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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Griffin visits

William's friend Griffin came to town for a big family gathering. They shot a bunch of video together, although it appears that editing it into a concise form will be a challenge. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hamlet puppet is a grade 8 success

Margaret and I were able to attend William's 15 minute one-person-show as he performed Shakespeare's Hamlet, act 5, scene 1, to his class. He used four characters, the gravediggers, Horatio, and Hamlet. He would sing or have the characters speak from "back stage" at the points that he needed to change puppets (I was tempted to be his assistant but ultimately he was being judged on this as a solo endeavor). He was clear with four distinctive voices. While it is unlikely that his class, never having studied Shakespeare, followed the story or got the jokes, I am certain they were impressed. The principal came into the class for some reason and quickly realized what was going on and stayed to watch and shoot images with his phone (as did the teacher). Considering that I shot it with my point and shoot from 15 feet away with no extra microphone (fortunately the class stayed quiet), the audio recorded surprisingly well. The stage survived its way home and William and Griffin shot a new video with it later in the evening. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Puppet Hamlet, dress rehersal

William has his stage decorated and has done a number of run throughs of his puppet interpretation of Hamlet, act 5, scene 1. He'll be performing to his class tomorrow. This tied up most of the day. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kristin's last day, Griffin's first day

William spent the first half of the day with me at the university until Griffin arrived (his family came last night from Halifax). They shot some video and basically hung out. We connected up with Kristin and went for burgers. I really didn't need to be there, the three of them can talk among themselves for hours. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rae Staseson artist talk

Capped off my week with a talk by our dean, Rae Staseson, presenting the final session of the Fine Arts Lecture series for the year. Rae discussed the decade of video work she created around the Saskatchewan landscape while she was living in Montreal, long take videos she describes as melancholy and trippy. Apparently the images of snow and frost created interesting conversation when screened in Central America. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Joe Fafard and Margaret

Packed opening at Slate Gallery this evening to open an exhibition of Joe Fafard sculptures and drawings. I found the drawings to be fresh and funny, each depicting variations of artists painting cows or bulls or people pretending to be cows or dead cows being painted as live cows and so on. Saw Kallie and many others. Speaking of Kallie, she gave me a great sampling of doll eyes and arms today and pointed me towards the east end thrift store where I was able to buy many more. Thanks Kallie.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Swimming and cat in window

Unconnected items: got a photo of Nick sitting in the window with his eyes open and visible to the camera and him not looking like he is just a black hole. He usually looks very very black, but when the light hits him right, you can see he is actually dark brown.
Kristin, William, George and I went swimming at the Lawson Pool. The kids both went off of the lower of the high boards (William first!), then out to DQ. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Combat improv with Kristin


Nice time at Combat Improv this week. We went with George and Kristin. Highlight was probably in the Gorilla section when the directors challenged each other. Jonah McFadzean challenged Cam to direct the scene as him (as Jonah). Following that, Cam challenged Colby to direct as Cam, which led to a bizarre satire/critique of Cam and Andy's "relationship". 

Monday, March 23, 2015

visiting Chinese animation scholar

Sat down with Xi Deng or "Daisy", who is a visiting scholar from a college in China, here to work with my colleague in computer science, Xue-Dong Yang. She is creating a beautiful short animated film about the Li mythology and wanted a critical eye as she wanted it to be accessible to a North American audience as well as a Chinese one. I think we'll get together again to record some sound effects which is what it is most in need of. It would be excellent if she could record some traditional Chinese music to accompany it but his might need to wait until she returns home. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Supper with Kiki and Kristin

With their spring vacations no longer aligned and George wanting to go skiing with them, we had only a couple of opportunities to visit with Kiki and Kristin together this month. On Saturday we had a nice supper at Gertrud's with asparagus soup. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Christmas baking


If it looks like Christmas, then it should smell like Christmas. In the middle of the snowstorm (ok, not really a storm, but it was snowing), I made biscotti.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Research presentation

My third deadline/endeavor of the week, a presentation of my research within the context of the NMSL (New Media Studio Laboratory) was today. It looks like I don't have any work commitments for the rest of the weekend!!! I got my grant application in on Monday and completed all my reading for an adjudication process on Wednesday. Now maybe some fun filmmaking with William and his cousins or just some good old fashioned festering around.
The presentation went okay. Others stuck closer to describing what they are actually doing, but I just couldn't do that. I get so derailed during the term that the only things I work on are incredibly random and quite often trivial sounding when described out loud. Instead, I considered some primary themes and directions I discuss with my grad students. I began, as I like to, with a William Oberon Bessai-Saul quote: "Magic is effect without cause". Click HERE to read my presentation in my other blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

15 years at the UofR

Gerald Saul at UofR, photo by Geremy Lague
Today I received my 15 year pin for the University where I've been employed (very happily) since 1999. I had a class mid-way through the event so I couldn't stay to see all the speeches, which is unfortunate as the more senior presenters are often quite interesting. While it isn't really important to attend these sorts of events, I am always more aware of the names which are called out with no reply than the ones that people step up to. I don't like the idea of my name hanging in the air when I am not around. Besides, there was lots of cake.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

preparing the magic

Doing a presentation on Friday but with all my other deadlines, I've not quite brought the ideas into focus yet. Scribbled lots of notes down but I think they are purposely illegible. I know that I'm working around the them of "magic" but keep tripping on the ideas and have as of yet failed to find the narrative to hold it together. Nervous. I'm generating some video to go along with things but even that doesn't make much sense yet. (still above if from silent 45 second piece I just created). 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sock puppet Hamlet practice

William was running lines with his puppets for his one man Hamlet for school in two weeks. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy 75th Dairy Queen

William and I went to Dairy Queen today to help them celebrate their 75th anniversary by giving us a free cone. I was expecting a long line but there wasn't one. There were customers but they were well staffed for the day so we were basically served a minute after going through the door. I was hoping for a photo op of the line-up. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tin Man

William has been interested in the Wizard of Oz this month. He read a new printing we bought for Margaret with cool Deco artwork by Olimpia Zagnoli. Unless you read the original book, it is difficult to recognize the social satire in the story (most notably that the "Emerald" city has a rule that everyone must wear green tinted glasses before entering and must never remove them until they leave). Here is an image of the Tin Man that William drew.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day Feast

 Both of William's cousins, Katherine and Kristin, are in town now. As it was Pi Day, we made a big supper and closed it all off with apple, berry, and lemon pies.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Christina Stojanova "Trash Talk"

Christina did the key note speech for the Trash Talk conference that the English students have set up for this weekend. Margaret and William also came. Kiki is doing supper with family so we'll see her tomorrow. Christina mostly talked about narrative in the digital age which also included some ideas I've encountered before such as the hero's journey. A couple of the hypertext and "interactive" movie things she has encountered and  presented were rather amusing. I'd like to try the random fairy tale generator she found sometime.
A few weeks ago William began explaining some material he heard a few months ago at a university lecture. I started paying more attention to lectures coming up. Most interesting ones have been during the day, but suddenly there are a bunch at night. This is the fifth lecture I've taken William to hear at the university in the past eight days. He needs a break. When we got home, we started watching some Godard but paused it so he could Minecraft with his friends. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gerald McMaster lecture

The Humanities Research presented Gerald McMaster as the Barbara Powell lecture this year. The event start time had a mis-communication on the website so we had to wait a half hour to ensure everyone arrived. In the meantime, Carmen showed some early video she'd unearthed from 1979 when McMaster was teaching here and hosting an early conference on "Indian Art".
His talk chronicled his findings and observations around depictions of white people within First Nations art, both historically and in contemporary art. It was very interesting although not particularly controversial. The lecture was not used for any political ends, it was a straight forward historical and aesthetic appreciation. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Peter van Wyck reading

William and I went to "Beyond the Book: The Trail of the Atom",a reading by Peter van Wyck at the university library this evening. He was very engaging, running a series of 26 slides along with 26 mini-essays about nuclear energy and atomic accidents. The event was well attended with a crowded house of the city's fine art who's who. William asked him a question afterwards about the numbering system. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

prep for pi day


Margaret and William made two incredible looking pies for this Saturday's pi day. I think both of the cousins will  be here, so it should be a great feast. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

OMG, a ding in the rust rocket!

 Margaret and I were on the way home from dropping the Mazda off at the shop for a tune up and were in the Safeway parking lot with our other car (the "rust rocket") when some old codger ran into us as we were standing still. He was only going 3 miles per hour and I literally watched him as he hit us. He backed up and we went to park. Once stationary and out of everyone's way, we got out and looked around. He'd left. Now the passenger door doesn't open as nicely. Only consolation, his SUV will have a scratch and a bunch of our paint.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Empty stage


William and I assembled the stage for his puppet performance. It still needs detail work and paint, but the framework is there. It extends out the back at the base so that it can be clamped  to the table. There will be a curtain (attached in a way we've not figured out yet) which will separate the puppeteer from the puppets, allowing him to perform while sitting. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Student film festival with Adrian Dean

The Living Skies student film festival continued Friday night with guest Adrian Dean who has been animating locally for the past ten years and now has a second season of a broadcast series called "Doowett". These are pretty cute and very ambitious films. He made the first set of 16 all by himself (with some help on music and sound of course). I'm going to look into getting the software he uses and introducing it to the students this fall (if we can afford it). 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Gabe Hordos on "How To Train Your Dragon"

Gave Hordos at University of Regina Film Department
Last night we went to a talk by animator Gabe Hordos, which launched the Living Skies student film festival. Hordox is from Regina and has been in LA with Dreamworks for the past 12 years. What really stuck with me was his attitude about needing to redo work and repeat activities over the years. He talked about loosing his first project due to a misunderstanding of computer hard drives when he was in high school. He also talked about having to throw out months of designs on "Toothless", the main dragon in "How to Train Your Dragon" which he was the supervising animator on when the directors decided to change him from cute to scary. In the end, he has realized that it is doing the work which is the goal, not getting the work done. If completion is your only goal, then setbacks are painful. If creativity is your goal, then setbacks are opportunities. Great talk. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sound recording in class

In class this week we recorded foley and effects using low-tech and DIY setups. An early Chaplin short was our subject. The first group focused on the many small details. The second group did more abstracted voices and effects. 
Josh with my Roger Ing guitar

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dress rehearsal of Globe Theatre's "The Drowning Girls"

We were invited to the dress rehearsal of "The Drowning Girls" at the Globe this week. It features Jonelle Gunderson, Jenna-Lee Hyde and Judy Wensel as murder victims, revisiting the crimes committed on them while in and around three bathtubs. The tubs contain water and the stage is surrounded by a moat. Water occasionally showers from the rafters. It is amazing that these three actresses managed to survive, let along perform as well as they did, while wet and cold for an hour. The set looked very cool with its contrasts between grime and sparkles (there is a necklace that recurs throughout and now that I stop to think about it, I don't really know why it was so important). We sat in the front row, as we had at one other play a couple of years ago, but perhaps mid-way up would have been better. As with most Globe performances, the action seemed directed at the higher rows rather than intimately at the nearby viewers. Unique.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wood prep for puppet stage

William and I have been working together to plan a puppet stage for his school project. I'm not sure when he's got to do it, but I went out today and got some of the wood cut. Trimming needs to happen before assembly, but the long cuts which require a table saw I got done at Windsor Ply for a buck and a half per cut (much easier than getting the truck to move the wood then working at it myself outside in the cold). 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Prairie Film 16 at RPL

The ongoing "Independent Visions" program that FIlmpool/RPL/UofR-Film has been hosting has been really great. However, the event this week, "Prairie Tales 16" was admittedly disappointing. While it did feature a few great works, in particular a Don Best film with great textures and rhythm and a very funny film by Trevor Anderson with Joe Flaherty revisiting his Count Floyd character. Overshadowing the program was the poorly chosen piece on Edmonton recycling, narrated by a bag of garbage. This may have been aimed at grade school kids but even in that context, it was really painful and embarrassing. It was 20 minutes long but felt much, much longer.
Mike Rollo introducing films

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Home from Calgary

We drove home from Calgary. The weather was good. Only a couple of stops. There is a new PetroCan/A&W on the west side of Medicine Hat that was quite nice (very roomy, airy, clean, and up to date). We listed to an audio book most of the way so I never felt like giving up the wheel. William had an espresso of his own around 3pm. I don't know if that was the cause, but he stayed up until 1am after we got home.