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Monday, December 31, 2007

183

I've been blogging every day for a half year now. I'm asked from time to time why I am doing it. I usually say that the blog keeps me honest, that I have to answer to myself and my readers at the end of the day, to say what I am doing with my life. This doesn't always make me feel any better and in fact has been trouble lately as I have more and more things to do that I can't report on my blog due to certain promises. Therefore I am left talking about baking and watching movies, which I do admit are my favorite things to do most days. The other reason I blog is to create an ongoing journal for myself. I haven't written a journal in years. I carry note books but do not write most stuff down. The blog gives me a typed record of many things that I might want to look up later. For example, when I am asked to fulfill my promise to put something together for the Arthur Conan Doyle conference next year, I will be able to go into these notes and find the references I made to Sherlock Holmes. Tonight Margaret and I watched the first ten minutes of "The Speckled Band", an old one with Raymond Massey as Holmes. Watson was bald. It was made in the early 30s and set contemporary. The Baker Street house was a business for Holmes and he had the latest technology and a large secretarial staff using Dictaphones and transcribing all conversations and keeping a constantly updated filing system, almost a data base. Now I will remember.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

182

While William and I were watching "Return of the Jedi" this morning, a lady bug landed on my neck. We put it on one of the plants. It's the first one I've seen in two months, it is -20 outside.

This evening I watched "Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace" with Christopher Lee as Holmes, directed by Hammer Film's Terrance Fisher in 1962 as a weird German/French/English co-production. It was a bad dvd with scratches and faded blacks. The dubbing was so peculiar I often felt I was watching a Guy Maddin film. Flashbacks were even shot with a canted angle! I couldn't quite put my finger on what year it was taking place, they had cars that sometimes looked 1950 but often looked 1230s. The costuming in the pubs was 50s/60s, but Watson looked 1890s. The musical score was uneven with occasional ultra-modern rhythm moments akin to those on the Maya Deren experimental films. I liked Lee as Holmes, he was less aloof and more human, even angry (note: 1962 Britain).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

181

I think I spent the whole day in the house. Margaret goes a bit crazy when she does that, which she did on boxing day. By the evening she was cracking windows open to get fresh (-30 degree) air, but I don't mind much. William and I finished watching "The Batman" season 4 this morning and then did some Lego time. This evening we were trying to wind down after some active running around the house and I wanted him to read a bit of a book. He decided he didn't want to and actually said "I'm out of here" as he left the room. He then surfed the net for a while (yes, he is six). Actually, he just carefully types in the site listed on his Lego package: www.bionicle.com and he can watch the 2 minute videos and try to play the game. We sat face to face in the computer room and he tried to navigate that site while I continued to try to figure out the sound problem on my new Dell computer. There is a severe echo in the sound and I can't find the control to adjust it. I think it's the Vista operating system that is crippling my attempts to fix it. I can't seem to figure out the help site, as far as I can see you have to either phone them or on-line chat with them, rather than sending them an email. If a help person isn't available, you sit on your ass until one is, and I just don't have that patience right now (or perhaps I just cranky from not getting any fresh air today). Anyway, William ended up staying up really late; I finished reading some of his new Mythology book to him at 10:15 and turned off his light, but he called that he was scared of the dark (the batteries for his night lights are all dead and on the chargers) so Margaret let him turn his reading light on and he eventually picked up and I Can Read "Little Bear" book that he's never read before and began reading it out loud. We could listen to him from our bedroom, trying to be quiet so he could sleep. It was 11:30 before he finally did. I caught up on a bit of my own reading then finally watched another episode of Supranos (thanks Kevin). I'm watching the first half of the last season, it's been really good, probably the best stuff since season one.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

180

Transformers; I was never into these, too old I guess, but my sister gave William the movie and we watched it today. She was basically correct that it was cartoony in its violence and William wasn't really scared, but based upon how he will make a steady stream of observations during some sections, I could tell he had some uncertainty. I am glad that the scene where the boys mother talks ad nauseam about masturbation went over his head, I didn't want to have that conversation yet (and what conversation is that exactly?).

179

I went to Future Shop to get some great deals today, as they have their super colossal Boxing Day sale. I couldn't figure out what was on sale. I wanted to pick up the Angel series on dvd as the Future Shop website said they were on for $14/season, but there were no signs that this was true in the store, nor could a sales person be found. The line up was 20-30 people deep, even though it was 4pm and the sale had been on for 10 hours. I left and went to HMV to discover that Angel was on for $15/season, so I bought first to third. I also got Fantastic Four, Rise of the Silver Surfer, as I think William and I will enjoy watching it again sometime ($10). This evening we watched "The Thirteenth Warrior" (borrowed from Kevin, thankfully didn't pay a rental on). It had a few moments that were fun, but we just couldn't figure out where the cave dwelling cannibals kept the hundred horses they rode into their raids with but kept hidden from farmers and vikings living a couple miles away? Speaking of swords and warriors, we put together William's dwarven mine Lego this evening. It comes with four great looking dwarves, some with two headed axes that required assembly, plus a couple of goblins and a troll. He has spikes for ears, William liked that. And speaking of well forged metal, Margaret was just reading that Tom Sukanen, the guy who built the steel ship near Moose Jaw, had such malnutrition in his last years while trying to complete this project that his teeth went wrong so he pulled them out and made steel dentures for himself. This isn't in the Sisu film that Christine is making, the prosthetics would have been very expensive even if she'd wanted to go with this angle. I wonder what they looked like? The only pictures I've seen of him are from earlier in his life, and I think his mouth was always closed anyways.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

178

Last night was very exciting for William. He opened some presents after dinner at Margaret's parents' house, he got some Lego of course. I got a new wireless hub from Paul, so now all the computers can be on line! William was up past eleven, but that didn't stop him from getting up at 9 am on Christmas day. Santa, who mysteriously came while we ate last night, dropped off even more Lego: it's taken over the house! Actually, the Lego is under control. William got a number of sets, the one we worked on the most was a large Bionicle set which, to our surprise, has a dozen small figures in it rather than the larger scale figures that dominate the Lego/Bioncle line. It will integrate in with his regular Lego better.
We went tobogganing with Daniel and then went for supper at my parents' house. Food was great, nice evening. Socializing and eating rich food is taking it's tole, I'm in the mood for some tv.

Monday, December 24, 2007

177

Christmas eve, I bar-b-qued chicken for lunch, yum. Margaret wants me to turn off the computer for the night, so I'll post this early. Did some last minute shopping, most some cds, and we washed the car. We're off to Margaret's mom's for supper and presents (they always open on Christmas Eve). William is extremely excited, he keeps asking if it's night yet (unable to look out the window apparently).

176

I should have watched one of the vampire movies I borrowed from Kevin today. Instead, Margaret convince me to watch The Shadow (1994 with Alec Baldwin) tonight. What a stinker. To describe how horrible it was; the best performance was given by Jonathan Winters! (who, to give him credit, finally did a role where he wasn't trying to be funny, as he is no good at that). I couldn't keep my eyes off of the night-for-night lighting: the streets which were always wet, even though it never rained. It just reeked of the 90s. Next time, it will be The Vamp with Grace Jones. It couldn't be worse.....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

175

Today William and I took Margaret to work. I told William that I'd pick him up a new Terry's chocolate orange (dark) so we ended up at Superstore. There were barely any spots left, I parted farther than I ever have before. Line ups weren't bad though, everyone seemed evenly distributed (didn't go into toys). We watched "Empire Strikes Back" after that, William wasn't scared. He talked through much of it. The Yeti type creature on Hoth seemed like the abominable snow man so that didn't bother him (he thought it was like a Lego monster with arms that come off). He questioned why they would want to carbon freeze Luke to take him to the emperor, and I admit I don't have a good answer for that except it was a device to have Vader oversee Han being frozen. Otherwise it is quite ill conceived.
I baked mini-cheesecakes (double batch, four variations of flavours) and ginger snaps, both for the second time for the season, and have declared my baking to be complete.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

174

Yesterday I managed to make my nanaimo bars, they worked quite well as I didn't put as thick a chocolate coating on top as last year and I cut them while that chocolate was still warm. Success.
Yesterday I also ordered "Song of the South" on dvd. This isn't coming from Disney or any reputable source, even though it is a Disney film. I have an entire chapter on it in a really good book on Hollywood animation called Serious Business: The Art and Commerce of Animation in America from Betty Boop to “Toy Story”, a 1997 book by Sefan Kanfer. It's a really boring title for a really interesting book, it chronicles what is happening in each of the main animation company one decade at a time with the context of what was happening in the market. The chapter on "Song of the South" talks about how everyone told Walt Disney that producing it would bring trouble, but he kept ignoring them. Uncle Remus was no longer a popular icon by the 1950s, and he didn't become more popular as Disney, against everyone advice again, continued to release it every few years, promising never to do it again. The last time they released it was about 1985 on vhs, so my hopes for a good copy is thin, but something is better than nothing.
Today was William's last day of school. It'll be tv and hanging out for two weeks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

173

This morning I was able to look a couple of scenes in progress from Chrystene Ells' "Sisu" production. It's looking quite good. Of course, it's hard to tell with just a couple of scenes, a feature needs an overall rhythm and tone that takes quite a while to get right. Hopefully there will be an overall rough cut in a month or so and then she'll have a better idea where she stands.
Got William "new" skates today, traded in last years so it was a good deal. He's got a skating date at Teagan's tomorrow after school, which is of course going to end early as its the last day before the Christmas holiday. This evening William and Paul worked on modifying his Lego Batcave into a Lego Star Wars set, with amazing success! See the attached photo of the station where Vader fights Luke and Chewbacca is at the controls. R2D2 and a stormtrooper and a rebel fighter are standing by beside the fight. William doesn't own any actual Star Wars Lego (yes, they make a lot of it) so I was extra surprised. I took part, building a Lego George Lucas, but William didn't want to have filmmakers, just real Star Wars, so he took George's head off.

172

I was really pumped to get some solid darkroom time today, to progress on my "Grain" project for which I've shot a couple of thousand feet of film but is all sitting waiting to be developed. However, upon studying my chemicals this morning I found that I was missing one part of the colour development, so I decided to substitute the paper bleach/fix for the c41 colour film fix. However, the two tests I ran gave me the same results, the print stock I shoot was underdeveloped and very red, and the colour reversal stock is highly over-developed, nearly black. This is the result from clips of film clothes-pinned together and running through the same chemicals at the same time. Quite disconcerting. So I moved on to testing coffee development. I mixed up a batch (10x the volume from the recipe) and put it in my bucket. My first tests were fine, so I went on to add a roll. However, it turned out very thin (light). A second attempt to do the roll as reversal was also a wash, although I created a minute of luscious brown I don't think I could have made any other way. All told, that was 6 hours and the loss of 2 rolls of film. Oh well, at least I did get into the darkroom, it felt pretty good. I talked with Joe for a while I he just found out that Art 222 will not be offered next term, which means that the darkroom will not be used for any specific courses, and thus I can get a lot more work done without having to kill myself with it over the holidays next week. I have a Bolex signed out so I'll work on some snow footage.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

171

William's Christmas pageant was today, we went to the dress rehearsal this afternoon and then to the real show in the evening. It all went fine. I'd like to brag about him, but it really isn't possible to be the star of the show when you're in grade one. At least I can say that I could see his mouth moving, which is more than I can say for some of his cousins in the past. He enjoyed it. He wore a toque for the rehearsal but not for the main show, no explanation. From where I was sitting, here is what he looked like:
I'm out of butter, I thought I still had some frozen, but I must have used it. Now I need to shop before I can bake.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

170

My parents dropped in today, mom wanted to give me some baking so I gave her some of mine back. Her brownies are still the best, although I'm not sure everyone would agree. I guess they are just a slightly dry chocolate cake with some walnuts in them and great chocolate icing, but not too sweet. Some people know that my capacity to consume sugar is exceedingly high, but I've come to realize as I've been baking that many of my favorite baked goods are the less sweet ones. These brownies are a good example; they probably have only 2/3 the sugar of something you'd buy in the store. Sometime this week I'm going to do a batch of Naniamo bars. These were a family favorite when I was a kid and were only eaten when my mom made some near Christmas. Then in the late 80s they started appearing in the stores, available by the square foot. However, and I hope some of you can back me up on this, they are so sweet they can trigger migraines. Not even I can eat two of them and not walk a bit crooked. Last year I got my mom's recipe and went to transcribe the differences into my cookie book and discovered that I couldn't just correct the published recipe, I had to re-write it. The two are so different that it's surprising the two squares even look alike. I did run into a problem with cutting them, I hope to fix that this year. Eating them did not offer problems. They are very good frozen, and best eaten when stolen from the freezer late at night. Uh, Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

169

I worked for a couple of hours on photographing finger puppets today, don't ask me why.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

168

I've mentioned the Lego toys (and movies) called Bionicles previously. They are some sort of robot warriors that can be modified almost as much as a regular piece of Lego. They made three movies, I don't know if they are making more. These movies give the characters a rich and HIGHLY complex back story, an entire world, philosophy, creation myth, etc. However, I've never been able to figure out what they really are. William and I watched the second movie this morning and during the extra features, one of the film producers describes them as "bio-mechanical", which is a new idea for William. In fact, I don't have a firm grasp on how to describe this idea. Since he was three, William has been conversant on the ideas and differences between robots, androids, and cyborgs. Bio-mechanical people are something else.
We got a tree today (required much moving of furniture - this never ends). I baked biscotti and tried Joanne's sugar cookie recipe, it's good and rolls out so shapes can be cut. There was a artist trading card session but we forgot and so Margaret went late. I've been working on a series of photo chemistry, but they are incomplete and not nearly as interesting to other people as they are to me. Watched Bourne Ultimatum with Paul and Margaret after baking was done.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

167

This morning I stopped by the Filmpool and finally started doing the volunteering I have been so remiss in these past few years, I helped clean up for the Christmas party. This afternoon I got a draft of my Splice article written (sitting at 3000 words now), and then we all went to the party. They auctioned off film cans with prizes in them. William really loved the idea of bidding on them so we bought two, the first one for $11 that contained $12 worth of theatre tickets plus some candy canes, and the last one with the grand prize for $43 with undisclosed contents (remind me to tell you about it after Christmas).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

166

I got a message from Derek McCulloch today. Back in the 1980s when I was reading comics (I still read comics, but I used to buy them regularly, not just borrow randomly selected graphic novels and collections from the library) Derek organized an APA, an amateur publication association, which used to be a somewhat common phenomenon. They may still exist but the internet has certainly put a crimp in them. How they worked was that a small membership (I think about 2 dozen people) living all over North America would write something every two months, make enough photocopies for each of the other members, and mail their copies to a central spot. The person receiving them would then collate them and mail the package to everyone so that everyone would receive everyone else's article. Everyone would also have to send money for postage. Sometimes it was very clever, although most of the time we were out to prove how smart a 18 year old REALLY is. One thing that came out of this was the union of Derek and paul Stockton and the formation of Strawberry Jam Comics. Derek is still writing comics, and I'm still typing aimless banter.

165

William likes to pretend he's sleepwalking. He gets out of bed, sticks his arms out in front of him, then walks around with his eyes closed. Last night I went into the bedroom while he was supposed to be in bed and he got up and went downstairs, opened the frig, and put the lemons on the table in some sort of act of rebellion.
This afternoon I went to the store and picked up two of the new Disney Treasuries DVD sets, Donald Duck Vol. 3 and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I've only seen clips of Oswald cartoons, never a whole one until today. Before supper, William and I watched two Donald Duck cartoons. The second one was about Donald sleepwalking as Daisy chases around trying to save him from danger. Margaret says we are going to pay for the cartoons we show him.
This evening our good friend Gerda Osteneck had an opening and party for a series of collages she's been working on for the past few months. They are up at the Art Gallery of Regina at the Balkwill Centre, near our house. Margaret brought some of my Christmas baking, the truffles went over well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

164

I returned to the eye doctor yesterday and found out that my eye has healed and I'm fine now.
William was at the Science Centre a few days ago and got to participate that large chrome ball that steals electrons from you and makes your hair stand up. Upon a few days contemplation last night he concluded that electrons are gravity. I missed our department Christmas lunch today due to a combination of scheduling conflicts and my persistent cold that is making me moody and depressed.
I started wearing my contacts again, or actually just my contact. I have hard contacts due to my Keratoconus and my left eye seems to be almost as strong without the lens as with it. With the lens in, the left eye has a lot of vignetting, which is generally more annoying that the loss of a bit of focus without it. I've taken to just putting in the right lens, which takes some getting used to since, as we know from optics, the refocusing of light will change the size of the image so I am seeing the world larger in one eye than the other. It takes about an hour for my brain to make sense of it, but of course it can. Brains are so cool.
I wrote the first 700 words or so of the Splice Magazine article on Jason Britski. For someone who doesn't like to talk about his films, he writes about them eloquently. He gave me notes and answers to some of my questions that made me feel like I should do an interview rather than a critique.

163

It was interdis crit day at the university. This was new in a way, the visual arts MFA students have been having these for years but only select interdis students, those with a foot in visual arts, have undergone them prior to now. Janine Windolph and Chrystene Ells, both of whom I am a co-supervisor, presented today. I continue to have mixed feelings about these presentations although they are certain less confrontational than many I've seen in the past. I suppose it is healthy for the students and the faculty to touch base once per semester to discuss what is going on. Also, they all have the option of sitting in on each others sessions, something that did not used to be allowed, and they can therefore learn from each other how to present and defend themselves. Each presentation is followed by a behind-closed-doors discussion between professors during which praise is coupled with concerns. I'm glad to say that over the past couple of years on these, I have aggressively contested a lot of negativity that can permeate discussions and taint everyone's views of candidates. These students may soon become our colleagues, if we expect professionalism from them, we must treat them with that respect. However, I still have apprehension about these critique sessions, perhaps I cannot get past some bad experiences from years past.

Monday, December 10, 2007

162

I've come down with the cold that William had a few days ago. My sneezes are nearly deafening and lead me to have an increasingly sore throat. However, staying home and nursing it was not in the cards. While Margaret was at work, I took William to Angie and Pete's to see baby Phoenix so he could play him music on the piano. I heard recently that children who are inclined to music are often greatly bothered by loud noises. William was very upset by the crying - I've seen this attribute before. His knocking away at the piano does not suggest him to be prodigy, but it is often more interesting than my own random bangs and clinks.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

161

I gave William the chess set I bought him today, a modest wooden set with wooden board, the pieces easy to distinguish. We played for a while. He led with a knight, very pleasing. He tired after a while and didn't know what to do next. I'd helped him quite a bit with his moves so I didn't actually see any great moves for him, or for myself. The set sits ready to continue tomorrow.
Margaret and I watched the first episode of "Murder Rooms: the dark origins of Sherlock Holmes", a BBC show from 2000. It's pretty nicely done, although tired we are temped to stay up to watch more. I'll be looking at more Sherlock Holmes over the next while as I committed to programming a screening of work at a Conan Doyle symposium next fall. I also picked up a cheap collection of Holmes films, 37 items in total for $20 at Chapters, as a sampler as it contains 3 or 4 different actors doing the role.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

160

William came down with a cold, he was probably on the verge of it yesterday when we had our little conflicts. We'll make up with a day of cartoons tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

159

Got something in the oven! That's right! You heard me, it's Christmas baking season! I was working on mini-cheesecakes for the first time. I was hoping that I could push crusts into the bottom of the mini-muffin trays -- heavily buttered -- then pop them out once cold. No such luck. I've taken the alternative plan, to use paper cups for each. I'd done them without crusts so one will have to eat them with a fork (or uncouthly without one) directly out of these cups. I also made 206 Belgium truffles today. This all got me in the mood to start another Len Lye style animated film called "December" as a working title (although not as a finished title as I don't want it confused with Dianne Ouellette's film of the same name) and this animation is all around reds and greens, getting into the season in work and play.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

158

I just watched an incredibly funny interview that Dick Cavette did with Groucho Marx back in the 1970s sometime. Apparently it was supposed to be a 30 minute filler while something else was pre-emting the second half, but they just kept going, one-on-one, for the whole hour and it was re-broadcast a few weeks later. It was just wild and very free. It was on Turner Classics sometime today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

157

I'm a bit dizzy from the whirl-wind day. I ended up with two doctor appointments, one with an optometrist (not mine, but a partner in his office) who looked at my eye and determined that I'd gouged the white part but not damaged the retina, so he gave me some antibiotic drops that will prevent infection but not really speed up the healing. The other doctor I saw was the internal specialist. I've not seen him since spring 2006 (he told me last time that he wanted to see me once per year, but of course that was 4.5 years after I walked away from my Calgary surgery and not considered going to another doctor), so I figure 1.5 years is darn well close enough. Anyway, the last thing I had through him was a CAT of my liver since my bilirubin level is high (since at least 1990, and is suggested high since 1986) and appears to be getting higher (normal is 20, it was 33 in 1990 and is now about 50). Anyway, the CAT scan didn't prove anything so now he wants to get more intrusive, sticking a needle in and taking a sample. That will certainly wait until after the holidays. He also revealed that my most recent blood test shows no sign of the hepatitis A that I was supposed to have had in 1986. Hmmm....?
Afterwards I dashed home, picked up Margaret, William, and some muffins and went to the opening of Chrystene Ells's first art installation at the 5th Parellel Gallery at the University. I forgot the camera so I don't have any stills, but basically she took a number of props, photos, drawings, and set pieces from her film Sisu and built them into a ghostly ship within the gallery space - pretty cool.
When we got home, William was excited about getting to bed. He had a quick shower and (on my suggestion that it would surprise his mom) he washed his hair all by himself (he hates getting his hair washed). Then it was early to bed and he would only let me read him one story. Why? Because tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. If you leave out your shoe, St. Nick will leave you gifts in it. He chose his cowboy boot - smart boy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

156

I spent all morning, and a bit of the afternoon, sorting out receipts and figuring out my paperwork for reimbursements on my trip in September and a hard drive I bought and some other things. It will take more work tomorrow as I need to bill these things to 3 different University accounts and I can never keep track of it all. This afternoon, William wanted to play Bionicles again and after we did that for a while (fortunately the big new guy that rides the spider is a villain so I get to use him) William agreed to do some baking with me. However, he got stubborn and decided he would only make gingerbread cookies shaped like people and that the round gingerbread cookies I froze a couple of weeks ago were no good. Eventually I convinced him of some random recipe which ended up being a bit complicated and required the food processor, the little chamber mixer, the regular mixer, and melting things on the stove. It also took about $7 in ingredients (3 cups of nuts and 3/4 of a brick of butter). I've got to read more carefully before I jump into these things. My eye still hurts and I've got an appointment to see an eye doctor (not my own but someone else in his office) tomorrow morning.

155

I scratched my eye on Friday and it's still in pretty bad shape; all red and sore. William and I watched the first of the three "Bionicle"movies today - not terrible - it contained a huge amount of implied backstory that was lost on William but which I quickly absorbed and could explain to him from time to time when we paused the movie. We borrowed the dvd from the library so it was horribly scratched. In fact, it wouldn't play in our primary dvd player, I had to put it into the recorder deck for it even to run, and even then is skipped 5 second bits throughout.
The "tornado"episode of Desperate Housewives was on tonight, I assume this is the last one until after the writers strike. Some great moments as some characters die and others are left with their status unknown (one family is in the basement of a house that is completely collapsed). I've remained a bit addicted to this show (yes, I do recognize that it just a over glamorized soap opera) since the first season, but it does contain some occasional good (even great) tv writing.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

154

Saturday today, spent most of the day building Lego Bionicles with William and then playing with them. However, he insists that all of the Bionicles are good guys, are on the same team, and that he is running them. I get to be the villain, 6"Megablox skull atop a 4"Lego platform with no moving parts and just my imagination for how it can fight against 5 angry looking robots (of course I give it laser eyes, mind control, vampirism, and anti-gravity rays).