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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Wedding Day: Peter Leask and Margaret Ferguson

Here we are on the wedding day of Peter Leask and Margaret Ferguson: March 20, 1883. These are my...great great (I think, there might be another generation in there) maternal grandparents. 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Grandma's Birthday, 1986

I found this in an envelope of some of the photos Mom and Dad salvaged from Grandma's home after she and Val died - tragically, many were missing. Nice to have this one, even with Mom and Sean closing their eyes. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

32 Fictional Novels by 4 Fictional Authors

My friend Meric reached out to some folks for some brainstorming ideas: come up with some titles of novels that might have been written by famous mystery authors being hunted by a werewolf. The author names are Meric's; I came up with their sub-genres and fictional novels.

Dr. Clive Boyle is best known for his foundational scientifiction, but is so prolific that he also churns out at least a dozen murder mysteries a year—sometimes mixing genres. His oeuvre includes An Analog Murder, Secret of the Desert Lighthouse, The Tomb on Haunted Hill, 1-800-YOU-KILL, Dial X for Xterminate, and The Gearbox Killing.

Renee Feinstein is famed for her sinister mysteries framed as adult-length children’s books, complete with disturbing illustrations. Her most notable works are The Day the Bunnies Died, Hop-Skip-Jump Off the Cliff, D is for Defenestrate, Your Mommy Can’t Help You Now, Who Killed Jack and Jill?, Saskatchewan is Full of Murderers, and The Sharpening.

Charleston Rook writes splatterpunk mysteries renowned for their high body count and gratuitous gore. His books include Witness a Man’s Arm Turned Around, SCREWdriver!, The Slaughterhouse Massacre, GENEocide!, The Funhouse Atrocities, Pierced by a Pitchfork, The Eyeball Bursters, Shriek of the Maniac, Dawn of the Incels, and Dentist of the Damned.

CC Alder (AKA Cheryl Cameron) writes genteel countryside mysteries that seem almost civilized on the surface but reveal the grim subtext of her supposedly idyllic settings. Her works include The Grub in the Peach, Silent Sunflowers, I of the Needle, Oh What a Lovely Affair!, Twilight Picnic, Gone with the Tide, A Feast for the Love We Left Behind, Despair in Georgia, and The Bride Wore Black.

I feel like The Bride Wore Black is so obvious it must have already been used, but I think it fits anyway. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

David Lynch: The Treachery of Language

From the What's So Great About That? YouTube channel comes this pretty interesting essay on David Lynch's relationship with language. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

I Want You Back by Haim

In the "things that make me a little happier" file, here's "I Want You Back" by Haim, a trio of sisters. Not only is it a catchy tune, I like that these accomplished women dance about as well as I do (based solely on this video, of course), and I take strange solace in that. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Film Review: Monte Walsh

I turned 50 this year, it's been a few months since the death of my father, and the news of the world - our relentless march toward a jobless society at the same time collapsing in on itself due to corruption, greed, climate change, fear and ignorance - weighs down on me more with each passing day.

So perhaps tonight was the perfect time to watch Monte Walsh (William A. Fraker, 1970), a movie obsessed with literal death, spiritual death, and the death of a way of life - the world moving on and leaving so many behind.

Monte Walsh, magnificently portrayed by Lee Marvin, is navigating his twilight years, reluctantly learning that the West as he knew it is dying, along with a livelihood he loved. He tries to adjust, but circumstances rob him of any hope of happiness; his world collapses around him, and he rides off to an uncertain fate.

I feel like I'm just a few years away from sharing Monte's fate. Right now, I'm very lucky; I've enjoyed a comfortable life and a rewarding career for some 25 years now, and theoretically I have another 15 years to go before retiring comfortably. My colleagues are brilliant, my manager superb, and I work in a thriving industry.

But 15 years is such a long time. Already, software is automating aspects of my white collar job; it's primitive now, but how long before advances in this kind of technology make communications professionals like me superfluous? Five years? Ten? Can I possibly make it the full 15 to retirement? Or will societal collapse make the point moot?

Marvin, as Monte, never gives up. He keeps his dignity. He remains a sad but inspirational figure by the time the credits roll.

But his world has moved on, nonetheless. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Apollo 11 Soars

That men in fragile ships crossed the gulf from the Earth to the Moon in an era when computers the size of bedroom closets could do little more than basic math seems astounding today. Apollo 11, the new documentary by Todd Douglas Miller, captures the awe and wonder of that incredible journey, 50 years in the past this summer and still, to my mind, the single greatest human achievement.

Using glorious high definition footage left neglected for years in storage, Miller covers the mission from launch to recovery--not only the ships and the astronauts, but the ground crew, and in some ways most compellingly, the vast audience of ordinary people who came in their multitudes to line the beaches of Florida for launch day. The excitement on these faces is palpable; they know they are witnesses to history, that they are watching a moment that will, if we are fortunate, live on in our collective memory for as long as our species lasts.

Miller thankfully eschews voiceover narration; he lets the images, the astronauts, the ground crew and the rumble of rockets speak for themselves. Music is used sparingly at key moments--the launch, the landing, the return to Earth--with superb effect.

Even though the mission went without a hitch, there are still many moments of high drama, particularly during the landing on the moon, when a countdown clock shows the lunar lander is rapidly running out of fuel and a computer program alarm goes off multiple times in the last seconds before landing. There are a few moments of self-effacing or near-gallows humour here and there--my favourite is probably when Buzz Aldrin reminds himself not to lock the lunar lander door on his way out to the Moon's surface.

Watching Apollo 11 now, especially on a giant IMAX screen that provides some of the scope and scale necessary to give audiences a sense of the magnitude of the story, is necessarily bittersweet. As a human being, I'm proud that hundreds of thousands of people worked together to make possible the exploration of a strange new world, an astonishing feat that proved what human beings are truly capable of. And yet, I struggle to name an accomplishment of the same spirit-lifting grandeur. Perhaps we'll find it if we manage to save our civilization from our own folly in the fight against climate change.

On the other hand, even if our species destroys itself before its time, we can remain proud of those shining days in 1969 when we took our first steps beyond the cradle of Earth and, ever so briefly, explored the universe beyond.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Up All Night Obsessing Over this Music Video

I quite enjoy Beck's "Up All Night," but its video confuses me. Its protagonist is presented as a heroine rescuing her boyfriend (or perhaps brother?), but she's the opposite of sympathetic, as she callously commits a number of venal crimes throughout the story:

11-24 seconds: vandalism
33 seconds: rudely shoves Snow White aside; also jaywalking
50 seconds: petty theft
54 seconds: littering
1:16: more littering
1:26: breaking and entering plus destruction of private property
1:28 and 1:40: shoving
1:42-1:47: assault with a deadly weapon
1:48: destruction of private property
1:50: assault with a deadly weapon
1:53: assault
2:17-2:22 petty theft
2:28 possession of illegal drugs
2:36 more shoving
2:49 public intoxication

More puzzling still, once she rescues her boyfriend (or brother), she vanishes, leaving him to escape in a silver Corvette by riding atop it while it's being driven by no one. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Green, Green Glow of Homicide

Previously on Jedi/Superman...

Last Son of the Republic
Growing Up under Twin Suns
Chariot of the Gods
The Quality of Mercy
A Job for Supermen

Yavin IV

The Death Star loomed, a malevolent steel moon with one ugly, unblinking eye looking down over the Rebel base, last bastion of freedom and justice in the galaxy. Clark, fists clenched, his own deadly eyes glowing with righteous fury, hurtled toward that Cyclopean menace.

A light-second away, his targeting scope fixed on a jinking TIE fighter, Luke Skywalker flinched. He sensed something—something imminent, something catastrophic.

Clark. The Death Star was targeting Clark. And Clark was flying right into their path.

The TIE fighter slipped away. He could hear Biggs chiding him over the intercom, but the TIE didn’t matter. Luke closed his eyes, searched for Clark’s life essence out there in the black, found it, and pulled.

Clark’s eyes widened in surprise as he was suddenly wrenched off course. In that instant, the supercannon fired.

The emerald beam missed Clark by dozens of metres. Even so, the pain of the radiation washing over him was unbearable. Clark shrieked into the void, his flesh seared. Mercifully, he lost consciousness. The beam continued its course, shearing a Rebel frigate in half, spilling dozens of hapless crew into the cold interstellar void.

Death Star Bridge

Vader turned to face the tactical director. “You missed.”

“The targeting sensors on a laser this massive aren’t intended for targets of this..!”

The tactical director’s protest was cut off with a guttural cry and the dry crackling of suddenly traumatized bone and muscle. The man fell without a further word to the deck.

Vader unclenched his fist.

“I’ll have the supercannon ready to fire again in twenty minutes, Lord Vader!” cried the tactical director’s immediate underling.

“Ten,” hissed Vader.

“Ten, aye, ten!”

Tarkin clucked in disapproval. “Vader, control yourself. I can’t have you executing every man that makes a mistake. It’s bad for morale. We are, after all, trying to restore order to the galaxy. These men are idealists.”

“But far from ideal,” Vader grumbled.

“Take heart, Lord Vader. The Rebellion is being wiped out before our eyes. Even if this…being you’re obsessed with survives, how much damage can he do alone?”

 On the viewscreen, Rebel ships burned under the immense firepower of the Imperial fleet.

Nebulon-B escort frigate Defiance

Leia’s stomach fell as the Imperial assault steadily decimated their already small fleet of soon-to-be galactic refugees. General Dodonna was doing his best to provide cover for the GR-75 transports to make the jump to lightspeed, but so far only two had gotten away; they’d lost two others, along with their only other frigate.

Swarms of TIEs flung themselves at the pitiful collection of some four dozen Rebel starfighters. For every Rebel starfighter that blossomed into the flame of defeat, ten TIEs were blown from the stars. But even at that kill ratio, they were doomed. There were just too many Imperials.

Ben Kenobi placed a gentle hand on Leia’s shoulder. He felt Clark’s agony and gasped, but composed himself quickly. See Threepio, golden-hued protocol droid and perennial annoyance, looked on curiously.

“He lives,” Kenobi whispered. “Well done, Luke. Well done, my boy.”

Leia glanced over at her old mentor. “Obi-Wan, what is it..?”

“Leia, there is still hope. But we must make a desperate gamble.”

Ben told Leia what was at stake. Leia glanced at the mission monitor board: another three GR-75s had jumped to hyperspace, but only two dozen starfighters were still flying. Two more GR-75s were edging closer and closer to escape.

“Starfighters, this is Princess Leia. Retreat immediately. Get those last ships away and head for the rendezvous point. We’ll cover you.”

“We’re doomed!” cried Threepio.

Biggs Darklighter’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Princess, one frigate can’t possibly survive alone!”

“You heard me, Red Three. May the Force be with you!”

Yavin System

From his cockpit, Biggs watched as the Defiance wheeled about, engines glowing white-hot as she burned toward no coordinates that made sense to him. Whatever she was doing, it was drawing a lot of fire from the Star Destroyers; he could see the frigate’s shields flaring, ready to buckle.

Biggs grimaced and turned his full attention back to the battle, howling vengeance as he blasted another TIE to atoms.

“Nice shooting, Biggs,” Wedge called, even as he himself torpedoed an Imperial gunship. “Everybody form up on the GR-75s. We’re getting out of here. For the Defiance!”

Biggs whooped along with everyone else—until his stomach suddenly dropped. Luke hadn’t joined that Rebel yell.

“Red Five, come in. Luke, where are you?”

Defiance Bridge

Dodonna, Leia, Kenobi and Threepio held on for their lives as the bridge of the Defiance rattled and bucked, the frigate’s shields dangerously close to failing entirely under the onslaught of energy directed at them from all sides.

“Is that your man?” Dodonna said, pointing at the tumbling figure outside. It looked like just another floating casualty, but his faith in General Kenobi and the Princess was deep.

Kenobi nodded. “Please, General, reel him in.”

The frigate groaned in protest, but its grapple shot out and snagged Clark’s limp form easily, pulling him through a dorsal hatch. Two medical droids and a human nurse quickly hauled the burned husk to sickbay, though the nurse expressed silent doubts that anything could be done to save the charred thing they brought aboard. The droids dunked the near-corpse into a tank of bacta nonetheless, even as the ship’s first officer called yet again for damage control personnel to reinforce the shields. As if that could make any difference…

On the bridge, Leia watched as the last of the transports and starfighters jumped to safety. She shared a glance with Obi-Wan and Dodonna, then pressed the ship-to-ship communications controls.

“Imperial fleet, this is Princess Leia aboard the Rebel Alliance frigate Defiance. We surrender.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

Phaser II

This phaser was photographed in my Amazon studio, but this time I played with the result in Photoshop for a few minutes. This is supposed to represent the instant before it unleashes a stun beam. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

3 Views of K-7

Jeff asked if the Amazon Portable Photo Studio comes with different backdrop colours; alas it, does not. It's too bad, because K-7 would have looked more at home against a black background. But I guess that's what Photoshop is for...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Muhammad Ali vs. Kal-El

Thanks to the generous gift of an Amazon gift card, I was able to purchase Amazon's well-regarded portable photo studio. I tested it for the first time today, somewhat carelessly, using my smartphone with no regard for the proper shutter speed, iso, etc. Even so, this action figure homage to Neil Leifer's "Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston" turned out okay. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ye Olde Yearbook Editor

Here's one of a handful of images of my time as the editor of Leduc Composite High School's yearbook. Could there be a nerdier responsibility? Well, it was fun. And I just noticed the red and black bag behind me, which I used to carry my bags not only for high school, but university.

I recognize Angela Avery beside me, but I'm afraid the name of the other young woman is lost to history. I last ran into Angela sometime in the 1990s; she was a lawyer then, and perhaps remains one today. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Here's a damaged photo of my Aunt Jean and the Etsell horse, Thopsy. The damage on this photo might be beyond my ability to repair. But it might have made the photo a little more interesting. In the real world, both Aunt Jean and Thopsy were reacting to something on their right, out of frame. In the photograph, it now appears they're alarmed by the blob of off-yellow gunk spreading out toward them. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

USS Equity

In sharp contrast to yesterday's Exemplar, I'm actually pretty happy with how the U.S.S. Equity turned out. The decals are almost where they shoot be, the colours are better than I reasonably manage, and, thanks to a flaw during the 3D printing process, there's even a bit of built-in battle damage on the starboard ventral  dorsal side of the primary hull. I figure the damage control crews had to make some makeshift repairs during combat, resulting in the scar you see here. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Exemplar

Not, sadly, an exemplar of modelling or painting skill. Luckily, these little ships always look far better from a distance. 

Saturday, March 09, 2019

On the Precipice of Disaster

On tonight's exciting adventures of Northern Shield, the villainous Lightning Bug and perfidious Dr. Apocalypse put our heroes, shackled and helpless, at the edge of a boiling pit of lava for "pest disposal." They escaped with seconds to spare - but was it all a ploy? The last -minute salvation seemed a little too easy...

Friday, March 08, 2019

Superman and Krypton

I finally brought Jeff Shyluk's amazing bespoke globe of Krypton to work, setting it up in my cubicle alongside a small Superman statue. The globe looks great, and has already drawn some attention from my colleagues. However, I foolishly shot against the light. When we start getting some sunlight, I'll reposition and shoot from the other direction for a better shot. 

Jeff never fails to create beautiful art, and he takes commissions. Visit Jeff Shyluk's Visual Blog today! 

Here's another look at Krypton and the other bespoke world Jeff crafted, Mongo, now in my brother Sean's possession. Flash! Ahh-aahhh! 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

USS Encke with cargo pods

Here is the USS Encke carrying a pair of cargo pods. I presume the Encke was named for German astronomer Johann Franz Encke. Not at bad legacy. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

USS Encke

Many old-school Star Trek fans will remember one of the early in-universe "non-fiction" Star Trek books, the Starfleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph. Joseph's book included several non-canonical Federation starship designs, the first fans had ever seen that didn't look like the Enterprise. One of those designs was the Ptolemy-class tug, seen here painted by me with decals now firmly in place. This one's called the USS Encke, the name taken straight from the Technical Manual. 

I'm quite happy with how this model turned out. The paint is pretty even, and I managed to position the decals pretty close to where they should be. 

Why does the large cylinder have a different registry number than the main body of the ship? Because this is actually two different ships: the tug, which consists of the main hull (the saucer), the warp nacelles, and the spine extending downward to the cylinder. The cylinder itself is an independent sublight starship, an unnamed passenger liner. This is one of the configurations Joseph illustrates in the Technical Manual; the tug can also carry cargo pods, and I'll post a second version of the Encke to demonstrate tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Never the Same Show Twice

I've been rewatching The Office on Netflix for the past few weeks, and even though I've experienced this phenomenon before, I'm startled by how much binge watching changes the experience. Story arcs that took years to evolve as the series originally aired are now over in what feels like, comparatively, the wink of an eye. Jim and Pam's relationship is essentially set by the beginning of season four, and yet there are still several seasons yet to play out. I had once thought the original will-they-or-won't-they narrative extended much later into the show's run, but no. It only felt that way because we had to wait literal years for those events to occur.

This isn't a good or bad thing; I just find it interesting.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Fearless Fed Five

Here at last are my very first fully completed Federation miniatures - the original five metal miniatures from the squadron box that Steve ordered for me I don't know how many years ago, now painted and with decals in place.

You can see a slightly bluish cast to these ships, as I originally tried to emulate the sort of off-green look of the ships on the original show. Alas, my efforts resulted in denim-blue ships, so I painted over them with shades of grey. 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Excalibur Escorts

Here's my flagship, the U.S.S. Excalibur, with a robot ore freighter and and old Daedalus-class starship. Poor Excalibur is off-kilter because I drilled the hole for her stand incorrectly. 

Friday, March 01, 2019

Enterprise and Exeter

More "e" ships, including "The Big E" herself, the U.S.S. Enterprise. To her right is the Exeter. Once again, we see the difference between the 3D printed model at left and the die-cast metal version at right. You can also see an improvement (such as it is) in my painting skills, as I painted the Exeter quite some time ago and the Enterprise only recently. Actually, it looks like poor Enterprise needs some touching up...but I don't know if I'm brave enough to try now that I've applied her decals.