March 31, 2005


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Does anyone remember on Jeopardy! when they'd have that random column labeled 'potpourri'? That's what this is.

1) Someday I'd like a digital camera. To wit: about one week into my blog career, I took this photograph (right) from my kitchen window. It's a female mid-sized falcon called a merlin (Falco columbarius), with a dead sparrow in its talons. And I remembered at the time thinking, this will be cool on my blog. And then it took three months to finish the roll of film.

2) I don't want to jinx it, but I think the seasons are changing. I won't even mention the word in full, but perhaps – perhaps – spr*ng is here. It's seven degrees here. I'm not sure what that is in fahrenheit, maybe twenty knots. The geese are back at the marsh, and this morning Squeaky – the headache-inducing ground squirrel that hangs around outside my office window – popped up.

3) I stopped writing movie reviews for awhile because they make me think too hard. But for the record, we recently saw Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education. I thought it was a nice change from his recent string of estrogen-heavy films, and it satisfied Kerry's hunk fix with a healthy dosage of Gael García Bernal. We also watched a total Venus-and-Mars double bill featuring Steve Martin's The Jerk ("He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!"), matched nicely with a Sylvia Plath biopic bringdown, appropriately called Sylvia. This Saturday we're checking out the 2004 Cannes Advertising Film Festival, a 90-minute extravaganza of last year's best commercials from around the world. It's an annual spr*ng ritual for me. My mom took me with her to see them in 1984 and I've been going ever since.

4) My lemons are up. See them again for the first time – here.

5) And the biggie: We are now officially house-hunters. Kerry and I met with our real estate agent Wednesday night and will check out our first potential pads on Sunday. There's nothing like bandying about the prospect of spending thousands upon thousands of dollars – and decades of my life – to make me feel my age. The market here is nuts, but our agent comes highly recommended, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Wish us luck.

March 30, 2005

12: Kitchen Party

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Based on this week's Illustration Friday theme – crowded – I made this photo illustration of Kerry busy in the kitchen on Easter Sunday. I feel a bit guilty about even posting it to Illustration Friday, on account of doing no actual drawing. But I conjured up the concept in my head, performed the photo shoot atop our barstool chair (three more Kerrys didn't make the final cut) and set to work piecing it all together in Photoshop. I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out. And Kerry really likes the shirt she wore, so everybody wins.

March 24, 2005

11: Evolution Of Winnipeg Man

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I finally finished something in time to submit for Illustration Friday (it helps that they extended their deadlines to include weekends). This week's Illustration Friday theme was the word bloom, in honour of spring I suppose – which has arrived practically everyplace but Winnipeg. So to honour my hometown and its hardy denizens, I've created this number. It's the 'blooming' of a Winnipeg man – inspired by an old illustration of human evolution from National Geographic. This picture features a combination of pen sketches (for the clothes), mangled photocopies of the magazine illustrations and Photoshop work.

March 19, 2005

10: Laundry Islands National Park

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One of my childhood fascinations was maps. I loved atlases. Road maps. Park maps (like this one). Topographical maps. Maps from National Geographic. Those 3D relief maps at museums and interpretive centres. Even now, give me a map and I'll read it like a book. And like any other printed medium, there are well-designed and poorly-designed maps, the good (like the classic London Underground map) and the ugly (like a lot of state highway maps).

As a kid, I would draw my own maps. Usually they were highway maps of imaginary states or provinces. I would scan the atlas, newspapers, sports pages and my own collection of maps for names of towns, rivers and parks for my creations. And they would be inspired by actual geography; some of the larger ones – drawn over weeks on 3X5 sheets of paper with pencil, pens and various Crayola™ markers – look awfully similar to places like Manitoba, Hawaii and Chesapeake Bay. Once in college I tried again to see if I could still pull it off, and drew a map of a made-up province based on the park outside my apartment. The playground became a city. Snowbanks at the north end became a mountain range. And the skating rink was transformed into a large inland lake. I used it as part of my entrance portfolio to get into Red River College's graphic design program.

These islands are based on clothes scattered on the bedroom floor. The island at far left is a short-sleeved shirt. The main one is a pair of pants (still recognizable if you look close), underwear and a hoodie. There's a pair of socks off the southern coast. Place names were taken from Manitoba's highway map. I sketched the outline of the clothes and rendered the tabloid-sized map in FreeHand. Topography was then added in Photoshop from a scan of crumpled paper.

March 17, 2005

Bowling For T-Shirts

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So last Saturday I went glow-bowling. Kerry and I went to Academy Uptown Lanes to help celebrate buddy Christian's 30th birthday (30 must be the new black or something; everybody's wearing it). What astounds me upon entering this place is that we look to be the oldest people in the building. And it got me to thinking, when did bowling become such a thing-to-do for the young and hip? Who was that brave, youthful soul was who first strutted (strat?) into a dank, fat, old smoky bowling alley and decided that this would be the new cool? And why are three strikes in a row called a 'turkey'?

I'm not beaking here. I love the bowling. Five-pin is the sport of Canadian kings. Ten-pin is quite fine in its own right – what with its heftier balls and louder crashes – but for the weaker-limbed like myself, few activities allow the release of aggression like hurling a grapefruit-sized orb at five unsuspecting pins – and looking fine while doing it. To wit, check out our prerequisite cool bowling togs (above): Kerry in her Paul Frank Elvis-themed shirt from the shops at Graceland, and me, sporting my retro Quebec Nordiques tee purchased in La Belle Province last May by Kerry.

I'm looking down at the shirt I'm wearing now (black "Trogdor the Burninator" tee from the Homestar Runner collection), and I realize that Kerry has bought me just about every cool shirt I own. My Nordiques shirt. Trogdor shirt. Homestar Runner duck shirt. Tintin shirt. Fat Albert shirt. My Woody's Retro Lounge bowling shirt (I brought it to the lanes, it just didn’t make it into the photo). And for that, I'm grateful.

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Side note: It's St. Patrick’s Day and – Irish as I am – I came to work thinking it was the 16th – and I'm not wearing any green! Bonehead move, right? But I'm a quick thinker, and faster than you can say feckin' eejit, I come up with this snappy number (right). Take one green Nerf™ football and some masking tape, et voila! A nice and passable St. Paddy's lookit-me-I'm-Irish armband. And it actually stayed attached until about 2:00 when all traces of office St. Patrick's Day spirit were pretty much dead anyway.

March 11, 2005

09: Chickadee

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Chickadees seem like the happiest birds on earth. Chipper. Noisy. Tame. Adorable. They never stop moving. And they seem content to hang out in any temperature nature can throw at 'em – even here in Manitoba. At the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre where I work, the winters can get pretty bleak, especially from New Year's until the end of March. On warmer days I sometimes head over to the willow bluff south of the building, where a small band of determined birdies survive off a feeder stocked by Centre staff. The gang consists mostly of snow buntings and common and hoary redpolls, down from the Arctic for our comparatively balmy winter. Occasionally a single downy woodpecker shows up. And there's the chickadees.

In a couple of weeks (maybe more, it's been a rough winter), a goose might arrive. Then more. Then some ducks, coots and blackbirds. By the end of April, killdeers and more ducks. The ground squirrels will be out of their holes, quarrelling and getting their freak on. In May, legions of sandpipers come through, along with bright, cheery warblers. By then I'll be riding my bike at lunchtime again, dive-bombed by black terns who mistake me for a coyote. Then I'll be checking for wood ticks before going back to work.

For now though, I have chickadees. Just drawing this fella on Tuesday night made me feel good. I used a photo in my copy of the Audobon Encyclopedia of North American Birds as reference. My mom gave it to me for a Christmas present when I was ten years old.

March 05, 2005

08: When Life Gives You Lemons

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Top row (left to right): Boulder at Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia; Gulf of St. Lawrence from the ferry to Newfoundland; umbrella at the beach, Sandy Hook, Manitoba. Middle row: Dead end, Port Elgin, Ontario; lemon baby (featuring my niece Cadence); the difference between a lemon and Yemen. Bottom row: Lemon tree, Beaudry Provincial Park, Manitoba; the Lemon’s Prayer; rock formation on Flowerpot Island, Ontario.

These are my nine submissions to New York graphic designer Dan Bavosi's 50 Lemons website, a place where creative types let their imaginations run wild – so long as the output relates to lemons. Like myself since early December, Dan haunts HOW magazine's online forums, and was kind enough to post a link to this personal endeavour of his to get peoples' creative lemon juices flowing. So last Sunday I bought a lemon, took a few shots of it outside work on Monday and spent the week putting these citric vignettes together.

Bonus shout-out: The HOW forums are a fantastic place for designers and artists of all makes and models to ask and answer questions, offer and receive feedback on their work, vent, get inspired and/or generally have a good time. The creative energy coming from this place is simply mind-boggling. I'm grateful for discovering it.

March 01, 2005

The Aviator

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It's Oscar time, and the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator is a brave, bombastic and huge-scale historical epic aimed directly at the Academy's collective heart. So for sheer brevity it deserves many of the kudos it's received, especially in a season where so many other epics flopped (lookin' at you, Alexander). The movie carries a tremendous weight, and at times appears to buckle – but comes out in the end relatively unscathed. Leonardo DiCaprio, fighting his own version of Matthew Broderick Syndrome (that of perpetually looking like a teenager), performs admirably as the straw that stirs this enormous drink. Peripheral characters zip by in a blur as the film sprints through Hughes' salad days as a playboy movie producer, namely Cate Blanchett, game enough to tackle the role as Katherine Hepburn. Cameos abound.

It's extremely hard to make a decent blockbuster – what with all the fingers in the pot – but when it happens it really pays off. Master & Commander, the Spider-Man movies and Scorsese's own Gangs Of New York are recent examples. The Aviator comes fairly close, but comes off a little disjointed as it rushes from one scene to the next.

Side note: I actually sought out theater management to fix the projector's colour problems early on in the movie. Anything green was showing up as a bluish gray, most notably a sequence on a golf course. The next night on the Oscars the same sequence was shown – bluish gray. Turns out it was an intended effect meant to look like an old-timey colour print. I felt like a total heel.

Theater idiots: A few old ladies beaked at how loud the trailers were.