Oct 31, 2011

Dracula at the Esplanade

Over the weekend my family and I went to Esplanade Theatre in downtown Medicine Hat to see Dracula.  My friend Paul had a role in the production and we were all happy to see him on stage again.  He's always been interested in theatre so he was the really the reason we all decided to go.

The show had its moments, but if I'm honest, it was a bit hit and miss.  I was very impressed with the range of vocal talent in the show, and there were several stand out solos from the female leads that were expertly delivered.  There was a lot of inconsistency however, and some of the performers were either off-key or marginalized by an orchestra that occasionally hit a few sour notes.  

Whenever the ensemble performed together the show was at its best.  These were scenes that were clearly rehearsed the most thoroughly and they didn't disappoint.  I just wished there was more of them.  The problem with Dracula being a dramatic musical is that without more aggressive direction the show falls into familiar stereotypes that have been played to death.  It felt a bit slow and redundant at times and I think a lot of us were hoping for some parody or moments of levity to break up the relatively straightforward plot arch.

The role of Dracula seemed to be cast based on the vocal talents of the gentleman who played him, but he really didn't look the part.  The costumes also seemed like painful knock-offs from the nineties movie of the same title.  I felt the other leads were much more suited to their roles.

Paul did a great job and his scenes were some of the most entertaining.  He was funny, which the audience really seemed to enjoy, and he sounded great. 

In the end, Dracula had some obvious weaknesses, but it wasn't because the production was lacking talent.  It just seems the concept had no new or original ideas to bring to the stage and it's tough to pull off a familiar story when you're trying to make it resemble the ones that were already largely successful.  It's also the problem with local productions being that they just don't have the budget to allow their actors to rehearse as freely as other professional shows do. 

But hey, I don't want to be too harsh, it was a good enough reason for the family to spend time together and get into the spirit of Halloween. I just know this theatre company is capable of better.  

Oct 29, 2011

Family Pumpkin Carving

I found a few family snapshots from the early nineties of us carving pumpkins together. It never hurts to relive a few of your childhood memories.  After my post on Friday I thought it would be fun to share these for Halloween.

Oct 28, 2011

Jaguar XJ8 Throttle Body Cleaning

One of the flaws of the Jaguar XJ8 design from the 1998-2003 model was the throttle body.  It's very sensitive to carbon building up inside it which also complicates things with a TPS sensor that isn't as reliable as it should be.  In my short year and a half of owning this vehicle I've had to address both of these issues first hand.

While I was able to resolve my throttle body/TPS issue by swapping out the TPS from a salvaged part in the summer, I actually had some success earlier in the spring by cleaning the throttle body altogether.  While the TPS failing will actually throw you a code and will put the car into failsafe mode, a dirty throttle body will instead cause the car to stall or make it feel very jerky on acceleration.  It is possible that the code and failsafe mode could be linked to a dirty throttle body, but there obviously isn't a code that tells you to clean your car.   

This is something you can feel when you're driving though.  It's like the RPMs will putter out when you slow down or your acceleration will feel sticky on lower revs.  At the very least, knowing how to check out your throttle body is a valuable skill with this car that will save you time and money in the shop.  Cleaning is a relatively simple fix for a lot of this stuff.

To summarize what you need to do, you're just trying to clean the black carbon and soot that has built up underneath the butterfly valve in your throttle body.  Below I've posted pictures of what the engine looks like with the air intake tube removed.  At the top of the engine is the throttle body.  Cleaning it is as simple as buying throttle body cleaner, spraying it on a micro-fiber cloth, and diligently cleaning the soot from underneath the valve.

What is happening with a dirty throttle body is when that carbon/soot heats up it becomes a bit sticky and also reduces the narrow opening of the butterfly valve when the car is idling.  This explains why the car feels like it's about to stall sometimes and why the acceleration feels like it's lurching more than it should. 

CLICK HERE to download the step by step guide and walk through of how to specifically clean the Jaguar throttle body (with pictures illustrating the process).  These are the instructions I used, and I noticed a huge difference immediately after completing this job. 

Carving a Pumpkin and Roasting Seeds

When I was a kid we always used to carve pumpkins together as a family.  I never carved anything elaborate, but I was always a fan of roasting (or more specifically, eating) the pumpkin seeds.  I drive passed a place that has rows and rows of pumpkins displayed outside everyday on my way home from work, so I finally decided to stop and pick one up.

I cut open the top of the pumpkin and then scraped out all of the seeds.  I put all of the pumpkin guts in one bowl, and all of the seeds in a strainer to wash them out.

Then I heated the oven to 250 degrees and laid the seeds out on a baking tray, coating them lightly with salt.  I put the seeds in the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. This is when I decided to carve the pumpkin while I waited for the seeds to roast.

I kept the tradition alive by not carving anything fancy, but I think my jack o'lantern turned out alright. By the time the seeds were done and my pumpkin had been carved my apartment smelt really good - very seasonal. Sadly, the seeds turned out to be so tasty that they were gone that night. Happy Halloween in any case!

Oct 27, 2011

Singapore Merlion

The merlion is a national symbol in Singapore.  It represents two halves of the city's origin as a fishing village and Singapore's original name, Singapura, which means lion city.  The most famous of Singapore's merlion statues is this one in Marina Bay next to the financial district.

When we were in Singapore in 2010 one of the first things we did after we landed was go to the Red Dot Design Museum.  From there we walked around downtown until we found this famous landmark.  These are a few of the pictures I shot as we walked around the merlion and spent the evening hanging out down there.


Oct 26, 2011

Halloween Light Show

For some people Halloween decorations consist of a few pumpkins and maybe some window clings.  On the other hand, there are those who completely deck their houses out with seizure-inducing, but wickedly awesome synchronized light shows.  This is definitely one of those people.

Oct 25, 2011

Back to the Future DeLorean | Universal Studios Hollywood

On a 2004 vacation to California, the entire trip was filled with visits to theme parks like Disneyland, Six Flags, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood. At Universal Studios Hollywood one of the highlights was seeing the DeLorean on display in front of the Back to the Future ride - an attraction that has since been replaced by the Simpsons.  

Oct 24, 2011

Inspired Singles: Paradise

Issue 25: Paradise by Coldplay

Today is the release date for Coldplay's brand new album, Mylo Xyloto.  To be perfectly honest, it's one of the few albums that I'm going out of my way to pick up a hard copy of this year because I'm just that pumped about it!

The single, Paradise embodies that signature Coldplay sound; ambient, driving, enthusiastic, thoughtful, poetic.  It, along with Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, have been perfect lead ins to what is sure to be another monumental album for the group.  It's been a while since I've been this charged about a release date, but it feels good to be so excited. 

When Viva la Vida was released in 2008 it felt significant because I had just started working with Stream Media (had really just got out of university) and went with my friend Julie to pick up the album.  In 2005 I remember going to get X&Y after listening to it constantly while I was driving around on my forklift as SF Scotts - a summer job I had between semesters at film school.  The stories continue, but I feel like I can remember going to get every Coldplay album and what I had going on at the time.

This is going to be a great week!