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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Some Thoughts on Mr. Robot

Sylvia and I binge-watched Mr. Robot over the course of the last month or so, and we both found it rewarding. It's very difficult to describe the show without spoiling it, so I will only list a few of the highlights:

  • A compelling, timely narrative with a well-earned, satisfying conclusion
  • Rich, nuanced characters
  • Excellent performances
  • Innovative editing and direction
  • Heartbreaking pathos
  • Superb music that complements each scene perfectly (I bought all seven volumes of the soundtrack)
I can say this much without spoiling things: The show is about a troubled young man who, for reasons to be revealed over the course of the show, decides to hack capitalism itself in an effort to, as he puts it, "save the world." Does he succeed? And if so, at what cost? Watch and find out; I don't think you'll regret it. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

If I Had a Billion Dollars

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy a black house (I'd buy a black house)
And if I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy mannequin limbs for my house (a collection of arms and legs and heads for sure)
And if I had a billion dollars
I'd buy a Batmobile (a rather showy automobile)

And if I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars I'd hire actors for our estate
They'd play roles from central casting and never be late
If I had a billion dollars maybe we could build a bridge simulator in there somewhere
(You know we could just go down and play Star Trek)
(Like shoot Klingons or watch movies on the bridge with popcorn and soda for us)
(With surround sound and exploding consoles, hmmm)
(Exploding consoles and gimbals in the floor)
(Do you really think that's safe? Well yeah!)

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
I'd buy you your own house
(Because living in my madhouse would be cruel)
If I had a billion dollars (If I had a billion dollars)
I'd build a tunnel to your house (so we could hang out all the time)
And if I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy you Louis Vitton (so he could make you your own handbags)

And if I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars we wouldn't have to cook and clean anymore
And if I had a billion dollars we'd hire chefs and butlers 'cause they all cost more
If I had a billion dollars we wouldn't have to eat taco kits
(But we would eat taco kits)
(Of course we would, we'd just eat more)
(And buy really expensive seasonings with it)
That's right, all the expensive Dijon taco seasoning, mmmm)

If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy you a "Don't" shirt (and yes a real "Don't" shirt, that's cool)
And if I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd buy us some art (a Vallejo or a Wayne Boring)
If I had a billion dollars (if I had a billion dollars)
Well I'd call you my monkey (but don't I already call you my monkey?)

If I had a billion dollars I'd buy your patience
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
If I had a billion dollars
I'd be silly

Friday, March 27, 2020

Squiggle Me This

A long exposure experiment failure shot ineptly on Mom and Dad's Canon T70. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Diner Before Callahan's

It's now a dental office, but once upon a time this building just north of the High Level Bridge housed a restaurant I used to frequent with my friends in the University of Alberta Star Trek Club. No, the restaurant wasn't Callahan's - at least not at first - but the one that preceded it. (I shot this photo sometime after leaving university, I'm sure.) Despite all my fond memories of the restaurant that was here before Callahan's, I can't remember its name. Can anyone help me out? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Genres by the Numbers

According to Letterboxd, the 6,808 films I've seen in my lifetime thus far fall into the following genres, in descending order:

Drama: 1,832
Comedy: 1,814
Action: 1,230
Science fiction: 1,045
Thriller: 989
Animation: 859
Adventure: 850
Documentary: 640
Crime: 636
Horror: 633
Romance: 603
Fantasy: 543
Family: 492
Mystery: 356
Western: 354
Musical: 262
War: 231
History: 199
TV movie: 158

These numbers add up to higher than 6,808, but that's because many films fall into multiple genres. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Mom and the Forge

One of the hardest things about COVID-19 is the cold reality of social distancing. I talked to Mom on Sunday about the pandemic and how our family is managing it, and while I recognize how lucky we are - both my brother and I are working from home, Sylvia is also safe at home, and Mom is retired - it's still tough to know that it's not safe to see Mom in person, because she's over 65 and thus at high risk of getting very sick if she gets infected with the coronavirus.

Mom is very tough, which I think I attribute to her childhood as a farm girl, and then years as a teacher and mother in Canada's north. But I still worry, and chatting with her on the phone on Sunday really brought home that it won't be safe to visit in person for weeks, or maybe months. On the flip side, that will make our next in-person visit that much more special.

Love you, Mom. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

It's All Been Forgotten Before

A few days ago, my friend Bruce shared this video of Surrender's "It's All Been Done Before." I'd forgotten that this song had ever existed, which is surprising given how much I enjoy it. Thanks, Bruce!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Two Must-Read Stories on COVID-19

Here are two well-researched articles about COVID-19, the threat it poses, and why we must all, collectively, around the world, take action now to prevent a serious health catastrophe. The first article is the one that convinced me to stay at home. The second shows what we may be in for, depending on the actions that we take or do not take.

Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now

Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Quick Takes: Cool World

Cool World (Ralph Bakshi, 1992) Meandering, unfunny, mean-spirited, nonsensical, full of unnecessary plot points (Why did it matter Gabriel Byrne's character murdered his wife? Why did it matter Brad Pitt's character lost his mother in a motorcycle accident?)...this is just a mess. The trailer is far more stylish and interesting; at least you get to hear The Art of Noise doing Peter Gunn.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Trekspertise on Terrorism in Star Trek

One of my favourite YouTube channels, Trekspertise, has released another well-produced, thought-provoking video essay. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Marbula One

Jelle's marble runs never fail to entertain, but he's really started to up the production values of his videos. And he did it without losing the fun and whimsy that make these videos special. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Hardware Connections

A few days ago I watched Color Out of Space, a pretty decent adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's creepy Cthulu Mythos tale. After logging the film in Letterboxd, I reviewed the rest of director Richard Stanley's filmography, and was surprised to discover he directed cyberpunk thriller Hardware, a considerably less accomplished film, in my view.

However, Hardware features a pretty catchy tune by Public Image Ltd., "The Order of Death," or as I always remember it, "This is what you want...this is what you get...this is what you want...this is what you get..."

I haven't seen Hardware or heard the song in years, so I was surprised earlier tonight to hear "The Order of Death" featured in a late season two episode of Mr. Robot, which Sylvia and I are working our way through. (An excellent series, by the way.)

It means nothing, of course; such connections are all around us. But it still struck me as a little weird. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

My Corona

My Corona
My Corona
Ooh, my little pretty virus, my COVID-19,
When you gonna give me the flu, Corona?
Ooh, you make my fever rise, my fever rise
Got me self-confined, Corona
Never gonna shop, not goin' out, I got my TP
For the next few months no one is gonna see me
My, my, my, my, aaahh-CHOO!
M-m-m-my Corona
My Corona

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Object d’Earl

This is one of the ash trays I made while stumbling through the ceramics unit of junior high industrial arts. I don't know why I made even a single ash tray, let alone multiples, considering Mom and Dad had quit smoking years before and Sean and I never started. We went to visit Mom today, though, and lo and behold she still has one of my ash trays. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

One Nation Under Isolation

The strange days continue. Like many others, I'll be working from home for a while in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19. If, collectively, we succeed, we may just save the health care system from being overwhelmed, and maybe some lives will be saved. 

Like many middle-aged folk, I miss the vitality I had in my 20s and 30s. Aside from my weight, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin--but now, more than ever, I wish I had that old spark. Not just because of COVID-19, but because I feel like youth would make it easier to bear the other existential threats to our civilization: climate change, the unsustainable gap between rich and poor, regular assaults on critical thinking and truth itself, and the return of right-wing authoritarianism. 

Some of that is nostalgia talking, of course. And in truth, things are not entirely bleak. Even at this early stage of crisis, I've witnessed people pulling together, making smart decisions, listening to experts. And yes, there's been some panic buying, some hoarding. But people do crazy things when they're afraid. And then they calm down and do the right thing. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

28mm Chair

So this 28mm scale plastic replica of Captain Kirk's chair was something like $7 on eBay and I just had to have it. I even have a use in mind for it - rather, a couple of uses. I look forward to painting it. 

Monday, March 09, 2020

CKXM 100 and the CBS Radio Mystery Theater

Today it's 100.3 The Bear, but from 1979 to 1988 it was my favourite radio station, CKXM 100. I listened to it in my bedroom on an old, rectangular, wood-panelled radio with analog dials and switches and a glowing green tuner. I liked the station for its selection of light pop; I still remember hearing my favourite Elton John song, "I'm Still Standing," on that radio while tuned to CKXM.

While I liked the music, the real reason CKXM was my favourite was because they broadcast the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, memorably hosted by E.G. Marshall. "Come in...welcome...I'm E.G. Marshall." Much like Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, Marshall introduced tales of weird, macabre madness with wry, pithy commentary. Perhaps most interesting, CBS Radio Mystery Theater wasn't a rebroadcast relic of the past; it was a new program, broadcast from 1974 to 1982. Because we didn't move to Alberta until 1980, I only had access to the last couple of seasons, but what an impression they left each night as I listened before bed.

CBS Radio Mystery Theater and CKXM led me to discover the pleasures of old-time radio; I sought it out wherever I could find it. Back then, that meant saving my allowance to buy the occasional old-time radio compilation cassettes at one of Leduc's record stores. I still have those cassettes!

Nowadays, old-time radio is available via satellite and on YouTube. It's easier than ever to enjoy the format...the trouble is finding the time. As ever...

Saturday, March 07, 2020

The Films of Mark Pirro

Years ago, Pete told recalled his experience of Deathrow Gameshow, a film he described as perverse and hilarious. On a whim, I decided to search for the film's director on Letterboxd. I expected that anyone who directed something called Deathrow Gameshow might have a strange filmography, but I wasn't expecting Nudist Colony of the Dead, Curse of the Queerwolf, Buford's Bikini Buddies, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, or Rectuma ("The terror lurking behind you could be your own behind!")

Clearly Mark Pirro knows exactly what kinds of films he likes to make, and he sets out to make them.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

You Meet in a Bar...

These are all prepainted minis. If only I was this good! 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Whither Polybius?

It's over an hour long, but if you're interested in hoaxes and 1980s arcade games, Ahoy's Polybius - The Video Game that Doesn't Exist is a fascinating watch. 

Monday, March 02, 2020

The Quirky Genius of Norman McLaren

The National Film Board of Canada has a streamable collection of some of the works of famed Scots/Canadian animator Norman McLaren. Perhaps most fascinating--or at least most educational--are the five parts of Animated Motion, a series of educational films by McLaren and his often-collaborator Grant Munro. Part 1 is pretty elementary even for those with a passing interest in animation, but the animation principles revealed become more fascinating with each successive section of the course.