Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ernest Albert McDevitt R.I.P

You wouldn't know him. I knew him a little, and I was glad to.

My Grampa Ernie was not famous, but he was good.

Ernest Albert McDevitt Oct. 28, 1919-Aug. 24, 2011, was born in a farmhouse in Kessler, Alberta to Annie and Albert of Ireland. In the 20's and 30's (great time for it) he was a farmer. And a kid. In the 40's he was a welder for the gas company in Edmonton. In the 50's, 60's, and 70's he raised city kids with his wife Myrtle (married 51 years, how about that?)

In 1983 and for the remainder of his life he was a farmer again in Kessler. If you've eaten any Alberta wheat, rye, and/or canola since then there's a fair to middling chance my Grampa or my uncle Richard made that happen. So, you're welcome.

My grandfather was a business owner & a spiritual leader. He was father and eventually great-grandfather. He was a man of the earth and a lover of the beauty of nature.

He played a mean game of cribbage, he loved Zane Grey western novels, and he endeared himself to me in my selfish teen years by enjoying Babylon 5 beyond all my expectations.

His great Christian faith and his unquenchable work ethic are only to be admired.

Good-bye, Grampa.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Finest Prime Minister We Never Had

Love is Better Than Anger
Hope is Better Than Fear
Optimism is Better Than Despair

Jack Layton of the NDP has died and it's bummed me out: his party is the only one I've ever voted for and the results I saw were incremental, negligible, and at least I reserve the right to complain.

Even if you disagreed with Mr. Layton's politics (treating each other kindly, healing the sick, and saving the world and all) he was quite obviously a good guy in a job that corrupts them fast. He seemed utterly admirable and I therefore admired him greatly.

May Canada see his like again many times in the future. Or we won't have one to speak of.

My deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pretending To Notice: Humans Are Still Pretty Good

I'm 99% sure things could be better, but what the hell:

You guys are great, and as I have no other options- humans it is!

This week I saw a great show at the Edmonton Fringe: Apocalypse Kow: SINGERers. I follow the blog of one of them guys: Dr. Teeth! Check it out, won't you? Also, you can buy the CDs of these charming minstrels for a nominal fee at their show. So... do that. I'll wait.

Oh, you're back already? It's famed dead humanist Gene Roddenberry's 90th birthday! Celebrate by creating groundbreaking SF TV! Or by kissing somebody outside your skin colour! Or just watch ANY random episode of Star Trek: you've got a 40-50% chance of liking it! (Enjoyment not guaranteed.)

I'm pleased to hear my friend Bookmonkey is on the mend after his recent bike accident. We're celebrating our 35th birthdays this weekend, and at 5 days older, I'M supposed to be the one sliding into decrepitude!

Make time this weekend for your families, loved ones, and species in general. Be excellent to each other!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Hugos: Neuromancer

Deep breaths.

Prepare to not be shocked.

Ready? It's not my taste. At all.

'Neuromancer', the 1984 novel by William Gibson that won the 1985 Hugo award (and was the first to win Nebula & Dick awards into the bargain) is VERY highly regarded by many as a pioneering book in the SF sub-genre now referred to as cyberpunk.

It tells a bleak, disjointed story about a dystopian future where various unsavory and damaged characters compete for money and survival, culminating in the activation of a sentient computer which will probably also grow up to be a giant ass-hat.

I gave it 2 stars out of 5, and that was mainly because I was pleased to hear Gibson was a Nam draft-dodger. Also because I prefer to go along with the crowd if I can, and the crowd LOVED this.

I could not find things to like about a single grim character in the humorless septic tank of this morality-free, jargon-crammed future. Probably WORSE is how forgettable the whole affair was: I've been reading Wikipedia and other people's reviews for an hour trying to spark a recollection of any kind! Sadly, what rubbed off was negativity. Although my swiss cheese memory was only backed by my OWN star review, I think I got the gist.

As in-
Lister: Some smegger filled out this 'Have You got a Good Memory' quiz!
Kryten: Yes, sir. YOU did. A week ago.
Lister: Have I?
Kryten: Yes, sir. Nobody else spells Thursday with an 'F'.

Gibson apparently wrote a short story about a character who voluntarily turns his back on 'The Gernsback Continuum' (named for the guy behind the Hugo award), a reality where the futurist visions of the 40s & 50s came true. Granted, a bunch of those visions were racist and/or hollow pie-in-the-sky nonsense, but give me a sexy gal with a jet pack in a shiny utopia above a metal-eyed crack-whore with a spinal plug in a back alley ANY DAMN DAY!

Call me shallow, but I loves me my escapist fiction. That said, I liked 'The Matrix' and even 'Johnny Mneumonic', movies that wouldn't exist without Gibson's unique vision. Also, I'll soon be reading Gibson & Sterling's 'The Difference Engine' for my bookclub, so I better buckle up my big boy steam-powered laser boots!

(I am clearly more cyberdisco than cyberpunk.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It's A Habit-Forming Kind of Ecstacy

I have known the name since 1987, read two of Adam Warren's comic trade paperbacks based on the series, and always been curious. But this weekend, I payed through the nose to get them at Animethon- and I have never regretted an anime purchase LESS.

Dirty Pair (buy yours at Rightstuf online, it was cheaper than ebay this morning) on DVD is exhilarating. It's amazing fun!

Based on the novels of sci-fi writer Haruka Takachiho (which I've never read but SURE want to now) and then maybe dumbed down or livened up for a cartoon (like I say, I've never read them, I'm just reading between the lines on the liner notes) it spins a kick-butt yarn of Kei and Yuri, agents for the World Welfare Works Association (sort of a heroes-for-hire) in the year 2140 on planet Esturl.

Codenamed 'Lovely Angels', Agents 234K & 234Y are more commonly referred to as 'Dirty Pair' because of their devastating record of casualties and damage in the pursuit of their eclectic assignments. No two missions are alike: and no two girls cooperate as badly.

It's blasters and bikinis, cowgirls and computers, somewhere between Charlie's Angels and Star Trek. High energy and fun writing even more to my personal taste than the delightful Captain Tylor. Top-notch animation reminiscent of the best Robotech had to offer, but I've yet to see the quality taper off: and I watched 13 out of 26 episodes YESTERDAY.

Am I wasting them watching them so fast? Yes.

Can I stop? No.

The Japanese audio track with subtitles is how I prefer things: I feel like it's usually closest to the original emotional intent. Of course, this DVD set has NO other option- and some prefer English dubbing. It's the only 'flaw' I've found here.

When I noticed it was made in 1985 it only served to reinforce my affection for that particular year. It SHRIEKS eighties: headbands, disco, materialism, and pop music that's never been topped. I tend to skip title music after the first few episodes: I watched this title ALL 13 TIMES because the song is so infectious!

I'm pretty sure "Dirty Pair"'s target audience is teen boys, which is my emotional skill level, also. But anyone who gets a thrill from action comedies might like it, too. Ideal summer Saturday fare.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Waning Interest in Falling Skies

I tried, you guys. I did.

What's worse, I just read a great blog from Renaissance Dork. Read it, won't you? He's good!

I particularly liked the idea of negative reviews being no fun to read in the long term. As he put it: Nobody FORCED me to get a degree in geekology which I use merely to write scathing complaint dumps!

That said, I'm only watching 'Falling Skies' anymore because it happens to be on and has more lasers than General Hospital. When my wife cancels Superchannel I won't miss it. It's not as exciting as 'The Walking Dead' or 'Battleglum Galacticglum', which it resembles.

I only tend to perk up when the aliens are on screen or stomping about in their robotsuits. I should really be rooting for the poor humans- but I'm just not feeling them. Why does this look more like a subdued gun nut camping trip than the Apocalypse? A lotta stuff still looks intact and a lotta people still look clean and well fed. If all the real military has died, and all life is at stake, why aren't MORE people taking the initiative to become soldiers? I'm not sure a rebel militia would put up with hundreds of non-contributing leeches for SIX MONTHS. I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but STILL... you have to adapt!

Particularly jarring for me was adopting the leader of a rape gang of murderous thugs... and letting him be the cook on his first day! I want to believe in second chances, but REALLY? Put a bullet in this guy and let's get back to choking down the canned beans. So sorry, very sad, but NOW is not the time.

So I guess it provokes a reaction: frustration. What's it all about? Are we supposed to be rooting for the alien child enslavers? Or the bible thumpers who torture their prisoners? I know I'm supposed to like Pretty Widow Doctor and Pretty Widower Professor, but the only human I liked so far was Steven Weber, and he's dead already.

Aw, what the hell do I know? It's back next season.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Favourite Characters: A Perfectly Good White Boy

If you've never willingly seen (or been forced to watch by me) 1985's absurdist teen romance/skiing/angst film 'Better Off Dead', then you've missed out. I mean it. I really mean it. You can get it on Blu-Ray now or watch my ordinary DVD at my place, because it's, well,...

This movie blew my face off just like Ricky's horrible mother.

It is a long term personal favourite movie of mine, and if it touches you the way it touches me, then I'm deeply, deeply sorry, for we are the same person and I gotta say... I've never really liked myself all that much.

When I tell you that in 2010 I apparently ranked it my 99th favourite film out of 100 favourites, it's important to remember that I've seen THOUSANDS of films, and a favourite is still a favourite...

No matter how awkward, no matter how mawkish, I identified VERY strongly with this weird little movie and it will cheer me out of most doldrums to this very day. It's got a killer eighties soundtrack mostly by Rupert Hine. It's got a solid, eccentric cast, with a lead that I love very much: John Cusack as Lane Meyer. As written by 'Savage' Steve Holland, who I am also required to love very much. (Even though this movie ruined whatever friendship they had, I guess. (At least, that's what this neat interview Bookmonkey sent me says.)

Lane is the saddest sack in Greendale; for Beth, the girl on whom he has pinned all his hopes (and her face on all his hangers), has dumped him. And if he weren't such an abject failure in every aspect of his life including suicide, he'd have no reason to go on living.

When the universe throws unhinged paper boy armies, sneering jocks, and every possible form of work, school and family banality your way, look to Lane. There are inspirations everywhere, second chances (they might be named Monique), and outlets in your art whether drawing, music, or being a terrible skiier.

Lane's best and perhaps only friend, the not-even-cool-enough-to-be-a-real-drug-addict Charles De Mar offers advice to help Lane (and perhaps you and I) ski the K-12 that is life:

"Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way... turn."