Thursday, November 29, 2007

Arrr... this be the Pieces of Eight Meme

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, White Chalk

Stolen from Diddums by that thievin' scallywag Geosomin and stolen by me, a thievin' Skallagrimsson! Arrr and avast!

Pieces of Eight Meme

8 Things I Am Passionate About

1. Music
2. History
3. Art
4. Ending PC madness and bullshit before it destroys us all.
5. The end of consumerism
6. The Environment.
7. Uisge-beatha (whisky)
8. And, as odd as it saying this and to many people reading this, my Faith. I dislike much about it and many of those who practice it, but I believe it to be true and correct and believe the world is becoming a darker place for turning from it so sharply.

8 Things I Say Often

1. Bloody Hell...
2. I'm affraid I can't let you do that.
3. There's nothing I can do for you, you need to see a doctor/ You want a band-aid for that?
4. Regular light blend, please.
5. So anyways...
6. Oh boy...
7. That reminds me of when I was/a friend of mine/these friends of mine/ a time when, etc.
8. Oh yeah?/ Oh really?

8 Books I’ve Read Recently

1. Virtual Light, William Gibson
2. Idoru, William Gibson
3. Exit Music, Ian Rankin
4. Naming of the Dead, Ian Rankin
5. The Harry Potter Series
6. Gunpowder
7. A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn (still reading it)
8. A History of Britain

8 Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over

1. White Chalk/The Devil, PJ Harvey (Same album and I am currently flipping back and forth between the two)
2. Making Time, The Creation
3. Only a Northern Song, The Beatles
4. Slvg Dvb, The Orb
5. Secret Journey, The Police
6. Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath
7. Motorcycle, Daniel Amos
8. Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones


CD in Play: WAR, The World Is a Ghetto

Weight Loss for the Already Thin?

I saw an advert on television for a weight loss product, you know those miracle products where they show how fat the person was before they took the product compared to where they are now? I don't recall the name, but I do recall that the before pic looked quite fine. The woman had curves, but was by no means fat. The woman presenting the product was looking a bit... I dunno, drug thin? She was clean and presentable, but thin in a way I would associate with certain women who just started making cocaine a habit. She had shapely hips before but was looking kind of boyish in that area now.
They gave her trendy work out clothes and a new, updated hair style. I have to wonder, though, did she really think she needed to lose weight (what little she had) in order to get a make over? Wouldn't she have looked just fine as she was if she had decided to get the make over then? Maybe she would have looked better? She'd would certainly have looked healthier. Two steps forward three steps back and over the the side I suppose.

Is it Friday Yet?

It will be by the time you read this, but man I have been ready to end this week at anytime. Not that it has been particularly brutal, but I just really need my days off right now. (And I took Monday off) All day today and yesterday I had to remind myself that it wasn't Friday yet. that I would have to get up in the morning to come back. I think I might just meet up with an old friend from Sam the Record Man and have a pint and a wee dram `o the uisge-beatha.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let Us Pause for a Moment...

...and remember our sister Geosomin, who is freezing her tukas off in Saskatoon. She is walking the picket lines in the snow and -18°C temperature. Geosomin, we salute you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Televised Science Fiction

CD in Play: Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Just watched the 2005 remake of The Quatermass Experiment, starring Jason Flemyng and David Tennant. Another example of how good writing and solid acting can overcome small budgets which would limit things like make up and special effects, making it a worthwhile contrast with how a show like Battlestar Galactica is done. My friend Gavin is my window into the world of British Sci-Fi, having introduced me to both Doctor Who and Quatermass.
The 2005 remake was shot live for broadcast, something the BBC hadn't done in around 40 years. It was an impressive feat given all the locations they appeared to have had. I do realise that they would have to have been very close to the sets in the studio, but it is impressive none the less. The acting was quite solid and mistakes were minimal. I would love to see them do another Quatermass project with Flemyng in the titular role.
British Sci-Fi is often discarded by many of us here in North America, because of the cheap special effects and rubber mask aliens. We're prepared to overlook it when it comes to shows like the original Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, but the Brits always seem to come off looking cheap in a way that is inexcusable for most. We can overlook the bad effects when it come to comedies like Red Dwarf, but not if it is asking us to take it seriously. Of course, that attitude is hardly universal but most often it is the ones who have been more comfortably in touch with their inner nerd who can get beyond the cheap effects, rubber masks and bad costumes (See the Doctor Who, "Robots of Death" serial) to focus in on the writing.
Trent (who had known Betty from a `zine called Phoenix) had been into what many of the rest of us considered to be the geekier end of the Sci-Fi spectrum. I remember trying to watch Blake's 7 with him but just could make it through. Gavin had been trying for years to get me into his sort of sci-fi, but I was still fairly distant with that nerd within as were friends of mine like Elijah - who still recoils from his inner nerd when it gets too close. It took Farscape to get me over that hump, and even that is a big budget special effects bonanza that gets ridiculed by some for not being up to snuff with the major American franchises.
What Farscape had was writing and good characters, from there Doctor Who was easy. Once Gavin had shown me the first few serial of William Hartnell's Doctor and Jon Pertwee's turn in "The Green Death", it was easy to get interested in seeing the 1967 version Quatermass and the Pit. And this brings me back to what I had intended to say long ago in relation to 2005's Quatermass production: effects are just dressing, good stories are well written and have and engaging characters.
I was always a bit saddened by the fact that Canadians would never have the budget to produce their own science fiction shows since we just don't have the money in our system. But a show like The Quatermass Experiment demonstrates just who wrong that sort of thinking is - we can make good science fiction television. (and The Lexx was not good science fiction television no matter how you slice it) It doesn't have to be shot live, it just needs a solid concept, good scripts, and engaging characters. I would also not worry about targeting the American market. Put out a worthwhile project and it will get picked up eventually in some capacity.


His Name Is Alive, "Are We Still Married"
Geosomin posted a link to a video on her blog. The video itself is very interesting to watch, though the music is a bit lacklustre. I first saw this video as a part of the Brothers Quay Collection. It still holds my interest today. I'm not a huge fan of HNIA, but I do like how his music works with the video and vice versa.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


HIs Name Is Alive, "Can't Go Wrong Without You". Another Brothers Quay video.

Verily, Forsooth, Etc. Etc. Ad Infinitum

CD in Play: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum

BSG: Razor

BSG has had the tendency to disappoint since the conclusion of the Pegasus storyline in Season 2. Not that this was necessarily a fault of the writers of the shows producers - Sci-Fi had been leaning on them for more stand alone episodes. The show had low Nielson ratings and, I gather, that the network was blaming that on shows story arc. Season 3 demonstrated that BSG does even worse when it strays from the arc, and it sort of killed my intense interest in the show. I wasn't at all sure what to expect from Razor, but found myself engrossed in the show the way I had been prior to the thirteenth episode of Season 2.
I won't spoil it for anyone, but I would recommend it to anyone who kind of hit the wall with the show last season. There are a couple of nods to the original series in this show as well. Solid writing, good casting and if you are a Farscape fan - Scorpius' nurse from the Season 3 episode "The Incubator" has a major role as Lt./Major Kendra Shaw. Yeah, yeah... I am a sucker for a pretty face.

Speaking of Good Writing...

I picked up Book 6 of Ex Machina last weekend. Created by Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris, the series continues to impress me and is also something I wou;d recommemd to anyone who wants a truly unique look at tthe notion of superheros. The main Character is Mitchell Hundred who gains the power to hear, speak to and control machinery after an accident under the Brooklyn Bridge. He tries to serve New York as a Superhero/vigillante called The Great Machine, but quits after a year of so to run for mayor of New York City. He wins but that is when the story becomes most interesting. The only thing that frustrates me is that I have to wait so long for the books to come out.
Vaughn was also doing Y: The Last Man wit Pia Guerra. I had started reading it and told others to check it out- a good thing too since I have not been able to keep up with the books on my own. Elijah loaned me his copies to read, along with 30 Days of Night: Dark Days and Eben and Stella. For what it is worth, I think Steve Niles' script for the film is much better than the actual comic series he created. The vampires in the film are much more visceral, beastial and (as Elijah put it) tribal.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tag. I Am It. Apparently...

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, White Chalk

So Thoth tagged me in his blog, to post seven weird facts about myself. I'll see what I can come up with, but I usually depend on my friends to tell me what is weird about me since much of what I do seems normal from my perspective.

1. I have the tendency to count or number things in reverse. E.g.: Someone asks me how many people are in a room and I might reply "Between 20 and 17". Or maybe they ask me how many times a month I make it out to the Irish Heather and I might reply "3 to 2, depending on the month." It isn't a constant because I have been trying to change that, but it still happens.

2. I am so anti-smoking I can't even touch a cigarette pack (empty or otherwise) without feeling a need to wash my hands.

3. Beer, wine and cider seem to hit me faster than hard alcohol.

4. I have loved the flavour of tonic water since I was four years old.

5. I am a mild hypochondriac.

6. No woman apart from my Mother and Grandmother has ever told me she loves me. But that really comes to me in the end.

7. I periodically dream in other languages - French, Old Norse, Japanese, Finnish - but cannot speak any of those languages. (though my French is the strongest of all of them) I remembered what I had said in French in one dream and it was surprisingly advanced. If I could only unlock that part of my mind and figure out how I do it. I do not, by the way, believe in reincarnation.

So now I am suppossed to tag seven people...

1. Geosomin, even though she has been tagged by Thoth already
2. Peter Chattaway. He'll never do it on his blog so he can feel free to use my comments section
3. Glen McKay. Same as Peter.
4. Trent Ernst. Same.
5. Betty Regan.
6. Grace Chin. Same as Peter.
7. Any other blogger who feels like it or some of my overseas readers. I am now over the 15000 mark, so someone has to have something to say about anything.

Beowulf, Blank Bunnies and Something else that begins with a "B". (like maybe honey)

CD in Play: Funkadelic, Music For Your Mother - Funkadelic 45's

I Am, Like, Soooo Beowulf (And there are like... spoilers, you know)

So I saw the new digitally animated 3-D film, Beowulf, on Wednesday with Mr. Chuckaway. Where do I start? I liked it and didn't like it. I though Crispin Glover did a good job voicing Grendel and the animators got Grendel to look quite similar to the way I pictured him to look, though slightly less hulking. His lines were all in Old English, making what he says both familiar and unfamiliar in the same instance - a paradox Mr. Glover would enjoy I am sure.
Brendan Gleeson as Wiglaf, whose role in the film is quite a bit different than the one in the epic poem, really stands out as the most interesting character both in terms of delivery and presentation. Wiglaf is the most realistic looking character in the film, in fact there are momments when he seems extremely human, something that cannot be said for the other characters. His delivery is the most natural, along with Glover's, and the least intrusive of the characters. Gleeson is a great actor and truly deserves the recognition he is due.
Actually, much of what I like about the film has to do with Gleeson and Glover. Beowulf and the other Geats (an area that is now the southern regoins of Sweden close to Denmark) are dressed remarkably similar to the way the Spartans would have been dressed. Their armor is not at all Northern European and the line "I - am - Beowulf!" strikes me as being rather similar in tone and delivery to Gerard Butler's line in 300: "We - are - Sparta!" And it is that sort of taking liberties with history that I despise.
The year the action takes palce is stated to be 507, yet it looks remarkably similar Scandinavian life in the late 8th century. The Danes and Geats talk about Iceland and Vinland, but Iceland was discovered by the Norsemen sometime around the middle of the 9th century. (It was settled by 874 AD) Vinland (wherever Vinland may exaclty have been) was discovered by Leif Eiriksson around the year 1000. The Viking Age is said to have begun in 789 with the destruction of Lindisfarne Abbey off the coast of England, though records show much earlier raids. However it is after Lindisfarne that we see the expansion of the Viking world, and they were certainly not a factor in the world circa 507.
Given that the mode of dress, armor, weapons ships, knowledge of the world is so significantly advanced from the world of the 6th century Scandinavians: why not just have set the film in the 9th century? Why saddle the film with such inaccuracies? I realise that most of the audience will not pick up on this, it is just a movie - but people do have an amazing capacity for taking in and taking away all sorts of inaccuracies from films and other entertainments and perpetuating them.
Ray Winstone, whom I like as an actor, did not do a convincing voice-over as Beowulf. He didn't sell the character. Winstone hadn't read the epic poem, which he consedered a good thing as it would allow him to approach the character on his own terms. Didn't work. And Angelina Jolie's voice sounds like and attempt to immitate either Sara Berner's Mama Buzzard from Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid or June Foray's Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle. As a re-write and updating of the story Grendel's mother, obviously, can't be a horrific, vengeful monster - she has to be a shapely seductress who looks a lot like Ms. Jolie herself. Hmmm?
Anyhow, I just didn't care for the film.

All Qee'd Up (This'd be the Blank Bunny portion)

I have been wracking my brains for a Christmas present for Gavin and Maria's youngest daughter. I stayed with them a while ago and ended up taking her room, so I wanted to make it something interesting. I came across Qee. (Official site is I'd seen these before as I read Juxtapoz from time to time and then some of the artist I have met online customise these things.
I was at Elfsar and found these small 3.5" ones, Baby Qee, for sale with either angel wings or a devil tail. They are blank and are meant to be customized by the individual. Seems perfect for this little girl of 10, who is very creative and actually has some similar toys in shape and appearance. (just not able to customize them) What to get her? I have some pics of what people do with these things below.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter of Discontent

CD in Play: Neurosis, Times of Grace

It is quite amazing to me how many people seem to be having tough times this Autumn. As we head towards winter I have to wonder if it is going to get better at any point? I have my many dramas in play: a neurotic, unstable landlady - a campaign at work by one set of students to get rid of me because I actually do my job well - one vague complaint against me because I'm not a mollycoddling, sunshine and lollipops kind of guy apparently hurt someone's feeling because I politely but firmly had asked that person if they were authorised to use the computer they were on - one outright false complaint against me - not to mention the continued frustration and foiling of my dreams and aspirations because of my need for a better paying job. At least management is standing behind me on this. My Dad is also going through some trying times at work and my Mum has some long standing health concerns standing in her way.
Then there are friends and the friends of friends going through their own tough times. My friend Maria (wife of the occasionally mentioned Gavin) tells me that many people she knows are going through tough times financially, emotionally and health-wise. Geosomin is currently on strike out at the University of Saskatchewan and now has the Ratbag Opportunistic Free Enterprise Slimeball Party in power. (aka The Saskatchewan Party - and if you voted for them you should have learned from Ontario, Alberta and BC's examples) Pete's wife isn't in dire straits, but she has to watch herself through this pregnancy. Elijah and Miriam have had some infant troubles as their son was born with some complications that are slowly working themselves out.
However, one thing that really hit me was seeing one friend's little brother of the street tonight. I have known him a long time and he has mental health issues and a problem with crystal meth. It looked as though he might have made it past the addiction, but I saw him today and that is not the case. He was coming out of a used CD place. I recognised him instantly, despite the fact that he was incredibly emaciated and out of it. Slack-jawed with unfocused eyes and red flushed narrow face, I saw him limp and trudge down the streets on stick legs. He didn't see me and maybe that was a good thing, I am not sure what would say to him or him to me. I called my friend but got his mother, staying at his place for a while. I called my friend and feel bad for having to bare such bad news. He was aware of the problem, but has been avoiding seeing him given his current circumstances. Something I understand. I often wonder if this is sort of what songwriters Bobby Scott, Bob Russell and The Hollies had in mind with the song "He ain't heavy, he's my brother"?
Yes, there is something about the end of this year. 2007 started off so well, but now I cannot wait to see the back of it. I imagine there many others who feel the same.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Love You. I Hate You... Oh Just Leave Me Alone!

CD in Play: Various, Dub Chill Out.

The title has nothing to do with this post. Really. Honestwy and Twuwy. No, seriously.

The Lower Mainland (and the islands, but I don't live there) was hit by a wind storm that satarted Sunday evening and died out sometime the next afternoon. The power was on when I got home so I wasn't worried. I love trees, really I do, but one fell on the lines in my area and we were out of power at 9:45pm. I was watching a particularly gripping episode of Intelligence on CBC when it happened. Now I have no clue how the episode ended - and no one I know watches the show. (and if you are thinking "He should have taped it" give yourself a smack from me)
Anyhow, my suite has a sump pump as there is a drainage problem. The pump was set up last year to activate when the power was out. First stage sensor just activated the pump with no alarm. If the first sensor didn't activate the second senor, higher up, gave and audible alarm to let yo know there is a problem. Last night the alarm was going off when the water hit the first sensor, about every 10 minutes. My landlady was going to babysit the sump pump and I was going to sleep for my shift in the morning. (I get up at around 5:45am each morning)
About twenty minutes later my landlady knocks on my door to let me know she is going to drive out to see what is going on and how for the outage goes. She adds that she'll pay for any time I miss from work and is out the door. I didn't register that at first and keep an eye on the pump. After twenty minutes I go and talk to the cop redirecting traffic and get the scoop from him - this could take a while to fix. I call my landlady and realise she was intent on sticking me with the sump pump all night while she went someplace to get cosy and relax. I loathe this woman and cannot wait to find another place to live - which has been a bit of a hassle in and of itself. She hasn't worked now for about eight years and seems to have forgotten that people depend on you to do your job - and that includes being there. The guy I relieve in the morning is a really good person and I would hate to have stuck him at work for an extra six to eight hours. Not to mention, I have been getting great evaluations and my ability to show up consistantly on time plays no small role in that.
I need a new job. a new place: a new lease on life. Please?

11.14.07 Addendum

I should add that after last year's storm, she was determined to have the drainage fixed in her yard and make the sump pump redundant. This didn't happen. According to my landlady, the contracts were refusing to work in her yard - a line I didn't buy. She's a terrible liar and has a number of tells, like a twitching, shifting eyes and this mouth thing she does. Her voice also develops a quavering qualitiy.
According to my neighbours, she is too cheap and can't find a contractor to meet her price. This has been going on for years. She has temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way - like stomping around and moving furniture at 5am, which she did this morning.
Sadly, my hunt for another place has yielded little better. Many people do not want tenants who cook.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Darjeeling's Limited Appeal?

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, White Chalk

Finally got around to seeing The Darjeeling Limited yesterday with my friend and fellow Wes Anderson aficionado, Gavin. I saw Anderson's Rushmore with a friend named Diana when it came out. I became a huge fan at that point and my admiration for Anderson's work has only been cemented with each passing film. That admiration is not universal, however, and it seems many critics are calling for Anderson to adapt or change his style and vision. (If you click on the Wikipedia link above, read the section on "critical reception".)
Suffice it to say for the momment, I like the film and found it to be a rather different experience from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. Darjeeling is melancholic and provides few laughs, but I really got into the characters played by Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson - three estranged brothers trying to come to grips with one another and their mother a year after the death of their father. It is a film that bears another viewing because I am more than certain I did not take it all in.
Prior to seeing the film with Gavin in Coquitlam, I had been hunting online for the short film, Hotel Chevalier, which acts as a sort of non-specific prologue for The Darjeeling Limited. No joy, but I was unaware that it was screened prior to The Darjeeling Limited. Both films make for a viewing experience most likely experienced by people old enough for the adult cinema that people my parents age (both presently 64) would have experienced in the late 1960's and early 1970's. By adult I am not referring to porn, so minds out of the gutter, (Trent) I am referring to adult minded films made for grown-ups capable of intelligent discussion. Anderson's work has a very European/International sensibility that has been growing stronger with each passing film. However, unlike many International auteurs, Anderson has an uncannily child-like approach to dealing with adult themed films that allow the viewer greater access into the meaning and depth of his work. But then perhaps that is part of the problem with The Darjeeling's reception, perhaps it is too adult a film for this day and age?
Pete Chattaway and I have talked about this before and we both agree that there is a dearth of mature film making out there at this time. Perhaps this is tied to my generation's and subsequent generation's apparent inability to completely grow up? Perhaps this is yet another example of the "dumbing down" of North America - the closing of the North American mind? The love of spectacle and the need for distraction? Television trumps books? Whatever the reason, it has lead to a rather stagnant and decidedly immature cinema.
Like Wes Anderson's films or hate them, his body of work should get you talking about it. There are reasons to like or not to like Anderson's film, and perhaps that is just one great gift he gives to the viewer? Anderson's work provides a platform for discussion.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Comedian - a movie trailer for Jerry Seinfeld w/ Hal Douglas

Pete Chattaway showed this to me a long time ago and it still makes me laugh. I figure Hal Douglas must have retired after doing this because I don't recall hearing him do another trailer. He must have had a good time poking fun at all those horrible cliches he has to spin over the years.

Friday, November 09, 2007

This is the end?

CD in Play: The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet

I finished Exit Music today, what is presumed to be the final novel in Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. I started reading the Rebus series, seventeen books in all, (plus a few short stories)around this time last year. The series is often part of a genre referred to as "Tartan Noir" (click for the Wikipedia entry) and has left a bit of an imprint on my reading habits. I find myself wanting to read more - but there is no more to be had.
I am also at a loss as to whom the good and worthwhile contemporary crime writers are. Admittedly, I avoided the genre because of all the crap out there for sale - lurid and sensationalist and hardly worthy of the term literature. Rankin's Rebus series is good literature and it gets better as you go along. The worst book in the series, in my opinion, is Tooth and Nail. The book was targeting a film or a series deal and feels like it. Still readable, but the series improves drastically with Strip Jack and then again with The Black Book. Mortal Causes, Let It Bleed, Black and Blue (yes, Rankin loves his Rolling Stones) and The Hanging Garden are my favourite in the series with Exit Music joining their ranks.
Currently I am about to re-read Virtual Light by William Gibson. It was published in 1992 or 1993 and is set in 2005. I bought the book in November 1997. I may finally check out some classic crime writers like Dashiell Hammett (The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep and other Philip Marlowe novels) but we shall see. I am also curious about Walter Mosley's work, which includes Devil in a Blue Dress - which became a film of the same name that I quite liked and that you may have seen.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fit for a Baby?

CD in Play: Soundtrack, The Royal Tenenbaums

So I picked up a little something for Elijah and Miriam's baby, Daniel. It has some small strings attached to it, so there have been some concerns expressed that it may not be fit for a new born. We'll see what the parents think when I take it over in about an hour. Not interested in getting normal things for kids - everybody does that. It is called Spider-BOOM. The eyes on the one I bought are a bit different. May Daniel never suffer from arachnaphobia the way I have.