Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 year in review

I have only made 48 posts to Slashboing this year, half as many as I did in 2008. My reduction in blogging can probably be traced to my use of Twitter. Where I used to develop an idea until I could justify a whole blog post, now I reduce the idea to 140 characters and tweet it. When I see a cool youtube video or link it is much easier to click a "tweet this" button than it is to compose a new post.

So what things made me cross the twitter/blogger threshold and actually compose a Slashboing post? Let us summarize, as is the custom of the season.

January: Steampunk, Death of Richardo Montalban.

February: Absolutely nothing. February must've sucked.

March: Watchmen, Kutiman, Lost, Science Fiction, Cocktails, Rachel Maddow, Doctor Who.

April: Star Wars, Joyful Public Dancing, Science Fiction Conventions

May: Bacon Vodka, Pegwarmers

June: My video making hobby starts, Steampunk, John Hodgman, Longevity of SF television shows

July: 52 weeks of video, Twitter, Dungeons and Dragons, Nipples of Fry and Laurie.

August: Steampunk, Star Trek, Dragoncon, GI-Joe, Complementary comedic sketches

September: Steampunk, Dungeons and Dragons

October: I attempt to memeify the moon bombing, Lost Skeleton

November: Three loves of Pho, Community and 3-2-1 Contact

December: Christmas comments and this review.

This was the year that I started playing D&D for the first time, and decided to blog about it. I started Noob in the Dungeon so I could document the game, and not OVERLOAD Slashboing. I post a record low for yearly posts, and I start a second blog so as not to have too many posts on one topic.

Here's to 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Light over Darkness

AGAIN we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God of day over the hosts of night. Again Samson is victorious over Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale. In the embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling Typhon is defeated once more. Again Apollo, with unerring aim, with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and of Prometheus. Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant.

This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal.

This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions — the worship of the sun.

Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful.

The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving.

This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge.

All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness.

Let us all hope for the triumph of Light — of Right and Reason — for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition.

And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun.

Robert Green Ingersoll – “The Agnostic Christmas” (1892)

Reminder from Cynical-C

Saturday, November 28, 2009

3-2-1 Contact

The opening credits to 3-2-1 Contact are burned onto my retinas like a brand. I watched so much of this as kid! I really enjoyed the Lisa/Mark/Trini era, but stuck with it through the mid 80's. It's youth science programming like this that made me the man I am today. I guess I should donate to PBS at some point in the future.

I tweeted this a few days ago, but it bears repeating.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Community: I am Batman

It is setups like this that have made me a fan of the tv show Community. I want to watch the Community webisodes, but I have yet to find a way to do so from Canada. I get cable, and two different NBC affiliates, but I can't watch shows online from my geographic region. Does that sound right to you?

ETA: Thank you youtube for The Community College Chronicles

This is my 500th post. Please make a note in the records of the day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pho Porn

Anthony Bourdain loves a bowl of pho as much as I do, though wearing a white shirt is a rookie mistake. He needs one of my red pho gang shirts:

Video via Cynical-c

Friday, October 09, 2009

Moon conspiracy shirt

I think it's obvious that the Moon bombing was an inside job. Anyone with two eyes and a brain could tell you that, but THEY don't want you know. This shirt will let everyone know the TRUTH!

Or this is an ironic shirt, mocking conspiracy nuts. Or that's just what the Illuminati and the World Bank want you to think.

Wake up sheeple!

[Shirt available from Spreadshirt]

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Fandom History: Part 3

I have been slowly recounting my personal experiences in science fiction and fantasy fandom. When we left off I was attending a planning meeting for Conversion 22.

I can sum up the next couple of years thusly.

Enough people quit the convention planning committee that by the end my wife was the president, and I was head of programming. We came to "lend a hand" and we ended up running big parts of the show. We brought in Jeremy Bulloch who portrayed Boba Fett in Star Wars, which was great. Sure, a good portion of his speaking fee came out of my pocket, but it was totally worth it, spending time with him and his wife before the convention.

Overall, however, things did not go exactly as planned and we took a lot of flack. We also got a lot of complaints from certain quarters that we had too much Star Wars content at the event.

What was not made clear to me at the beginning, was that the local premiere Science fiction and Fantasy convention was supposed to be geared towards authors, aspiring authors, and (space permitting) artists who might be interested in doing the cover art for said authors. A fine event, but one that is clearly not Star Wars friendly. One author made it very clear that Star Wars was crap and fans who dress up are overweight, arrested adolescents. Clearly not my crowd.

So I decided to turn my energies back to the local Star Wars fanclub that my wife and I helped start. After a year or so, I noticed an unusual trend. Core members were meeting without me and people stopped coming to lightsaber class. I was eventually informed that my cracking wise about the prequels pissed people off, and my raving about DragonCon pissed people off. My wife and I (among others) were removed from the council and Dragoncon was declared to be NOT Star Wars, and its discussion, verboten.

So in short, I pissed off the SF&F fans for liking Star Wars too much, and I pissed of the Star Wars fans for not liking Star Wars enough.

What did I do then? Watch this space.

Previously on Slashboing:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Steampunk Rap

Presenting "Cup of Brown Joy" from MC Elemental. Thanks to Sepiachord for turning me on to this.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Pirate's Life For Me

Happy Talk like a Pirate day everyone!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Blog

As some readers may recall from an earlier post, I have started a first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game for my friends who have never played before.

To document the game development and my investigation in Dungeons and Dragons culture I have started a secondary blog: "Noob in the Dungeon". If any of my fellow dungeoneers want editing permission to contribute too, let me know.

Also, I will be using the twitter tag #noobDnD to flag related posts on my twitter feed.

See you in the dungeon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dragoncon steampunk meet up

Dragon con steampunk meet up
Originally uploaded by jaborwhalky.

The Alternate History Track at Dragoncon presents the "Official-Unofficial" Steampunk Meetup:

Hyatt Bar!
Friday the 4th, 7-9:30 PM

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ballad of G.I. Joe

Great song with Julianne Moore, Henry Rollins, Alan Tudyk, and more.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Open Letter to DragonCon copy writer.

Dear Person responsible for writing the "New for 2009" page for

I am not one to complain about the hard work and effort people like yourself put into organizing an event as complicated and challenging as DragonCon. I know it is through your efforts that I get a fantastic party. However you should know that the "New for 2009" page, while a fantastic idea, fails in execution.

When this announcement page was first launched it was clear and informative. At a glance I knew that registration had moved to the Sheraton, and that the member badges were going to be made of a thicker material this year. But shortly thereafter, the page was re-written with all the clear facts hidden behind sloppy in-jokes, rambling stories and intentionally obstruficated 'leet' speak, all presented in Comic Sans. None of the these additions are necessary or helpful.

Which do you think is more clear and informative:
  • "Let’s face it; it is really a walk between the Sheraton and the Hyatt. Google Maps lists it as a hike that takes the average person 10 minutes to walk. What Google does not take into account is that the Dragon*Con fan is not the average person. Do you think it would take a wookie carrying two heavy bags of memorabilia or an orc pushing a stroller 10 minutes? No, I think not. Well, you will be happy to know that we will have one of the Dragon*Con buses operation as a “local” shuttle between just the host hotels. And if you have forgotten, those would be the Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton"
  • A Dragon*Con Shuttle bus will be running between the Hyatt, Mariott, Hilton and Sheraton hotels.
Some details involving operational hours and frequency would be good too, but such details may not have been known at the time. Simple, to-the-point facts are always appreciated. I'm sure no one ever read an informational announcement for an event and thought "What this really needs is Star Trek reference."

Also re-think your use of the font "Comic Sans." It is not really appropriate for clear, formal communication, and is best reserved for actual comic bubbles.

The barrage of near identical questions made to the convention planners in every forum, phone call and email must be exhausting, so having clear, centralized announcements is critical. Please consider taking the time to clean this page up to the standard set by other great pages on the website.

Yours in fandom

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bookend Sketches: Language

Some more bookend sketches I wish to share with you. Much humour comes from the absurdity and ironies of language, but these two sketches do it exceptionally well, and highlight why some comedians get into the art in the first place. The first sketch ties back to the RAF banter sketch too, for those keeping score.

Monty Python: Woody and Tinny Words

Fry and Laurie: On language

Previously on Slashboing

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bookend Sketches: Indian Food

These two sketches tell a similar tale, though from different points of view. Brilliant stuff:
Rowan Atkinson: Guys after the Game

Goodness Gracious Me - Going for an English

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bookend Sketches: RAF Pilots

I do enjoy finding two different comedy sketches that 'bookend' well, due to similar themes and situations. Here are two sketches, 40 years apart that work great together.

Armstrong, Miller, Mitchell and Webb WWII Pilots (no embedding, sorry):

Monty Python - Banter :

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bawdy 1970's Hospital

As a bit of a bookend to the sketch in the previous post here is a hospital sketch from Mitchell and Webb:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Suggestive Hardware terms

It's not just me who think hardware terms sound dirty, as evidenced by this lovely little sketch from Fry and Laurie.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vintage Dungeons and Dragons Experiment

I have never played Dungeons and Dragons. That is a bit of a shameful confession in the geek community. I'm not totally unfamiliar with RPGs, as I have played some of the Palladium titles, like "Robotech" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Also, I've played enough computer RPGs based on D&D to know the basic tropes. However, I've never been on a dungeon crawl armed only with a pencil, character sheet, a bag of dice and an imagination.

This is not a completely unheard of situation among my friends. Some of us wanted to play in our youth, but had no one to play with, or our parents outright disallowed it. Realizing a group of my friends were all are missing a core geek merit badge I thought a little project is called for.

I propose to my local friends that we acquire some vintage monster manuals and player handbooks, and start up a game of novices. Let us roll up some characters using the game rules we would have been playing with, had we all met as teens. We could either play it in self-imposed isolation, to simulate the pre-internet world we would have been playing in, or we can play it with a wry 21st century, Web 2.0 mind, blogging and twittering our experience.

I think it may be 3D6 of fun to play with other n00bs, and collectively decode a known obsolete and challenging rule system. This would be a Fall/Winter thing, so we have some time to think about it, pick a common release edition and get some books & dice. Who's with me?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fake San Diego Comic-Con

If you are unable to attend an exciting convention, one can attend vicariously through the internet. Enough attendees twitter, flickr and blog and their experiences to give those at home a good feel for what they are missing. If you want to take a more active role while sitting on your couch (or behind a desk) you can attend the fake version of the convention.

After seeing fakesxsw posts from people who couldn't be at SXSW, I started up fakeSDCC, a stay-at-home shadow-con for San Diego Comic-con. Part convention satire, part larp, people are playing along, pretending their work desk is a guest signing table or posting about their clever memorabilia finds.

Play along on your blog or twitter, if you want, and I'll save you a seat in the Thundercats/Voltron crossover movie panel.

Twitter posts for FakeSDCC

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You're doing it wrong, by popular demand

I have a new shirt available, emblazoned with the phrase "I don't know what you are doing, but you're doing it wrong". This is a common response from common critics, who don't even have to know what you are trying to accomplish before they declare your failure at it.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

52 Weeks of Video

I have started another year-long project on flickr. For a whole year (September 2006-2007), I took a daily self-portrait for the 365 Days project. This was a great experience, though daunting. I attempted to slow things down in 2008, and started taking a weekly self-portrait for the 52 Weeks project, though somehow this proved more difficult than the daily photograph.

Time has passed and I was itching for a new project, when I was invited to the 52 Weeks of Video project. Since Flickr started accepting short videos, there has been much controversy, but more importantly, there has been much creativity from the users. This new weekly video group was just what I needed to keep me creative and busy with my camera.

This is what I put together from a toga party yesterday:

If you want to follow along, my video set can be viewed here.

Previously on Slashboing

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Musical Ride

Happy Canada Day! Here is some of the better footage I could find of the RCMP Musical Ride. Drink it in.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy Television: Trends and Longevity

There seems to be a significant increase in the amount of science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) programs on television. It feels that the premise of every new show had some fantasy, supernatural or 'fictional science' element behind it. "We won!" was my initial geek response. Then I had a nagging doubt. Is this a sampling error or bias on my part? Did I think this because I was looking for such a result, or was there an actual trend in prime time television? Truly a more scientific survey had to be taken.

These are the questions I seek to answer:

"Are there more SF&F shows on now than in past years?"
"What is the longevity of a typical SF&F program?"
"What factors govern the amount and longevity of SF&F prime time programs?"

Methodology and Bias
I found that Wikipedia had a great collection of almanac articles that detailed the prime time lineup of every television network since 1946. I scoured the listings and attempted to catalogue every "North American prime time show whose premise was based on supernatural, fantasy, or science fiction elements." I endeavoured to have a consistent methodology that would mitigate sample bias.

As the programming trends in other countries and markets are quite different, and my focus was on North American television culture, most BBC and ITV shows were not on the list, unless I could find evidence of broad prime-time American syndication. Nor did I count Saturday morning kids shows and cartoons as they almost always contain fantasy elements and it would skew the data.

Also, there is more documentation available for more recent shows, so there is some accuracy biases between the years.

I logged the number of episodes produced, when known, rather than the number episodes aired. I did not include any "made for TV" movies or mini-series' as this was difficult to track consistently, and would bias the data to shorter runs.

I did not count shows that may have introduced a fantasy element late in its run, because that was not its primary premise, and again there would be a bias toward later shows that I have actually seen, and could identify this change. Though if it is documented that bulk of the episodes produced did have a sci-fi or fantasy element, despite some retooling, the show was added to the list.

Shows with a religious premise, involving Judeo–Christian elements such as angels and demons, may be included among the supernatural programs, if the cosmology presented was typically unique, and differed from established dogmas, which is most often the case.

Data and Results
I have identified 232 television shows that meet these conditions and criteria. Some minor trivia from my search: The first SF&F show was "Captain Video and His Video Rangers" from the Dumont Network in 1949. The oldest running SF&F program is Smallville, which started in 2001. The single series with the most episodes Bewitched with 254.

The raw data can be viewed on Google Docs, and I encourage any reviews, suggestion or further analysis of my data.

To answer my first question, I created the following graph showing the number of SF&S shows that debut in each television year, starting in September:

This graph shows a marked upward trend, indicating that, for the most part, more new SF&S shows debut every year. The 2007-2008 season brought 13 new shows, and 2008-2009 saw 14 new shows, the highest number of shows in my sample. But some recent years only posted a modest 3 or 4 new shows comparable to the volumes found in the late seventies or early nineties. A slight sinusoid can be seen with spikes at ten-year intervals, however more rigorous statistical calculations have not yet been done. But for there to be more new shows, it old shows must be cancelled.

The average longevity of these shows is estimated with arithmetic mean of 44.96, corresponding to an average of two, 22 episode seasons, which is a typical "full season". The median, or centre value is 22 episodes and the mode, is 13 episodes. Long running standouts such as Star Trek and Stargate, bring the average up, while the bulk of SF&F shows survive for only one season, as 14 is a typical "first order" of episodes before renewing for the rest of the season.

To see if SF&F shows typically get longer or shorter runs than police procedurals, westerns, medical dramas, or sit-coms, I would have to accumulate comprehensive data on those shows. However random sampling of non SF&F shows, which I had to take in order to determine their genre, indicates that most modern shows don't make it out of their first season alive. In the 70's and 80's, even if a show was tanking in the ratings, it would typically get all episodes aired, and then not renewed. In the last few years, the trend is to order fewer episodes up front, then pull shows after 3-5 episodes if ratings disappoint. Gone is the September season start, with mid-season replacements debuting throughout the year. In fact, a good portion of the shows announced for the 2009-2010 are already primed as mid-season replacements for shows that have yet to be cancelled.

I found some obvious-if-you-think-about-it trends regarding the kind of environment that creates more genre programming. For one, more broadcast channels are good for SF&F programming. When Fox started a national broadcasting schedule in 1987, there is a spike in the number of recorded programs, and the same can be seen when UPN and WB started in 1997. Likely more channels means more of every kind of programming, but importantly for this study, and fandom, SF&F was not overlooked by new general themed channels.

The history and trends in syndicated shows is not fully clear to me, but one can say that syndication is generally good for SF&F programming. Since syndication means that the initial financial burden is taken by a production company, the broadcaster can try out new shows with reduced risk. This leads a varied array of programming including, more often than not, SF&F.

Another big conclusion one can draw from this data is that Firefly, with only 14 episodes, is not an anomalously cancelled show, rather it has the longevity of a typical show in this data set. Its cancellation was not atypical of shows from that era, with none of the scripted shows debuting in that same year lasting until the current season.

If this survey suggests anything to those who love science fiction and fantasy programming on television, it is this: Treat every new episode of your beloved show as if it were the last, because history shows it may very well be. When your show ends, another one will come along soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

John Hodgman's Nerd toast of Obama

Full of great sci-fi references and insightful comparisons, John Hodgman gave a great speech at the Radio and Television Corespondents dinner last night.

Dune quiz Answers:
ǝɟıן ɟo ɹǝʇɐʍ 'ɹǝdɯnɥʇ 'pnןnɥ-ıɐɥs

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Steampunk Newsreel

Filmed during International Steampunk day meetup at Heritage Park in Calgary, Alberta, I have created a short steampunk newsreel based on some of my friends' cosplay characters.

It was a hoot to make, I don't think I can be stopped making more.

Music is the "Hot Time March" by The Edison Concert Band (1890's)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Airship Destroyer

This is a great steampunk film featuring airships, tanks, and explosions. Now that I have the ability and desire to make little films for flickr, I've been searching for public domain and creative commons stock film that I can incorporate into my own mediocre clips. Sifting through The Internet Archive, I found this fantastic film from 1909 by Walter R. Booth, and had to share it. Booth also made a film called "Too much Sausage" which I have to see.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Paris Videos

I have discovered that the movie editing software I have doesn't completely suck. I have started going through some of my videos, with their lame sound and questionable purpose, and modifying them into something better.

Here are some of the Panoramas of Paris I filmed last year, and smushed them together with some 'marker' photos and appropriate music.

Expect more of these as I go through my library for inspiration. They will be posted as I complete them to my flickr account.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bacon Vodka

I would love a bottle of Bacon Vodka to mix Caesars and Bloody Marys. Early reports are mixed, but I believe the attempt is worth the attention.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pegwarmers: Fandom documentary screening

Pegwarmers is a feature length documentary about science fiction and fantasy fandom, which "looks to uncover the veil of mystery and examine the stigma that surrounds this often misunderstood subculture." Filmed in 2005, Jason Hoehn interviewed a varied group of Star Wars, Star Trek, D&D, Comic and SCA fans to find out who we were, and why we do the things we do. After years of production, the film was screened at the Calgary film festival in 2007, and is now available on DVD.

I was lucky enough to be included in this film, espousing my thoughts on Star Wars fandom, so I'm a little biased, but I think the film is a fair look at the community.

Pegwarmers will be screened as part of the Alberta Premiere of 'Fanboys' at Calgary's Plaza Theatre, May 17th, Tickets are just $10.00 for both movies.

Time: Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 8:30pm
Location: The Plaza Theatre
Street: 1133 Kensington Rd NW

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Thoughts on a convention Hotel

The science fiction convention season is upon us again. Every year I read various tips and guides to see if there is anything I'm missing, or if my convention experience can be improved in any way.

In all my reading I have found that people have a very conflicted relationship with the convention host hotels. We demand everything from them, and begrudge the cost such demands require. Here are some of my tips I have regarding convention hotels.

Make a Budget

Hotel rooms cost money, get over it. I understand that not everyone has the same income, and splitting a room 8 ways, or staying in a cheaper place down the road is unavoidable for some. If that is what it takes to get you there, so be it. However conventions typically get good rates for their members so griping about the price is ultimately pointless and not very classy.

Not getting a hotel room and trying to camp out in the video room or bathroom is really not a responsible option unless you are attending Hobocon. Shitty behaviour like this can ruin a convention's reputation with a hotel.

Room and food costs at the hotel are the biggest portion of a convention budget, even including airfare. Recognize this before the convention and make a budget you can live with. I'm always amazed when people scramble a month before a convention trying to make last minute cash, especially when the event occurs yearly. A little planing will make for a less stressful event. I have a spread sheet for each convention I go to, that basically does this:

Room rate x number of nights / number of people = Room Cost
Food per Diem x number of days = Food Cost
Room Cost + Food Cost + Membership + Spending allowance + Airfare = Total cost
Total Cost / 12 = Amount you need to save per month to afford the convention.

Some numbers are fixed like the room rate and airfare, buy adjusting the food costs and spending allowance I can make the final cost something I can work with. It is easier to save a little every paycheck for a big event than it is to scrounge a bunch of cash together in a month.

Respect the amenities
Anytime you are on vacation, you should treat the hotel as part of the trip. At conventions there are constant panels and parties that are the real reason for attending, making your room not much more than a pit stop for the weekend. However, you will enjoy the experience more, and grouse the cost less, if you take in at least one hotel activity during your stay.

These hotels hire good chefs for their restaurants, so treat yourself to one high-end meal. Or go to the pool, get a massage, or treat yourself room service. Not every day, obviously, but doing one fun "away from home" activity will make your trip more enjoyable. It is a shame to stay in a four star hotel, eating nothing but ichiban out of a coffee pot.

Also, eating at the hotel really helps out the convention. The total cost to the convention organizers is dependant on how many rooms the event fills, and how much food and drink revenue the event generates.

Finally, Remember the rules apply there too
Many treat the convention space as a private compound, where the laws of man and God have no meaning. Destruction of property, public nudity, wielding weapons, non-consensual groping are not appropriate at a convention, or anywhere else. I think this is part of the chaotic neutral world we live in, where each values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

From Think Geek: Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

From the bright minds at comes a fantastic Tauntaun sleeper, perfect for those cold winter nights. It has a glowing lightsaber zipper pull and is machine washable.

[$39.99 from Think Geek]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Test post

Can I update my blog via iPod? If you can see this, yes!

Sent from my iPod

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cute Doctor Who

The success of the Star Wars "Galactic Heroes" led to the line expanding to include other Hasbro licences such as Transformers, Indiana Jones and Marvel comics. Fans, like myself, really liked the chibi-esque deformations to beloved characters.

Other toy developers have followed this trend to varying degrees of success. UK company Character Group have done a great job with these Doctor Who Time Squad figures. The line is companion free, populated by adversaries of the Doctor, and one David Tennant Doctor. The product is still very new so I can't wait to see what they do with the later waves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail

I was delighted to discover "Tales of the Cocktail" a mixology convention in New Orleans. There is no part of that phrase I don't like. Over five days in July, the French Quarter hosts "mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs, and designers — for a five-day celebration of the history and artistry of making drinks."

What sort of things can one expect at such an event? There are seminars like "The Molecular DNA of Classic Cocktails" and "Low Country Libations: Obscure Cocktails & Spirits from the Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg". Some of the better bartenders will be participating in Iron Chef style mixing competition. A "Spirited Dinner Series" sends attendees to some of the best restaurants in town, where a fine meal has been crafted and to learn mixing and pairing techniques straight from the menu designers. Doesn't the phrase "Vintage Bar Ware Collectors Symposium" fill you with warm feelings?

As fantastic as all this is, it sounded like an industry-only event. I contacted the organization with this concern and they assured me that a cocktail enthusiast like myself would be more than welcome.

I don't think I'll be able to attend this year, but perhaps in the future. Until then, my porkpie hat and cocktail shaker lie in wait.

Rachel Maddow: Mixologist.

I really enjoy a well mixed drink. I also enjoy watching "The Rachel Maddow show." These two thoughts would not typically be joined in any meaningful way. As it turns out Rachel Maddow is not just a Rhodes scholar and a talented radio and television host, but a amateur mixologist.

Cocktail mixing would make for a great cooking show series, would it not?

[Youtube video link]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Science Fiction vs Sci-Fi

When Forrest J. Ackerman coined the term "Sci-fi" in the 50's it met a mixed response. Serious writers equated it with the sound of crickets mating. These serious people preferred the term SF, which stands for "Science Fiction," "Speculative Fiction" and (should the occasion arise) "San Fransisco." It is clear many believe that by simply not removing enough letters, Mr. Akerman did not abreviate the phrase correctly.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that should include tales of fantasy and horror that are traditionaly excluded from strict science fiction. It also draws a separation line to exclude all the fiction that is entirely bereft of speculation.

These terms head up two broad schools of thought, which still trade ideological jabs half a century later. The best description of the schism I have ever read is quoted here in its entirety.

"Here is the difference:

Science Fiction is the serious realm of speculative literature that deals with such interesting speculations as aerospace travel, intelligent life on other planets, futuristic weaponry, and speculations into areas otherwise taboo, such as an enlightened approach to sexuality, that other genres shy away from.

Sci-Fi is the pulpish hack writing that deals with such geekish ideas as rocketships, bug-eyed aliens, rayguns, and orgies with hottie space-babes!"

As we can see, there is no relation whatsoever between the two. - John Wright, November 24, 2008 Comment on SF

Hats off to you John Wright for setting us all straight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dharma Jumpsuit now available

With this season of Lost viewers will be treated to some of the Island back-story, including the Dharma Initiative.

ABC has obliged fans with providing Official Dharma jumpsuits, as seen in the show. Only the "main logo" patch seems to be available currently, but enterprising fans know where to get the various others.

The jumpsuit is not exactly like the ones seen on the show, but given the different variations seen, it is close enough for most fans.

It is nice to see big networks understanding that fans don't necessarily want trinkets with the show name on it, we want replica items from the world the show is from.

[ABC Store Jumpsuit]

Friday, March 13, 2009

Youtube Mashups

Using Youtube videos as a source, artist Kutiman made some phenomenal musical mashups. There are historical performances, ebay product demos, high school band recitals, and low budget instrumental instructional videos. There is a mix of genres here, funk, bossanova, speedcore, dub, breakbeat and r&b.

I guess we are all playing the same song in the end, just not at the same time or place. It takes an artist to show us this.

All the videos can be viewed at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen Review and thoughts on media

By request, this is my completely redundant and superfluous, though spoiler free Watchmen Review. Included are some free-floating thoughts on media.

I believe part of the depth of Watchmen fandom comes from the fact that it was only a 12 issue series. There was no second series of comics, no action figures, no Saturday morning cartoon, no time crisis, no re-boot. It could retain a purity that few superhero stories could claim.

The Watchmen "graphic novel" is one of a handful of works that deserves that somewhat pretentious term. To me the term "graphic novel" is to "comic book" as "working girl" is to "hooker". It is a gussied up term to be used in polite conversation to hide what you are really talking about to make it sound more respectable. But there is nothing shameful about comic books, so the term is unnecessary. However the depth and layered structure of Watchmen really sets this work apart and the bar high for works that followed. There are layers of the story found only with symbols, with background text, with appendix material. A book-within-a-book is interwoven between the panels providing counterpoint to the main story. This is not simply "sequential art" this book is something more. Those who have read it should not question why it has made Time magazine's list of the top 100 modern novels.

Film rights were sold in 1986 and a merry-go-round of scripts, studios and directors followed. Early limitations on special effects made many story elements difficult hurdles. The understandable desire of directors and developers to make there own mark on a film led to some interesting scripts, but nothing that pleased the fans that read them, or the studios that backed them. In the end director Zack Snider and screenwriter Alex Tse restored the look and content of the film to something that was as close to the source material as one could expect from the format.

Changing the medium of a story can be difficult, and one of the most problematic is adapting a beloved book into film. These are very different media, each with their own rules, strengths and limitations. There is a tension in the mind of the fan who's beloved book is being adapted into a film. There is a desire of seeing your imagination made real, while a dark shadow is cast by the knowledge that characters and dialogue will be cut, subtleties glossed over, and (perhaps worst of all) the point of it all will be missed. This tension was released last week and fans and neophytes alike got to see what all the hype was about.

The Watchmen film is a fantastic looking adaptation. The colour palette, cinematography and editing are all spot on. It may be cliche, but the pages really do come to life. Spanning 40 years of costumed adventurism, the opening credits are a fantastic montage which sets up the alternate 80's and are worth the price of admission. However the the musical choices throughout the film are heavy handed and, in IMAX, extremely loud. We don't need to hear "99 luftballon" to understand that we are in the 80's and cold war fears are running high.

The casting was well done; all the actors fell into their roles and filled out their latex well. All of the changes from the source material were fair, in my opinion. Smoking was a common feature in the book, and aside from the character cigar chomp of the Comedian, this has been cut to meet our modern sensibilities. The electric car had come to the world of the Watchmen, thanks to the alchemy of Dr. Manhattan, but this too was cut to make a point about 2009 energy consumption.

The story in both the book and film jump around in time, place and perspective. This is part of what made the comic so rich, but I don't know how well that plays on film. It was a pleasure to watch a story I was familiar with on screen, but in the end I don't know how good a film it was. Does it stand on it's own merits? After only one viewing, I can't say.

However it has been said that there will be additional material available in the subsequent DVD sets. Like the Lord of the Rings extended editions have shown, the theatrical Watchmen release may just be an extended trailer for the ultimate fan editions that will follow.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Canadian Steampunk from 1978

Note the Calgarian steampunk skirt-lifter. Fantastic!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

What I am: iPod Meme

They say one's music collection says a lot about a person. Sorting one's music collection by song title is something a non-OCD person would not do before the digital age. Now, with the predominance of the mp3 format, one can do this readily and it creates an interesting piece of self-discovery poetry.

Mine is a tale of love, loss and lycanthropy.

I'm a Boy
I'm a Mason Now
I'm a werewolf baby
I'm beginning to see the light
I'm free
I'm gonna crawl
I'm having a party
I'm not down
I'm only sleeping
I'm so bored with the U.S.A.
I'm telling Tim
I'm tore down
I'm your Man
I'm your moon
I've got the world on a string
I've seen the land beyond
I am a rock
I am stretched on your grave
I am the Highway
I am the Walrus
I can't explain
I can't quit you baby
I can see for miles
I did my best
I don't care about you
I feel it all
I fought the law
I get lonesome
I had my chance
I hate California
I hate the TV
I hear you calling
I just don't know what to do with myself
I just wanna have something to do
I know you
I love myself today
I need to be loved
I only want to be with you
I saw her standing there
I wanna be like you
I wanna be sedated
I wanna be your boyfriend
I wanna live
I want something more
I want to be the boy to warm your mother's heart
I want to conquer the world
I want to tell you
I want you
I will survive
I won't lie down

Who are you?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Year in Review: 2008 Films

Once again I list the best films from the past year. That is to say, I list the only new films I see in a given year and lament that I haven't seen more. Notable films I missed include the X-files film, and Hellboy 2. These were on my "must see" list, which is now the "must rent" list. Every year I try to see more films, but still average about one a month.

Presented in viewing order:
  • Be Kind Rewind
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles
  • Iron Man
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Get Smart
  • Wall-e
  • Dark Knight
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars
It felt like a really good year for blockbuster summer movies, with many solid franchise films. Most films listed here are huge successes, that have garnered enough ink and publicity and more fauning praise from me will do little to boost their appeal.

On the other end, however "Be Kind Rewind" is a really fine, underrated film by Michel Gondry. I hope the rental/iTunes/Netflix market gives this film the exposure and acclaim it deserves.

Previous Year's Film lists