Monday, April 27, 2009

Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo

Woof. Good weekend (even the part where I was called upon to improvise a commercial for the Gap on about an hour and a half of sleep), but today my entire body feels like it's been pounded with a meat tenderizer.

Brief impressions:

-Yanick Paquette is a really nice guy.

-I do love my Ship Burger with the works + guacamole. I really, really do.

-As I didn't have anything new to sell this year, I thought, "Hey, why don't T and I buy tickets and go as fans and that way I won't be stuck behind a table, I can be out among the people?" About fifteen seconds into the show I had an answer to the first part ("I don't want to stand in line waiting to get my badge and besides, exhibitor/guest badges mean I can get in early if I want"), and fifteen minutes later I had an answer for the second ("I intensely dislike large crowds of people, especially when I'm stuck in the middle of them.") All the more reason to get something new to sell out by next year, not that that isn't its own reward.

-"Evanier" is pronounced Eh-vuh-NEER, and it's a made-up name assigned to an immigrant Jewish family for no good reason.

-Svetlana Chmakova's as sweet as I remember her being. Nice people don't always finish last.

-I need to take some improv classes. And get more sleep.

-If the con continues to use the Hotel Arts as the official place to stay, Vicious Ambitious' Drink 'n' Draw is going to be the place to be on Saturday next year, much like it was this year, despite the Unicorn screwing the table reservation up.

-Calgary weather sucks.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

EDMONTONIANS: Gilbert Bouchard Missing Update

For the latest info, join the Search for Gilbert Bouchard Facebook Group.

A search for Gilbert will be taking place Sunday afternoon. Those wishing to help should go to the Jubilee parking lot at 1:00.
Gilbert Bouchard

Friday, April 24, 2009

EDMONTONIANS: Have You Seen This Man?

Gilbert Bouchard (image from CBC's website) Gilbert Bouchard is missing.

Gilbert is a visual arts writer/critic based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Gilbert hasn’t been seen since Monday/Tuesday morning around midnight. He’s white, brown hair, blue eyes, 5′10″ and 250 pounds.

A search party is being organized for Sunday.

If you have seen him or have any further information, please contact his family at 780-761-4156.

You can also contact Edmonton police at 780-423-4567 or Crimestoppers, 1-800-222-8477.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

EDMONTONIANS: Gilbert Bouchard Missing

OK, this is a longshot, but once in awhile a longshot pays off, so just in case, from the 630 Ched website:

Your help is needed to find an Edmonton man.

Gilbert Bouchard hasn't been seen since early Tuesday morning. Bouchard is a freelance writer and theatre critic here.

He is white, stands about 5'10 and weighs 250 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.

If you've seen him, call EPS (780) 423-4567 or Crimestoppers, 1-800-222-8477. (tc)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Low Iss

"My grandfather donated his body to the University of Alberta's medical/dental department and all I got was this lousy memorial."

Actually, it wasn't a lousy was just kind of there. Having seen how thankful the students and faculty were for having a real, no longer live body to practice their butcher--er, medical skills on, I've decided that, rather than one of my previous post-mortem body disposal methods*, I, too, would like to donate my body to the U of A.

However, before I do so, I want to officially change my first name to Big Butt Freak.

There are two reasons for this. First, I think it's funny. And second, I find it hard to believe anyone could mispronounce Big Butt Freak. But if anyone could, the representatives who read off the names of the body donors could manage it.

Thankfully, they got Granddad's name right, which is pure blind luck--they called the second donor named Thomas "Thawmuss." And exactly how one could turn Lois into Loyz is beyond me, but they did it.

If I make the memorial sound completely wretched, well, it wasn't. It was actually kind of nice to be involved in a ceremony that involved prayers that didn't invoke god or jesus. My atheism's getting to the stage where even mentioning a generic "holy one" grates, but at least the chaplain was attempting to be inclusive. And each family got a rose. After the memorial, we visited Grandma's grave and left the flower there.

That said, the ceremony really could've used a donor named Big Butt Freak. An hour and a half's a long time to go without a laugh.


Preparations for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo have been kicking my ass. Probably won't be a lot of blogging for the next little while--hopefully I'll be able to pick up the pace a bit after Free Comic Book Day.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday dribs

On the e-mail confidentiality disclaimer front: Over at the LJ version of this blog, LJ User argentla points out that not all people who have them on their e-mails are douchebags--some of them just work for douchebags.

And argentla knows what he's talking about when it comes to employer douchebags, so, yeah. My apologies if I inadvertently offended anyone who's using those disclaimers because their boss is a jerk.


"Blessed are the meek: for their brains shall be eaten first." Matthew 5:5

The Zombie Stinque Bible project lets you join I don't know how many others in adding zombies to your favourite bible passages.

"For God so loved the world, that he made His Son a zombie, and whoever is bitten by the Son shall also become zombie and be undead everlasting." John 3:16

I really hope this catches on and peoople start adding zombies to the book of mormon and quran. I'd suggest adding them to scientology texts, but I doubt anyone would notice.


For the past three days, I've found myself wanting to write an epic narrative poem. Because I'm not spending enough time working in dead and/or anonymous forms already.

This is almost certainly down to my reading altogether too much about Lord Byron, and Percy and Mary Shelley. Who, it turns out, were all melodramatic jerks to one degree or another. Mary appears to have been the most sympathetic of the bunch, but the descriptions of her I've read really do lead to the conclusion that she put the "pathetic" in "sympathetic". She never really had a life to call her own and invested almost all her emotional wellbeing in self-absorbed a-holes and/or dead people.

This is why I avoid research as much as possible (well, that and I'm lazy.) Whenever I wrap myself up in something, I start absorbing more than the information I'm looking for--I also pick up stylistic tics and the desire to write things I wouldn't in a million years write otherwise, like epic narrative poems. Or, as I think I'm going to refer to them from now on, massive ditties.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Andrew Watches: PONTYPOOL

(Eventually, there will be SPOILERS. If you want to see this film--and I'd recommend everyone who isn't Mum give it a watch--you'll likely enjoy it a lot more not having it spoiled. I saw it pretty much blind, thanks to a special screening pass supplied by the good folks at Happy Harbor, and while I'd have liked it regardless, I think I liked it more because I didn't know anything about it other than it was directed by the same guy who did HARDCORE LOGO, Bruce McDonald.)

As much as I dislike the idea of breaking stuff down into stereotypical Hollywood "this meets that" loglines, I've been doing it a lot recently. I suspet that because my Hollywood manages do tend to talk about ideas in those terms, and it makes some kind of sense as a shorthand way to converse about ideas without having to build them from the ground up. My friend Marc Bryant inadvertently got me into randomly picking this + that story formulations as a brainstorming/writers blockbusting technique (he did it by admitting that he'd done it on a single occasion himself, which I thought was amusing until the next time my own idea well went dry.) And it has spawned the occasional notion that I pursued beyond the initial 25 words. Well, one, anyway. Three that have potential if I had the time/inclination to write/research them.

In any event, as we were driving home from the screening for PONTYPOOL, Tiina asked me what the pitch for the film would be. And while the film is its own creature, the answer came quickly. "Talk Radio meets 28 Days Later", I said. Probably a more accurate take would be Talk Radio meeting Dawn of the Dead (Romero version), just because the semi-zombies (or "Conversationalists", as wikipedia tells me the director called them) are more of the shuffling than sprinting variety.

I thought Pontypool was an excellent low-budget horror film; Tiina thought it was a quintessentially Canadian horror film. On most levels, that means pretty much the same thing, I suppose, though looking at it now I'm starting to think her description's more accurate. The use of French is a pretty critical plot point, while the desolate, snow-covered terrain adds something I'm having a hard time defining to the movie. Geography's not my strong point, but I can't off the top of my head think of a place in small-town America where two languages and harsh winters are both reasonably common.

The story (apparently the first of a trilogy of films but, according to T, the second of a trilogy of novels--all written by the same guy, Tony Burgess) revolves around a handful of people in the basement of a church that's been converted into a radio studio. The story follows talk-jockey Grant Mazzy (played by Stephen McHattie, who McDonald described prior to the film as "the psychiatrist on Seinfeld", more recently seen as the Golden Age Nite-Owl in Watchmen) as reports start coming in of people in the surrounding area engaging in strange behaviour.

The first half of the film is practically a textbook for building suspense. Very little is shown onscreen--instead, the viewer gets to hear calls to the station about what's going on or get information secondhand from Mazzy's producers. When stuff starts happening in and around the church itself, the movie moves into more traditional territory, at least in terms of visuals.

But if the visuals seem familiar, the story's rationale for them is considerably less so. It's not something anyone familiar with the works of Grant Morrison or Alan Moore hasn't seen before, but it was nice to see something a bit more cerebral on the big screen than is usually the case.

That quality is one of the best things about the movie, but is also the root of my biggest problem with the story. The threat in Pontypool is cool, but I find it highly unlikely anyone would be able to piece its nature together as quickly as people do in the film, even those who deal with the spoken word for a living. But, you know, I could deal with that.

What I really had trouble with (and here comes the Big Spoiler) is Mazzy actually devising a method for neutralizing the infection. Doing so let the filmmakers hit a couple of popular Hollywood beats (one of which puts a really nice twist on the line "Kill me."), but I can't help feeling that the writer had a darling or two towards the end of the movie that should've been killed.

The end of the body of the film is pretty bleak, which is appropriate given the subject matter and obvious genre inspirations for the material. It may be that Mazzy's coming up with a solution was intended to hammer home the futility of trying to fight something like this, but I don't think that thematic thrust justifies the leaps made by the character.

There's a brief, entertaining scene after the credits that's a complete non-sequitur. If one tries to connect it to the body of the film--as some in the audience did--one's going to end up being frustrated--as some in the audience were. Even the director acknowledged the sequence as a deliberate thumbing of the nose to the notion of tying up every loose end from the writer.

The last forty-five seconds notwithstanding, this wasn't a story that should've left anyone older than 16 confused, provided they actually paid attention to what they were theoretically watching. But, during the regrettably brief Q&A session with McDonald after the movie, there were an infuriating number of questions along the lines of "Is there going to be stuff in the sequels that explain what happened in this one?" When T and I walked out of CLOVERFIELD, someone made a comment along the lines of "Everyone died and I don't know why." That's a valid statement for Cloverfield (for which there are a couple of equally valid answers). It just isn't for PONTYPOOL. Everything a viewer needs to grasp what's going on is there onscreen, and personally, I'd have liked it better if the nature of the threat wasn't as clearly explained as it was.

But not a lot better. I really liked HARDCORE LOGO, but PONTYPOOL's now my favourite Bruce McDonald film. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see the two sequels, but if I don't, I'm really glad I saw this.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Rank - update

According to Publishers Weekly, Amazon's claiming its inconsistent sales rank-yanking is the result of some sort of technical glitch.

Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but either way, it appears that the good guys are going to win this one.


Amazon Rank

Amazon Rank's seen fit to exclude books it deems "adult" from "some searches and best seller lists", as well as their sales ranks. In this case, "adult" seems to include pretty much anything prominently featuring queer content (including young adult novels), but apparently doesn't include books featuring pictures of Playboy Playmates or dog-fighting.

To add insult to injury, Amazon seems to have done this without mentioning it to anyone outside the company in advance. This weekend a bunch of authors discovered their work had been rendered invisible to Amazon customers for no good reason. At least, I'm assuming there's no good reason, on the grounds that: 1) the reason Amazon's been giving is ill-thought out, to put it incredibly charitably, and 2) if there was a good reason, it would've been done years ago.

I've never actually purchased a book through Amazon (up till today primarily because they didn't accept Paypal, at least as far as I can tell), so the only effective action I personally can really take on this is spreading the word and signing and linking to a petition objecting to the situation, and "google-bombing" Amazon with the Amazon Rank link at the top of this post. All of which I've now done, and encourage anyone reading to do as well.


The Contents of This Post may contain information that is confidential.

Longtime readers of my blogs are likely aware of my disdain for automatically generated e-mail signatures that include implied threats of legal repercussions for discussing the mail without permission.

Now, I understand the occasional need for businessfolk to keep control of their information. Honestly, I do. But I strongly believe that that need is just occasional. Including at the end of every e-mail something along these lines:

"This communication (including any information herein and any attachments hereto) is intended only for the person or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential, and/or otherwise protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient (or the employee or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient), please notify us immediately by e-mail (at and delete this communication and any attachments and copies. Any unauthorized dissemination, distribution, and/or copying of this communication, any attachments, and/or the information contained herein is strictly prohibited." insulting, and makes whoever sent it look like a self-important douchebag.

Contrarian that I am, my response to such a notice is to want to immediately disseminate, distribute, and copy the communication it's appended to as publicly as possible. Of course, that would involve me widely communicating a bunch of thoroughly mundane communications along the lines of "Hey, Andrew, been awhile since we talked, how's it going?" The idea that mentioning someone dropped me a line to say hi is so potentially disastrous that I need to be warned not to talk about it is ludicrous to me. But that doesn't make it any less irritating.

To be clear, I absolutely would not mind if such a warning was included a mail containing, say, details about a business acquaintance's discussions with Stephanie Meyer about an upcoming Twilight comic that's pretty much a done deal as soon as the contracts are signed.*

But including a warning in every mail effectively turns it into background noise. At best, overuse makes the recipient inclined to ignore the warning, assuming they read it at all (I rarely if ever read past a person's name at the conclusion of the non-boilerplate portion of a mail). At worst, they'll look for opportunities to publicly ridicule self-important douchebags who think every note they dash off their iBerry is so earth-shakingly important that their default position is to assume every single person they e-mail is a drooling halfwit that can't be trusted not to spill their oh-so-precious secrets unless instructed not to do so.

Another interesting thing: my (admittedly limited) experience indicates an inverse relation between the amount of unenforceable legal warnings habitually included in a person's e-mail and how important that person actually is in the grand scheme of things. None of the editors at major companies I've been fortunate enough to correspond with have disclaimers in their mails.** Neither do my managers, who actually do occasionally tell me stuff in e-mail that really could potentially hurt people if I went spouting off.

The people who do tend to have them? Small press comics publishers trying to present themselves as Important People who've got Big Things Happening, offering me my Big Chance to be part of the next Image Comics revolution (unsurprisingly, my Big Chance is usually an opportunity to give a company my intellectual property for next to nothing.) (Actually, if they offer next to nothing, they're offering more than a lot of small pressers these days...)

Of course, I also want to be an Important Person who's got Big Things Happening. All the other wannabes have warnings in all their e-mails, so why shouldn't I? Here's the text attached to every mail from the my telus account:

"This message is intended for the person it was supposed to be sent to. If that doesn't appear to be you, do me a favour and let me know, will you? I'd really appreciate it. This message probably doesn't contain any confidential or privileged information, but again, if it's not too much trouble to exercise some common sense and treat reading stuff which probably ought to be privileged and confidential as a privilege and keep it confidential, again, I'd be indebted to you. My wife doesn't need to know about that thing I do with the turtle and the frozen cantaloupe. Nobody does, and I'm sorry I've brought it up now, really, but it was what sprang to mind by way of an example of the sort of thing I'd rather keep on the down low. Odds are if I'm sending you a mail, I trust you, or at least know you well enough to know I don't trust you, and therefore won't reveal information you can't be trusted with. That's just sensible, if you ask me. But if I mention anything that might get me in trouble with the law, or friends, or business acquaintances--you'll be cool, right? I don't care what all the others say about you behind your back, as far as I'm concerned, you're 110% rock solid, you'd never rat a guy out. Right? Right. OK. Cool."

And people getting messages from my gmail account will frequently see (if not actually read***) the following:

"The information in this email is confidential and may be legally privileged, but it probably isn't. Let's be realistic, here. It's not like the sender knows nuclear weapon codes or anything. Anyway, if you believe you have received this email in error, please contact the sender. If you don't believe you received this email in error, please contact the sender anyway. He is a sad and lonely man."

I like to think the people I spend my time and energy corresponding with aren't stupid or, if they are, that they're not so stupid they'll get me in trouble with their stupidity. Thankfully, I've yet to be proven wrong. Whether this is because I'm right and they aren't stupid, or because I'm not in a position to know anything interesting enough to get Rich Johnston's attention remains to be seen.****


(*Not that I've received any such e-mail. Just an example of the kind of thing that might actually merit a note encouraging discretion.)

(**Actually, I checked and I was wrong: one editor at a traditional book publisher did have a relatively***** brief note requesting people who received the mail in error delete it and inform the sender. It was about as small as possible, in an 8 point courier font compared to the 12 point Times New Roman of the body, but it did include the word "compliance".)

(***I wouldn't read it if I were them.)

(****Realistically? It's the latter, more's the pity.)

(*****Relative to comparable warnings from people who aren't editors at major New York publishing houses, that is.******)

(******Are you still reading this? My god, you're like a dog with a bone! I salute your tenacity, madam/sir!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Note to Self

When pitching an idea to an editor at DC imprint, mentioning a supporting character who could conceivably be perceived as a Superman analogue having a monogamous, loving homosexual relationship with a character that might bear some passing resemblance to Jimmy Olsen is probably not a good idea.

In my defence, the editor really liked the pitch. So much that he sent it to the higher-ups, who were less impressed. It took them all of 15 seconds to come back with the thumbs down. In retrospect, I'm not really sure what I (or the editor) was thinking...

But he really did like it--was more enthusiastic about it than the one that's moving to the next phase of development, and even advised me not to let the rejected idea go but continue shopping it around to other publishers. Which was quite nice of him, I thought.


In other news, I feel like crap. Not the normal crap I feel, but a kind of mutated supercrap. On the verge of throwing up all day, back's tweaking in just the kind of way that generally ends up with me spending four hours in an emergency room waiting for a demerol shot, and if I had the right powertools, I'd probably have cut my head off shortly after the snow started falling this afternoon.

I hope I'm sick, because if this is the new normal...well, it can't be. It just can't be.