peace talks. I'm sure that will turn out fine in the next installment! 

While this wasn't a bad episode, per se, I found its pacing strange, and in some spots the editing was so abrupt I felt like I was missing pieces of the story. It felt like this story was a little rushed in post-production, or perhaps could have used one more editing pass. 

All in all, this feels like the weakest episode of the season thus far, supplanting "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad." It's not bad, just a little rough around the edges. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Ragnarockin' It


As my brother Sean puts it, Thor: Ragnarok is "the Flash Gordon-iest movie since Flash Gordon." And that's a good thing; this film knows exactly what it is, a lighthearted adventure story with just a touch of drama and pathos so as to give the stakes some heft without diminishing any of the fun.

Stuff I loved:

  • The performances, particularly Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Blanchett, and Ruffalo
  • The kickass score
  • The opening sequence - Thor vs. Surtur
  • The Thor/Hulk bromance
  • The well-executed Dr. Strange cameo
  • Korrg and his insect knife-buddy
  • The clever banter and wit
  • The escape scene
  • Hela is one of the better Marvel villains, with a solid motivation and a sense of genuine menace
  • The notion that Asgard is a people, not a place
  • Valkyrie was cool
  • Jeff Goldblum!
  • Jeff Goldblum's no-nonsense helper
  • Great colour palette on the garbage planet
  • Great spaceship designs
Stuff I thought didn't go over quite as well as it should have:
  • Loki's gimmick is starting to wear thin; in particular, the major twist of The Dark World is given an anticlimactic finish here
  • Despite the epic scale of the climax and the major change to the status quo, I was expecting something...weighter to lead into Infinity War
  • Both post-credit sequences were rather underwhelming
  • No Howard the Duck cameo! For shame
All in all, though, this was a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek ride--a refreshing change of pace from the more portentous Marvel films. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Trio of Terror

Here are three more painted playing pieces for Fortune and Glory: a cult leader, a Nazi, and a mobster. Quite a collection of evildoers, ready to be vanquished by the players - one hopes. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Gold Diggers

Here are some more freshly-painted Fortune and Glory playing pieces, along with a treasure chest (not from the game). I was trying to give the mad scientist a mustache, and wound up bearding him instead. After taking this photo, I added some more detail to the treasure, painting the iron supports black. I'll share images later. 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Take 5:24

I've enjoyed this instrumental for many years, but only today did I realize "Take Five" runs about five minutes and 24 seconds. This just seems wrong to me, but then I'm no musician. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Sunrise at the Edmonton Flying Club

Early this morning, Dad collected a birthday present we'd arranged back in January: a short ride in a small airplane at the Edmonton Flying Club. Dad has his pilot's licence and flew planes very much like this one years ago.
The instrument panels are a bit more advanced these days.
Sylvia went up with Dad while Mom waited in the lobby and Sean and I broadcast the takeoff and landing live via Facebook. What a world we live in!
Here's Sean broadcasting.
The plane, the plane!
The operators at the Edmonton Flying Club were extremely friendly and accommodating, allowing Sean and I to enter the hanger to shoot photos and videos. Dad and Sylvia had a good time, so it was worth braving the cold and an early wakeup call. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Four Miniature Women

These still need some work, mainly because I made the mistake of trying to add some detail to the faces. While the woman on the right came out best, she still looks like she's wearing football greasepaint on her cheekbones, and I think I completely failed to come up with a convincing skin tone for the Eastern-attired martial artist next to her. I kinda like how the dresses came out, though. 

Friday, November 03, 2017

A Trio of Heroes

Here are three more of the board game pieces I've been painting to make Fortune and Glory more immersive. I'm quite fond of how the woman on the left turned out. I tried to give the guy in the middle a mustache; I'm not sure if it really worked. As you can see, I'm having trouble with getting full coverage of the pieces, especially where hair meets skin. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

DS9 in HD (if only...)

Some talented and enterprising souls have, to date, produced four videos to show what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine could look like in high definition. Would that the TNG HD blu-rays had sold well enough to make it so...still, this is gorgeous work. CBS, I plead once again: reconstruct DS9 in HD, as you did with The Next Generation. You know I'll buy every season, dammit. Possibly twice.