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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Neatly Crated

As part of my ongoing "I must clean up my man cave to create a liveable working space," I've been going through all the stuff I have and organizing it into, well, piles to start, and then into containers. A few months ago I Kickstarted a collection of 3D-printed and professionally painted barrels and crates, which came in this box. In a fit of mania, I realized that the haphazardly-filled box was making very inefficient use of the available volume. So I meticulously stacked dozens of tiny crates and barrels and discovered that when neatly arranged they only took up half the box. I added my own collection of Earl-painted barrels and crates with room to spare for even more. Success! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Alice Guy's A Story Well Spun

I really did not expect something this hilariously juvenile from Alice Guy, but as a man with a very unsophisticated sense of humour, I love this fast-moving tale of a man pranked by being rolled down a hill in a barrel, knocking over innocent victims like tenpins. The only thing missing is the protagonist throwing up after he finally escapes from the barrel. Bonus half-star for the pun in the title.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Dad Meets John Saxon

As I've written in the past, I am both blessed and cursed with vivid dreams that, in the moment, are as utterly convincing as real life itself. This means that my dreams can sometimes be traumatic, which is why I'm writing this at 5 am.

Last night--in the dream, I know now--I was in my library, culling books to make room, a project I've been working on for a couple of weeks now. As I was boxing some old thrillers I know I'll never read again, Dad, who died back in 2018, appeared in the doorway. This seemed quite natural, even though Dad appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s--younger than I am now.

I was very pleased, but because I've always been a bit emotionally stunted, I didn't let it show. We exchanged greetings, and then this conversation followed:

"How are you doing?" I asked. "Hey, I don't know if you've already heard, but John Saxon died a couple of days ago..."

Dad laughed, embarrassed. "Oh yeah, he came by to see me as soon as he got here."

"And what did he say?" I asked eagerly.

Long ago, you see, Dad had a dream in which character actor John Saxon confronted him in a narrow staircase. Saxon was coming up the stairs toward Dad menacingly, and this is how Dad reacted, in his words: "I shot that son-of-a-bitch in the face."

This always made Sean and I laugh uproariously, because Dad is not a violent man and it's hard to imagine him shooting anyone, nor even wishing harm on anyone. We always asked what he had against John Saxon, and Dad always said he couldn't explain it, he just couldn't stand the guy--despite never having met him in the real world.

"And what did he say?"

And Dad said, "He said he'd heard about me, and he came by to tell me that there were no hard feelings, because there were times in his life when he really had been a son-of-a-bitch. Turns out he's a pretty good guy, told some interesting stories."

Dad then asked if he could borrow a couple of the cardboard boxes I'd set aside for the books I was giving away, and of course I said sure. He took them and walked away, and I woke up crying, which was very therapeutic because I haven't had a good cry over Dad's death yet; it's been brutally suppressed by some emotional mechanism I don't understand. Sylvia comforted me, but unfortunately I woke up again, this time in the real world--or so I hope, as I'm writing this--dry-eyed and feeling numb, catharsis lost.

I am not a spiritual person, not a believer in ghosts or the afterlife. And yet I hope Dad really did meet John Saxon, and that he's enjoying himself in some joyful place beyond mortal ken, because he deserves it, gone too soon and forever missed. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday, Monday, Movie Days...

It took me half a year, but I managed to spread my movie screenings exactly equally across the week. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

All Your Bases Are Belong to Me

Here are some of the bases I've painted to support un-based 28mm miniatures. I have a bunch of duplicate HeroClix figures which I've separated from their dials so that I can re-base them on these. Perfect to bolster our supply of characters for Villains & Vigilantes. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Earl’s Earth

Tonight I painted this globe, scaled to about twice the height of a 28mm miniature character. I think it's perfect for a newspaper lobby or a villain's underground lair. 

The model itself isn't perfectly accurate, so I wasn't terribly concerned about getting forest vs. desert vs. mountains vs. ice perfectly correct. I'm probably happiest with the puffy clouds. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Chair and Chest

Here we have a familiar-looking chair and a free chest that came with the rocks I bought from Arctic3D. I'm pretty happy with both, although I messed up the buttons on the chair; I'll probably redo those. The chest feels like a bit of a breakthrough, as for the first time I figured out how to come much closer to "colouring between the lines," or, in other words, what's supposed to be brown is brown and what's supposed to be brass is brass. I achieved this through painstaking patience and choosing an angled brush that was perfect for laying down paint right along those crucial points where one colour meets another. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Dinner at Von's

Here's a photo I haven't seen in quite some time; it's a shot of several residents of Main Kelsey dining out at Von's for our annual floor formal. Sitting to my immediate right is Wayne Reti, and to his right is Chris Vining, who later served some time as Mayor of Cold Lake. Near the back you can see longtime Lister Hall resident and journalist Rob Vogt; across from me, in glasses, is Daryle Tilroe, who I knew from Leduc; and to his left, Colin Peters. The other faces are a bit too obscured for me to make out.

Oh, if you don't recognize me because I was thin, I'm the guy at middle left in the suit pulling his glasses halfway down his nose. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Faculty of ENG

Electronic News Gathering, that is. Well, not really; I'm simply lugging around the VHS camcorder that Grandma and Val gave the family back in the late 80s or early 90s. Here I am in 1990 or 1991, caught in the act of preparing to videotape some Lister Hall shenanigans at the University of Alberta. Behind me stands Iain Getty, who I reconnected with decades later during the brief period we were both working at ATCO Electric at the same time. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Here is a bank of retro 1960s-styled workstations, complete with reel-to-reel databank, assembled and painted by yours truly. They look better in real life than they do on film . . . I hope. At this scale, I found it extremely difficult to finesse the finer details, but I gave it my best shot. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Island of Mystery

In the late 1960s, Mom and Dad bought a movie projector in order to screen the home movies they shot on their Super 8 camera. The projector came with Island of Mystery, a short clip from Disney's Swiss Family Robinson (Ken Annakin, 1960). 
Here's what the film reel looked like. The original film featured sound and colour, but this reel is black and white, and because Mom and Dad bought a silent projector, it came with a silent version of the clip. 
And here's the back of the box. 

Long before streaming, long before Blu-Ray, DVDs, and even VHS and Beta, this is how people watched movies at home--a few minutes at a time, in truncated form. 

Far from a collector's item, Island of Mystery currently sells for somewhere between $10-15 USD. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Well of Lost Hopes

Robert N. Bradbury's dirt-cheap Western The Lawless Frontier includes a chase scene with John Wayne's generic cowboy of the month chasing the seedy villain Zanti. Unfortunately for the Duke, Zanti is on horseback while Wayne's cowboy is on foot. The chase appears hopeless for Wayne until Zanti needlessly and hilariously handicaps himself by smacking his head on a low-hanging branch while riding under a tree, knocking himself silly and losing his horse. Zanti, dazed, stumbles across the desert while John Wayne follows at a leisurely walking pace. Wayne catches up to Zanti just as the villain is trying to regain his strength and senses by drinking from a pool of water. 

The Duke: "Drink all you want. It's poison."

Camera cuts to a crude sign: "Do Not Drink. Poison." With a badly drawn skull.

Bad guy looks utterly stunned, then dies in the puddle of poison.

It was a beautiful moment in an otherwise forgettable film.  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Celebrating Mom

The older I get, the more I appreciate life's simple pleasures, like visiting Mom the day after her birthday to BBQ some steaks and garlic bread with a side of cheesy asparagus in her beautiful, fastidiously-maintained back yard. This is the first time Sean, Sylvia, and I have visited Mom in person for more than a couple of minutes since quarantining ourselves due to COVID-19. Even then, we all maintained a distance of at least two metres apart and wore masks whenever we were in close proximity to the food or each other. Safety first! 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Painted Stones

Any decent terrain table needs rocks, right? I started by priming these plastic rocks in white, then covered them in Astrogranite, a technical paint that adds grainy texture. But I ran out of Astrogranite, so I had to figure out how to complete the unfinished stones. I solved the problem (I hope) by using metallic colours such as Leadbelcher and Balthazar Gold to the non-Astrogranite surfaces, hoping that these bits look like rich veins of ore. I experimented with non-metallic colours on some other stones, but I don't think these are quite as successful, so I might just cover them in Astrogranite when my replacement paints arrive. 

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Improved Toxic Pool

I refined the toxic pools a little by adding a hint of blue to the water running from the pipe, dabbing in some more foam for a more violent splash, and shading the entire piece with Nuln Oil. It looks more realistic to my eye, but I still feel out of my depth. 

I'm still also new to properly photographing these pieces, so every model photo I post won't look exactly as it does on the table. But I try to keep it as close as possible. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Toxic Pits

I felt ambitious today and painted three pools of toxic waste, attempting to add some hint of motion by using texture paint to create froth as the pipe discharges waste into the pool. At right, I used the same texture paint in an attempt to make it look as if one of the bubbles had just popped, spewing gross ichor. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game, Part I: Background

It was perhaps the smartest dumb show on television at the time: Sherwood Schwartz' Gilligan's Island, a tale of seven castaways shipwrecked on an uncharted isle somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Though the show has long been critically panned, I've been fascinated by Gilligan's Island since watching its reruns in the 1970s and 1980s. There was something strangely compelling about the off-kilter mixture of location shooting versus scenes obviously shot on some studio backlot; the show's many bizarre dream sequences; the oddball assortment of visitors to the island from lost Japanese veterans to surfers to pop musicians, gangsters, cannibals, and mad scientists; the Professor's absurd inventions; the fact that some characters had exactly one set of clothes, while the others seemed to have access to full wardrobes; the treasures that sometimes washed ashore, from film equipment to land mines to rocket ships and missiles; the unspoken sexual tension among Gilligan, Mary Ann, Ginger, and the Professor, in various combinations; and, naturally, Gilligan's unfailing ability to mess up any rescue attempt at the eleventh hour.

Over the course of three seasons, 98 episodes, and three reunion TV movies, the show developed a strangely rich mythology, one that I feel would be ripe for roleplaying possibilities.

Here are some rough notes on how Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game might open:


Escape from Gilligan's Island: The Roleplaying Game is a roleplaying adventure setting meant for three to seven players, plus a gamemaster. Set in the world of Gilligan's Island during the time of the original series (1964-1967), players are shipwrecked on the title island and must find a way to deal with the island's hazards and obstacles, including the original seven inhabitants, while devising a means of escaping the island and returning to civilization. 


Gilligan's Island forms a rough oval shape with a set of pincer-like peninsulas on its southern coast framing a shallow lagoon. Even though the Castaways have circumnavigated the island and estimate that it's only a few dozen acres in size, the island is rich in geographic variety and biodiversity. 

Geographic Features

Beach: Situated along the island's western coastline, the Beach features beautiful white sand sheltered by a long line of coconut palms. This is the site of the shipwreck of the S.S. Minnow, which was subsequently completely destroyed during an effort to repair the ship, but, for reasons unknown, was later reconstructed to its post-shipwreck, pre-destruction state. 

Lagoon: The southwest side of the island features a shallow lagoon surrounded by jungle foliage and a small beach. 

Volcano: Located on the center-north side of the island, the imposing volcano is active and occasionally erupts. 

Foothills: Foothills divide the island roughly in half, starting at the base of the Volcano all the way to the south side of the island. 

Eastern Jungle: East of the Foothills, thick Jungle dominates most of the island's eastern half. 

Quicksand: A large Quicksand bog can be found on the island's southeast corner. 

Gold Mine: The island's Gold Mine is located in the Foothills, just north of the southern shore. 

Black Morning Spider Den: Castaways are advised to avoid this spot on the northeastern corner of the island. 

Western Jungle: Smaller than the Eastern Jungle, the Western Jungle is bordered by the Beach on to the west, the Lagoon to the south, the Foothills to the east, and extend to the northern shore. The Western Jungle is home to the original Castaway Huts, their Common Area, and the Supply Hut. 


Rich in flora and fauna, the island is home to a variety of species, including but not limited to: 

Coconut palms
Banana bushes
Pineapple shrubs
Many species of tropical trees and shrubs, many with edible fruit and flowers
Several primates, including at least one chimp, one gorilla, and one orangutang
At least one Black Morning Spider, six feet long and six hundred pounds
Several exotic plants found nowhere else in nature, including one that produces seeds that give the power of mind-reading when ingested

Infrastructure and Quality of Life Aids

In their years on the island the original Castaways have constructed several buildings and associated infrastructure. 

Huts: The Castaways constructed several Huts from leaves, grasses, and bamboo to serve as living quarters. The Howells live in one hut; Ginger and Mary Ann in another; the Skipper and Gilligan in a third; and the Professor lives in a Hut of his own. The Castaways also built a large Supply Hut, located a short distance north of the living quarters area. 

Common Area: Located in close proximity to the Huts, the Common Area features a long table and bench seating for communal meals. 

Washing Machine: A pedal-powered Washing Machine keeps the Castaways' clothing clean. 

Radio: One of the few pieces of equipment that survived the shipwreck, the Radio provides news and entertainment. 

Bamboo Island Taxi: A pedal-powered car used to transport Castaways around the island.

Record Player: The Professor used island materials to restore the Minnow's smashed record player. 

Observation Tower: The Castaways built a tall Observation Tower on the Beach. 

Putting Green: The Castaways landscaped a putting green to the west of the Lagoon. 

Monday, July 06, 2020

Unpainted Computer Station

Apologies for the terrible photo, I'm not sure what happened there. In any event, here we have three unpainted 28mm-scale retro computer props: a databank with those spinny reels, some kind of central workstation with three keyboards, and another larger workstation. Placed side-by-side like this, and you have a great little bit of scenery for a secret government agency, factory floor, or villain lair. 

These were shipped flat, so they required assembly, and none of them came with instructions! Figuring out how to put together the databank was pretty easy, and the workstation at far left was only slightly more challenging. But the central, three-part console really could have used instructions. It took a lot of time and patience and experimentation, but I figured it out. 

I'm not sure what to do about painting, however. These are made of wood, so I'm assuming they'll need to be primed, but if I prime them, I'll lose cool details like the keyboard keys and the readouts and dials. Maybe I need to prime with a brush rather than spray, and prime only the bits without detail? 

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Careful How Much You Drink from The Fountainhead

In The Fountainhead (King Vidor, 1949), the film based on Ayn Rand's oddball novel, Vidor, through some incredible feat of eldritch magic, somehow transforms Rand's diabolical ideals into a truly remarkable, if surreal and uncanny, film. 

The story's hero, Howard Roark (Gary Cooper), is an architect with uncompromising vision, so the production design naturally showcases a wide range of (to my untrained eye) Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired designs for skyscrapers, factories, office buildings, houses, and farms. Even now, the buildings featured in the film feel retro-futuristic in the Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) mold, and a number of the interiors are just as impressive, including an expansive office with a luxurious chair set before an array of news stories under glass, like a proto-media wall. 

Cinematography and editing are also on-point, particularly the memorable scene in which Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal) first lays eyes on Roark, who at the time is using a drill to break up rock in a quarry (a job he's taken because no clients will accept his nonconformist designs). Francon is utterly captivated with Roark at first sight, captivated by the beefy architect's bulging, sweaty muscles and his unflappable self-confidence (one might say arrogance). Naturally, since this is a meet-cute moment, Francon is haughty in her seeming dismissal of Roark, but seconds later her true reaction is revealed in a hilarious montage in which she replays Roark's handsome image drilling into the rock. Francon herself carries around a riding crop. The sexual tension is not exactly subtle, and there's a reason their eventual mating is so controversial, perhaps in the novel more than the film.  

Throughout the film, characters fall into three camps: those who meet Rand's image of perfect Objectivist heroes (Roark, and, eventually, Francon), those who could rise to that level but fail through moral cowardice (Gail Wynand, played by Raymond Massey, who plays a newspaper publisher who at first opposes, then supports, and then betrays Roark), and the great unwashed masses, who are called out as too stupid to appreciate and kowtow to their Objectivist betters. Naturally all of the characters in the third group are complete strawmen in this film, ridiculous in their support for conformity and their inability to see the greatness of Roark's designs. Everyone else spends most of the movie justifying their own greatness through dialogue that's somehow hilarious and horrifying at the same time. 

In my view, to enjoy this film you have to imagine the reprehensible characters are as evil as Rand's worldview. I can't decide if the protagonists and supporting characters are aliens who've failed to infiltrate human society, demons intent on destroying it, or simply a collection of psychopaths admiring themselves for being so far above and beyond the proletariat. 

Without question, The Fountainhead is a work of precision and grace in service to grotesque ideals. This film might be cinema's greatest glimpse into the mind of a monster.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Farewell Old Friends

Today I gathered up dozens of old books and movies, some of which I've had for decades, and took them to Goodwill. It was hard, because I'm sentimental about such things, but I don't have infinite space, and I'm forced to admit to myself that there are many books I'll never read again, many movies I'll never see again; and so the time has come to pass those pleasure on to others. 

This reluctant culling will continue. But I take comfort in the many books I have yet to read, the many movies I have yet to see, still wrapped snugly around our walls. 

Friday, July 03, 2020

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Apotheosis Foul

Artemis Fowl (Kenneth Branagh, 2020) is utterly insufferable, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Smug and self-important and clueless in a way that is uniquely Disney, a cancer on art that seems to have corrupted even the great Kenneth Branagh (and composer Peter Doyle, for that matter).

The screenplay is insipid, utterly overflowing with hoary old cliches that are meant to make characters sound cool or dangerous or funny, but wind up as simply infuriating. The performances are annoyingly twee or so pretentious and , again, smug, that audiences are left with no one to root for or empathize with. Even the sound effects are annoying, and the usually-brilliant Peter Doyle's score is the stuff of bad 1970s Saturday morning cartoons.

Story beats are utterly predictable, including the death and almost immediate resurrection of a supporting character that was clearly supposed to fill the role of "badass audience favourite." He dies, there are tears shed, then literally seconds later a force field lifts so a faerie can use her magic and boom, he's alive again. Seriously, it's worse than the Chewbacca fake-out in The Rise of Skywalker, and that was bad enough.

The incompetence on display here is truly remarkable. Or perhaps not incompetence, but a complete lack of desire to reach beyond mediocrity in any aspect of this production.

Foul indeed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The World of Null-Canada-Eh

Thanks to the rain and COVID-19, Sylvia and I did absolutely nothing for Canada Day. It was wholly unremarkable. Poor effort on our part, but some days you just don't have the energy to be creative...