Friday, December 25, 2009

If You Have to Work on Xmas

if you have to work on christmas, well, it sucks, but try to make the best of it, get into the spirit and have fun with the customers.

In between taking Christmas Day pics, I was just in a 7-11 looking at DVDs for sale and the dealer remarked I probably wouldn't find anything decent. I did find a DVD plus a magazine. When the cashier was open a guy wanted to get two 5's for a 10, and the dealer wouldn't unless he bought something. Now I understand that's 7-11's policy, but with the cash register open anyway, would iut have really hurt the store to do that and create a bit of goodwill? He probably did get an extra sale this time, but I bet the buy passes on making a purchase at a 7-11 in the future as a result. Something that could have been avoided with a little Christmas spirit (the real type, not the buying type) and helping a fellow human being with something trivial to the sotre but helpful to the person.

You don't have to shout Merry Christmas! at the top of your lungs, but be cheerful. Make your customers feel happy to be out and about on Christmas Day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Victoria Comic Book Industry & Movie Festival Day 2

Okay, back from the last day of the convention, grateful for that extra hour to energize me due to the time change. Even so I was a bit fatigued and glad for some of the workshops.

I arrived for the second day just as the convention was opened. Michael Adamthwaite recognized me and immediately waved hi when I arrived, and I waved back, but I was still getting my bearings and there were organizers at his table, so I waited until a bit later to talk to him. But he was definitely one of the friendliest celebrities at the convention.

I went over to the comic section and got more comics autographed by Dave McCaig, including more issues of Deadman, since it was a series we both quite liked.

Back in the movie/tv area I got into a discussion with location scout Tim Moshansky, asking about movies set in Seattle but filmed in Vancouver. I was surprised to find out that most of Battle in Seattle was filmed in the Vancouver area; unlike 88 Minutes or The 4400, enough of that movie was filmed in Seattle that it created the illusion of more of it being filmed there.

I visited Michael Adamthwaite. He autographed some more movies, once again quite enthusiastic about the projects he's been in, and we chatted some more about Watchmen and I think other movies. The conversation went so well that he gave me a free signed photo. I hope he eventually gets a greater amount of recognition because he’s a class act and I’m going to try to keep an eye out for him in future projects.

I bought a couple of 1977 calendars at the comic side: one DC, one Marvel, both more far more elaborate than newer calendars, with text in a lot of the squares. I also got a 25% off coupon at Curious Comics, good only during the convention.

I think it was right after that I located one of the people I couldn’t find before, James Tyce, Heath Ledger’s stand-in in Brokeback Mountain. I probably should have asked him for details of that that entailed but hindsight's 20/20. I did get a photo of him and myself, with him holding my newly autographed copy of Brokeback.

I went to the Troma table; Lloyd Kaufman was there but had to head out, but he promised to autograph some more movies later. I bought all the remaining DVDs on the table that I didn’t already have (beyond package variants) and got a discount again.

I briefly spoke to William Katt again, to mention another aspect of The Greatest American Hero that I liked (its giving the characters political leanings).

It was now 11:30 and Lloyd Kaufman was due to conduct a Make Your Own Damn Movie workshop at 12:30, so I decided to head to Curious Comics to use the coupon on a trade I wanted, then grab lunch.

Back at the convention Lloyd Kaufman made good on his earlier promise to autograph one more set of DVDs (again, he was very friendly and appreciative of his fans), then I went to where his workshop was to be held.

After a while of watching bit of Terror Firmer in that room it became clear that something had gone south. I checked a few of the other rooms, catching tiny bits of a Q&A with Robert Picardo, and then asked a guy at the room the workshop was to be in (he didn’t know).

I went downstairs and told Margot Kidder I liked how she had been nice to a Santa Monica Blvd “Superman” in the documentary Confessions of a Superhero (hey, she’s Margot Kidder; couldn’t pass up a final chance to say hi to her). I also noticed that Lloyd was still there, further suggesting that things had gone south with the workshop.

I went back upstairs and met up with a friend who I chatted with (unfortunately I missed her the day before so I didn’t get to see her in her Halloween costume except in photos she showed me). She pointed me in the direction of another convention worker who also didn’t have the answers. It later turned out that she didn’t know about the vent in question despite all the colour signs. As noted in my last blog, a common theme was people working at the convention who would have liked to have help but just didn’t know what was happening. I finally asked Lloyd Kaufman himself and found out that the event was cancelled, though there was to be a Q&A later.

I attended a Q&A with Nhi Do (again, the Vietnamese girl in Watchmen) and make-up artist Ryan Nicholson. It was a lot of fun. After the first question (asked by Gareth Gaudin, who does the Perogy Cat strip and who runs Legends, the comic shop I patronize the most) I asked a Watchmen-related question. Thereafter most of the rest of the discussion involved Watchmen, but I’m pretty sure that Q&A would have gone that way eventually even if I had kept silent. The only quibble was that one enthusiastic audience member (no, not me) interrupted Nhi a couple times.

After the Q&A I wandered around some more, complementing Nhi Do on the Q&A seminar. I also saw Lloyd filming an ad for I believe the website at the booth to the left of his (the ad seemed to be a mock fight of sorts). I finally worked up the courage to ask the guy from the day before who seemed a bit sour about the other makeup artist who was supposed to attend. This time I got confirmation about the cancellation. I wanted to ask about a couple other possible cancellations but he still looked annoyed, so I decided not to push my luck.

I attended one more Q&A, this time with the interesting combo of William Katt and Lloyd Kaufman. That was also a lot of fun, and the two had a great rapport together. Katt said he would have liked to have been on Heroes longer. He also said his most rewarding acting was actually his stage work and mentioned typecasting due to The Greatest American Hero, noting that it seems to be less of a problem for superhero roles these days. Lloyd Kaufman expressed mixed feelings about been blacklisted by Hollywood, noting that even when his movies were well attended in theatres, then tended to be forced out by studios who would pull out of a theatre if they didn’t devote enough screens to their latest blockbuster; on the flip side it frees him up not just in terms of what he makes, but also when he makes and distributes the film.

After that I bought some more comics, and then located Ryan Nicholson and got one more movie autographed, knowing that things were winding down and it would probably be my last chance.

After that I decided that with everyone leaving I’d head out. The day went full circle when I passed Michael Adamthwaite on the way home and he again said hi to me as we passed. So again, very nice person.

Overall I think with the stress of the $20 autographs out of the way, and between the direct conversations and the Q&A’s, I had a lot more fun overall the second day. I wished the one guy I asked for info had smiled a bit more, and think that by getting everyone a bit more organized and on the same page, he’d probably have had more to smile about. When I look back on the convention I’ll recall a lot of very nice moments, though I’ll also recall some of the frustration from volunteers usually not knowing answers to questions; things will always go wrong with this kind of thing, so having a backup plan is wise, including communicating the changes to the volunteers either directly or by having a volunteer act as relay for news. So mixed feelings but overall worth it, especially for the second day.

Victoria Comic Book Industry & Movie Festival Day 1

[Note: I wrote this blog post originally after first day of the convention but before returning for the second day. I made some minor edits after the 2nd convention day was over, but in order to preserve my initial impressions, have not changed anything based on new knowledge from the 2nd day].

Okay, I’ve attended the first day of a two-day comic/movie convention in town and my reaction was… decidedly mixed. I probably look at it more favourably now that I’ve had some sleep than I did at the time. As I describe the below, understand that for the negative stuff I generally won’t post people’s names. Also, it was a long day so a few bits of chronology might be off.

When I arrived I asked a volunteer where the actors would be situated and was told, “We’ll learn together”. This would be a theme repeatedly during the convention. I think was needed was a briefing of the various volunteers regarding floor layouts and the like. I eventually worked out that there were three distinct sections: the actors’ area just to the left of the lobby, an events area on the floor directly about this, and a comics section on the right side entrance.

Just before entry I traded my physical pass for a wristband. Since a few of my questions had already been met with confusion I decided not to ask about taking it off at the end of the day and getting a new one for day 2, and instead just keep it on until the convention was over.

There was a program booklet but it cost $2 so I decided to pass. Where the doors opened to the actor’s area I went in and found that none of the actors were actually present yet. There was a note saying that Erin Gray (Buck Rogers couldn’t attend). I made a mental note of where some of the other people were to be situated, though I couldn’t find Margot Kidder’s name.

I went over to the comic section. I got stuff autographed from artist/colourist Jim McCaig, who was clearly appreciative of one of my own underappreciated titles, the early 2000s Deadman series. I should stress that all the celebrities that I actually talked to were friendly to varying degrees.

I couldn’t find any of the other artists I wanted stuff autographed and never did locate them. Through the grapevine I eventually learned that a couple of them had cancelled, though no one volunteer seemed to have a list of who all had cancelled. One did mention a lot of last minute cancellations but didn’t have a list; the comic side seemed more heavily hit with cancellations than the movie side. So I can’t say for sure that everyone I couldn’t find wasn’t actually at the convention.

I returned to the movie side and got things autographed by the two youngest actors present: Calum Worthy, Lightning Lad on Smallville; and Nhi Do, the Vietnamese girl the Comedian kills in Watchmen. Both were very nice and professional, and neither fit the negative clichés you sometimes here of with younger actors. For my Smallville set, Calum made a point of locating the specific disc of the episode he was in, and Nhi later complemented me on my Marvel Comics themed bag.

I then met Margot Kidder, where I learned for the first time that most of the major TV/movie celebrities present charge $20-$25 per autograph (rising stars, crew members, and Lloyd Kaufman did not charge). I didn’t mind that fact so much as there was no advance warning of this. For the bigger stars who charged per autograph I decided to limit myself to one item per celebrity, so I could have saved some packing time, as well as having much less to carry, had I known in advance. Margot Kidder was very nice and was the first celebrity to have me in the photo when I asked to take a photo of her. In contrast to autographs, no one charged me to take or have taken a photo. Unsurprisingly, I had her autograph my Superman set

I got a couple DVDs autographed from location scout Tim Moshansky, who told me some anecdotes avoid location scouting for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

Then I think it was when I met up and coming actor Michael Adamthwaite; people who've seen the longer version of Watchmen (Director's Cut) might know him as one of the Knot-Heads; he was also the voice of Balder in Hulk Vs and of Thor in Next Avengers. He was happy to autograph my stuff and was glad I brought the quirky independent film Walk All Over Me (a very fun film).

I returned to the comic section for a bit, and then back to the movie section. I got autographs Ethan Phillips (Neelix on Star Trek Voyager; who seemed to still have mixed feelings about appearing in the well made but challenging film The Babysitters, where he played one of a number of pedophiles; I told him I appreciated the risky project). I forgot to get his picture but he was agreeable later in the day to my rectifying that.

Robert Picardo (the Doctor on Star Trek Voyager; he signed my copy of Justice League vol. 1 and included the name of his character, Amazo; he also seemed to have the demeanour of a butler, proper but processional). My timeline’s a bit fuzzy, but think the next bit of chronology went like this: I tried to locate the two main makeup people who were supposed to be there without much luck. I asked some volunteers/organizers in the lobby with no luck. Either they didn’t know or in one case seemed annoyed at me for asking and simply directed me back to the room with no indication of which table I should be looking for.

I returned back and met with William Katt, Ralph Hinckley on The Greatest American Hero, who of the big TV stars was probably the friendliest and most interested in the guests. He guessed that I was a fan of the show from when I was a kid; I admitted I hadn’t wanted to say that but it was true. With the autograph of Greatest American Hero season 1, he through in an autographed glossy publicity photo from the series.

I then visited the Troma booth, where co-president Lloyd Kaufman (co-creator of the Toxic Avenger) was present (I previously met him at an earlier convention in town). Lloyd Kaufman is very much the life of the party for any event like these, were appreciative of his fans and happy to autograph stuff. I bought a lot of DVDs so he knocked off some of the price and threw in some promotional stuff. He had one person there dressed as the Toxic Avenger. When I asked to get a bit of him, he had myself, “Toxie”, and one of his “Super-Tromettes” in the photo and made sure that the Troma banner was in the background of the shot. I should stress that this is not a negative: Troma movies are never going to be as well known as Hollywood films, so the studio's survival is dependant on a grassroots effort to get the Troma name out there. So I was happy to have the Troma name in my pics. Fortunately for the survival of Troma, Lloyd’s very much the promoter, which is probably a key reason for Troma’s longevity as an independent movie studio.

I then visited the booth of Chase Masterson, who was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show I only watched a little of. I waited briefly as she got out her (somewhat risqué) photos and then she autographed my copy of Trekkies. I don't really have an anecdote of her regarding anything she's been in, but she was friendly.

I returned to the comic section and after another unsuccessful search for more of the comics pros found a place with a nice selection of $1 comics. The guy there offered to let me store some of my stuff near his table, which was much appreciated.

I thought that one seminar was at 12:30 but found out that I’d misread the sign and the seminar was actually day 2. I finally found one of the special effects people, Ryan Nicholson and got things autographed; the other one apparently didn’t attend but I’m not sure. I accidently brought the one version of one film (same name, different film) but he was gracious enough about the error.

One of my buddies arrived for a short time. She did a bit of a whirlwind tour and said hi to the people she most wanted to see, including Margot Kidder. I had turned her into a Troma fan and she was most looking forward to see Lloyd Kaufman, so I got a couple of shots of the two of them together, again with the Troma banner in the background. She also grabbed some stuff from the comics section, and we toured the upper floor together.

I needed a break so when she headed home, close to my place, I walked with her to my place. I dropped off most of my stuff, got some more money, had lunch, and almost made it back to the convention when I realized I had left my camera behind. I retrieved that, took a few more photos, then noticed I had left behind the second set of DVDs I wanted autographed. I went home and grabbed those.

When I got back I had a nice chat with Michael Adamthwaite and Nhi Do when I got Michael to autograph a few more things. Michael mentioned he was only in the Director’s Cut version of Watchmen so I quipped that I was glad I brought the right version. Again both of them were very nice people to talk to.

I wandered back and forth a few more times and got some more comics from the same booth as before (I never found any at the other booths). During one visit to the comics I saw two women inventively dressed up as Ms. Marvel and the Black Cat.

On the cast/crew side I also got a zombie short DVD from Ira Hunter, whom I’ve know for a while and who is probably the main ringleader for zombie-related events in Victoria. He also tossed in a few freebies. In one booth I heard a couple young women casually tell someone that he could see them naked on the website they were promoting.

Then I got some more autographs from Lloyd Kaufman. During this he got a call from co-president Michael Herz. Herz was at the Toronto premier of Toxic Avenger: The Musical, which apparently was going well. He even gave me another free DVD. I was feeling tired and most of the other celebrities had left for dinner so I decided to call it a night and recharge for day 2.

I suspect day 2 will be a bit quieter because I’m not paying for autographs today, which gives me less of an excuse to chat with/get photographed with some of the stars, but we shall see.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Wishes for 2009

10 More Bits of Advice

1. Wear bright colours at night, e.g. pumpkin orange. Dracula can probably survive the impact of a fast moving car. Actors dressed as Dracula are another matter.
2. Skip apartments when trick or treating. There’s little candy there and some some “trick or treat” refers to turning tricks.
3. If it’s raining and you’re trick or treating, sacrifice a bit of style for pneumonia prevention
4. If going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, consider preparing in advance, e.g. watching footage of theatre goers on the DVD. It’s a movie theatre-going experience where practice in advance is advisable.
5. As with New Year’s, if you must smoke pot, don’t do it outside downtown. Again, you might find yourself with people who turn tricks, and this time hang with them and other misdemeanour types for a full night.
6. If you dress up at work, don’t dress so revealing that you decrease overall productivity.
7. If your costume is a bank robber, consider removing the ski mask when entering banks or stores.
8. For “Treat or treat, smell my feet”, remember that the second phrase is a children’s rhyme and not an actual request.
9. If you have no child and wish to trick or treat, consider hiring yourself out as a babysitter. You’ll get more candy with a kid present.
10. If you trick or treat with a child, remember that your kid will probably want some of the candy and your comfort the next feel days might improve by fulfilling this request.

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Prime Ministers as Characters on Film

This is the flip side of my previous post, this time focussing on how many times and by how many actors a Canadian Prime Minister has been portrayed by someone other than the Prime Minister. I used two sources for this: Wikipedia to get the names of Prime Ministers and when they ran (Wikipedia isn’t always accurate but is generally good for factual stuff such as this) and the Internet Movie Database for screen appearances (again some inaccuracies may appear but this is probably the best possible source for such information). For TV series, appearances are only counted once.

Where the Number of Actors is less than Number of Films, it means that the same actor(s) has/have played the Prime Minister in multiple films. In some cases more than one actor may have played the Prime Minister in the same film.

Gaps in the list of Prime Ministers mean I was not able to find concrete evidence of actors portraying the Prime Minister. For purposes of this list, interim Prime Ministers are given equal weight as elected Prime Ministers. Completely fictional Prime Ministers, however, are not counted.

Due to the nature of the post, this blog entry will be updated periodically.

Sir John A. MacDonald
Prime Minister #: 1st
Years: 1867-1973, 1878-1891
Number of Films: 7
Number of Actors: 3

Pierre Trudeau
Prime Minister #: 15th
Years: 1968-1979, 1980-1984
Number of Films: 7
Number of Actors: 8

And, well, after that big lead-in, that’s all that I can find. If people know of any portrayals of other Prime Ministers including satire let me know and I’ll update this. Surely there must be more?

American Presidents on Film

Similar to my Canadian Prime Ministers blog post, this is an attempt to catalogue how many appearances American Presidents have made on film. I used two sources for this: Wikipedia to get the names of Presidents and when they ran (Wikipedia isn’t always accurate but is generally good for factual stuff such as this) and the Internet Movie Database for screen appearances (again some inaccuracies may appear but this is probably the best possible source for such information). For TV series, appearances are only counted once. Of course it’s impossible to get data on all newscast appearances so later Presidents likely have 100s of uncatalogued appearances; these are probably the easiest to find somewhere.

Actor means this is a rare case (well, not so rare with Ronald Reagan) where a President has played a role other than themselves, though the role may in some cases (e.g. Former President) allude to the real person. Self means the film has new footage as the President as themselves, usually but not always in a non-fictional role. Archive means the film only has footage of the President obtained from other sources. For TV shows a President may appear in both Self and Archive categories as long as the episodes are different. In Personal Collection is mainly for my own interest and that of friends/family; I own a copy of the film in question.

This list is solely of the Presidents themselves, not of people playing them. A separate list for such appearances will be covered in a subsequent blog. Personally I think seeing the actual leader on film is more interesting than a portrayal, no matter how good.

Gaps in the list of Presidents mean I was not able to find concrete evidence of filmed appearances of the President, though again obviously some appeared in news broadcasts. For purposes of this list, interim Presidents are given equal weight as elected Presidents.

Due to the nature of the post, this blog entry will be updated periodically.

Rutherford B. Hayes
President #: 19
Years: 1877-1881
Archive: 1

Grover Cleveland
President #: 24
Years: 1893-1897
Self: 3

William McKinley
President #: 25
Years: 1897-1901
Self: 29
Archive: 8

Theodore Roosevelt
President #: 26
Years: 1901-1909
Self: 34
Archive: 40

William Howard Taft
President #: 27
Years: 1909-1913
Self: 8
Archive: 7

Woodrow Wilson
President #: 28
Years: 1913-1921
Self: 12
Archive: 36

William G. Harding
President #: 29
Years: 1921-1923
Archive: 10

Calvin Coolidge
President #: 30
Years: 1923-1929
Self: 6
Archive: 15

Herbert Hoover
President #: 31
Years: 1929-1933
Self: 2
Archive: 18

Franklin D. Roosevelt
President #: 32
Years: 1933-1945
Self: 15
Archive: 180
In Personal Collection: Nixon, Simpsons season 10 (both Archive)

Harry S. Truman
President #: 33
Years: 1945-1953
Self: 9
Archive: 87
In Personal Collection: Nixon, Why We Fight (both Archive)

Dwight D. Eisenhower
President #: 34
Years: 1953-1961
Self: 20
Archive: 135
In Personal Collection: Nixon, Why We Fight (both Archive)

John F. Kennedy
President #: 35
Years: 1961-1963
Self: 27
Archive: 247
In Personal Collection: JFK, Nixon, The Dish, Lexx season 4, Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked, Why We Fight, Justice League: The New Frontier (all Archive)

Lyndon B. Johnson
President #: 36
Years: 1963-1969
Self: 6
Archive: 107
In Personal Collection: JFK, Nixon (both Archive)

Richard Nixon
President #: 37
Years: 1969-1974
Self: 39
Archive: 199
In Personal Collection: JFK, Nixon, Why We Fight (all Archive)

Gerald Ford
President #: 38
Years: 1974-1977
Actor: 1
Self: 42
Archive: 41
In Personal Collection: All the President’s Men, Quantum Leap season 2, Nixon (all Archive)

Jimmy Carter
President #: 39
Years: 1977-1981
Self: 59
Archive: 60
In Personal Collection: West Wing Documentary Special (season 3) (Self); Nixon, Maxed Out (both Archive)

Ronald Reagan
President #: 40
Years: 1981-1989
Actor: 78
Self: 108
Archive: 235
In Personal Collection: Roger & Me, Dream On season 1 & 2, Nixon, American Psycho, Prozac Nation, Weird Al Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection, Outfoxed: Robert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, Who Killed the Electric Car?, An inconvenient Truth, Maxed Out, Balls of Fury, Heckler (all Archive)

George H. W. Bush
President #: 41
Years: 1989-1993
Self: 79
Archive Footage: 104
In Personal Collection: Nixon, Fahrenheit 9/11, An Inconvenient Truth, Maxed Out (all Archive)

Bill Clinton
President #: 42
Years: 1993-2001
Self: 171
Archive Footage: 140
In Personal Collection: Nixon, Fahrenheit 9/11, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Maxed Out, Sicko (all Archive)

George W. Bush
President #: 43
Years: 2001-2008
Self: 113
Archive Footage: 209
In Personal Collection: The Awful Truth season 2 (Self/Archive; different episodes); Bowling for Columbine, 11’09”01, Unprecedented: The 2000 Election, Fahrenheit 9/11, Uncovered: The War on Iraq, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, Unconstitutional, Why We Fight, This Divided State, Iraq in Fragments, Who Killed the Electric Car?, An Inconvenient Truth, Maxed Out, Shut Up & Sing, The Tripper, Sicko (all Archive)

Barack Obama
President #: 44
Years: 2009-Present
Actor: 1
Self: 94
Archive Footage: 44

Canadian Prime Ministers on Film

This is an attempt to catalogue how many appearances Canadian Prime Ministers have made on film. I used two sources for this: Wikipedia to get the names of Prime Ministers and when they ran (Wikipedia isn’t always accurate but is generally good for factual stuff such as this) and the Internet Movie Database for screen appearances (again some inaccuracies may appear but this is probably the best possible source for such information). For TV series, appearances are only counted once. Of course it’s impossible to get data on all newscast appearances so later Prime Ministers likely have 100s of uncatalogued appearances; these are probably the easiest to find somewhere.

Actor/Actress means this is a rare case where a Prime Minister has played a role other than themselves, though the role may in some cases (e.g. Former Prime Minister) allude to the real person. Self means the film has new footage as the Prime Minister as themselves, usually but not always in a non-fictional role. Archive means the film only has footage of the Prime Minister obtained from other sources. For TV shows a Prime Minister may appear in both Self and Archive categories as long as the episodes are different.

This list is solely of the Prime Ministers themselves, not of people playing them. A separate list for such appearances will be covered in a subsequent blog. Personally I think seeing the actual leader on film is more interesting than a portrayal, no matter how good.

Gaps in the list of Prime Ministers mean I was not able to find concrete evidence of filmed appearances of the Prime Minister, though again obviously some appeared in news broadcasts. For purposes of this list, interim Prime Ministers are given equal weight as elected Prime Ministers.

Due to the nature of the post, this blog entry will be updated periodically.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Prime Minister #: 7th
Years: 1891-1911
Self: 1
Archive Footage: 4

Sir Robert Borden
Prime Minister #: 8th
Years: 1911-1920
Archive Footage: 3

William Lyon Mackenzie King
Prime Minister #: 10th
Years: 1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948
Self: 3
Archive Footage: 28

Richard Bedford Bennett
Prime Minister #: 11th
Years: 1930-1935
Archive Footage: 3

Louis St. Laurent
Prime Minister #: 12th
Years: 1948-1957
Archive Footage: 8

John Diefenbaker
Prime Minister #: 13th
Years: 1957-1963
Self: 3
Archive Footage: 6

Lester B. Pearson
Prime Minister #: 14th
Years: 1963-1968
Self: 3
Archive Footage: 8

Pierre Trudeau
Prime Minister #: 15th
Years: 1968-1979, 1980-1984
Actor: 1
Self: 14
Archive Footage: 19

Joe Clark
Prime Minister #: 16th
Years: 1979-1980
Self: 6
Archive Footage: 3

Brian Mulroney
Prime Minister #: 18th
Years: 1984-1993
Self: 5
Archive Footage: 10

Kim Campbell
Prime Minister #: 19th
Year: 1993
Actress: 2
Self: 4
Archive Footage: 1

Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister #: 20th
Years: 1993-2003
Self: 15
Archive Footage: 9

Paul Martin
Prime Minister #: 21st
Years: 2003-2006
Self: 6
Archive Footage: 5

Stephen Harper
Prime Minister #: 22nd
Years: 2006-Present
Self: 4
Archive Footage: 5

Saturday, October 10, 2009

13 More Movies for Halloween

Okay, you took my advice last years and watched my 13 Halloween movie suggestions. You had a good time but time has passed now you’re feeling too relaxed. You wish to change that. Well, the doctor is here to raise your anxiety back up to acceptable levels. Here are my 13 recommendations for this year:

From Dusk Till Dawn: Two criminals pick the wrong bar to hole up in.

Trapped Ashes: People find themselves stuck in a studio tour’s haunted house and must describe traumatic experiences in the hopes of getting out.

Head of the Family: For people wanting their horror mixed with deadpan humour, a gold ol’ boy tries to blackmail a strange family of twins who are not exactly identical. The head of the family is a giant head with a smaller torso.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The first film on the series is easily the scariest, with a madman named Freddy Krueger who kills people in their dreams.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare: You’ll need to see A Nightmare on Elm Street first to really appreciate this, but if you do, it’s a fascinating look at meta-fiction as Freddy, no longer the clown he became in the previous films, invades the “real world”.

Saw: Not for the faint of heart, this film and its sequels involve a madman named Jigsaw who traps people in order to teach then a lesson. If they escape the trap they’ll be a bit maimed but they’ll probably have learned the lesson Jigsaw was trying to teach them.

Bloodsucking Freaks: a studio audience enjoys acts of torture, not realizing that (in the context of the film) what they’re watching is real.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead: Part horror, part satire, part musical, a fast food restaurant is built on an ancient Indian burial ground. This leads to giant zombie chickens.

Vamp: Teens visit a night club that’s infested with vampires.

The Sixth Sense: A psychiatrist tries to help a young boy who talks to ghosts.

Undead: An Australian zombie movie with a twisted sense of humour.

The Last Horror Movie: A “real” serial killer tapes over a fictional serial killer movie.

Unmasked Part 25: As with last year I’m finishing this list that you’ll need to seek out on VHS because there’s no DVD as yet. A Jason-like serial killer falls in love with a blind woman.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Saving Seats at Theatres

As I type this I'm in physical pain after seeing Capitalism: A Love Story. No, the movie itself was actually pretty good. Basically what happened was my friend and I went in 45 minutes before the sneak preview was supposed to start. The theatre was already filling up fast, but two or three people near the back had saved around 8-10 seats each, including their own. No I'm not exaggerating. Consequently I had to settle for a seat where my bneck was in pain much of the time.

The pain got me thinking: snagging four seats is fine, but with eight seats the people on the far side are simply not going to be able to have a meaningful interaction with one another anyway. So why not let the people who showed up on time have some of the seats and have the latecomers deal with the lesser seats? Again, saving a few people, not a problem, but don't snag nearly the entire row.

My proposal for big ticket movies: you can save up to four seats including your own, no more. This rule can be waved for movies that have been out a while, but four seats is the equivalent of two free passholders, and again that's probably the upper limit of where the people on the far sides can whisper without disturbig the other guests. If space is at a premium the people who arrived at a decent hour should not be penalized for not being part of a particular group and eight seats is simply too many.

Or maybe I'm just grouchy because of the pain in the back of the neck.

What do people think of a seat-saving maximum for busy films? If you like this idea, how should this be enforced?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Greyhound and Me

In the past I've shied away from personal experiences because I'm in the middle of a work crisis and don't want the blog to be too whiney. But I just had an experience with Greyhound that I figured if I post about, it can save other people some time and grief.

Greyhound currently offers advance purchases for tickets even for routes that didn't used to have them. Last night I needed to make a purchase or miss the cut-off for the 14-day cut-off. Unfortunately, I failed to read in advance for a Will Call ticket and didn't realize that meant the buyer will pick up the ticket in person (neither "will" nor "call" screamed out "pick up in person" to me. So I went with the Mail option and missed the fact that that costs $7.

That said, soon after I bought the ticket I realized my mistake, so I found a form on the Greyhound site and filled it in, since you can't reply to the itinerary e-mail.

I hadn't heard back so I tried two general Greyhound Canada numbers, both of which had the same options, none of which involved dealing with ticket matters. i tried calling the local downtown office but only got an answering machine.

Since the ticket was to be mailed to me, I tried calling the courier office. They gave me an extension to try for one of the numbers I previously tried.

That extension insisted the itinerary number didn't exist and told me I'd have to contact Gryhound through the wesbite. When I told him i hadn't found any such contact info (I had pretty much written off the online form route I had tried the night before at this point), he gave me a 1-800 number.

After being put on hold for a few minutes, I got someone who told me that this wasn't the customer service number. They gave me a new number to try but tried putting me through first. Thankfully, since the new number wasn't a 1-800 nor 1-888 number, the call went through. After being put on hold a few minutes, they did manage to locate my itinerary number, but confirmed my fears that the ticket had been mailing. My online form attempt the night before hadn't been checked before the mailing.

So to save everyone a bit of hassle, here are some tips for dealing with Greyhound. 1> No matter how sleepy you are, make sure you have all the pricing info handy before ordering. 2> The name notwithstanding, "Will Call' is probably the option you want if you don't want to nullify most of the savings offered by advance purchase. 3>Avoid purchasing after hours where possible in case you do need to speak to a series of people. And finally, if you do get in a jam, 4> The customer service number for Greyhound is 214-849-8966. Your best best is to let the computer go through the options a couple times, let yourself get put on hold, then wait for a human. Pressing any buttons will just give you more buttons to press. Note that I ordered the ticket through Greyhound.ca but 214 is a Texas area code, so this number should work for both Greyhound Canada and Greyhound US. If your local Greyhound office is pretty reliable you might want to try them first to avoid being put on hold, but then try that number.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Wild, Wild Franchise-Killing West.

I've just noticed an interesting phenomenom: insert a Western into a non-Western movie series, and the series comes to an end.

Don't believe me?

Back to the Future III: Much of the movie takes place in the Old West. Time finally ran out in this series.

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter: It bites to say this, but the prequel set in the Old West killed the franchise.

Tremors 4: The Legend Legends: With the Western prequel, the series wormed its way out of existence.

Conclusion: If you want to do a Western, make it self-contained, unless you really hate a movie franchise and want to kill it stone cold dead.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cheapest Way to Get from Victoria BC to Seattle WA

The reverse is obviously true for any Seattle-ites reading this. Note that this system doesn't work during the Hood Canal Bridge closure, but that should be finished before the end of June 2009. I'm not including times because it's possible to vary this, and because times are variable (for this reason I'm also not mentioning costs nor mentioning the Hood Canal closure route; I'm hoping that writing this entry in this fashion most of it will still be valid years later).

1. Go to the inner haarbour of Victoria and take either the Coho (Black Ball Transport) or Victoria Express to Seattle. For best results in terms of time, take the 6:10 am Coho ferry during the summer when ferry service is at its peak.

2. From the new transit terminal in Port Angeles, now just across from the Victoria Express, take the 30 Commuter bus to Sequim (Clallum Transit). You'll most likely have time to explore Sequim before the next bus

3. At Sequim Transit Center, take the 8 Sequim bus to Port Townsend Park & Ride. Bus a daypass when you enter the bus (Jefferson Transit)

4. You'll have a small amount of time if you want to rush into town, but if so I recommend taking the 11 Downtown Shuttle (still Jefferson Transit, so your daypass is good). There's no bus taking that route in reverse, but it'll save you some vital minutes. Then dash back to the Park & Ride

5. Back at the Port Townsend Park & Ride, use that daypass to take the #7 Poulso/Port Ludlow/Tri Area bus to Poulsbo Transit Exchange (Jefferson Transit once again). You may have time to check out the little shopping area right beside the exchange, but I wouldn't venture further unless you're okay with taking a later bus.

NOTE: In the event that times are tight (more likely going the other direction), you can switch from the 8 to the 7 at Four Corners, thus bypassing Port Townsend entirely.

6. Take the 90 Poulsbo/Bainbridge bus to Bainbridge ferry terminal (Kitsap Transit). You probably won't have time to visit Winslow (Bainbridge downtown) unless you otp to take a later ferry, which is certainly do-able as they run pretty frquently.

7. Take the Bainbridge ferry to Seattle. You'll only have to pay Seattle to Bainbridge, not the reverse.

Yes, this is a longer route, but it's cheaper than the Clipper or going to Vancouver and taking a coach/train from there. And the stops along the way are worth a visit.

Friday, April 10, 2009

13 Good Historical Fiction Movies

Just for fun I decided to compile a list of 13 historical films I like, in rough historical order. To be included on the list, it had to substantially involve people widely believed to have existed, and to use real events as a framework. However, a high degree of historical accuracy is not needed to count on this list (history had proven to be highly malleable and sceptics tend to question widely accepted events). Conversely, documentaries are not included below. While some may dismiss Michael Moore’s films as fiction, they purport to be true or mostly true and are thus beyond the scope of this particular list. Also, I like what I like, so if three out of 13 films below take place during World War II, it just means I tend to enjoy films set during then. Also, I have an admitted bias towards the 20th century. While I did try to come up with more than two films set before 1900 that I love, the only ones I could think of weren’t really historical because the characters were all original. Don’t get me wrong: I like Shakespeare in Love and have it in my collection. I just don’t get super-excited thinking about it.

The Last Temptation of Christ: depicts Jesus growing into the role of saviour and undergoing one final temptation. It is a very human look at Jesus. In recent times more and more people have questioned whether Jesus even existed, let alone was the Saviour. Conversely some religious people were offended by his portrayal. I’ve included this film anyway because many of the broad events, if not the specific details, are accepted by a large number of people.

Cannibal! The Musical: An ill-fated gold rush expedition leads to a man being convicted of cannibalism. Almost for sure the least historically accurate film on this list, but enough of the broadest details are correct, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Aviator: the life of tortured genius aviator Howard Hughes.

The Pianist: a talented Jewish piano player tries to hide from the Nazis during World War II, moving from place to place.

Schindler’s List: A wealthy German businessman puts Jews to work for him during World War II, giving him free labour but saving many lives.

Downfall: A powerful film looking at the last days of the 3rd Reich, with Nazis soul searching whether to keep fighting to the bitter end or recognize their cause as hopeless and cut a deal. Hitler is shown as human but stubborn to the point of costing people their lives.

The Motorcycle Diaries: examines the formative yeasrs of revolutionary Che Guevara, starting out quite funny and becoming more serious as Che years more things.

Hollywoodland: examines the question of whether Superman actor Georges Reeves was murdered or committed suicide

JFK: A bit dry, but this film about the assassination of Kennedy is very detailed and feels a bit like a murder mystery, albeit one where the killer’s identity isn’t quite certain.

The Doors: Examines the rise and downfall of talented, haunting musician Jim Morrison. While not update it’s quite fascinating.

All the President’s Men: Only barely historical when it was made, this is another quasi-detective story, as two reporters begin to suspect the truth about Nixon’s Presidency.

Monster: I have a number of films in my collection about serial killers. This one might not have any mysterious figure, but that’s what makes this film so compelling: Aileen Wournov, while insane, is quite a human serial killer.

United 93: My favourite film about a more recent historical event, this film depicts the initially mundane flight that turned into an attempt to take control of a plane from terrorists during 9/11. Wisely low key rather than sensational.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cheap Way to Get Obscure DVDs

This particular post is greated towards North Americans. Do you have some obscure movie you want to get on DVD, perhaps to replace your old VHS copy? Try this: Visit Amazon.co.uk. Under DVDs, do an Advanced Search Region 0 (most UK DVDs are Region 2 and won't play on a typical North American player because it's Region 1, but Region 0 DVDs will play anywhere). If a title shows up, be sure to check the affiliates, noting which ones allow International Shipping. You might find one for 49 pence before shipping, even! And many, despite being North American releases aren't even available here normally. Looking forward to getting my copy of the underrated Pretty Smart.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Will the Watchmen Movie Affect the Comic

The announcement that the Watchmen movie was, after two decades off and on in the planning stage, actually going ahead was greeted with mixed results on the online community. Some were ecstatic that the movie was finally happening, while others, considering the comic to be unfilmable were upset with the news, considering the story to be unfilmable. Likely these people were concerned that it might shed a negative light on the comic, not unlike the way the Howard the Duck film was catastrophic for the comic book version.

As I type this, the North American premiere of the Watchmen movie is less than a week ago. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'm going to enjoy it, that it'll be worth the two decade wait. But one thing I'm sure of is, the source material will live on. I don't expect the movie to be exactly the same as the comic; that kind of juxtapositon is hard to pull off in a movie, and the movie would destroy everyone's bladder if it tried to match the length of the comic. But I think most people are smart enough to know that nothing's entirely word for word,k image for image.

But what if it proves to be very different in spirit to the comic? Back when howard the Duck came out, there were no trades of Howard the Duck material, and the trailer frankly was terrible. But in Watchmen's case, the trailer was compelling enough that comics of the graphic novel have been selling like crazy at book and comi shops alike. Furthermore, Watchmen has always sold well, pretty much every year winding up in the top 50 trades sold in comic shops each year. Unless the film is far worse than the trailers suggest, a lot more copies are likely to sell once the film has been released.

Therefore many people are going into the fil knowing the difference between it and the comic, even if they didn't know a year ago. More will follow. It's extremely unlikely that DC will create a new version with different words and art. The conclusion I therefore come to is that when the smoke clears, the comic will have lost nothing, and in fact will have gained a lot o new readers. Regardless of the quality of the movie itself, the comic will still be just as good as it's always been; it's just that more people will be aware of that fact.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Few Thoughts of Dialogue in Writing

Many people recommend saying dialogue out loud when writing. You may or may not want to do exactly that (talking dialogue out loud can take time and possibly kill the momentum of writing the story/script) but at the very least you should imagine the dialogue in your head to ensure it sounds "right".

Note that I said "right", not "real". Oh, don't get me wrong: if you can make the dialogue sound real for the story you are trying to tell, you should. And certainly if a story is slice of life, that's the way to go. But remember that your primary goal when writing dialogue is to help create the world your character is inhabiting.

By way of example, if you're writing a Superman story, Superman is so larger than life that his words should have extra weight. If you go too real, you might lose the effect that this is the kind of guy whom other heroes are in awe of. Or if you're writing the script for a slasher flick, you might want to make the victims a bit one dimensional in their dialogue so that the reader doesn't wind up an emotional wreck from all the killings. If you're doing satire, the dialogue should should fairly real, but have a bit of an oomph to it so the reader/viewer realizes you're not being completely serious.

Don['t dumb down the dialogue for the masses but don't pepper the dialogue with some many in jokes or so many professional terms that only a tiny fraction of the audience understands what the hell the characters are saying.

Invariably your audience is going to miss/forget stuff, so find ways to have characters make references to past events while not being transparent about it. Maybe a character snaps at someone and then apologizes, mentioning that the earlier event has them on edge. If you can't make it work without seeming transparent, don't force it. Maybe the character needs to be in a different situation before they'd naturally talk about it.

Remember that body language is dialogue too. Consider this:
"Oh yes," she said, "I love you," as she gazed into his eyes.
Now this:
"Oh yes," she said, "I love you," she said. She grabbed a wine glass and threw it to the ground.
In the first case the dialogue is sincere, in the second case the exact same words are sarcasm.

At this point I shall say, "Adieu," but this is helping me formulate a few things in my head so don't be too shocked if there's more essays to come on dialogue and other aspects of storytelling. For now I want to conclude, make the dialogue real or not, but at least ensure the dialogue facilitates the characters' world.