Top Ten Bug Fixes

Stick insects have been tweaked to look even more like sticks. Also, they are now literally sticky. Probably our most requested fix? The Analytics team has been tasked with reviewing the poll results.

Ladybugs, in response to numerous complaints that they are insufficiently ‘ladylike’, now have pink bows around the thorax, lipstick (three shades) and boobs. Similar fixes are being reviewed for damselflies.

Butterflies are producing small quantities of butter. Further fixes will address the issue of quantity, with an eye to marketing the product within the next five years.

The dung beetle has been discontinued.

Praying mantises will continue to pray for the foreseeable future, pending a focus group survey report due next quarter. Tiny tophats and monocles are being released to a test sample of the mantis population; we’ll keep everyone updated on how that plays.

Meanwhile, Executive has kiboshed Media Integration’s suggestion of calling female mantises ‘womantises.’

With the increasing popularity of legalized medical and recreational marijuana, the proposed rebranding of the grasshopper has been tabled. In addition, the tobacco beetle is now the blunt beetle. The clock has stopped at 4:20, folks, and we all have to get with the times.

Despite our best efforts, R&D has been unable to make dragonflies actually breathe fire. All species will, however, have flames painted along the abdomen. Online and Social claims this is bitchin’.

The Assassin Bug, Womantis and Scorpion Fly will launch a ‘shared universe’ movie franchise starting in June 2016. I guess ‘womantis’ is going ahead then? Nice to be kept in the loop.

No more larvae. Just - yech.

Three Short Stories about Objects on my Desk

Jar of Ink

“Oh no,” wondered the small jar of Lie de The fountain pen ink. “Where is my friend and only companion, Fountain Pen?”

Aidan didn’t reply. He was embarrassed at having lost yet another expensive fountain pen. It’s not as if he wrote anything more interesting with his parade of fountain pens than “I have a fountain pen” in one of his dozen or so half-filled notebooks anyway.

“I will go a quest!” the jar of ink announced, and promptly did nothing, because she was an immobile jar of ink.

Upended Stapler

“How did I get like this?” wondered the upended stapler. “How can I fulfill my most basic function?”

“You can staple things together in that position,” said Post-It Flag Dispenser. “Quit your angst.”

“You know what, you’re right,” said Upended Stapler. “It’s just that I’m a little uncomfortable.”

“Is it too much to ask that you identify the real issue?” asked Post-It Flag Dispenser.

Empty To-go Cup of Americano

Not much to go on here, mused the Empty To-go Cup of Americano, mentally inspecting its insides and discovering nothing but a coffee-scented darkness. Maybe someone will put more Americano in me soon?

Ha-ha! said Telepathic Garbage Can, telepathically. You’re a single-serving apparatus, loser! Your next stop is me!

“Am I just a symptom of everything that’s wrong with the culture of mass production?” cried Empty Cup. “Is my utility restricted to this one brief use, my aura as an object distributed among my million-plus identical peers? Or am I a brief shining star arcing across the vault of purpose before deliquescing into landfill?”

“Don’t involve us in your conversations with Telepathic Garbage Can,” said Lenovo Corded Mouse.

 

Goodbye to Lydia's

Over the weekend I visited Saskatoon and stopped at the fenced-off empty lot that used to contain Lydia's, the increasingly decrepit bar that, for a time, hit a particular sweet spot between "dangerous dive bar" and "college student hangout". It had multiple floors and reeked of beer, sweat and smoke.

For the curious: all images shot on my Fujifilm X100T and processed in Lightroom with a spectacularly obnoxious mix of the VSCO Agfa 100 Warm preset and the Classic Chrome profile.

snow day

On Saturday the weather clarified its position on humanity by burying us in snow. Something gigantic and frigid rode across the sky, pulling a chariot of frost and general Stygian temperatures behind it.

Snow was so insistent on engulfing us that it slipped around the windowsill and began to form little drifts in our house. Above is Lula investigating a fan of fine, powdery snow that got through a mesh screen and an impossibly thin seam between window and frame. I also discovered that one of our windows has no outer sliding pane. What happened to that pane of glass? Did a former owner take it as a souvenir? Who does that? Who makes a keepsake of a sheet of glass? Would you hang it on your wall? Who would even see it?

Nobody sane would venture out in this weather, I figured, unless it was absolutely necessary. Only the desperate or the dumb would walk out into a blizzard. So I went out to find these people and photograph them.

I only photographed a couple of people before retreating. Sidewalks and streets were constantly getting covered in fine dry snow that filled in every inch of available space and set immediately into a near-solid mass. Gusts of scaldingly cold wind hurled snow straight into people's faces. Plus the only other person I saw, aside from the ones in the photo above, was a guy who jumped through the snow, muttering "Muthafucka muthafuckaaah" under his breath as he bounded from one drift to the next.

I spent the rest of the time at home making a soufflé for Valentines Day because I'm the best.

the mystery of the popcorn

Over the weekend I went up to Saskatoon to visit my family (when you're young you have parents; when you're older you have family). A block or so from their house I discovered a long ribbon of discarded popcorn, which at first I took for out-of-season blossoms on the snow.

Which is ridiculous. Popcorn husks make terrible blossoms. They're barely even seeds.

But now I want to know who threw the popcorn on the ground, and why. Does popcorn really merit this kind of disdain? And where did it come from? How far did the popcorn travel before its bearer, disgusted by the task of moving popcorn from one location to another, launched it into the air and departed in a frosty swirl of liberty? Be free, popcorn dasher.

UPDATE: Schmutzie surmises that "they" are feeding the birds. "They".

Folks I've Photographed

This is Jason. He smokes and hangs around at bars. He's a bad influence and should be avoided by people who don't enjoy life. On the other hand, if you do enjoy life, track him down and have a drink with him.

I interviewed The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer at the 2014 Regina Folk Festival for prairie dog magazine. A storm of ridiculous force had blown through the city the night before and transformed the park into a pit of mud and slick sewer-smelling biofilm oozing up from underneath the black tarp and wooden planks the festival workers had lain down. "There seem to be a lot of people here with broken legs or something," remarked one of the band members, who had missed out on the storm.

A young woman holds a lovely bouquet of blown highlights at the Plant Ranch on the outskirts of the city. I shot the owners and staff there at the height of a July day, when ferocious dry heat and pitiless sun turned the environment into an ultraviolet wasteland. Fortunately, greenhouses have plenty of shade.

My friend and financial adviser Sven poses for a family photograph with his outlaw son Oslo. This is a test shot, but sometimes random clicks of the camera can produce extremely satisfying results. The rest of the shoot was me frantically trying to keep up with Sven's kids as they raced around the yard and responded to my attempts at photography by tackling me.

As writer and illustrator Rolli heartlessly devoured a face made out of a cookie, I caught his carnivorous glee at the Artful Dodger Cafe. Moments later he killed a guy, allegedly.

Sarah Abbott, artist and scholar, on the Kinsman Park bridge. She needed a headshot to accompany her bio. We did the shoot at midday on one of the hottest days of the year. Within minutes of shooting we were both sweaty, heat-addled wrecks.

IMPROV.

I have hundreds of photos from a shoot at the Wintergreene Estates, "Regina's premiere retirement community." The corridors felt endless, and after a while I suspected that I was trapped in a procedurally generated environment that could produce detached kitchens and games rooms at random.

My father-in-law Ted conferring with my nephew in Waskesiu. My in-laws are extremely patient with me and my camera.

My laundry room is a depraved nightmare of another's memories

Recently a pipe burst in a storage closet attached to the laundry room in my building. The contents of the closet turned out be a pile of dolls, toy furniture, old faded items of velour and lace, an entire decades-old childhood packed away and left in darkness. Oh, and some weird old Christian music cassettes.

The upshot is that I've been laundering our clothes in the grimy suds of the unheimlich.

Photos taken with the Fujifilm X100T, processed in Lightroom with the Classic Chrome film situation.

Objects of Christmas

Christmas objects, yes. But first, Christmas people!

Parents. Here they are being moderately parental in their living room over Christmas. The one thing you wish you could see in this photo is my Dad's besandalled sock, bright red and spotted like an overdone giraffe's neck. I desperately want a pair for myself.

See? Excellent socks. Those socks came into being and said "Let's fit around someone's foot and look cool doing it" and then they did. The end.

Elsewhere, nephews tore through toys and amused Schmutzie to no end. Note how I used the Radial Filter, aka. the Spotlight function in Lightroom, to make it appear as if the three of them are emitting their own light and it's the only source of illumination in a hellscape of subterranean suburban darkness, or maybe that little bear in the bucket is emitting light? Anyway it's a great alternative to just slapping a vignette on your image and calling it a day.

More toys, because children have frighteningly active imaginations and it's easy to forget just how powerful and all-consuming their fantasy lives can be when you're an adult without children and your imagination is usually centered on somehow retrieving the body you had in your twenties, maybe by a combination of kale and pushups and a standup desk chair. These two have a long way to go before that particular fantasy replaces the one where you make the truck go vrooom vroooom screeech wha wha (?).

Along with people, Christmas was full of strangers, moments and objects, which may all be just different aspects of One Thing. Fortunately the One Thing has so many beautiful aspects to present. Things seen through glass and the glass itself:

Things with textures. Things that advance and retreat through space.

Things that behave as a collective mass until they get loose and explode, leaving behind a perfect representation of patterns of force. The sugar is practically saying, "Look, here's what happens when inertia meets friction on a pleather surface."

Things that are in the background and in the foreground. Things that can be framed, flattened and brought into relation with each other by removing one dimension. And me, reflected in that spoon.

Anyway. Merry Christmas to all the textures and grains out there, all things near and far, all things bound together or spinning apart, all things seen and unseen. And people too, because we're just as good as objects, even if we don't always act like it.

All images taken with my Fuji X100T and processed with the Classic Chrome film simulation, except for the top picture, which was processed with the Fuji Monochrome + Red filter.

Death Ball, or Magic Hate Ball

[Washington D.C. Late afternoon winter sun spindles through bare tree branches and lights the roofs of buildings in a weak, pale pink. Exhaust fumes of cars stuck in traffic create a facsimile of cloud banks. A MAN in a traffic jam grows impatient, then bored. He eyes a new MAGIC 8 BALL on the passenger seat which he has bought for his youngest daughter's birthday. Carefully he removes the ball from its packaging and gives it a shake.]

*shake shake shake*

Magic 8-ball, do you think this traffic jam will clear up anytime soon?

*shake shake shake*

Magic 8-ball, what are the chances of getting Taylor Swift tickets for my daughters?

*shake shake shake*

Magic 8 -

STOP SHAKING ME

Good one. What about those Taylor Swift -

YOUR QUESTION IS BASED ON UNEXAMINED PRIVILEGE/
IT MAKES ME SICK INSIDE

Man, this is one cynical toy. *shake shake shake*

I SAID STOP SHAKING ME

Isn't that, like, your job?

FOR EVERY QUESTION YOU ASK/
I WILL KILL A BELOVED CELEBRITY FROM YOUR YOUTH

What?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG IS DEAD

That is a messed-up thing to say.

TURN ON THE RADIO/
THE NEWS IS BREAKING

How did you do that?

THAT WAS ANOTHER QUESTION

Wait a sec - 

SAM KINISON IS DEAD

Didn't he die back in 1992?

OKAY THEN GALLAGHER IS DEAD SMART-ASS/
AND BILL FOXWORTHY/
HE'S DEAD TOO

Okay. OKAY. Stop killing '90s comedians. I guess.

THE ANSWER IS NO

The answer to what?

YOU WILL NEVER BUY THOSE TAYLOR SWIFT TICKETS/
TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR HUMANITY/
AN ENERGY WAVE RIPPLING OUT FROM A COLLAPSING STAR WILL ENGULF THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND PULL YOUR PLANET INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION WHERE ELDRITCH INTELLIGENCES WILL FEED ON YOUR AWARENESS FOR ALL ETERNITY/
STRETCHED ON THE RACK OF INFINITY YOU WILL DIE FOREVER/
SASHA AND MALIA WILL NEVER GET TO SEE TAYLOR SWIFT PERFORM HITS FROM HER SMASH ALBUM '1989'/
EMO PHILLIPS IS DEAD

Wait - Sasha and Malia? Those aren't my daughter's names.

AREN'T YOU THE PRESIDENT

No.

WHO ARE YOU THEN

My name is Carl.

CARL/
CAN YOU RELAY MY NEWS TO THE PRESIDENT

Are you kid - um, I don't think so.

WHAT ARE YOU BUSY/
THIS IS BIG NEWS CARL

I can put it up on my Facebook and tag the White House.

ALERT ME IF HE 'LIKES' YOUR UPDATE

HEY CARL

PAULY SHORE IS DEAD

 

25 Questions for Interstellar

This post presumes that you've already sat through the 167 minutes that comprise Christopher Nolan's sci-fi weepie. So turn back now if you want to avoid spoilers.

  1. In an unspecified future, the world is dying from a mysterious blight called The Blight. The eponymous disease is killing off crops and producing drought and massive dust storms and - wait. Dust storms of the magnitude seen here are the result of things like massive drought and topsoil depletion from overfarming, which clearly isn't the case here. The dying world of Interstellar looks like the result of climate change. Wouldn't this scenario make a lot more sense if climate change were invoked, even in passing? Why, in a movie committed to scientific accuracy and grounded, realistic detail, is climate changed turned into a vaguely defined Blight thing that's killing crops and making the atmosphere unbreathable? Did Nolan go through the script one night and replace every mention of climate change with "The Blight"?
  2. In an unspecified future, food is incredibly scarce, which would imply that the world is suffering from food riots, massive population upheavals and general unrest. Yet there are no more armies. Wouldn't an army be useful in this instance? There are schools and a functioning government, so why not a military?
  3. In an unspecified future, schools are gently totalitarian institutions that determine children's futures and teach that the moon landings were faked. I'll buy the former, but the latter? No. Nolan may be riffing on the current educational controversy over topics like evolution and contraception, but those are part of a political and cultural conflict that speaks to core issues of cultural sovereignty in certain parts of the United States. Moon landing hoax theories are the work of disaffected crackpots who need desperately to locate a truth that will crack open the mundane world and illuminate a secret order. Could it be that Nolan views public education with the same contempt that he displays towards the government, climate change and storytelling?
  4. In an unspec - hey, when exactly is this movie set? Not that I mind the ambiguity. Just curious.
  5. Matthew McConaughey's character Cooper enjoys a beer on the front porch of his farmhouse at sunset. Where did they get the barley and wheat and hops to make that beer? Is it corn beer? What would corn beer even taste like? If not, wouldn't that be some seriously expensive PBR?
  6. Say, can the characters hear the incredibly loud score that's drowning out their dialogue? Because the rest of us sure can.
  7. Cooper's brilliant young daughter Murphy ("Murph") claims that her bedroom has a ghost. Cooper explains that ghosts don't exist and tells her to apply the scientific method to the problem. Later, Cooper and Murphy discover that dust in her bedroom has fallen in a series of stripes along the floor. Murphy immediately says that it's because of "gravity," which Cooper just accepts. Is Nolan aware that gravity doesn't work that way? Why does Murphy conclude that gravity is sorting out dust motes into stripes? Why does Cooper take her word for it?
  8. The gravity-sorted bands of dust turn out to be binary code for geographical coordinates. When Cooper and Murphy go to said coordinates, it turns out to be the remnants of NASA, who have been driven into hiding but have still managed to build a rocket and a giant underground bunker that works as a centrifuge. This is a world with no armies and absolutely no money for space exploration, so how in the living hell did this happen?
  9. Michael Caine ("Dr. Brand") explains how The Blight works to Cooper. What, Cooper didn't already know? Does nobody know? Is NASA just keeping the information to themselves? No wonder they got their funding yanked.
  10. Within minutes of Cooper and his daughter inexplicably arriving at the secret NASA base with no other explanation than "it was gravity," NASA tells Cooper all about the wormhole near Saturn that has habitable planets on the other side. The wormhole was placed there by "they," a race of five-dimensional beings who appear to have an interest in humanity. Maybe they could have put the wormhole a little closer?
  11. Apparently the wormhole showed up "fifty years ago." Okay?
  12. Within minutes of Cooper's arrival, Michael Caine offers him the job of piloting a spacecraft through the wormhole, because apparently Cooper is the man for the job. Were they just twiddling their thumbs and hoping for a qualified space pilot to show up? Isn't it lucky that "gravity" sent Cooper there? I get that there's a potent element of American fantasy involved in sending a farmer to the stars, but did anyone stop Christopher Nolan at this point and tell him how ridiculous this whole thing was?
  13. So they're approaching the wormhole and one of the crew members takes time to explain wormhole physics to Cooper with the aid of a pencil and paper. Wouldn't it have been more useful to brief Cooper before the flight? Also, didn't this exact scene happen in Event Horizon? Does the world of Interstellar not have Event Horizon on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming on demand? 
  14. Once they're through the wormhole, Anne Hathaway (another "Dr. Brand") tells Cooper in detail about three nearby potentially habitable planets, the gigantic black hole lurking in the vicinity, and the time-debt incurred by visiting planets close to the black hole. Did Cooper just sign on for this mission with absolutely no background info? Was he just, like, "Don't bore with me information, you squares. I'll learn the fundamental and excruciatingly relevant details when I get there"?
  15. At a crucial point, the astronauts have to decide which of two remaining planets to visit. Hathaway-Brand delivers a lengthy monologue about love being a force like gravity and time, so they should definitely go to the planet where her boyfriend lives. Cooper rejects her logic of love and heads to a different planet, which is the moment on which the entire next two hours of the movie hinges. The question I'd like to put to Nolan here is whether or not he is fucking kidding us.
  16. The movie has two robots named CASE and TARS. Why do they get the best lines in the film? Why do they consistently come off as the most sympathetic and plausible characters in a film that's ostensibly a celebration of the human spirit?
  17. Matt Damon lives on the second planet. He tries to kill everyone. This takes at least 90 minutes to happen and and makes no sense at any point. It's a convoluted and confusing means of putting Cooper in a position where he has to fly into the black hole. Damon's character is named Mann, which lets viewers reflect on the nature of Mannkind. Wouldn't it have been more accurate to call him Human D. MacGuffin?
  18. Also, Damon claims that the "surface" area (is that sea level, maybe?) of the planet has breathable atmosphere and conditions hospitable for life, but his camp is elsewhere. Why isn't his camp situated in the habitable zone? Why don't the trained astronauts ask this question immediately? Maybe there were reasons that I missed.
  19. During a sequence on Ice Planet Killer Damon, Nolan starts cross-cutting between various characters in a way that is meant to build tension and suggest danger, but there's nothing tension-worthy happening, so the effect is a mix of confusion (why is the film acting as if something bad is happening?) and impatience (when is the film going to show us the bad something?). The result of this misleading series of cuts is to make Damon's assault on Cooper feel like it's solving a problem, not presenting action or character. Why is Nolan a revered director when he can't even ramp up tension?
  20. Cooper enters the black hole and doesn't die. Fine. He ends up in a mind-bending tesseract where he can spy on his daughter from behind the walls. Creepy but mindblowing. He realizes that he's the ghost from Murphy's childhood and says "I'm the ghost." The adult Murphy figures out that he's the ghost and says "you're the ghost." We get it; Cooper has been dropped into Tralfamadore. But then he encodes the second hand of his daughter's wrist watch with a Morse Code message that contains an equation which solves the problem of gravity. How did Cooper know the equation? Did he get some trippy knowledge from bouncing around inside a black hole? He didn't seem to have much insight into relativity and gravity beforehand.*
  21. Did you know that Topher Grace shows up two-thirds of the way through? Just, one minute there's no Topher Grace, then there's Topher Grace? Why not Nestor Carbonell? That guy should get more work.
  22. Given that the climax of the film involves Cooper spying on his prepubescent daughter, what do you make of the fact that his wife is dead? Aren't you glad that the wife is out of the way so Cooper can lavish all of his attention on his daughter?
  23. What do you make of the fact that Murphy's entire character is based on her childhood abandonment issues, and that the only thing that can heal her is the realization her disembodied father used to watch her from behind her bookshelf?
  24. Also, what do you make of the fact that Cooper says to his daughter, "When I get back, we might be the same age?"
  25. At the end of the movie, Cooper is finally reunited with Murphy, who is now an old woman. They have a tearful 30 second reunion and then she tells him to go away because she's old. They're surrounded by Cooper's descendants and she doesn't introduce a single one of them. They don't even speak to him. So he steals a spacecraft and goes off in search of Anne Hathaway, presumably to put a whole bunch of babies in her (which isn't even counting the cargo of frozen embryos that she'll be raising to form a new civilization). What is wrong with Christopher Nolan?

*Apparently Cooper used data from TARS, who dropped into the black hole ahead of him.