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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Friar’s Campsite

I feel like I crossed a threshold with this little scene. I'm not sure that the subtleties show up terribly well on camera, but I tried to add some depth and texture to the items by using different shades of the various greens and browns you see here, along with some dark washes to bring out details. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Letterboxd Collections

Not long ago, Letterboxd added a "Collections" feature to users' statistics pages. If you click to embiggen, you'll see which of those collections I've seen. For most people, the interesting thing won't be which collections I've completed, but which groups of films Letterboxd chooses to collect; some of these are far from obvious. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Artificial Idiocy

Oh, they may look dumb now, but they're learning...they're learning...

Monday, June 22, 2020

Men with Brooms, Man with Opinion

I'm probably giving this a half-star more than it deserves out of a fondness for Paul Gross' work in Due South and Leslie Nielsen's work in...well, everything I've seen him in, really, including a great guest turn on Due South.

As for Men with Brooms (Paul Gross, 2002), well, if you're not put off by the incredibly creepy CGI beavers that open the film, you might enjoy the performances (Molly Parker is particularly effective) and the and the few sitcom-level jokes that don't fall completely flat. Oh, and if you like curling, you might be amused by the scenes that take place on the rink. Finally, there are also a handful of love stories, two of which are kind of sweet if you're sentimental (as I tend to be). All told, however, most of the humour is stale, the drama flat, and the plot beats predictable. It's not that the film is terrible, but it does have an awful lot of wasted potential: a mildly interesting central idea, a strong cast, and a chance to explore one of the few aspects of Canadian culture someone outside the country might be able to name.

Someday someone will make the great Canadian curling movie. This isn't it, but writer-director-lead actor Gross deserves credit for taking his best shot - even if it misses the button by a couple of kilometres. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day 2020

Looks like dad and granddad are playing crib here. I hope they're enjoying a game together on Father's Day today. Or if not crib, maybe crokinole, or maybe they're out at a celestial ball game together. As long as they're happy. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Resting on the Rail of the Starboard Bow

All is still
The ocean flat as asphalt
Embers from his pipe
Glowing as they fall overboard
Reflected in the ink-black sea
Like falling stars
Reflected, too
A glimpse of the impossible
A ghost ship 
Riding on a cloud
Like WTF

Friday, June 19, 2020

Cloud Thoughts

Moonlight is best
Floating placidly o'er the ocean far below
Beyond sound, beyond touch
Intangible as mist
For the ghost ship that
Scrapes away the soul
As it passes by with
Indifferent malevolence

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Ghost Ship

The ghost ship, aloft
Silently skims o'er a moon-white cloud
Sails rigid, ne'er billowing
Intangible as mist
Intangible as mist
Intangible as mist
And as deadly

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: Visiting Hours (1982)

I went into Jean-Claude Lord's Visiting Hours (1982) with low expectations, but as it turns out this is a pretty effective slasher film set apart from the big slasher names of the 80s--the Friday the 13ths, the Halloweens, and the like. There are two major differences: there's not a hint of the supernatural in this story, and both villain and victims act in (from their different perspectives) reasonable and realistic ways.

Michael Ironside plays Colt Hawker, an unhinged psychopath who hates women, particularly strong women who advocate for themselves. Gradually, through a series of flashbacks spread throughout the film, we discover that Colt's mother attacked and disfigured Colt's father after suffering years of abuse from her husband. Those same flashbacks also imply, in subtle yet truly nauseating fashion, that Colt's father may have been sexually abusing their son. While this disturbing background doesn't excuse Colt's actions, it helps explain his twisted motivations.

Colt's breaking point, it seems, comes when television journalist Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) advocates for an abused woman who was put on trial for defending herself from her husband. Station manager Gary Baylor (William Shatner) plays a supporting role as Deborah's rather ineffective boss and friend, and he's fascinating to watch, especially in contrast to his heroic turn in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the same year. Baylor is well-intentioned and advocates, somewhat weakly, for Deborah's right to speak out, but it's the women in this film who provide the strongest thematic and story opposition to Ironside's Colt.

First among them is Ballin, of course, who fights back gamely during Colt's initial attempted murder but winds up in the hospital, badly hurt and forced to endure an extended recovery before she'll be able to return to work - and to her advocacy for women's agency and rights. But interestingly, Ballin fades into the background for about the middle third of the picture, and in her place as protagonist steps nurse Sheila Munroe (Linda Purl). When Colt learns that Deborah Ballin is in hospital, he makes multiple attempts on her life in the hospital, killing other patients along the way, and he's foiled by Sheila, which puts her on his list of targets.

The focus shifts yet again as we follow Colt's grimy life outside murder, when he picks up a young woman named Lisa (Lenore Zann) and violently rapes and physically abuses her during what she thought was going to be a date. But Colt doesn't kill her, and she winds up in hospital under Shelia's care. We learn later on that Lisa took revenge offscreen by rounding up some of her friends to invade and trash Colt's apartment, an incident that occurs offscreen and is revealed only later in the film, but struck me as an interesting display of women's agency. (Perhaps even more fascinating, all three female leads are presented as single, either explicitly or via implication by absence.)

Lisa later becomes instrumental as her raid on Colt's apartment uncovers evidence of his crimes, which she hands off to Sheila. Unfortunately, Colt is one step ahead of everyone and sets a trap for her, gravely wounding the nurse and putting her, ironically, back in her own hospital. At this point, the focus shifts back to Deborah Ballin for the final confrontation. In the best traditions of the "final girl" trope, she of course dispatches Colt and sets the world right again....until the next slasher film comes out.

Many reviews of the era slammed Visiting Hours for its exploitative violence, and that's fair, particularly in Lisa's case; the scene where Colt assaults her is definitely exploitative and deeply discomfiting. On the other hand, most Lisa-like characters in this genre don't get to fight back and survive like Lisa does, which doesn't necessarily redeem the film, but I think speaks to its sincerity when it comes to the movie's central theme, that of female empowerment. I think it's very telling that none of the male characters, including alleged heroic lead Shatner (who's barely in the film, really) nor the scores of determined but hapless police officers, really contribute at all to the film's ultimate resolution. The collective bravery and actions of Deborah, Sheila, and Lisa lead directly to Colt's defeat. In effect, there are three "final girls" (and we really should be calling them "final women" if we're going to use the trope at all).

I wouldn't go so far as to call this a feminist movie (far from it!), but I think given the limits of the genre, it's more progressive than many similar films of that era. And it has other merits, of course--effective cinematography and production design, solid editing, and good performances all around, particularly from the women leads and Michael Ironside. It's no classic, but I think Visiting Hours deserves a better reputation than it has. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Mobilize (Video)

Here's a very cool film by Caroline Monnet in which Indigenous Peoples of Canada mobilize, to a very exciting soundtrack by Tanya Taqaq, for a journey from rural to urban landscapes. Though made in 2015, this short film appears to be assembled from stock footage going back to at least the 1960s. Great music and very cool visuals. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gorgeous Enterprise-D Bridge Replica (Video)

British Star Trek fan Geoff Collard spent seven years building this incredibly detailed replica of the Enterprise-D bridge. Man, people are amazing. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Baffled by English Muffins

I was preparing an English muffin for Sylvia the other day, and I peeled the two halves apart before popping each half into the toaster. How, I wondered, do the English pre-slice the muffins in such a way as to keep the two halves "glued" together until you rip them in twain? Razorwire followed by...a second round of baking with extra yeast to stick them together? 


Friday, June 12, 2020

The Past, Reconstructed

I'm fascinated by footage from the dawn of filmmaking, but much of what remains of those early 19th-century movies is either lost to time or badly degraded. But hard work and new technology has already transformed a handful of short films from visions through a glass darkly to glimpses as sharp as looking as a window to the past itself--or close to that, anyway.

I'm currently aware of two YouTube creators who are sharing their amazing work: Denis Shirayev and Restored Footage. Each has posted only a handful of clips (my favourite may be Restored Footage's reconstruction of the Hindenburg newsreel) but each is amazing in its own right, at least to my eyes. If you're a fan of history or technology, their channels are worth exploring.

(I'd post a video, but Google has willfully made it harder to embed them on Blogger.) 

Monday, June 08, 2020

Earl’s Forge

I painted a forge! I was a little worried about painting a thin enough sheen of red and yellow on the coals to allow the LED to shine through and glow, but it looks okay. You can't really see it in this photo, but I experimented with multiple coats for this model: a base stone grey, followed by two layers of black-ish washes in an effort to make the forge look old and well-used. 

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Old West Street

A hardware store, a marshal's office, a bank, and a windmill; not a viable community yet, but the backwards beginning of one, perhaps. 

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Last Chance Finance

Steve generously donated a 3D-printed 28mm-scale Old West bank to me a couple of months ago, and this morning I painted it. This is the largest miniature I've yet painted, and the first building. I went with green and yellow for their association with dollar bills and gold coins. It looks pretty muddy to me, and I feel like should probably have painted the second-story columns yellow to match those below. Obviously I'm still having trouble colouring between the lines, as it were, but I feel like I'm slowly getting better at that particular task. Patience seems to be the best help, along with lots of light. 

Friday, June 05, 2020

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Decadence Quotient

At the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, I love the Peanut Buster Parfait from Dairy Queen. It's pure happiness in a plastic cup: ice milk, fudge, and peanuts. Terribly bad for you, naturally, but as a summer treat it's hard to beat. 

Not that anyone should do this, but I'll bet with sufficient funds and a lack of common sense you could make your own Peanut Buster Parfaits at home. You'd need 

1) An ice milk machine
2) A supply of whatever brand of liquid fudge DQ uses
3) Spanish peanuts (skins on) 
4) Tall plastic cups and long spoons

Assembly is simple. Place fudge and peanuts on the bottom level, then alternating layers of ice milk and fudge plus peanuts, finishing with a swirl of ice milk on top, topped with more fudge and peanuts. Yum!

The ice milk machine would be the most expensive part of the scheme. But how much could that cost? $10,000? $20,000? You could fold that into a mortgage. 


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

LegalEagle on Carnage at Lafayetted Square

I've been subscribed to LegalEagle for a while because I enjoy the host's sense of humour and the way he dissects legal drama in popular culture. LegalEagle also provides commentary on real-world cases, and today he offers a passionate, sincere reading of Trump's tear-gassing of protesters in Washington, DC. Western democracy is in terrible, terrible danger. 

Monday, June 01, 2020

A Dirge for Doomsday

They say two thousand twenty twenty going overboard all the time
So this year we're going to party like it's 1939