Friday, June 29, 2012

Ode To A Tech-Free Childhood

Hello, Virtual Play Palz!

I read recently that American kids spend almost eight hours a day watching T.V., playing videogames, surfing the net, and presumably typing 'LOL' a hundred times in a row.  I find this statistic to be supremely troubling.

But before I start getting all self-righteous ("Too Late, Gramps!"), I must confess that we really didn't have the sort of sophisticated and compulsively addictive diversions that wee ones now have access to.  If I'd been born in the past, say, twenty years, I'd probably be checking new texts every ten seconds like a rat on cocaine as well.

Nowadays kids have all kinds of cool shit at their disposal: streaming video, smart phones, iPads, and Blu-Ray players.  Cripes, even their friggin' eyewear will soon become leet.

Just as an example, look at how far video games have come.  Here's a dragon as depicted in last year's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:

And here's a dragon from the Atari video game Adventure from 1979:

In the immortal words of Thor, God of Thunder: "Verily, I shit thee not." 

And I had to wait ten or eleven years before I encountered technology like that.  When I was really young, like seven or eight, this was my idea of a video game...

And for comparison's sake, here's what a hockey player looks like in NHL 13

And here's what that same player looked like in Mattel Electronics Hockey (magnified 300%):
That's right, kids!  Imagine not being able to tell the difference between Sidney Crosby and a friggin' price sticker?

Despite our clearly primitive graphics capabilities, I still had the best childhood you could ever imagine.  Any given day during the summer was a new and exciting adventure.  First off, you'd get up at the crack of dawn and watch Star Blazers while eating a mixing bowl filled with cereal...  

Nutritious breakfast consumed, you'd hop on your bike and pedal furiously down to your best buddy's place.  In fact, the better part of your day would be spent astride your one-speed crotch rocket.  Often we'd ape adult behavior by selecting a destination and pedaling there at a drunkenly neglegent rate (sans helmet, natch!).  Once we got there, we'd deploy our kick stands and "hang out" (I.E. loiter), leaning on our seats like motorbike-riding teenagers and taking care not to stray too far from our "rides" lest we invite a case of "Grand Theft Bike".

Then we'd pester the bejesus out of some poor shop-keep, buying penny candy in batches of one or blowing our wads on one of these lurid and colorful titles:

En route back home we'd encounter the neighborhood spoiled rich kid who's parents could afford to buy him a Green Machine or Big Wheel.  This moron would brag that he'd be doing a "crazy jump" in the dirt lot across the street from our apartment building at 2 pm so we'd "better be there" 'cuz it's "gonna be just like Evel Knievel".

So naturally we'd all show up at the appointed time to gawk and make fun of this dumb f#@k as he tried in vain to pedal up a flimsy plywood ramp on a plastic bike.  Fast forward a few months later and Richy Rich would still be trying to kill himself for the sake of some "respek", perhaps this time astride a heavy, oversized motocross bike that would flip him off into the woods after he invariably lost his balance half way up the ramp.

Later that same afternoon a rumor would begin to circulate that THE ASSHOLE KIDS WHO LIVED UP ON THE HILL had greviously insulted someone's neighborhood / mom / bike and challenged us to a rock fight a 4 pm sharp.  Speaking of sharp, the traditional arena for this tilt was the empty lot (hey, what can I say, we had a lot of lots back then) at the bottom of THE HILL behind our apartment, which was nicely stockpiled with shale, I.E. the WMD's of the Grade Two-set:

Mercifully there was also several large boulders to take cover behind so this often went on like a protracted, low-rent version of laser tag until the first kid got clipped and the battle was decided.  Even these early experiences served to delineate a clear line in the sand between childhood fantasy and painful adult reality.  

FANTASY: "My newly acquired Spider-Man web shooters will surely be the deciding factor in the coming battle!"    

REALITY: "Ze web shooters, zey do NOTHINK!!!"

Knowing full well that we still had at least three solid hours of daylight left, we'd scrarf our dinners down like pythons eating a capybara.  We were soon back outside again, either leading a platoon of stormtroopers in a futile search for droids or creating our very own Sim City for a fleet of dinkies:

Which brings me to a quick aside.  One time while me and my buddies were playing dinkies, the resident ruffian Alan came along and kicked apart all of our painstakingly elaborate civic planning.  That particular day I'd spent most of the morning reading Batman comic books, so I decided to do what Batman does to every villain: I stood and tried to punch the bully square in the mush with a haymaker.  Unfortunately my quarry ducked and I ended up punching the brick wall that he was standing behind.  Yowtch!    

Then, just before dusk you and your team of pint-sized Steve Irwins would catch a grass snake, sparking off a heated U.N. style debate about which lucky big game hunter would be allowed to take it home.  One time when I was the "winner" I had to spend hours lobbying to keep the beast in my room.  Eventually my poor long-suffering mother let me seal it up in a disused aquarium with an entire set of encyclopedias holding the lid down.  The next morning my room stunk like the gorilla cage at Granby Zoo after a week-long maintenance strike.

Yeah, it goes without saying that releasing the snake back into his natural habitat was my first action item in that particular day.

Honestly, every summer day would be like that: a constant rinse, wash and repeat of outdoor adventures.  I know that kids today posses vastly superior diversions but frankly I'd never trade it for my own low-tech childhood.

EPIC   Go the adventure that is, um...Adventure.

FAIL   And we wonder why there's a health epeidemic in North America.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Makin' Movie Magic

Greetings, Cinema-nutz.

I've talked at length before about the paralysis I experienced after graduating from High School.  Leading up to that moment, no appealing career path had ever been laid out for me.  Even if my guidance councillor had bothered to ask what I wanted to do for a living I probably couldn't have given him an answer.

But perhaps if certain creative avenues and interesting possibilities had been proffered I might have replied:

"I wanna makes movies for a living!"    

Despite such a definitive answer, I'm pretty sure the creatively bankrupt organ donors who ran my High School would have equated my declared career path to something akin to Prestidigitator, Evoker, Conjurer, Theurgist, Enchanter, Warlock, Illusionist or Sorcerer.

Indeed, I might as well have told them:

"I want to be a Wizard!"  


Fast forward twenty odd years (with an emphasis on the word fast).

In the Fall of 2011 I heard about a Halifax-based affiliation of local actors, film technicians and creative types here who were meeting regularly under the clever monitor of HalifACTS!  I couldn't have timed my involvement in the group any better.  With Fall and Winter traditionally being a slow time in the local film industry, this industrious folks had taken it upon themselves to come up with their own make work project.

They were going to make a movie!

I've said it before but it bears repeating: as much as I like doing background stuff, I'd be a lot happier working behind the camera in some technical capacity.  Needless to say, this group and their ambitious project was right in my wheelhouse.

As we got down to brass tacks, I experienced a few genuine and pleasant surprises.  First off, everything came together in a fairly democratic and smooth process.  Secondly, we actually followed through on our intended goal!

Here's a rough timeline of how it all came together:

October 26'th We got together at the IT campus of the community college (Ironic!) to select our inaugural film project.  In doing so, five or six of us pitched our script ideas.  Gary had a parody of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.  Carolyn the clever idea of adapting a vintage dating guide.  And since I was under the erroneous impression that our regular meeting place was going to be at the college I proposed a horror movie parody called Community Carnage which could be filmed exclusively on-site.  After much debate, the general consensus was to go with Hatchet, a short n' simple, dialogue-light psychological tone poem written by one of HalifACTS! founding members, Becca Babcock.

November 7'th  In our first follow-up meeting each member of the group declared their preference for various behind-the-scenes jobs.  In a motion that was universally carried, Becca was tapped to wear the Producer's hat and Gary was given the Director's chair (although neither of them ever did get receive their respective accoutrements).  Since I had some experience with video and sound, I applied for Sound / Camera / Lighting technician jobs.  After all of us had a chance to volunteer for our chosen roles, Becca, Dale and Gary spent the next month or so nailing down these key assignments.

November 11'th  Details of a group fundraising plan were proposed and a sign up sheet for actor auditions began to circulate.

November 19'th  Auditions were held!

November 25'th  Becca announces our cast:      

Johanna: Eliana Clay
Man: Kevin Gerrior
Woman: Carolyn Thomas
Saleswoman: Helen Corkum
Homeless Man: Mike Hazel   

On the very same day, Becca proposed two tentative shooting dates: December 9'th and the 11'th.  Knowing full well that procrastination would put our momentum in jeopardy, we were all comforted by the thought that our film should actually be in the can before Christmas.

December 5'th  Tragically I had to miss the BBQ turkey feast fundraiser at Q Smokehouse.  Although the project was almost entirely volunteer, this event was still instrumental in raising a tidy sum to deal with the budgetary incidentals that we all knew would crop up.

December 7'th  With people committing to and then dropping out of the project, a tentative makeshift crew list was released:  

PRODUCER - Becca Babcock
DIRECTOR - Gary Fontaine
1st AD -  ?
3rd AD -  ?
CAMERA OPERATORS - Dean Aubie, Kevin Gerrior, Mike Swain
EDITORS- Carolyn Thomas, Dean Aubie, Gary Fontaine
SOUND ENGINEER - Kevin Gerrior
SOUND ASSISTANT - David Pretty, Mike Hazel
CLAPPER - Helen Corkum
CRAFT SERVICES - Carolyn Thomas, Helen Corkum
PROPS/SET DESIGN - Angela Furlong-Poole
PROPS/SET DESIGN ASSISTANTS - Eliana Clay, Mike Hazel, Tina Hiltz
MAKE-UP - Jennifer Campbell, Tabitha Ward
HAIR -  ?
LOCATIONS - Gary Fontaine, Angela Furlong-Poole
GRIPS - Mike Hazel
WARDROBE - Dale Willman

December 8'th (revised date) and 11'th  We begin to shoot our movie!  Here are a few "behind the scenes" shots from those two amazing days...

Hall Monitor: Producer Becca Babcock (middle)  points out a critical detail for Script Supervisor Assistant Dale Willman (left)  and Director Gary Fontaine (right).   
While shooting guerilla-style at the gas station, Helen Corkum, Dale Willman, Jennifer Campbell and I attempt to stave off frostbite.  In the background Gary and star Eliana Clay stay warm with a heated discussion about the next scene.      

Cinematographer supreme Dean Aubie (left) and Camera Operator Mike Swain (right) prepare to shoot the bedroom scene while Helen Corkum (middle, floor) ponders the meaning of the universe.   

 Since we were keeping some very long hours, I managed to sneak in a few clandestine standing cat-naps in-between takes.  

Eliana Clay in her star-making turn as Johanna. 

 "Alice!  ALICE!!!"  Mike Hazel, totally in character as Hatchet's Homeless Man.  

 Guess which one of these people actually knows what they're doing?  Hint: it ain't me.  Hangin' with Script Supervisor Zoë Bigio during a break in filming.

In addition to playing a pivitol role in front of the camera, Carolyn Thomas did a superb job with Craft Services behind the scenes.  She's also apparently a big fan of Lovecraftian-style t-shirts. 

Clapper gal Helen Corkum prepares to mark the scene as Actor/Editor/Soundman/Camera Operator/Human Metronome Kevin Gerrior gets into the zone.  Note Set Decorator Angela Poole pulling double duty as a background extra and the fake-out title Insulator; which became our de-facto nod to Blue Harvest.

With people popping in and out of the production, we were all forced to multi-task.  Here I am calling on my extensive experience as a holder of random objects.  

Director Gary Fontaine managed to sustain us through two very challenging days of shooting.  An even greater accomplishment considering that the poor guy didn't even have an A.D.!    

TOADLY METAL!!!  Writer/Producer Becca Babcock seems pretty jazzed to see her script come to life while Make Up Artist Tabitha Ward is clearly amused by Becca's amusement.  

As you may have gathered from the photos we had an absolute blast while filming Hatchet.  Having said that, it still took two grueling and often cold days of filming to capture enough footage to make a fifteen minute short.  Keep in mind that except for a few very notable and highly-cherished exceptions (namely Zoë Bigio and Dean Aubie), most of us had absolutely no technical training whatsoever.  So, if nothing else, shooting Hatchet was one of the most labor-intensive and revelatory work experiences of my life.

Here are just a few things I learned over the course of those two incredible days:
  • Never Underestimate The Power of Pre-Production.  Regardless of whether or not you're shooting a five minute short a a two-hour long feature, you really need to deconstruct and pre-plan every single scene.  This will allow you to anticipate and address as many problems up front before risking on-set paralysis.  
  • Continuity is Tricksy.  One of the first things we shot was an exterior sequence featuring Eliana leaving her "house" and going to her car.  It was a cold December day and Eliana was only wearing a simple hoodie so I offered up my spare blue raincoat to her as a windbreaker.  Gary approved the jacket in the sequence but then we spent the rest of the shoot completely paranoid that this rogue piece of clothing wasn't in continuity with everything else.  That stupid coat became such a friggin' diva that Eliana had to borrow it again for a series of pick ups that were shot months later.      
  • Good Lighting = Cinema Magic.  The script had a scene where Johanna's already-restless night of sleep is disturbed by revelers and police just outside her bedroom window.  Since it was the middle of the day, I had no idea how we were going to shoot this.  But Dean and Kevin went right to work, blacking out the windows and giving the room the intimation of night-time with the strategic application of some muted blue lighting.  When Kevin's red strobe was added later to simulate the police car's lights outside - Presto! - we had an instant night scene!  
  • Reflective Surfaces Are The Devil's Playground.  Glass doors, monitor screens, picture frames, mirrors, eyeglasses, car windows, hell, even a chrome toaster can spoil a shot by revealing crew members and their equipment standing around like idiots in the background.  
  • Shut Yer Cakeholes!  For some reason we didn't think that we needed clean audio for certain takes so we were pretty lax about calling for quiet on set.  Yeah, that was a mistake, BTW.
  • Another Reason Why Corporate Brand Names Suck.  You constantly need to be analyzing on-set props and background signs to ensure that you aren't inadvertently exhibiting brand names.  You'd think corporations would appreciate the free advertising, but no, they're apparently too stupid to recognize a good thing when they've got it.
  • Locations: Easy To Write But Hard To Realize.  Hatchet called for a slew of different locations: an unfinished basement, a living room with a fireplace, a bedroom, a gas station, a pharmacy and a deserted parking lot.  Becca and Gary had to jump through the Five Fires of Fornax in order to secure some of these places.  Even though we were granted vague permission to shoot in the pharmacy and outside the gas station, I'm pretty sure those business owners had no idea what they were getting themselves into.  Needless to say, its very easy for a rookie film crew to overstay their welcome!  For example, while shooting at the gas station sequence, Carolyn and Kevin delivered a bravura performance as our bickering couple.  Perhaps a bit too bravura since a customer actually tried to intervene on what he thought was a genuine domestic squabble.  Carolyn really sold the authenticity of this scene by attempting to murder Kevin with a prop cellphone.  Cripes, she hurled that sucker at him like a Aroldis Chapman fastball.  
Initially I got involved with this project to earn something vaguely resembling a technical credit and to see how films are made from the ground-up.  Honestly, I really didn't harbor any pretensions that we were creating high-art.  In fact, I'll be the first admit that there were times when I was wondering if what we were shooting would even be watchable.

So when Becca invited us to her place last Saturday to screen the film, I was filled with equal parts giddy thrill and stark trepidation.  We all gathered at Casa Del Babcock (?) at 7 pm and marched down to the basement to witness what we'd all collectively wrought.

You could hear a pin drop during the first screening, but mercifully it wasn't because we were shell-shocked by the awful.  In fact quite the opposite: we are all amazed that we'd collectively made something so slick, professional and entertaining.  Indeed, we all sat there completely transfixed, watching the film in respectful silence.

The second screening was considerably more boisterous, like a commentary track featuring thirty excited kids all gooned up on liquor and sugar.  

I was stunned by the cinematic sorcery I'd just witnessed.  Here are just a few of my observations:
  • Director Gary Fontaine and D.O.P. / Camera Operator Dean Aubie came up with some really interesting P.O.V. shots, off-kilter angles and unnerving hand-held stuff.  All of which adds up to a constant state of unease for the viewer.    
  • Dean, Kevin Gerrior and Mike Swain also deserve major props for being acutely aware of things like field depth, points of focus and composition.  
  • The film's thematic color palate is wildly successful, generating a subtle change in mood with every transition.  In early production meetings we actually had someone say "Color palatte?  Tones?  What the hell are you talking about?  Let's just shoot this thing!"  I can only imagine how visually bankrupt the film would have been if we'd neglected this important resource. 
  • Dean, Gary and Kevin did a crackerjack job on editing.  The film pulses with a weird, slow burn energy that comes to a head in the climax.  Indeed, the film feels like five minutes and not fifteen.   
  • The performances are all stellar.  Our star ingenue Eliana effortlessly managed to navigate the gauntlet of emotions demanded of her by the psychologically nuanced script.  On camera, sweet Carolyn managed to transform Jekyll & Hyde style into a genuinely scary, bitch-on-wheels.  Kevin Gerrior mirrored her effort with an alternately belligerent and intense turn as Carolyn's "better" half.  Helen Corkum was flawlessly authentic as the pharmacy clerk.  And last (but certainly not least),  Mike Hazel exhibited the vacant thousand-yard-stare and bat-shit crazy ramblings needed for our Homeless Man.      
  • The music provided by Trent Soholt was also spot-on.  By evoking jazzy riffs during the quiet moments and dropping chunky, plodding bass lines into the moodier moments, the film really works well on a primal level.      
The abbreviated run time of Becca's script had me worried that the character of Johanna wouldn't be able to complete the extreme psychological arc that was required of her.  But now, with all the visual clues in place I stand corrected.  Hatchet often unspools like an economical version of Roman Polanski's Repulsion.  Like I said to Kevin after the screening: "The little details really add up.  In the words of Harry S. Plinkett: 'You might not notice these things, but your brain did.'"

Even though I wore several hats during the production (Sound Assistant, Lighting Assistant, Background, Random Item Holder, Human Coat Rack, Teamster), my contribution was still pretty negligible.  Nevertheless, I'm delighted to have played even a small part in the magical cabal that conjured up such an incredibly convincing cinematic illusion.

Sorcery, indeed.   

Hopefully Hatchet is just the first in a series of HalifACTS! productions.  Who knows, maybe one of these days you'll be able to see Community Carnage after all.   

EPIC    A more recent cast and credit list:

HalifACTS! Productions presents

Directed by                                        
Gary Fontaine

Screenplay by                                     
Becca Babcock

Produced by                                       
Becca Babcock

Eliana Clay
Carolyn Thomas
Kevin Gerrior
Helen Corkum
Michael Hazel

Director of Photography
Dean Aubie

Edited by
Dean Aubie
Gary Fontaine
Kevin Gerrior       

Set Designer
Angela Poole

Costume Designer
Dale Willman

Property Master
Michael Hazel

Music by
Trent Soholt

Camera Operators
Mike Swain
Kevin Gerrior
Dean Aubie

Kevin Gerrior
David Pretty

Script Supervisor
Zoë Bigio

Script Supervisor Assistant
Dale Willman

Helen Corkum

Jay S.

Craft Services
Carolyn Thomas
Helen Corkum
Tabatha Ward

Set Decorators
Eliana Clay
Angela Poole
Michael Hazel

Jennifer Campbell
Tabatha Ward

Wardrobe Assistant 
Jennifer Campbell 

Locations Manager
Gary Fontaine

Locations Assistant
Angela Poole

Key Grip
Michael Hazel

Production Assistant
Dale Willman

Special Thanks
Crowell’s Pharmasave, Spryfield
Robert Marriott
Darlene Harris

FAIL  Pre-screening I was just hoping and praying that we hadn't made something like this:  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Greetings, Stand-On Guardians!

In the past I've railed against the current crop of Conservative creeps currently culling our Canadian culture.  Wow, try saying that five times real quick...

But after researching this C 38 Omnibus Budget Bill, I need to ask anyone who voted for Harper in the last election to just go ahead and punch themselves right in the junk.  Or let one of the other 60% of reasonably well-informed Canadian citizens who didn't vote Conservative to do it for you.

Don't know anything about Bill C 38?  Okay, here's a l'il sampler...
  • Bill C-38 is set to repeal The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, a twenty seven year old regulation that forces federal construction contractors to pay decent wages and overtime to workers whether or not they're unionized.  If this crap passes (and it looks like it will) greedy employers will be able to offer $10.00 an hour labor jobs that are free of costly benefits and overtime.  When Canadian workers justifiably turn up their nose at such table scraps, these shady taskmasters will be free to seek council from international brokers (a.k.a. 'labour pimps') to bring in desperate foreign laborers will happily toil away under such Dickensian conditions. P.S. This same bill also puts pay equity for women in serious jeopardy.  Seriously, why would a government do this unless they wanted to assault the already-besieged middle class?  Or convince half of the population that we're still living in the Dark Ages?    
  • Despite strong evidence to the contrary, Harper and his cronies keep predicting doom for Old Age pensions.  Personally, I think they're trying to force every Canadian to sink or swim based on increasingly scarce work-related pensions or volatile personal investments.  As such, the, Conservatives are all hot n' horny to raise the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 67, which will end up costing folks on a fixed income a decent amount of cheddar.  That's right, folks, yet another giant "F#ck You!" from the Baby Boomers to people my age and younger.  
  • Aboriginal suicide rates in this country are over ten times higher then the national average.  Instead of trying to figure out why and how to fix it, Harper and company are looking to gut the Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy and cut back on a slew of Native-specific health resources.  If we're to believe Gandhi when he said "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members", what does that say about our nation?  
  • Bill C 38 is set to kick the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Kyoto right in the collective cubes.  Removing environmental restrictions dovetails nicely with Harper's wish that the United States keeps mainlining our tar sands oil.  Not only will Bill C 38 make it easier to construct oil pipelines in protected tracts of wilderness, our dismantled employment restrictions means that we can thrash the environment on the cheap!   Plus, it'll also make big oil totally Teflon when the warranty expires on these things and they start rupturing like party balloons filled with battery acid.  
  • Sighents iz fer nurds!  In addition to slashing the budgets of laboratories and research facilities, funding will be dolled out now in direct proportion to how commercial the research appears to be.  Even before this Trojan Horse of a bill got hatched, things were already trending in this direction.  Right here in Halifax, it was recently announced that our R.C.M.P. crime lab will be shutting down.  This has many local prosecutors and forensics experts worried that the evidence-processing turnaround time will become so slow that it may actually result in procedural acquittals.  Can someone please explain to me how this clearly-needed resource is suddenly not sustainable after almost forty years of operation?  
  • Y'know how we get to lord our superior food production and inspection regulations over Americans?  Yeah, well, not anymore folks!  If this shit-storm passes you can say goodbye to our high food safety standards.  Enjoy those salmonella burgers, dumb-asses! 
  • Speaking of our friendly neighbors down south, what about the idea of letting American police arrest Canadian citizens on our own turf?  Well, if C-38 goes through "the 'Shiprider' program ...will make it permanently legal for U.S. agents to be certified as police in Canadian waters."  Wow, I'm sure that won't be abused...     
  • Employment Insurance "reforms" will force recipients to commute in excess of an hour and accept work that pays 70 to 90% less then their previous salaries.  In an era when more and more careers are vanishing in lieu of crappy part time jobs, this appears to be Harper's most convenient solve.  
  • The Security Intelligence Review Committee, one of the departments designed to keep CSIS in check will be eliminated.  Which begs the question: Who's Gonna Be Watchin' The Watchmen?
  • In addition to undermining environmental restrictions, Bill C-38 will limit the protection of fish habitats in lieu of industrial development.  To make matters worse, the bill will de-fang the "Species At Risk Act", which limits industrial activity in the habitats of endangered and threatened wildlife.  Under the new process, Environment Minister and part-time used car salesman Peter Kent could make exemptions to this at will.  Sorry, but considering our current environmental record, I've really don't have a good feeling about this.  
Honestly, there are about a zillion other things in this gargantuan document that scares the crap out of me.  This is supposed to be a budget bill, yet scads of unrelated riders have been attached to it.  Harper did this knowing that the NDP and the Liberals wouldn't throw the budget baby out with the rank bathwater and risk yet another vote splitting election.  It's like he's holding the Opposition (not to mention the rest of the country) hostage in order to bring Canada in line with his own twisted Ayn Rand-ian / Objectivist  / Neo-Conservative ideals.

The funny thing is, Harper threw a hissy fit back in 2005 when the Liberals attached a few riders to their one-hundred-and-twenty-page budget bill.  Here's what Fibby McTwoface said at the time:

"How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?"  

But now, with Harper's majority firmly entrenched like a tick, suddenly it's okay to table this four-hundred-and-fifty-two page mercantile monolith which has been back-loaded with no less then one-hundred-and-seventy-pages worth of unrelated, decidedly partisan sneak-thievery?  

We have to stop looking at stuff like this and thinking: "Oh, those wacky politicians.  They're always goofing up or acting crooked."

Let me crystal clear right now: Bill C-38 has nothing to do with incompetence or personal gain.  It's a major salvo in Harper's campaign to strip our country of its "socialist" safety nets, allow the rich to get richer off the backs of a shrinking middle class and host a fire sale on our valuable natural resources.  

Please, for the love of everything holy, stop supporting the Conservatives because "yer Daddy always did".  Stop supporting the Conservatives because you consider yourself to be fiscally responsible. Stop supporting the Conservatives because they've tricked you into believing that Canada's economy is in reasonably good shape because of something they did (when, in truth, they probably would have Merrily deregulated our banks had they been in power at the time).  

Remember, just a year before Harper railed against that Liberal budget back in 2005, he wasn't even a Conservative.    

EPIC LINKS  Get informed about Bill C-38 here, here and here

FAIL  Green Party MP Elizabeth May schools Conservatives over their own bewilderingly mammoth budget bill.  


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Imitates Art...And Then It Eats Your Face

How-Do-Ya-Do, Hot Off The Press Horror Hounds!

First off, an apology in advance.  The videos and links featured in this week's post are decidedly NSFW.  And for once, it's not my fault: it's reality's.  

I've been a fan of All Things Zombie w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y before it was chic.  It all started back in 1982 when I first saw George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968).  I already documented this pee-inducing event right here, so I won't bore you with a rehash.  Just suffice to say that, in scaring the ever-lovin' fertilizer out of me, NOTLD made me a zombie fan fo' life.

After experiencing the addictive properties of fear, I promptly sought out and devoured every new zombie film like a plate of chilled "B-R-A-A-A-I-I-I-N-N-N-S-S!"  What I found most amusing were the sometimes-considerable lengths that the screenwriters had to go through in order to explin how the recently deceased were sudden'y gettin' all ambulatory and developing a taste for the contents of our skulls. 

In Night of the Living Dead a deep space probe returning from Venus blows up on re-entry, scattering radioactive MacGuffins all throughout our atmosphere.  With the next two entries in his original zombie trilogy, Romero wisely dispensed with the cheesy 50's Space Age-era psuedo science.  In fact, in both Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) no reason for the zombie shuffle-fest was given at all!  Actually, I kinda liked this a bit better since it gave the films a weird alternate universe/Grimm Fairy Tale quality.  

But in every other zombie flick, there's always a raison d'eeeccchhh.  In the Lugosi classic White Zombie (1932) and Fulci's ultra-gory Zombi 2 (1979), good ol' Voodoo is to blame.  Return of the Living Dead (1985) gave us a corpse re-animating chemical spill.  28 Days Later (2002) managed to square things away with the fictional "Rage Virus".          

But then, just when think you've seen every possible cinematic permutation for a zombie uprising, reality comes along and trumps the shit right out of it.

Vis-a-vis this:

And this:

And this.

Okay, seriously, what the flying f#@k; is going on here!?!?!

Some authorities are blaming a new, innocuous-sounding designer drug called "bath salts", which apparently makes crystal meth look like friggin' Excedrin.  And, like so many other junk drugs, I'm told that this shit can be whipped up easier then coq au vin.  Which always makes me wonder: why the hell are people so willing to ingest something that was cooked up in some redneck's bathtub?

Maybe it's because of the initial heroic effects promised by this stuff: insta-courage, super-strength and Tick-like levels of nigh-invulnerability.  Too bad they didn't read the fine print since taking this crap also makes you suicidal, psycho-aggressive and, apparently, a tad cannibalistic.

Okay, is there anyone out there who even heard of this stuff, like, six months ago?  Is drug advancement developing at the same rate as technology now?

Speaking of technology, this brings me to a stupid observation.  As we all know, a lot of kids who watched Star Trek during their formative years grew up to be scientists and engineers who went about making the fictional technology featured in the show a reality.  For example, the original series had communicators, so someone out there felt compelled to invent cell phones.  And in Next Generation, crew members used Personal Access Display Devices, so someone had to invent tablets (the iPADD?).

Which makes me wonder: is there a similar but clandestine think tank out there for designer drugs?  Is there a cabal of dodgy scientists who routinely get together and say things like: "Hey, zombies seem to be pretty popular right now.  Why don't we cook up something up that simulates the effect?  I'm sure tons of people out there will be stupid enough to take it!"

For our parent's generation, Hollywood served up plenty of epic yet slightly conventional visions of doomsday in the form of Avalanche (1978), Earthquake (1974), Meteor (1978), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Andromeda Strain (1971).  But having witnessed these films (as well as a slew of similar television shows, books and video games), I suspect that our generation requires a much more scary, imaginative and well, geeky, end-of-days scenario.

Let's face it, living in a day and age when the ludicrous comic-book super-villainy of Osama Bin Laden is fathomable, what's a simple zombie apocalypse in comparison?  Our generation has marinated in speculative pop culture for so long that dealing with an undead uprising is the equivalent of Ray Stantz picking the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as his preferred method of self-destruction.

All of this has gotten so out of completely hand that the Centers for Disease Control (and the brainless media) have started issuing statements as if they're scripted from a Romero's zombie flick:

Dear Jesus.

Y'know, I'd always hoped that when people my age assumed control over insitutions and the media we'd at least be able to keep our heads and not embarrass ourselves.  I guess I was being overly optimistic since this is downright pathetic. 

But it's still fun to speculate, isn't it?

What if bath salts aren't just some random new step in drug (de)evolution? 

What if this is just a more palatable and (dare I say it) entertaining form of apocalypse for a generation who'd ultimately be let down by a lame solar flare, global earthquake or yet another humdrum economic catastrophe?

EPIC  Actually a fairly respectable list.

FAIL  "They're heeeeeere..."