Writing

So, a few days ago, a beautiful and talented woman asked me what I was working on creatively.  I was embarrassed by the answer, and it was only made worse because she was super hot and better at art then me.  Basically, if you’re reading this, you know I’ve done nothing in months, and very little all year long.

I’ve got to change that, and that’s going to take some concerted effort.  Basically, I’m going to regularly need to make sure I keep writing.  I may make a couple of changes around here to make sure that happens.  I’m also going to need to look after my other stuff, like my deviant art page.  I might make some formatting changes to my blog.

One of the things I noticed is I’ve become a little insecure about the things I like.  I watch a lot of fantastical movies and tv shows, and read books where extraordinary things happen, but I don’t want to write about that.  I need to figure out how to let that go.  If I read Game of Thrones, then there’s nothing wrong with writing fantasy.  When I watch Supernatural, even in to Season 7, where it gets next to unwatchable, why can’t I write some horror stories.

Although, something I might start doing more of is scenes from songs.  I get a lot of strong imagery in my mind’s eye when I listen to music.  I’m going to write more of those.

Basically, I don’t care what you think.  Unless you’re a beautiful and talented woman, then I care that you think I make good art.  The most important lesson I learned from my Creative Writing Professor in University is that the point of art is impressing cute girls on the off chance it will get you laid.

Advertisements
Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Body Worlds

During Leonard’s Visit we decided to go to Body Worlds.  If you’re unfamiliar, let me explain a little more about this exhibit.

 

Dr. Gunther von Hagens invented the process of plastination in 1979.  Basically, it’s a way to preserve flesh by sealing it permanently in plastic.  It doesn’t rot or smell, it just lasts forever.  In 1995, an exhibit showcasing this technique, called Body Worlds, opened in Tokyo, and there are several travelling exhibits showcasing the technology and using it to teach anatomy.

In Calgary, it’s at the TELUS World of Science until September 6th.

Leonard, Tall and I went one Sunday afternoon.  Admission is a bit steep, at $30 per head, plus an additional $5 if you want to see the educational film and an extra charge if you want the headphone guide.  I didn’t get the headphones, and I’m pretty sure I’m not missing out there.  If it wasn’t for the relatively unique nature of the exhibit, I probably wouldn’t have paid that much.  There are very few similar shows, and I’ve got some concerns with those that I’ll get into in a moment.

Most of the displays show individual plasticinated organs or systems, such as lungs, hearts, or the nervous system.  There are also cross sections of people.  They tend to show healthy individuals, and contrast those to the effects of obesity or tumours.

Plastination leaves behind a hard replica, which is in all ways indistinguishable from a plastic model.  If you don’t remind yourself that these are the real deal, it starts to become boring.  You almost need to focus on the grotesque, or be really into science.

When I was a kid, I was really into dinosaurs.  Stettler isn’t far from Drumheller, which has the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Okay, I'm still into dinosaurs...

  By the time I was five, I understood the displays weren’t real dinosaur bones.  Those were too special to leave out.  The bones you walk by are plaster casts of the real things.  It never diminished my enjoyment, or learning, or wonderment of dinosaurs.

Body Worlds, for the most part, could have just been plastic models and it would have been the same for me.

What I really enjoyed was the full body plastinoids.

These were bodies which had their skin removed, and were then posed to show how muscles work together, or how organs interact.  They were unique, and fascinating, and the worth the price of admission.

The $5 film was not.  It was a C Grade documentary that had little education value if you were over ten years old, and even less to do with Body Worlds.  As in nothing to do with it.  It was just tacked on, and should be avoided.

The most interesting thing to me was the consent form.  The biggest controversy I have heard around the exhibit is about the consent of the subjects.  I know a similar show, Our Body, was shut down in France when the consent or source of the bodies could not be produced.  The bodies in this exhibit appear to have come from executed Chinese prisoners.  While Body Worlds has faced similar criticism, their website contains very specific information of both the accusations against them, and how they were erroneous and defended in court when necessary.

S2 saw a Body World Exhibit in New York, and was disturbed by the foetuses included.  When I reached this section of the exhibit, I read very carefully to determine the source of these specimens.  They were donations from older medical collections from universities and all predated the 1920s.  While this makes consent even more of a question, the age of the specimens makes it rather difficult to do anything about it.

Other controversies surround whether or not the exhibit is morally decent or in good taste, usually from religious figures or politicians.  I really don’t believe that this is a question, considering the consent form.  It is really in-depth.  Those wishing to donate need to be 18.  They need to indicate they understood some considered this more of an artistic exhibit than a scientific one.  Donors had the option to be seen only by medical and biology students at accredited institutions, or to be seen by the general public.  They chose whether or not exhibit visitors had permission to touch their remains.  They chose if they wanted to be full body plastinoids, or displayed in pieces.  Finally, the form stated the family could override your choice to donate and to ensure they were aware of your terminal wishes.

Based on this form, the individuals and families were fully aware of what happens when you donate to Dr. von Hagens.  If a church or a politician doesn’t agree, they don’t have to see the show, but they shouldn’t be shutting it down based on the fact that they wouldn’t donate.

I hesitate to recommend the show.  If you’re interested in the science or art of it, because it’s both, then you really should see it.  However, if you think you’ll be offended, you probably will, and you’re better saving your thirty dollars.  It’s not a life changing experience, just an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

Staying In

I know back in my mission statement, one of my goals was to get out more, but tonight that’s not happening.  The weather is cold and miserable, and every time I think of brining my little black book to a bar or a coffee shop, I cringe.  I just want to stay in.

On my way home from work, I just decided fuck it.  I stopped at Edo on the way.  Their menu claimed they had a bento.  Bento is the Japanese term for an easy box lunch.  Normally, there’s some art to these.  I mean, they look nice, even from convenience stores.  Not here.  Here they just throw some food in a Styrofoam to-go box.

Well, Finger painting is an art too, kinda

Yep, Calgary still uses Styrofoam.

I trudged back to my place to enjoy a couch bound evening.  I mean, look at the weather outside.

The Sky is frowning

That’s literally what the sky looks like, and there’s no MS Paint involved.

Want to see something sad?  I went to the fridge and found this

One sad, lonely beer

That’s sad for the beer, so I better drink him.

Normally, I try to limit my time with DVDs and video games.  I enjoy them, but they’re traps.  Time traps.  I’m pretending it’s okay that I’m putting in this evenings third disk of The Office because every once in a while I write a line in the book between episodes.  Also, I went to the gym twice this week, so it’s okay.

I’m sad for me because the beer is gone.  What else is in the fridge?

Cream Soda?

 Why the fuck do I have Cream Soda.  Do I even like Cream Soda?  I poured it into a glass to find out.  It’s not terrible, but I don’t want to go back to the couch without a full drink.  That’s just asking for trouble.  I’ll need to get up again way to soon.  What goes with Cream Soda?

 
 
 
 

Is it Vodka?

Obviously.  Vodka goes with every thing.  How could this be terrible?

It fucking is.  It’s like discount cough syrup.  I should just head out, grab a beer at Watchman’s around the corner, or at least pick up some decent mix.

But

 
 
 

The Sky is frowning

Screw it.  Vodka Cream Soda isn’t that bad.  Mostly.

Iron Man 2

Usually, I don’t need to be the first person to see or do something.  I tend to be a patient individual, waiting until the things I wanted are undefended, and then I take them. 
 

   

   

Like this pie

Like this pie...

   

Iron Man 2 was the exception.  I rarely see movies in theatres.  I don’t take extra thrill from a larger screen or bigger sound.  As long as I can see everything on my TV, I’ll save $12 on the movie and $15 on the snacks.  If I go to a movie theatre, it’s generally more about the social side than the particular movie.  There’s only one reason I ever need to see a movie in theatres; the rare occasions where I can’t wait.  

Mostly because I loved Iron Man.  Not the comic, but the original movie.  I mean, my obsession with Batman is well-known,  

So cool

and I think Dark Knight was the best comic book movie ever.  It was superior as a work of art, and complete as a story outside the genre.  I think it’s better than Iron Man.  

 But I enjoy Iron Man more.  It’s more entertaining, and the lighter tone makes it easier to watch repeatedly.  Plus, I relate better to a witty alcoholic narcissist than I do to an aggressive driven obsessive. 

 Gilly sent me a message a week before the movie came out, saying it was good.  I couldn’t figure out how she had already seen it, being that for my friend she’s astonishingly non-geeky, and as such wouldn’t see things at something like a comic convention secret sneak preview.  It turns out the release was earlier overseas because Paramount personally hates me. 

 I knew what I had to do.  No one else was going to see that movie before me like that jerk Gilly. 

 Tall and I went a day early for tickets.  Since we weren’t in it for the spectacle, we didn’t need 3D or IMAX or explod-o-vision. We had no trouble getting seats for the 10 pm show.  I was confused the next day when Matt, Ren, and David were all concerned.  They wanted to be there an hour early at least, and David insisted on an even bigger head start.  He was at the theatre at 8:30. 

 We needed it.  Yeah, we had tickets, but even ticket holders were lined up in front of the screening room.  David was about 15th in line when we got there.  Line as far as the eye could see, 45 minutes before show time, and it’s the version with no bells or whistles.  I can’t even imagine what the midnight IMAX showing would have been like, but I am forced to assume it involved a couple of overweight individuals in ill-fitting costumes, and some generally poor hygiene. 

 This was all old news for the staff at Chinook.  They had contingencies in place, and ordered us around with practiced ease when they needed to do something the line was blocking.  They ushered us into the theatre at 9:40 and waited 10 minutes before starting those pre-movie trivia things that come up before the show.  We had a great spot in the centre of the theatre, and due to Matt and Ren’s planning and David’s not really having a life, no matter what he tells you. 

Batman Cool

The movie itself was superb.  It played to the strengths of the original without rehashing old plot points.  They focused on the joyous excess, the price of success, and the sharp dialogue that made the original so good.  They were telling a story that happens to have a superhero in it, instead of a superhero story, a pitfall that plagues so many comic book movies, even today.  Honestly, the strength comes from the fact that the comic fights could have been replaced by board meetings or basketball games.  Everything was so good that the hero parts were just extra cool, not central. 

It didn’t feel the need to tell the original, giving the audience enough credit to continue the tale instead of redoing the first movie.  The plot and the characters only went forward.  

The casing was superb.  Robert Downey Junior, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel Jackson were all as excellent as they were in the original, and their talent adds legitimacy to what could otherwise be a silly movie.  John Slattery plays Tony’s father, which is fitting, as Roger Sterling is nearly a non-superhero Tony stark in the 60s on Mad Men. 

Tony Stark cool

  Scarlett Johansen works for well as Black Widow, especially because they didn’t have her do the Russian accent and they did put her in a leather cat suit.  

I guess I can suffer through that.

The new actor for Rhodes was good, but I find Rhodes a pretty flat character to begin with.  I also enjoy that the movie acknowledges the change, in a scene that lets us know we should just get over it.  

The villain, Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke, was great.  He had a legitimate grudge, understandable motivations, and was a challenge worthy of a more experienced Iron Man.  Superman movies, are you listening?  Villains should be worth the hero’s time, and should have reasons for what they do.  

Fuck Movie Lex Luthor

I really enjoyed how unobtrusive the special effects were.  They served the story, and never went over the top for their own sake.  Big explosions weren’t Bay-esque, and a large effect always had an in movie reason.  

In fact, the movie had amazing verisimilitude.  It stayed true to its own reality, and anything that looked like a logic flaw had an explanation.  I’m not Kodie, and I can’t say if they were scientifically sound, but they were sound enough for a movie about an international playboy in a robot suit.  

The movie is fun, exciting, and well done. It’s an excellent continuation of a great story, and it’s worth your theatre money.  

Even if you have to wait longer than the English.  

Jerks

A Cabin in Bend

Chris and Akiyo asked Gilly and I if we wouldn’t mind leaving Portland for one night during our visit.  They seemed hesitant, like they thought we might say no.  Chris believes the city is an endless source of constant amusement.  As it’s not Vodka City, capital of the Island of Hot Desperate Women, I don’t feel the level of awe that he sometimes seemed to expect from me.  There’s a resort town in Eastern Oregon called Bend, and Chris really wanted Akiyo to see it.  Gilly’s up for pretty much anything, as long as it’s not my idea.  Akiyo was able to convince her boss to give her a day and a half off in the middle of the week, so we made reservations for Wednesday.    

As Bend is a three hour drive, we couldn’t take Chris’s car.  It’s a two-seater green convertible, and it’s as cool as it is impractical.  We decided to rent a  car, a Toyota Corolla, and we headed off after lunch.  We went through Gresham, an endless suburb of Portland.  It goes on into eternity, a hopeless wasteland of strip malls and lower middle income housing.  I quickly learned why Chris calls it “Fucking Gresham” under his breath every few moments; the place begs for contempt.    

We continued on, and Akiyo fell asleep in the back.  Apparently, she does this on any trip over 10 minutes long.  Gilly was reading beside her, some kind of smart person book with a title I can’t be bothered to remember.  (And to think, someone gave me an English Literature degree).  As we headed through the mountains, Chris and I kept playing with the radio, trying to keep a strong signal on a decent channel.  Gilly politely informed me if I didn’t leave the radio alone, she may resort to murder.  Concluding I would be the most likely victim of such an act, I turned the music off.    

Canadians, have any of you ever used chains on a car?  As we headed up Mount Hood, sign after sign insists they are required.  When I asked Chris why, he said they’re for snow.  I still don’t understand.  Are they to tie to a trailer hitch to pull you out of a snow bank?  Do you wrap them around your tires like tank treads?  I’ve driven in snow since about the first time I got behind the wheel, and I have never needed them.  Chris seemed certain that any snow would mean sudden death for all of us, a tragedy that would be easily averted if only the rented Corolla had chains.  My offer to drive if he got scared did not go over well, and we kept going, chainless, due to my challenge of his manliness.    

Really?

Really?

Seriously, though, fuck chains.    

We crossed the mountains without incident, and the landscape became more familiar.  It was full on prairie, interrupted by river valleys full of coolies.  The rest of the car is amazed at how sparse, flat and dry it is.  I was worried I would fall asleep, so I glance back at Gilly to see if it’s safe to turn the radio back on.  She reads me like a children’s book and shakes her head.  Murder was still on the docket.  Chris and I started telling tasteless jokes about nuns.  Gilly decided we could have the radio back.    

One of several entrances

One of several entrances

In Bend, we were staying at Old St. Francis School.  Chris told us the story of the McMenamin Brothers.  They started running a micro-brewery several years ago.  Using the profits, they started buying several interesting properties in Oregon, and turning them into resort hotels.  This used to be a Catholic school, but now the classrooms have been turned into hotel rooms.  The rest of the school’s facilities have been converted into guest services.    

At the front desk, we found that because we booked our rooms together, we had use of one of the cottages.  It turns out that the school used to provide lodging for some of the teachers on the grounds.  Eventually, these homes were used for classes, before they were converted back into cottages.  We were in the Art House.   

Our Cabin

Our "Cabin"

I don’t know why they called it a cabin or a cottage.  It looked like a house, just with exceptionally bad paintings on the wall.  The faces were scary, and the colour was a bit like old puke.  

Those walls *shudder*

Those walls *shudder*

  Apart from that single visual complaint, it was amazing.  We had a private kitchen, a breakfast nook, a full living room, and the bedrooms and bathrooms were off a little hallway.  It cost about what I would have expected for hotel rooms, not a full on set of conjoined suites, which we literally had.  

Out our backdoor was a courtyard with tables and bonfires. 

Bonfires don't photograph well...

Bonfires don't photograph well...

  Yeah, full on bonfires.  There was a cigar bar with a complete food and drink menu in one corner, and anything purchased there could be consumed around the fires.  However, you couldn’t smoke cigarettes, just cigars.  I really don’t know how that worked.   

There was a normal restaurant, but we were more interested in the eccentric parts of the resort.  They had a movie theatre with a bar and food, but we couldn’t agree on any of the movies.  Chris likes cheesy 80s movies, like Romancing the Stone.  Gilly goes for chick flicks or kid’s movies.  Akiyo speaks English really well, but really prefers if a movie has subtitles, either in English or Japanese, to make sure she understands what’s going on.  No one but Kodie shares my taste in movies, so they weren’t even playing The Convent.    

 

  

The Greatest Movie Ever

The Greatest Movie Ever

 

We decided to give theatre a pass.    

Old Saint Francis School also had a soaking pool, which is like an extra large hot tub.  When we lived in Japan, the four of use used to go to onsens together, which are Japanese public baths.  Chris glanced in through the window in the door to see how similar the facilities were.  He quickly jumped back with a devil’s grin and said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch.  Akiyo was aghast and Gilly laughed. I peered through the window.    

The room on the other side was gorgeous.  An old chapel had been converted to hold the pool.  A skylight and high stained glass windows let in natural light.  The walls were painted with murals of monks working vineyards.  Steam rose from the water, which entered the pool through a gentle fountain in the center and the lion statue in the corners of the pool.  The eye was most drawn, however, to the long haired man sitting on the edge of the pool.  He didn’t appear to be wearing anything, but details were blocked by the girl in the tiny bikini and a tramp stamp.  She stood in the pool, pressed against him, and trying to crawl down his throat tongue first.    

“Oh,” I said as I stepped back.  Gilly took a peek but Akiyo was too crept out.  That would never happen in a Japanese onsen..  We decided to go get our swimsuits, on the official hope that they would stop by the time we returned.  I tried to hurry everyone along because I think it would be funnier to interrupt them and see what they would do.  Despite my best efforts, Poolguy and Trampstamp are gone by our return.     

We soaked, and discussed how that would never happen in Japan, partially because onsens are nude and gender segregated.  Co-ed onsens came up, but Akiyo told us only creepy old Japanese grandfathers go to those.  Gilly piped up “No, creepy young English teachers go too.”  She inclined her head to indicate me.     

“So that’s a no on making out in the soaking pool then?”    

She didn’t answer, as more people came through the door, providing her resounding no.    

After an hour or so, we dressed, and passed an old gym which had been converted into a live music venue.  Like everything they had a full food and drink menu.  A bunch of middle aged dudes were playing slow folk rock.  Akiyo wasn’t familiar with the genre.  “Are they good?”    

“Not really,” I told her.  “I doubt the good bands play on Wednesday night.”    

We decided to spend the evening in the Fireside Pub instead.  The place had an enormous hearth and pool tables.  We had an incredible meal.  I loved their Devil’s Grin beer, and the garlic knots and wood-baked pizza were superb.  We were there for quite a while, mostly because Akiyo wanted to grab a seat by the fire.  We waited until the girls at the nearest table left, and ate desert by the fire.  The chocolate brownie was a s good as the rest, but we may have overeaten a bit. 

Fireside for dessert

Fireside for dessert

We headed back to the cabin in time to catch The Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Akiyo had trouble following either show, and feel asleep by the first commercial break.  Chris and I prefer different programs, so I insisted Gilly decide which was better.  She chose Jon Stewart either to spite me or, more likely, she didn’t quite get Colbert yet, and needs to watch more of him to really get him.    

Here’s the very best part though; in the morning at Saint Francis, someone leaves a basket on the front porch.  Inside are a newspaper and fresh ground coffee.  It was right there, waiting for me, and it was amazing.  I drank a little over half a pot before we had to check out.  If you’re ever in Oregon, you need to check out a McMenamins’ resort.    

**************************************************    

Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.

Skidmore Saturday Sunday Market

I’m staying with A1 and C1 in Portland.  C1 was an English teacher in Japan for 9 years, and was our guru of all things Tokushima when I lived there.  A1 is his adorable, energetic Japanese wife.  Gilly, another English teacher I know from Japan, came to visit them from the UK at the same time.  Gilly is mean to me, but I forgive her, because she’s cute.  

Just like in Japan, C1 and A1 know everything near their home worth seeing, and they always find a long list of great things to do.  On Saturday, I went with the girls to the Skidmore Saturday Sunday Market, as C1 was at work.
 

The market is near Portland’s city center, and it’s amazing.  It’s a huge collection of portable stalls, selling local art, handmade items, and all sorts of tiny oddities and strange wonders.  It reminds me of Crossroads Market in Calgary, except open air, far more creatively geared, and five or six times the size.  

Seriously, it goes on,  

First View  

And on,  

more  

And on,  

Even more  

And on.  

sill more  

There was hand-made clothing and bags, made by hand and often made strange.  There was some amazing fractal art, painting, and photography, which would have been difficult to get back home, but if I lived in Oregon, I’d have such great art in my apartment from the market.  There was hand blown glass jewellery, fused works by artists, and a huge variety of earrings, necklaces, and pendants.  None of it was really my thing, but it was cool to see.  

The food was amazing, and that is my thing.  They had elephant ears.  

There, on the left!  See them?

There, on the left! See them?

They have them every week.  You can go there, and get sugar-coated deep-fried dough all the time.  

That, friends, is a description of Heaven.  

They had all the best festival foods, from mini-donuts to corn dogs, all the stuff I need to wait for Stampede to get.  They had booths offering an insane variety of regional dishes.  I tried Nepalese food.  I’m not sure what the fuck momos are, besides amazing. 

They are kind of like Gyoza

They are kind of like Gyoza

Even the coffee was great, like the best coffee shop you’ve ever tried.  I’m considering moving here just to eat this stuff every weekend. 

We wandered around for several hours.  Gilly and A1 were actually shopping.  I was mostly engrossed in people watching.  There were hippies, young and old, dreadlocked and grey beards.  There were punks with big green Mohawks or liberty spikes.  There were skaters and housewives, midlife crisis-ing artists and bored high schoolers.  They mingled in no set proportion, with no one sub-set dominating any part of the market for long.   

The thing that kept striking me about the market was there were rows and rows of hand-made crafts, and all kinds of alt-kids, but nowhere was I smelling any pot.  No one was selling hand carved pipes without mentioning what you might smoke out of such a craft.  There were no hand blown glass bongs.  I started to think it was due to the higher criminal penalties for marijuana use in the States.  I began to imagine even paraphernalia was sold in underground markets, and you had to by rolling papers from the dealer, as they were as bad as the product itself.  We were there for three hours before we reached the edge of the market.  A permanent shop with it’s storefront open to the crowd  had a Bob Marley lithograph.  Finally, the market made sense.  

Of all the things he stood for, we just remember he liked weed.

Of all the things he stood for, we just remember he liked weed.

There was only one thing that was a permanent fixture for the market, and that was the pipe and bong store.

I’m kidding of course.  There were other permenant stores, like on selling swords.  If you have a free weekend day in 

Portland, you need to check out the market.  It’s easy to find, just take any of the Max Trains down town to the Skidmore Fountain stop.  You get off right in the middle of it.  Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s worth a day of your time.

*****************************************************************************************

Blogs are a lot of work.  Listen to Joey more often, like whenever he’s bored, on Twitter.