jamesq: (Archie)
 I was enjoying Oxford Stomp, the annual concert a bunch of businesses put on every year for Stampede. I've been wanting to see Serena Ryder perform ever since I discovered her a few years ago.  She was playing last year (along with Don Henley) so I bought tickets.  Then the show got cancelled due to monsoons.  They booked her again this year, so I, once again, bought tickets.

Ms. Ryder did not disappoint.  I'm always a little worried that the singing you hear on the album got that way because of multiple takes and sound editing magic.  I'm sure there's some truth to that, but it's always nice to hear that the live artist is just that good. Serena Ryder has a fantastic voice, powerful with a great range - and she's not afraid to use it.  I'd definitely see her again. At another venue. An indoor venue. Away from the sun and the heat.

I was on my second coating of sunscreen when I noticed my eyes were super irritated.  "Swell", I thought, "I've sweated sunscreen into my eyes again."  That means trying to cry the irritant out, which is time consuming.  I basically sat at the edge of the venue listening to Our Lady Peace (who seemed like good performers who could work the crowd. alas, I'm not familiar with them, recognizing only two songs) with my eyes closed.

Irritated eyes is something I associate with outdoor SCA events, except now I'm starting to think sweat/sunscreen in the eyes isn't what's going on here.  There was a ton of hay bales on the site, and quite a few of them did get stomped to oblivion by the patrons.  I think I may be allergic to straw, or some byproduct of straw.  That would explain why I associate it with some, but not all, outdoor SCA events; and why it was so bad this time.

And it was bad. I've been off site for 90 minutes now, and I had a long shower, and my eyes are still sore, and my nose is super runny.  I almost started with the nasal rinse I bought for unrelated issues, but I don't have any distilled water.

Now it could be that my first guess (sunscreen) is the culprit, and the runny nose is just the body's response to an irritant in the eyes.  But it's both eyes, and the nose, and a generally icky feeling.  I've never had to deal with allergies before, except on rare trips to Vancouver.  I suspect there's something native to Van that pollinates for a brief period, and I occasionally catch it when the periods align. No clue what plant it is.  Anyway, now I think hay.  Being a city kids, it's no wonder I didn't put this together until middle age.

And the remainder of Oxford Stomp? It was good, but if this is the price I pay, I'll avoid it, regardless of the performers.  Corey Hart was the last performer.  I got to listen to his opening song as I left to go home - I just couldn't take it anymore.

So hay fever sucks. Hopefully a good night's sleep will clear it up.

Your Name

May. 22nd, 2017 09:35 pm
jamesq: (Sushi)
I saw Your Name, the top grossing Japanese film of all time (currently), today.  It is sweet and beautiful in that way we expect Miyazaki films to be, though it is not from Studio Ghibli.

Mitsuha is a school girl living in the small town of Itomori, and Taki is a school boy living in Tokyo. Several times a week, they switch minds, living out the day in each other's bodies.  Like a dream, they have trouble remembering the circumstance when they're themselves, but are aware of what's going on when in the other person's life - at least, once they figure out what's going on.  While this could be played out in a lot of trope-like ways, for the most part the characters do try to "play nice" with each other, and take efforts to bring their strengths towards improving each other's lives.

But one day, Taki finds he can't switch into Mitsuha anymore, and in trying to find her, discovers that reconnecting isn't just important to them, but that hundreds of lives are also at stake.  To say more is to provide major spoilers - if you really want to know, the full plot is on the film's wikipedia page.  Be aware that reading it doesn't give anything like the effect of watching it.

This film is gorgeous in that way that the best hand-animated Japanese films aspire to be. It is sweet, and thoughtful, and a little bit romantic.  I highly recommend it.

jamesq: (Default)
Cineplex plays classic movies once a month. I enjoy these, especially when they actually are classic movies, and not things I've seen as an adult. Though as I approach old age, I suspect that's going to happen more and more often.

This month's feature was
Singin' in the Rain, the classic musical with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor. It was, as expected, a treat to watch on the big screen with a bag full of popcorn. I wasn't sure if I'd actually seen this movie before. My parents liked musicals, so I likely saw pieces of the movie growing up, but being a kid, I wasn't going to sit through it. live and learn. What I did see was a lot of the icon numbers from the movie, namely Kelly singing and dancing in the rain, O'Connor clobbering himself for a laugh in Be a Clown Make 'em Laugh, and our three stars performing the hell out of Good Morning. Comedy wise, I remember a lot of the funny bits with Jean Hagen. Especially when they talk about moving from silent films to talkies, her character declaring that of course they could talk, in a Fran Drescher-like screech. She had comic chops. Seriously, check it out.

A few random thoughts about the movie:

During the opening number, showing Don and Cosmo's early attempts to break into show business, I totally thought of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck singing "We're the boys of the chorus".

It's not quite perfect. The Gotta Dance/Broadway Melody sequence near the end is superfluous, and sorta yanks you out of the picture. But that was the MGM way back then - you need a big production number, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. Hell, they had them in the middle of Marx Brothers movies. At least Sound of Music was already a musical. I think another song that fit the movie would work better there. Not sure what it would be though.

The practical effects for a lot of the movie were really good. Certainly as good as things I was seeing in movies 20 years younger. The choreography and editing of the musical numbers is easily as good as in any movie I've ever seen. I love me some La La Land - but La La Land wishes it had choreography like Singin' in the Rain.

The movie was laugh-out-loud funny. Again, a lot of this was down to Hagen's Lina Lamont. But also a O'Connor and the supporting players contributed a lot of laughs.

On Lita Lamont. I genuinely felt sorry for her and was imagining a happy ending for her. Up until her dark turn near the end of the movie. Then it was nice to see her hoisted by her own petard.

Gene Kelly is a good looking man. It's rare for me to openly admire male beauty (the vast majority of men simply don't do it for me), but goddamn he had a body to die for. Those arms, shoulders, stomach... and dat ass.  That man must have gotten mad laid.  "I would give that nutcracker butt a workout, if only I could invent a time machine" opined one friend.  For myself, if I had a time machine, I'd go back to when I was six years old and enrol in dance classes. I wish I could do a tenth of what he could do on the dance floor.

I resolve to watch more musicals.  A friend was kind enough to loan me An American in Paris, but I still haven't cracked it open.  That was a mistake I'll be correcting shortly.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I went to the Rio to watch Mad Max: Fury Road - Black & Chrome edition. It was fun, and an interesting exercise, but ultimately didn't add anything to the original.

Basically, this is a black and white print of the movie. What I would have liked to see is more playing around with the techincal aspects. Increase or decrease the saturation/contrast/brightness to suit each scene. Play with the sound, maybe eliminate the dialog in place of subtitles (to make it the loudest silent movie ever, with just the explosions and music).

Another thing would be to include the occasional splash of colour - the red of blood in Max's IV. The green of the plants in the citadel. Doof Warrior's flames and some of the key explosions. Nux's eyes when he asks Capable to witness. I think this would have visually underlined key moments of the movie in a way mere black and white could not.

So I'm glad I went to see it, especially with [livejournal.com profile] garething at the Rio. Hell, there were Imortan Joe and Furiosa cosplayers there, which was fun.

Go see it? If you're a giant Fury Road fan. If you're thinking of buying it, and don't already have a copy, you might consider a version that includes both colour and Black & Chrome.


Nov. 13th, 2016 04:59 pm
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Inferno was OK. If you've seen the other Dan Brown adaptaions (DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons), you'll know what to expect. Cambridge Semiotics professor (Tom Hanks) gets caught up in intrigue that only he can handle because it's all medieval puzzles. He's helped along the way by an attractive ingenue (Felicity Jones, this time around).

I may have seen this on the wrong week, because I was sympathetic to the villain's goals of kill all the humans.

Some problems: There's a big reveal that's telegraphed way too early. The redemption sub-plot needed to be set up way earlier. I wasn't too worried about the characters during the action bits, but I was worried about all that gunfire near irreplaceable artworks.

That said, the antagonists were decent, with a variety of different motivations, which made sense to them. The chase scenes were OK, and the climax wasn't too bad - I may crib from it in a future role-playing game.

If you liked the first two in the theatres, you'll like this one too. If not, wait until you can see it for free.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Mostly, I drove. The vacation was winding down and I was anxious to get home, while at the same time not stress out trying to marathon home.

Lots of pictures ahead, so... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I spent a relaxing couple days in Vancouver, partly to visit folks. Got a B&B on Victoria drive that was rather nice. If you're following around, this is a type 2 (mother-in-law suite rented out to make the mortgage), or so I thought. When I checked in, I met the landlord who was upstairs. She showed me around the place and also gave me a warning about her being a musician who sometimes practiced the piano. Oh, and she had a son who would practice drumming - but they'd make sure to keep it to a minimum, and not do it at all at night. As I don't spend a lot of time in my B&Bs, I wasn't too fussed. A few days later, she contacted me to let me know that three French couples were renting the rest of the house. Where she and her son went during this time I have no idea. The French couples? Loud and boisterous, but never when I was trying to sleep. Vive la France!

I went on a shopping spree at Gourmet Warehouse. I need to remember to actually do something with all those ingredients. Actually, I've already started. Between that, Nelson, and Leavenworth, I bought a lot of food.

Bought a pillow and a light jacket at the thrift store. The jacket was because I had somehow forgotten to pack one, and it being Vancouver, the rain was starting. The pillow? I left it at the B&B.

"Did you forget a pillow here?"
"I didn't forget it. I just thought the suite needed one more pillow."
"Um. Ok."
It really did need one more pillow.

That night I went to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Ultimately it was a forgettable little bit of summer fluff. If there's a reason to see it, it's Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick, who have some great comic timing by themselves, and are better than the sum of their parts in this movie. Don't let me oversell it. It's OK with a few funny bits. Wait for Netflix.

Tuesday I had lunch with Ryanzilla, went thrift shopping, because apparently that's how I roll.

That night, I went to see Tickled. At first, it seems to be a weird documentary about a competitive tickling league. Spoilers: there is no league, it's a scam. it's actually about how a sociopath's wealth and kinks ruin lives. Well worth watching, if only for the train of WTFs that arrive at your mental train station as things are revealed.

Wednesday included a visit to FlyOver Canada. Was it good? Mostly. Kind of expensive. There's a pre-show that head-faked me. It's a montage of adorably photogenic folks from around the country. And then it ended, and I thought "did I just pay $22 for this?" And then we went to the main show, which was a fun 15 minute of high-def fly-over footage of my beautiful country, while you're strapped into a chair hanging in the middle of the screen so that it fills your field of view. Also, they spray you with mist at appropriate moments. Worth it? Sure.

That night I visited [livejournal.com profile] whiggy_one and [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka at Storm Crow Prime. Much fun was had.

Thursday morning I took Athena to the ferry terminal, and had a nice wander around Granville island. Bought some ingredients and drive out to Port Wood to socialize with [livejournal.com profile] garething and welcome [livejournal.com profile] othelianna back to Vancouver. Oh, and to cook dinner. Not my best creation, but no one complained, or even had gut-wrenching nausea.

It occurs to me that I was there when Rosie left Vancouver, and I was there when she came back. *smiles*

Next morning I met her at the Clubhouse for lunch, and then I was on my way back to Calgary, albeit in a leisurely fashion.

All in all, a nice relaxing trip to Van. I didn't get to see everyone I hoped to see, but that's usually the way of these things. There'll be other visits.

Here are some pictures, behind the cut... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Short, because Spokane was really just a way station.


  • Wonderful drive.
  • Spokane is pretty.
  • Got to see a good play and a decent movie, both on the same day.
  • Sapphire Lounge (the hotel bar) makes a delicious flatbread.
  • Hotel Ruby is a nice example of what I think of as Hipster Motel. You know, an old school hallways-on-the-outside motel from the 50s or 60s that happens to now be in a gentrified area, so it's now upscale, within the limits of the architecture. Excellent, knowledgeable staff, unique art on the walls, better-than-average room furnishings. Hotel Ruby had all of that.
Bad/Ugly: Nothing really.


  • Customs was professional, and somewhat more attentive to detail than I expect, though they're always that way, so I really should change my expectations.
    "Do you have any alcohol or tobacco?"
    "I have a mickey of rum for personal use."
    "Is it Cuban rum?"
    *thinking* it's emergency rum, so it's a mixture of rums from near-dead bottles. Does it have any Havana Gold in it? Would I even remember if it did?
    *out loud* "No."

  • Riverfront Park remains a jewel in Spokane. There were lots of people enjoying it when I went at dusk. Though I seem to have been the only person not playing Pokemon Go.
Man of La Mancha

Solid performances from the entire cast. I'd recommend it, except the run has passed, and when is anyone reading this going to be in Spokane. This is the first time I've seen Man of La Mancha live, which seems odd, given my lj-name. The lead, in particular, inhabited both Cervantes and Quixote as two distinct characters linked by a common imagination. And he had a great set of pipes too! I really like this story, I just wish it had a few more memorable songs.

Star Trek Beyond

First, I think this was the nicest movie theatre I've ever been to. Seriously, check it out.

The movie was decent Star Trek. I think they still suffer from having Earth-shattering stakes. You don't need to threaten millions of lives if we care about the characters themselves. they're own stakes are good enough if we care about them. It's why Deadpool and The Wolverine were the best X-movies.

Anyway, this had a bit of that, but not as bad as earlier efforts.

Where it stands out is in the performances of the leads and the character growth of Kirk and Spock. They both really grow in this. I especially like the idea that The Enterprise is more than the ship - it's really a shorthand for the crew. The Enterprise is the crew, and that's why it's important to Kirk. The vessel is just, well, the vessel. The ship may be lost, but as long as the crew survives there is still hope. I think that message is the best part of the movie. I'm happy that, ham-handed as that message was, they didn't state it out loud - instead counting on the audience being smart enough to get it.

Downsides: The villain was pretty generic and didn't really have a rational motivation. Also, as names go, Balthazar Edison doesn't hold a candle to Stacker Pentecost. The film is very dark and for that reason I recommend seeing it in 2D - that way twice as much light is actually hitting your retinas.

It was solid Star Trek, and not the shit-show that Into Darkness was.

Cut, because pictures... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
The Man Trap

Good: Nice introduction to Star Trek, even though this was a Monster-of-the-week episode. The salt monster's illusion capability was well executed and suspenseful. Jeanne Bal was good.

Bad: Why would a salt creature evolve on a planet lacking salt? It's clearly a predator, maybe it wiped out all of the prey creatures that collected salt from the environment, but it couldn't do it on it's own. Refined salt would be like crack.

Ensign Ricky: mistakes the salt monster/McCoy's lost love/Scientist's main squeeze for a space prostitute, follows his dick after it, and dies.

Charlie X

Good: Robert Walker played Charlie super - and believably - creepy. The scene where Charlie removes a woman's face freaked me out when I was a kid.

Bad: This gets some grief for being one of the bad episodes, but I don't really think it's deserved. Is it because Charlie and Janice's scenes are so cringe-worthy? They're supposed to be.

Ensign Ricky: Laughs at Charlie and gets sent to the corn field. He gets better when the Thasians reset everything.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Good: Gary Lockwood and Sally Kellerman's performances, especially since they did it while wearing 1960's era eye prosthetics. That had to hurt like hell.

Bad: The galactic barrier, both as a concept and visually as a wall (that I always wondered why they didn't just fly over it). Couldn't it have been some kind of hanging-in-space energy field that no one understood, so they were probing it?

Ensign Ricky: dies nine times off screen through no fault of his own.

The Naked Time

Good: Swashbuckling Sulu! "I'll protect you, fair maiden." "Sorry, neither."

Bad: Polywater intoxication? Should have gone with a disease. Or would this be a kind of prion disease? Sure, let's go with that.

Ensign Ricky: Takes his glove off so that he can stick his hand in a contaminant and then scratch his nose, eyes, tip of penis.

The Enemy Within

Good: A good hard dose of Shatner-esque acting from the man who invented it! Grace Lee Whitney does a solid job too. i'm starting to see her acting as way better than I remember it. First VNP, first "He's Dead, Jim".

Bad: Send a god-damned shuttle craft down to Sulu, or at least beam down some parkas - unless you're worried that they'll have to deal with good and evil parkas.

Ensign Ricky: Gets knocked out, but not killed. First episode with no fatalities!

Mudd's Women

Good: Harry Mudd! Harry Mudd's fabulous hat! Seriously, would Trek have been so fun without Roger Carmel?

Bad: Women just want to be wives. Women just want to be pretty.

Ensign Ricky: Does not appear. I'm kind of glad - fatalities due to Mudd would have made him less of a lovable rogue.

What Are Little Girls Made Of

Good: More solid performances from all of the guests. Sherrie Jackson was ridiculously hott. Also, first appearance of side-boob costuming. References to "The Old Ones" by Ruk. If you think about it, this whole episode is basically Planet of the Elder Things, with androids taking the place of Shoggoths. Also, I totally cribbed the duplication machine for my 60's Supers game.

Ensign Ricky: Pushed into a chasm by Lurch. Crushed by Lurch.


Good: Not much. I guess Kim Darby's performance. I do wonder what happened to the Onlies later. They're super long lived, and most will be only weeks older by the time of Next Gen. I wonder if anyone ever wrote them into any of the books.

Bad: An alternate Earth? I prefer James Blish's back story, since it makes more sense. A 300 year old kid isn't going to act like a kid. They'll act like a 300 year old adult in a kid's body. Also, take your damn communicators with you.

Ensign Ricky: Manages to go the whole episode without dying - or even coming down with the purple bloches. WTH?
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
As many of you know, I was one of the funders for the FlyKly Smart Wheel. It's an electric pedal-assist rear bike tire with everything integrated inside.

I've now had it for two months, and I've been riding it to and from work pretty steadily. Here are my thoughts:

  • The motor needs more torque. It's simply not capable of getting my fat ass up anything like a steep hill. I suspect the Venn diagram of what-I-need and what-they-can-manufacture don't intersect. I really think they designed this for fit people to get around a densely populated, small, flat country - the Dutch basically. Canadians built like Shrek? Not so much.
  • Even the minimal force it puts out has declined markedly since I first started using it. I suspect I'm simply burning the motor out. That I can still get up the one major hill I need to, may have more to do with minuscule improvements in fitness, then with the motor.
  • If the battery drops below 50% it can't even manage that - it just makes a sad whirring noise if I try to climb a hill at that point.
  • That said, I can get about three round trips to work out of a single charge. My one longer trip (about 14 Km) blew past that 50% point, leaving me walking up the hill to my house - the only time I've had to do so with this bike.
  • The power-assist, weak as it is, does give me one nice luxury - on a level road, I can get moving from a stop fairly easily, which makes me a better cyclist. I'm less likely to blow through a stop sign if I don't care about losing all my momentum.
  • The bluetooth on the Smart Wheel well and truly sucks. I generally need to hold my phone against the hub to get a connection, and even then, it only connects about one time out of ten. It's at the point where I'm engaging in serious magical thinking to make it connect. As in, I imagine holding it here, after turning the bluetooth on and off, with the phone at a 45° angle, and sticking my tongue out, will make it connect.
  • Simply getting the bike took a long time. First they delivered to all the European backers; then they delivered to all the American backers; then they delivered to everyone else. Finally, on the second everyone-else-shipment, I got mine. I have a sneaky suspicion they forgot about me until I nagged them. I may be the last of the original backers to get their product. Ha ha, No. I'm sure there's some sad sack out there who still hasn't gotten theirs and is silently seething about it.
  • People online who have had to contact FlyKly seem to have universally negative experiences, mostly do to not being able to contact FlyKly at all. When they do get through, not a lot gets done because they're overwhelmed.
  • I don't expect FlyKly to be around in two years to service these things anyway - they're being sued by the folks making the Copenhagen wheel (an identical product that hasn't shipped yet, probably because they're trying to sort out all of the above). If half of what I read in the deposition is true, they won't have their shoes left, much less a viable company.
Despite all that, I like my bike. I've used it more in the last two months than I've used my previous bike in five years.

Part of that is the novelty of the Smart Wheel itself. I just love the concept of it. I want this product, or one like it, to succeed. Given that purpose-built electric bikes start around $2500, paying $700 for a wheel to add to an existing bike is an awesome middle ground. Does it need to be as good as a purpose-built electric bike? No. Does it need to be much better than what it is? Yes.

Another two big components of my newly-rekindled joy of bike riding (after learning to ride as a kid, I basically never got off my bike in the summer) have nothing to do with the Smart Wheel though. The rest of the bike, and the city's new bike lane policy.

The bike is an Electra Cruiser 7D, modified by the good folks at Bow Cycle to use the Smart Wheel. Even without it, this is the nicest bike I've owned. It's built for comfort, not speed, so (as a coworker with the same bike, sans Smart Wheel, put it) asshole bike owners aren't going to try to race you. Also, it's pretty. I need to start looking at accessories for it.

The city of Calgary is also pushing dedicated bike lanes. I live pretty close to work anyway, so the ride isn't hard. Bike lanes covering about 80% of the route make it much much easier. I like not having to worry about getting side swiped by a car.

Would I recommend the FlyKly Smart Wheel? No. I think the potential for pedal-assist electric hubs is there, but not yet. I doubt FlyKly is going to be the one to get us through the home-stretch. I'd certainly look closely at a similar product, with decent reviews, when such a beast exists though.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I'd heard about How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town while watching the Jewel Staite Q&A at Calgary Expo last year. It sounded like a fun movie. And I've been a fan of Jewel Staite since Da Vinci's Inquest. So when I was casually browsing movies today I noticed it was doing a run at the Globe. As this is the sort of movie I never get people to go see, I went by myself.

There was less than a dozen people in the theatre - I don't think this is going to do well. That's unfortunate as it's not a bad movie. Not a great one either, but it means well and had a few genuinely laugh out loud moments.

A few observations:

Confirms my belief that small towns are hell on Earth. I'll allow my chosen family to be in my business. Every busy body and bully I've had the misfortune of knowing since grade school? Nope.

Unlike in porn, sex looks weird, awkward, and somewhat funny. Better to participate than to watch.

The main character's big secret seemed unlikely and unnecessary to the narrative. It would have been better if she was exactly what she seemed to be.

It takes a lot of iterations before the characters actually have their orgy. And the orgy is surprisingly vanilla. It's less about getting one's freak on as it is finding someone who wants to be with us, and not just a convenient set of genitals. Not exactly the most transgressive or shocking of conclusions. Still, it was nice to see at least one character call the others out on why this could be a bad idea, and another standing up for being vanilla in a way that doesn't make it the only moral option.

Watch this if you're a fan of any of the actors (Ms. Staite is the biggest name aside from a cameo by Lauren Holly), or if you want to see a lot of ass. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something people need to drop what they're doing to see it.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Unexpectedly, I liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. To explain why (without spoilers), I need to reference a review I once read, long ago, of Disney's The Three Musketeers (the one with Keifer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt). From Dale Stephenson on Usenet:

"This was the biggest problem I had with this movie. I *love* swashbucklers. If it had just been the story of Joe, Fred, George, and Tim, saving the young King Foobah from the villanous Cardinal of Metz, it would have been a fine movie. Instead, there were total strangers going by the names of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos. I expected "The Three Musketeers", and they weren't there. Why would anyone take one of the greatest adventures ever written -- and then completely ignore it?"
So yeah, if this had been the tale of Paragon vs. The Midnight Skulker, with a guest appearance by Warrior Babe, it would have been a fine generic superhero flick and I'd have walked away happy, if confused. What it wasn't was Batman or Superman - though Affleck does a decent job, and gets most of the best lines. Cavill, OTOH, makes an excellent Napoleon Solo. Gal Godot's Wonder Woman, for the small amount of screen time she got, stole the show and I wanted to see more of her.

Was it an affront to DC fans? Meh - there's been worse interpretations in the comics. I enjoyed my two and a half hours, but it seems less of an affront than it does an opportunity wasted.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
For the past few months, I've been going to Late Night at the Plaza, a live talk/variety show that is, naturally, at the Plaza on Wednesday nights. It's pretty good and a fun evening for your minimum $5 donation.

This week the musical guests were Benevolent Like Quietus. Not my cup of tea, but they seemed talented for their genre.

The hosts did their bits about Canadian news and sports, and they were entertaining. Then it got downright weird in a way I hadn't expected.

  • The weatherman was a video short of a guy in a cardboard box.
  • The comedians were some performance art piece by a pair of guys in morph suits slapping each other with paint and telling "jokes" that were all non-sequiturs.
  • There were a number of video promos for assorted Storyhive shorts. I've no clue what the end results are going to be (Literally. I was convinced one of them was going to be about oral sex, but reading the synopsis online just now, it seems to be a retro horror).
  • Last year's Storyhive winner was The Society of Birdwatchers. I was pretty sure this was going to serial killer land, but it was really just birdwatchers who needed to go watch some birds.
I mostly just sat their watching, while mentally going What The Fuck?

It ended on a more upbeat note - They have a competition between two audience members for prizes (brewery tour and Hitmen tickets this week) and this week was really good. They had to get into a homemade hurricane booth with hands covered in honey and grab Monopoly money.

Come to think of it, that was pretty surreal too.

Anyway, it's starting to sound like I'm damning it with faint praise, but I really do think it's a decent 90 minutes and I'm baffled that I can't get others to go with me. Aside from my personality that is. Oh, that and everyone I know has early morning jobs and can't stay out until midnight on a week night. Another benefit of flex time.

But the surreality wasn't over. As I left the theatre, one of the creators spoke to me.

"Thanks for coming"
"You're welcome."
"And thanks for all your support!"
By this point, a combination of oh-god-a-pretty-stranger-is-talking-to-me and an urge to get home to pee was conspiring to make me want to leave, so I basically brushed off the last statement. I mean, didn't the whole audience support it with their donations. I figured she'd say this to everyone, and I was just one of the first ones to the lobby.

Well that stopped me in my tracks. I was pretty sure I didn't know this woman. If you know me, you know that these sorts of things always send me into a panic.

"Um. Yes?"
"We were supposed to thank you for all your support during the end acknowledgements."
"Whatever for?"
"You're our biggest supporter on Facebook."
"Good grief, all I've ever done was post a few photos."
Anyway, at this point the combination of social anxiety and full bladder forced me to retreat. I hope I didn't seem too creepy to the young lady. I didn't mean to run out so rudely. Anyway, you should check the show out. By the way, they're playing on my birthday, and I'd kind of like to have a crowd there for that, hint hint. Putting me on the spot won't be appreciated though.

Oh, one last thing, go vote for some stories at Storyhive. The ones the show was promoting (because assorted Late Night creators were proposing them) were:

  • I Love You, Johnny.
  • I Wake Myself Up.
  • Poolside.
You get five votes, so you can spread them around beyond these three.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
[livejournal.com profile] othelianna and I went to see four shows while I was in town.

The Book of Morman

We weren't planning of seeing this, but we were in the West End, and opted to put our names into a "£20 for a front row seat" lottery that BoM does. Rosie won and we ended up going. This is the second time I've seen it, and it was uproariously funny both times. Despite having front row seats, we had a decent view of the stage (we were near the centre, which is good).

A clueless teen tried chatting up Rosie during the intermission. He gets points for working on his game, but lost them all for making a lame beaver joke upon learning we were Canadians.


A musical based on the Roald Dahl book, with lyrics by Tim Minchin? Yes please.

Fun play, with just the right combination of catchy songs and decent plot that makes me a believer. The kids did a great job, and I think I may have fallen a bit in love with the character of Ms. Honey.

Of all the shows I saw, this would be the one I recommend the most. It was just a lot of fun.

Let It Be

This was a good show that suffered from me thinking it would be different from what it was, and because I was hoping for a great show. What I was expecting was a jukebox musical about the Beatles. What I got was a Beatles cover band that performs in character. I liked it, but others (Rosie for example) might not.

As for being a cover band, they were certainly a very good one. Looks, mannerisms, and most importantly - the music, were all really good.

Go see it if you're a Beatles fan, and you can get discounted tickets.


Our last play was probably the best acted. Gypsy is the musical about Gypsy Rose Lee and her toxic relationship with the woman who gave all subsequent stage moms a bad name, "Mama" Rose.

Of note, Mama Rose was played by Imelda Staunton. This was the bulk of the press for the show. And she is very very good as a dramatic performer. Her singing is technically good, but lacked the passion I hope for in a musical. I thought Lara Pulver (you'll remember her from playing Irene Adler) was the real stand out performance. Not that there was a shortage of good performances in Gypsy. They got a well-deserved standing ovation.

Tickets for this were a bit more dear than Matilda, but it was still worth it (especially since I didn't buy them, Rosie did).


May. 13th, 2015 10:37 pm
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
The Furry With the Syringe on Top

I saw Oklahoma! today. It's on it's 60th anniversary release and it was this month's oldie movie at Cineplex. I was expecting an oldie, somewhat staid, musical. That's not what I got.

Oh, it was a good musical all right, with some good dancing to go with it. It also had:

  • A fair amount of violence.
  • A surprising amount of enjoyable ballet.
  • Casual use of pornography by both cowboys and old ladies.
  • A couple successfully negotiating a polyamorous relationship.
  • A nightmarish dream sequence involving cross-dressers that could have been filmed by Fellini.

    I feel that someone could do a successful version of this movie with the sexual subtext cranked to 11 that would end up being high low comedy.

    For you folks who have no idea why I added the picture above:
  • jamesq: (Consumer Whore)
    At lunch today, a friend asked me for my recommendations for meals in Banff. So here are nine (couldn't come up with ten unless I really stretched) recommendations for places to eat/spend quality time with friends. I've limited it to places that I've been to in the last ten years.

    1) Three Ravens (at the Banff Centre).

    I'm listing this one first, because it's my favourite for high-end dining. The food is superb; the service excellent without being obsequious; and the view can't be beat. Go on a clear summer evening and you'll have a panorama view of pretty much every inch of Banff, from the Banff Springs Hotel to Mt. Norquay. Here's a photo to tempt you:
    Fillet of duck Bordelaise maitre d'butter. Yum-yum. Duck polonaise under glass. Mmm-mm. - Bugs Bunny

    2) Maple Leaf Grill (Banff Avenue at Caribou street in the King Edward).

    Lots of Canadiana here, from the points blankets on the walls to the well cooked game in half the entrees, this is a good solid choice if you don't want to hike halfway up a mountain. If you like bacon, or caesar salads, make sure you order theirs.

    3) The Bison (Bear street).

    The Bison and the Maple Leaf grill are sisters and it shows. They're very similar. I find that this is the more casual of the two. Great food and decent patio. Also some unique treats, like their breakfast pizza:
    As with a lot of things of this nature, it wasn't as good as the sum of its parts

    4) Banff Avenue Brewing Co. (Banff Avenue at Clock Tower mall).

    Hanging out with friends for a few drinks and some philosophy? Go to Banff Avenue Brewing. Hipster snacks, nice entrees and probably Banff's best selection of in-house beer.

    5) Melissa's Missteak (Lynx street, across from the Banff Park Lodge).

    Breakfast food, and lots of it. If I'm driving to Vancouver, my routine is to have breakfast here and grab the "Unmmissteakable" Bran Muffin to go - it makes a mighty fine meal on it's own.

    Allegedly they're a steak-house too, but I've never been there for anything other than breakfast.

    6) Eddie Burger Bar (Caribou street at Banff Avenue in the King Edward).

    Order the hamburger. Trust me on this.
    Bison, goat cheese, bacon - offending multiple world religions was never so tasty

    7) Athena Pizza (Banff Avenue at Clock Tower mall).

    Not up to a high-end dining? Need to feed a family cheap? Got young kids? Well you could go to the olde spaghetti factory, or you can go to Athena's, which is the same cost but way better. It's a family pizza place - you know what it's like.

    This was also the favourite place to end a Banff field trip when I was in the UofC Geology program. That was a lifetime ago, but it might still be true.

    8) Waldhaus (on the edge of the Banff Springs Hotel golf course, an easy hike down from the hotel or up from Bow Falls).

    The restaurant is traditional German fare - so get your schnitzel, spätzle and sauerkraut here. The pub downstairs is a great place to drink a crisp cold lager after a hike to Bow Falls with friends on a hot summer's day.

    9) Grizzly House (Banff avenue, north of Caribou).

    This joint opened up the year I was born and the decor hasn't changed since. It's a swinging sixties joint known for it's fondue and inter-table telephones (to arrange partner swaps with). There's even telephones in the washrooms. I haven't had the Exotic Fondue Dinner yet, (shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich, frogs legs, buffalo and venison), but it's on my bucket list. Easily the restaurant most likely to offend. Also the one most likely to allow you to dine in the nude - though given it's hot-oil fondue, I wouldn't recommend it for the same reason you don't cook bacon naked.
    jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
    Nerd Nite Calgary had their third event tonight. It was pretty good. This was the third one and I was at the first one as well. They seem to have a pattern of three speakers: One speaker was someone who did something that "went viral" (the first one was the guy who wants to go to Mars, tonights was a pair of roommates who decided to have a Buy Nothing Year). Another speaker is someone in a local community that's in the nerd orbit (the first was a member of the local skeptics society, today it was members of the maker community). Finally, there is a local scientist (the first was a palaeontologist working on dinosaur buoyancy, today it was a fellow working on computer visualization of the brain).

    First, the talks. Then, impressions, a little therapy, and a request.

    Jeff de Boer and Shannon Hoover were the first speakers, talking about wearable technology. Their example was the Tech Tie, which they're developing with some big names in tech (IBM for example). An open source, computer driven tie that would respond to motion, change its own design, and do all the shit that Google Glass does, but better because its size restrictions wouldn't be nearly so tight.

    They had me right up to the Google Glass comparison.

    Ok, I get it, privacy is simply going the way of the buggy whip. Soon every jackass will be able to film me without my knowledge everywhere I go. There's nothing I can do about it because eventually the tech to do this will be so small and unassuming as to be invisible. Doesn't mean I have to like it. I really don't want to spend every public moment wondering if my fashion choices are going to get me onto a people-of-Walmart style website.

    Other than that, it looked cool. As a vehicle for self-expression, I think it's a wonderful idea.

    Next up was Julie and Geoffrey, who decided to make wholesale changes in their lives by not buying anything (with some caveats, like staggered beginning times for different values of "buy stuff") for a whole year. They were the most engaging speakers and also the one that was most personally inspirational. I'll never make the stuff Jeff de Boer makes, but I can purge my junk and try to live a less consumer-driven lifestyle. Plus I don't need to be nearly so balls-to-the-walls about it as they were. Stop going out for sushi? Not in the cards.

    Anyway, they did it and came out the other side both wiser and more open. Good for them.

    Finally, there was Dr. Christian Jacobs, who does the sort of stuff I imagine [livejournal.com profile] nosarious would be right into. Visualizing the human brain in such a way as to allow one to take an interior tour of its structures. This also tied in with a project to do the same thing for medical training with the whole body. Either a full on simulation of the body (not just a static image, but one with a beating heart, moving muscles, and other things that make us more than just a lump of hamburger) - which would take an insane amount of computation - but also a "cut down" version that one could simply use on a tablet for reference.

    If this guy's grad students wanted a job in something comparatively dull, but that would use their graphical computing knowledge, I could probably set them up.

    All in all a good set of talks and well worth my time and ten bucks.

    Now for some random thoughts and impressions.

    First, this was a smallish venue and they didn't even fill it up. That's probably a good thing since there were two giant pillars in the middle of the room which sharply reduced the number of decent seats. Basically my entire table, except for the one corner I was sitting at, couldn't see the stage at all.

    As for not filling it up, that's just pathetic. If Comic Expo can get 10K+ attendees, there is not one good reason these guys can't get 100. They also all seemed to know each other. That might be my mistaken impression as an outsider, but it sure looked like everyone had an easy time chatting with everyone else. I feel like they've saturated one small part of the local nerd community, but haven't "broken out" to other valences.

    I was firmly in my usual "alone in a crowd" mode, which was bothersome, but not super-bothersome. I figured I'd just sit in a corner and observe and do my usual quips and bon mots via twitter instead of verbally to whomever I knew nearby.

    But I got caught. Namely by Julie (one of the speakers), who quizzed me about whether I was live tweeting the event, and who also immediately followed me. This was quickly followed by Erika doing the same.

    Of course, when strangers introduce themselves to me, my ability to act like a perfectly rational human being goes away and I start talking like a Vulcan robot. I am getting better at snapping out of that, though it did take a few sentences this time.

    So a small amount of anxiety, but it was good anxiety because I got through it positively. However, I would like to not be the one guy by himself. Again.

    So here's the request: Next Nerd Nite is going to be November 20th. This is close to my birthday, but also at a time I'll be in town (I'll likely be away on my actual birthday), so I'd like people to join me, for my birthday, at Nerd Nite #4. Hell, I'll bake a cake if enough people I know confirm and buy tickets.
    jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
    Yesterday was the inauguration of Nerd Nite Calgary.

    The setting was the basement of The Belfry, which advertises itself as a gastropub. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but the food is good and the beer selection is decent. They have a special event room in the basement, and that's where we were.

    I got there early and found a table that managed to be far enough away to make it hard to hear, yet close enough that I couldn't pretend I was in the back of the classroom. I couldn't get anyone to go with me (my one maybe turned into a no due to a stress headache at the last minute). Normally this sort of thing would depress me, except A) I'm starting to get used to it, and B) I ended up with two cool table-mates, Jill and... David? I remember Jill's name because she ended up following me on Twitter. Maybe-David I'm not sure about because my facility with names sucks. I need to use your name at multiple different things for it to stick, and I didn't do that this time.

    The first speaker was Graham Christensen, who is on the long list to be a Mars colonist. He discussed his own motivations for wanting a one-way ticket to Mars, the Mars-One project itself, and some of the hurdles (both personal and technological) to colonizing the red planet.

    He's also a fun and engaging public speaker. I don't know if this is just a natural talent, or if he's worked hard at making it seem natural. As Churchill said (paraphrasing), it takes days of work to make a good off-the-cuff speech. His enthusiasm for the project was infectious.

    The other good thing about Nerd Nite? The discussions that happen during the breaks between speakers. After listening to Mr. Christensen, my tablemates and I had a nice discussion about the psychology of long-distance space travel. I, for one, could not imagine spending 200+ days locked in a minivan with three other people. I'd be the world's first interplanetary spree killer. And actually living on Mars? Sorry - I like all the things that civilization can offer. Still, good on the Mars-one folk for trying it. I wish them success, even if I think it's long odds.

    The next speaker was Christine Shellska, who in addition to being a post-grad at U of C, is also involved in the local Atheist/skeptic community. Her talk was on how the Intelligent Design community refines their bullshit to better sell their manufactroversy (a new word I just learned).

    Ms. Shellska was the weakest of the three speakers, but she still made her points plainly. I think if she had used her initial premise (The Flintstones are historical) using the same "evidence" that the ID movement uses, she'd have made her points in a more entertaining fashion. Of course, ID "proof" is ridiculous, and using ridiculous things ironically has it's own humour.

    "Fred Flintstone really existed and worked for Mr. Slate by using a Brontosaurus Apatosaur as construction equipment."
    "It was just a cartoon rip-off of the Honeymooners."
    It was a fun talk; I think it could have been better.

    The next table discussion immediately veered into mutual ranting about anti-vaxxers (because we saw parallels between ID bullshit and anti-vaxxer bullshit). I've long maintained that the chief characteristic of anti-vaxxers was a thick streak of you're-not-the-boss-of-me-ism. However, Maybe-David had actually studied the phenomenon and discovered that you can explain the facts to someone, they can absorb the facts, they can believe that the facts come from a credible source, but in the end that matters less than whether they had made a public pronouncement on the subject. That is to say, anti-vaxxers (and others of their ilk) will stick to their guns, even if they've accepted the facts, because they'd rather be wrong, then to admit that they were wrong. A rather alien concept for me, since I routinely admit to being wrong.

    Other factors included the ease with which one can surround yourself in pseudo-scientific BS in the age of the internet. Anyone can cite a study. Citing a study that has credible peer-review is somewhat harder though. For one thing, you have to accept the notion of peer-review.

    As you might imagine, all three of us saw eye-to-eye on this subject.

    The final speaker was Dr. Donald Henderson of the Royal Tyrrell, discussing his theory of sauropod buoyancy. This included a computer model of a rubber ball showing the idea of buoyancy. I joked that, as a good scientist, he was starting with "first, assume a perfectly spherical dinosaur". Subsequent models had modern creatures like crocodiles and elephants, to demonstrate it's fitness, followed by sauropods. Turns out they probably floated rather well, due to large lungs and a skeleton that likely incorporated numerous air-bladders.

    And, of course, it was all about dinosaurs, which are intrinsically cool.

    Overall, the night was pretty good. The company was terrific (hell, any night where a pretty stranger buys me a rum & coke is a good night), the talks were both entertaining and educational, and the setting was ideal. About the only thing I'd change would be the order of the talks (I'd have it be dinosaurs/Flintstones/Mars), and having a partner to go with. If they make it a regular thing, I'll make attending it a regular thing.


    Mar. 12th, 2014 10:16 pm
    jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
    I had an opportunity to watch a "Classic SF Mystery Movie" for a charitable donation. I screwed up on the donation and ended up paying a lot more than I intended, which doubly sucks because I don't like giving to non-secular causes (but hey, SF movie). I got to the theatre early, but not early enough to make a difference for seating. And I ended up being damn near last in the theatre because apparently you had to jump through some hoops prior to the show and there was no indication of that until I tried to walk in. This meant a seat in the second row.

    Finally they made a bunch of announcements related to Aliens, but ended up screening Alien. A few observations:

    1) It has not aged well.
    2) Judging from the audience's reaction, it's gone from being one of the most terrifying movies ever to unintentional comedy.
    3) The assorted actors are all so young.
    4) Prometheus really was a remake of Alien - up to and including a crew full of stupid people and a duplicitous android.
    5) Computers that make teletype noises while printing characters on a VT100 screen at 300 baud are really annoying. If I were to make one improvement to the movie, it would be to simply have "Mother" (the shipboard computer) be voice activated, thus eliminating the computer interface as a source of unintentional dating.

    I'd have left early, but I found out the girl next to me had never seen it before, and I figured I'd keep half an eye on her during the scary bits to see if she jumped. She didn't. I suspect she found it about as scary as I'd have found a 1950's monster movie scary when I was of similar age (late teens?).

    For an audience full of local SF fans, I recognized damn few people. My position in line and seating in the theatre prevented that. This could be good or bad, depending on who I saw.
    jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
    Not quite ready for my big post on friendship or sentience yet. Instead, a few little odds and ends.

    I watched Gravity today. It was really good, and the first real Oscar contender I've seen. I recommend everyone go see it.

    First, this film goes by fast. It's damn near in real time (i.e. the 90 minute film almost covers a single window of 90 minutes). Not quite real time, but close. Also, the cinematography and special effects are top notch. The 3D is probably the best I've seen since Avatar. To the point where you forget you're watching a 3D movie - the 3D never drifts into Dr. Tongue mode and it's also never superfluous (as it is in a lot of after-principle-photography 3D conversions). It is simply immersive.

    What really stands out though is Sandra Bullock's performance. She inhabits the role and manages to convey volumes simply with her breath or a look. Just what you want with a character that spends half the movie in a helmet.

    The only real quibble is that a Kessler event as depicted in the movie might affect geosynchronous satellites or the ISS or Hubble, but it wouldn't affect all three as depicted. But hell, I read comic books, so I don't get to bitch about scientific accuracy.

    Gravity is a very good movie right up until you realize that this is merely set in space, it's not about space. Then it becomes a great movie. Ultimately this story is grounded in humanity, and is therefore relevant for everyone, not just SF geeks. This is a feature it shares with Alfonso Cuarón's earlier film, Children of Men. That movie was about how hope can survive in a dystopia. Gravity is about rebirth through adversity.

    I'm grateful for my friends, but I need a new movie buddy.

    I'm having a spot of rum tonight before bed, mostly to loosen up the brain for writing, but also because my depression is lifting. One drink only though, because I don't want to accidentally blow this gain away by kicking myself in the brain chemistry. I think I've earned it this week. Still melancholy and nostalgic (for things that never were) though. I need to not dwell on that.

    The wanderlust is affecting me again. I want to just quit my job, hit the road and see some sights. I'm not going to though. Instead I'm looking for somewhere off-continent to go see, possibly next year. 2016 will probably involve a trip to Indianapolis, so that means 2014/2015 for one of those big once-in-a-lifetime trips. I'm leaning towards Australia or New Zealand. Probably not both though, since each has more than enough to keep me occupied for a two week vacation.

    Hmm. I suspect the last two paragraphs are more related than I was willing to admit.


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