Category Archives: Uncategorized

When is a job not a job?

I found this note in my pigeonhole at work yesterday.

I found this note in my pigeonhole at work yesterday.

I mentioned in my last post that I enjoy talking to library patrons about the choices they have made in reading material or movies. A few weeks ago, a lady was borrowing a documentary I had seen a trailer for : Tim’s Vermeer.

There were a number of reasons I was interested in this documentary. Firstly, the very first screenplay I wrote was about a Vermeer painting – “The Lacemaker“. It was a complex plot involving Salvador Dali, the Louvre, art fraud and a rhinoceros. The script is still available for development.

Secondly, the documentary is made by Penn and Teller, whom I admire for their magical skills and their zeal in uncovering fraudsters of the allegedly psychic variety.

Finally, it’s just an interesting concept. The subject – Tim Jenison – decided that Vermeer couldn’t possibly have managed to paint the variations of colour and texture the picture (he uses “The Music Lesson“) shows. There must, says Tim, have been some kind of device to allow Vermeer to see those variations as a camera sees them, not as an eye.

While keen to see the documentary, I hadn’t been able to get hold of a copy, and mentioned this to the lady, asking if she would let me know what she thought of it. She said she would, and took my name, remarking that it’s rare to be served by the same person twice at the library, since shifts change so often.

I was incredibly touched to return from my short break to find the handwritten review of the documentary shown above. That’s a great example of the OTHER kind of “Customer Service”.

The review reads:

Hi,

Verdict of Tim’s Vermeer:

The direction was clunky, more narration would have been good, and it would have been nice to hear more from the art world and less from Penn Jillette.

However, the subject matter was fascinating. The theory posited was intriguing, as was the way he proved it. I would have loved to hear more about the art world’s reaction to his experiment.

I wouldn’t suggest this as a good example of a documentary, but I do suggest it on the basis of the subject matter.”

The Quidditch Global Games… Wait, what?

There’s a joke circulating on the internet that goes something like this:

Despite the darkening tone of the books, there’s no denying the appeal of the magical world depicted by J.K. Rowling, but it’s nonetheless surprising that one of the few things to leave the books and arrive in the Muggle world, along with Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, is Quidditch.

A GB player attempts to defend the goal from another determined US attack.

A GB player attempts to defend the goal from another determined US attack.

Ok, the admissions: Firstly, clearly, no one is flying here. None of the balls in play are moving of their own accord. And the Golden Snitch is not a tiny magical metal marvel, it’s…well, see for yourself:

He's the Snitch. To score, you have to grab what's dangling from his shorts.

He’s the Snitch. To score, you have to grab what’s dangling from his shorts.

But there are more similarities with the written game of Quidditch than differences. All players have to be on broomsticks, making catching the thrown Quaffle (here substituted by a Volleyball) that much harder. The Beaters may not have bats, but they throw the Bludgers (gym balls) at opposing players, and if you’re hit, you have to drop the Quaffle (if you’re carrying it) and run back to touch your own goalposts before returning to play. And there are three goalposts at each end of the field of play, two low hoops on either side of a higher central hoop.

This shot of Team GB leaping into action at the start of the game shows the three goals nicely. Also the ACE team strip!

This shot of Team GB leaping into action at the start of the game shows the three goals nicely. Also the ACE team strip!

Like the books say, Quidditch is a fast and furious game. There were no injuries in the UK/US match we watched, but the game preceding it was stopped twice for injured players to be helped off the pitch.

What astonished me most was that teams had travelled from distant countries to compete here in BC for the Global Games (sadly, and for whatever reason, not The Quidditch World Cup). There was a team from Australia, for pete’s sake! Each team was enthusiastic and dedicated, and played hard, though it’s hard to deny that the UK were outclassed by reigning champions USA, as they went down 150 to…. zero! (In this game, capturing the snitch only awards 30 points.)

It made a good spectator sport, and I was sorry we only had time to watch one and a half games. There was a good crowd, made up of supporters from around the world, and there seems to be a good chance that Quidditch will stick around as a sport, though whether it will make the jump from amateur University teams to the Pro Leagues is anyone’s guess…

Two beaters...er...tussle over the Bludger. Eventually a UK Beater tapped the US player with the other Bludger and released his team mate.

Two beaters…er…tussle over the Bludger. Eventually a UK Beater tapped the US player with the other Bludger and released his team mate.

The UK team manager/coach had the right outfit, the exuberance and the team spirit. Possibly he should have studied the tactics as well....

The UK team manager/coach had the right outfit, the exuberance and the team spirit. Possibly he should have studied the tactics as well….

Keeping astride the broomstick may be authentic, it may be part of the rules, but it isn't graceful...

Keeping astride the broomstick may be authentic, it may be part of the rules, but it isn’t graceful…

For more information on playing Quidditch in the real world, check out www.usquidditch.org

 

 

The Ultimate Question

Damian Trasler:

Delighted to appear on Stuart’s blog today!

Originally posted on beewaxing:

Why?(To which the answer is not  42)

Some visitors to Damian Trasler’s blog have arrived there as a result of existential searches.  Damian found the following inbound search terms in the blog’s data log:-

lazy bee scripts/why
why/lazy bee scripts

I have no idea whether or not the searcher (I assume this was one person, although the first search term cropped-up twice) found the answer, not least because I’m not sure what the question means.  It could be

Why should I buy something from Lazy Bee Scripts? Or
Why is there a company called Lazy Bee Scripts? Or
Why did Damian Trasler choose Lazy Bee Scripts as a publisher? Orpossibly
Why should I choose Lazy Bee Scripts as a publisher?

The answer to the first one is simple: we’re offering something that really appeals to you at a price you can afford.  Go ahead and buy it.  (Go…

View original 232 more words

A perfectly useless hobby.

What are you supposed to do as a hobby when your real job is something other people do as a hobby?

When I was a kid, one of the things I wanted to do was work in the movies. Specifically, I wanted to work in Special Effects. Back in those days, that meant modelmaking, creating real props, and, occasionally, blowing stuff up.

When I was eighteen, I actually had the chance to visit a real effects workshop, and saw some of the machinery they had. They even owned their own fire engine to produce rainstorms when the weather wasn’t co-operating with filming schedules. More sobering was the owner’s right hand, missing two fingers after an effect went disastrously wrong.

But I didn’t get into the movie biz, and modelmaking does not suit my short attention span. Every model I make ends up looking like it was hit by anti-aircraft fire, even when they’re sailing ships.

Costume on stand

But the Cosplay bug bit a few years ago, once we had settled down into a house where I had a workshop to call my own. I made my Mandalorian helmet, using trial and error and error and error. Once I’d stopped working on that (not once I’d got it right…I’m fairly realistic about my efforts here) I decided to tackle the Scout Trooper Helmet.

I don’t know why I coveted this particular helmet. It’s probably because “Return of the Jedi” was the first Star Wars film I saw at the cinema, and the Speeder Bike chase scene was burned onto my brain ever since.

Remembering the frequent disappointments with the Mando helmet, I swore that this time I would take things slow. Not rush stages and spoil things.

I found an old ski helmet at a sports sale and decided to use it as the base for the helmet. Then I decided the two other main materials were going to be the foam flooring tiles available in stores everywhere ($11.99 for four) and lots and lots of filler. Filler can be bought in big tubs, it’s almost stiff enough to mould and hold a shape, and you can sand it smooth. If you have patience.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

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I used some pipe insulation to make the raised section that goes from ear to ear around the back. This is the first place where careful measurement and symmetry comparisons would have been good.

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The “jigsaw” lines are the result of using the straight edge of the floor tile, then filling the gaps in the jigsaw edge with glue. Amateur mistake. The glue resists sanding, either sticking to the sander, or melting and flinging glue everywhere.

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As usual with projects like this, I can’t help spraying on some paint in the hopes it will start to look really good. It never does.

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Heavy application of filler begins to cover over the glue jigsaw disaster. I start to use the filler to flare out the “ear” portions. Again, I did this without carefully checking the various reference photos I have of the real helmet.

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I removed the foam inserts and immediately saw that I hadn’t got the front cut straight, or attached evenly. I SHOULD have taken it apart then and there. Instead I decided to try and press on and fix it as I went.

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I was quite proud of this front piece. After so long staring at the cowling, it was nice to see the face of the trooper helmet emerge. I cut the visor hole freehand, and did not use any measure referents. It is not even. I did have scalpel blades to cut the foam tile, but no scalpel to hold them in. This is not an optimal situation.

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Adding more filler helped the shape of the face plate, and emptied the filler tub. Please don’t imagine this is taking place in one or two extended sessions. Each advance takes place over five or ten minutes grabbed here and there amongst other adventures. On the plus side, this means the filler dries before I attempt to ruin the next bit.

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The faceplate is way too long, so I need to cut it down. Plus it doesn’t go all the way around to the back, so I have a piece to put in. I added the purple piece because it’s raised detail on the actual helmet, and I felt putting in a piece of thin foam would be easier than sculpting it in filler.

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This shows the gap at the back that needed sorting out.

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With the faceplate cut down, the helmet sits at a more pleasing angle.

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More filler and some determined sanding starts to get the right surface finish. I also cut and reshaped the corners of the cowl. It’s too high, but it’s the right shape.

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The reshaping has left one side looking oddly angled. Naturally, I tried adding paint to see if it helped. You can see how well that worked.

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Shaping the snout was moderately successful, and actually, adding more paint makes the whole thing look more of a piece. The contour lines running out from the snout are wrong though, and in remodelling I’ll get them wrong in a different way.

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When I found the visor material (an old school binder cover) I couldn’t resist sticking it in temporarily and trying it on. It’s hard to see through, steams up, and is impossible to take selfies in, because you can’t see what you’re doing.

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More sanding has improved the surface, but left the thing looking like it barely survived a fire.

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This shot shows how badly asymmetrical the faceplate is. A devoted cosplayer would either start afresh, or tear the helmet down a few stages. I tried adding more paint.

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Oh yes, that’s much…er…shinier.

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In the real helmet, that cut down the side is where the faceplate lifts up so you can put it on. That doesn’t happen with this one, but it still has to be there.

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Shots like this make it look pretty good. Mostly because they don’t include the reference photographs showing where I was going wrong.

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The surface of the snout wasn’t smooth enough, so I decided to add another piece of the thin craft foam. This picture is just checking the fit – I sprayed it black before gluing it in.

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Real dedication would have been continuing to sand and paint and sand and paint. But I lost all patience and glued the visor in instead. Now I couldn’t spray anymore, unless I went to the trouble of covering the visor. And you know how likely that is.

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Couldn’t resist trying it on. Vaguely reminded of Snoopy.

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With all work on surfacing pretty much abandoned, it was time to add on the little details. Measuring for pinpoint accuracy and comparisons with photo referents were just two things I didn’t do….

I added the "Enhanced comlink" piece to the bottom of the snout.

I added the “Enhanced comlink” piece to the bottom of the snout.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

But unfortunately, I didn't do any.

But unfortunately, I didn’t do any.

WP_003656This whole project took around six months. Along the way, Mrs Dim reminded me that I’m not very good at this sort of thing, and I had a serious think about WHY I still do it. I can see the flaws in what I’ve made, even while I’m making it, but making it is something I enjoy doing. I don’t mind that I never get whole days to work on it. Probably wouldn’t enjoy it if I did. I know this is nothing like the 501st produce, but that’s ok too, because I don’t think I’m really doing this for the Cosplay aspect. It’s just something I do for me, something that isn’t writing, or cleaning, or cooking, or parenting. It may be less practical than knitting, less aesthetically pleasing than painting, but it’s my hobby.

Any suggestions for my next project? I quite fancy taking on a Clone Trooper helmet…..

The strange satisfaction of loving my job

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn't believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn’t believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I have what is known as a “portfolio career”. Which is to say, I’ve never done the same job twice, or any job for a decent length of time. The most recent changes in my employment have taken place while I’ve been blogging, so you may be familiar with my regular struggle to hang onto, or find, a job that pays me to be there.

The reason I want to mention my library job again is that I have been there for a year. I’ve been there a year, and it doesn’t feel like it. The time has flown by, and I’ve managed to move from Auxiliary to a Part Time position. In my last job, I hadn’t been there for a year before the company folded. In the job before that, vertical movement was almost impossible.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

We’re quick to notice when work is unpleasant. We moan about Monday rolling around again, about feeling tired, or sick, or getting a stress headache in the traffic. But we’re not so quick to notice when work is great. Hearing I’d been at the library for a year was a surprise, as was meeting the new group of Auxiliaries who had been hired because MY group had all moved up to new positions. I’m not the new guy anymore! Look how long I’ve been here, and I STILL love it!

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed...

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed…

So I’m looking forward to the next year at the library flying past like this one has, because everyone knows that time flies when you’re having fun.

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious...

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious…

And sometimes we support the unusual - Why shouldn't Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

And sometimes we support the unusual – Why shouldn’t Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

It’s not about you…

Or me.

Only a couple of days ago, I was sitting in the Driver’s Testing centre just off the Lougheed Highway. I hadn’t been there since my own driving test almost five years ago.

This time I was there because Eldest Weasel was taking her theory test, to see if she was ready for her L plates so she could start learning to drive*. As I sat there, I realised that a lot of the experiences here in Canada have become less about me and Mrs Dim – our new jobs, buying and maintaining the house, struggling with various bots of red tape and so on – and more about the Weasels. They’re doing all the important things that kids do, making and losing friends, finding their way in school, changing up to bigger schools, choosing their life’s directions, trying to balance the things they love with the things they have to do.

Laurel in the garden Oct 99

It’s nothing revolutionary, this realisation. It’s just something that has grown from the first day I left Eldest Weasel at playgroup, a tiny figure alone in a vast ocean of carpet, surrounded by distant shores of toys and an archipelago of playgroup leaders. It doesn’t mean you stop being the star of your own story and have to settle for a bit part. Doesn’t mean your job is finished. It just means that there will be times when you need to remember, it’s not about you.

She hasn't changed a bit.

She hasn’t changed a bit.

 

*She passed.

Dear Disney: An open letter about the Boba Fett movie

DSCN7100Dear Disney (or at least, the parts of Disney under the Lucasfilm banner),

I read on the internet this week that there is some trouble over the proposed Boba Fett movie. Problems with a satisfactory script, say the rumours. Well, it’s the internet isn’t it? Who can believe what they read there?

But in this case, I think I can see there would be an issue.

My friend on G+, Eoghann Irving, says the problem is that Boba Fett is an over-rated character – two dimensional and actually uninteresting. It’s certainly true that he doesn’t get to do very much in the films that actually feature him : “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”. In the first he is merely persistent, tracking Han and Leia to Cloud City and taking possession of Han’s frozen body for delivery. No action at all. He does get to fight and fly in “Return of the Jedi”, but he’s not very impressive there, using a cord-projector to try and trap Luke Skywalker, who has no trouble cutting the cord with his lightsabre, then getting knocked off the skiff and into the Sarlacc pit by Han Solo even though Han’s still blind.

Despite this lack of brilliance, Boba is beloved of fans, and even before the prequels gave us Jango Fett showing a more combat-savvy Mandalorian fighting style, there were legions of Boba wannabes building their own dented helmets and jet packs.

Mandalorian

I suspect the problem you’re having with the movie is that you want Boba to be the hero. You want him wisecracking, and fighting for good. And you want him winning some fair maiden’s hand. And taking his damn helmet off, too.*

The fundamental dichotomy here is that you have a niche character, and you want to make him appeal to a huge demographic so they will all pay lots of money to see his movie. But that’s not going to work. Boba achieved iconic status DESPITE his lack of action, and the fact he only speaks a handful of lines in the trilogy. (I would bet that kid-Boba has more lines in “Attack of the Clones” than his elder counterpart has in the two movies that feature him…) To make a good Boba Fett movie, you have to have him BE Boba Fett, not Indiana Jones in a dented helmet and jetpack.

My appeal to you, Disney (and I know it’s no more likely to succeed than my letters to Microsoft or the UK Revenue) is to let Boba do what Boba does best. Send him off on a hunt for a bounty. Stop thinking he’s a hero, and start thinking ANTI-hero. Hell, why not model him on Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western character, the Man with No Name? I can see Boba playing two sides off one another in a war so that the way is clear for him to collect a whole bunch of bounties.

The point is, you’re not going to end up with a movie that you can use to sell plastic toys to seven year olds. I mean, sure, you can make the toys and sell ‘em, but the movie should not cater to kids that age. It should cater to kids like me, who are forty odd years old, and have loved Star Wars since our first visit to that galaxy far, far away. Boba’s a bounty hunter, just a working stiff trying to make his way in the galaxy. We don’t want to know more about his motivations and his back story – we want to see him in action, shake off that “Vader’s lapdog” image and be the badass we all hope he really is.

If you want a better idea of Mandalorian culture, go read Karen Traviss’ books. She took those brief hints from the movies and created a warrior race to be proud of, complete with language and traditions. You could do a lot worse than use her ideas in your movie. A lot worse.

Boba Fett: A Practical Man: Star Wars (Short Story)

Please, whatever you decide to do, don’t go with “worse”.

 

May the Force be With You.

 

 

*It’s like this : I’m a Judge Dredd fan, and I saw what Stallone did to that character. Karl Urban did a stand-up job, but seriously, Sly, what the hell? Did you even READ the source material?

And yes, I am writing a screenplay for a Boba Fett movie. Why, do you know someone who might be interested?