Jan 31, 2012

Layover in Shanghai

On route home via Singapore in 2010, we had a drawn out layover in Shanghai. Numerous passport checks, security checks, a passport stamp (despite not leaving the airport), and hang ups at the boarding desk were made to feel endless due to a painful hangover I'd acquired celebrating our final night in the Lion City.  Our stop in Hong Kong on the way there seemed relaxed, but Shanghai seemed overrun with make-work checkpoints. Oh, China.   

All of those magnets I bought in Singapore also got me a private room for my luggage to be searched.  It was all kind of entertaining to be honest, and I had fun snapping pictures of our time chilling out in the airport. 

Jan 30, 2012

Salton Sea History Museum Closed?

About a week ago I was contacted by a man putting on an exhibition about the Salton Sea who wanted to know if I could provide scans of the vintage postcards that I'd shared on my blog.  I suggested that he could probably contact the Salton Sea museum, which Dave and I got a private tour of on our visit in 2010, and acquire the real ones for his exhibition as they are actually genuine postcards that were on sale in the Salton Sea Yacht Club in the sixties.

Sadly, he informed me that the museum had recently closed and was no longer there.  I was happy to send scans of my postcards, but was disappointed by the news.  In fact, a bit more research confirmed that the museum had been unable to secure a lease agreement with the Yacht Club.  

I'm still fascinated by how much has changed around the Salton Sea since my first visit in 2009, however the recent developments seem far from a surge of prosperity.  It was announced on the Museum's facebook page that they will be relocating to Mecca, CA and reopening on February 3, which is great for the sake of sharing the history, but it's not the Yacht Club. There were plans to relaunch the speed boat races also (like the ones they used to have in the sixties) but those plans have been postponed due to lack of sponsorship now.  

It's two steps forward and one step back at the Salton Sea.  

Jan 27, 2012

Inspiration Boards

I'm all about collecting.  If someone leaves me a cool note, if I like a picture, or if someone sends me a postcard, it's just one of the many opportunities I take to cycle inspiration around the bulletin boards above my desk.   

I think it's important to surround ourselves with things that trigger memories, influence our thoughts, and remind us of our aspirations.  My boards are busy, but purposely so. I like that I can still look at them and see something in a way I might not have before. It's a simple concept, but I like inspiration that comes cheap.

Here are some of the items on my boards at the moment.  

Jan 26, 2012

My Week With Marilyn

The Oscar nominations came out on Tuesday and so, like I do each year, my goal of screening as many pictures as possible before the broadcast is officially underway.  My Week With Marilyn just opened at the Monarch Theatre last night and so it was the perfect opportunity for Andrea and I to head down and check it out.

First things first, Michelle Williams is spot on in her portrayal of Monroe.  You might expect something shamelessly camp, but what's delivered is vulnerable, emotional, and intelligently nostalgic. It's a well earned Best Actress nomination for Williams, and her performance alone is a strong enough reason to see the film.  Thankfully, the supporting cast is no let down either and I was thoroughly engrossed throughout.

What I've always found fun about the Oscars is the variety of films that you can discover if you're willing to take a few chances.  I had a good feeling about My Week With Marilyn to begin with, but there are several flicks I know nothing about this year.  When you've grown up addicted to movies, sometimes it's just fun to find more ways to feel connected to them. 

The Monarch Theatre remains a great venue for watching smaller, more dramatic films. It was packed last night because it was 5+5 Wednesday - $5 ticket and $5 pop and popcorn.  If you live in Medicine Hat, you really should visit the Monarch.  They still have some of the best theatre seats in town. 

Jan 25, 2012

Ernie the Spaceman (1997)

Like a lot of kids do, I created my first videos using my toys.  At 12 I took what little savings I had and put it towards a used video camera that was for sale in the newspaper.  It's what makes these videos special now, the fact that I actually planned to create these and had it in my head that I wanted to buy myself a camera because I knew I wanted to make movies.

Ernie the Spaceman was actually an Ernie key chain, a mascot from Expo '86, a World's Fair held in Vancouver, BC.  He seemed just unique enough to not be recognizable, and before I started creating my own characters a year or so later, I got a feel for my camera by creating random episodes about the adventures Ernie would go on.  Once he crash landed on a planet full of Mr. Potato Head's, another time he had to rescue an alien princess, and plenty of times he was simply lost in space.

I created scenes using everything from strings of Christmas lights, to old Star Wars toys, construction paper and poster board, and remote controls as spaceship consoles.  The production value couldn't have been more bottom of the barrel, but the fact that I found ways to work in music, that I printed off my credits and taped them to the walls, and that I took the time to create miniature sets at least proved how much fun I was having.  It was only '97 after all and it wasn't like I had a computer to edit on or a digital camera to make things easier.

I only really shared the ten or so episodes I created with my friends, and for the sake of preserving my nostalgia that's the way it's going to stay.  Ernie the Spaceman is special only because it kicked off what I already knew I wanted to pursue as a kid.  It was my amateur directorial and editing debut, and the work I put into those shorts really lit a fire in me that set everything else in motion.

Looking back at it now and thinking about the setups that I'd build in the basement makes me realize how formative those experiences really were.  Without knowing it at the time I was exploring framing, composition, basic editing, and generally priming myself for the digital revolution that was just starting to hit.  The fact that I'd share my creations and get to see everyone's reactions only boosted my confidence.

The results were a long way from perfect, and they were even more embarrassing to watch after I'd gone through puberty, but it's that imperfection that seems so meaningful to me now.  I had no notions about how I was making something, it was nothing more than creative exploration.  Fifteen years later though, through a film school education, having had my work screened at numerous international venues, having over a million video views online, and having edited for a handful of big name clients, it's a rush to be able to trace it all the way back to this.

Ernie's haphazard and clumsy adventures may have only been a blip on my timeline, but it sure felt epic in the moment.  At the very least, it was an exercise in persistence.

The original title card from the Ernie the Spaceman episodes.

Jan 24, 2012

Lenovo Ideapad 32GB Review

So a few weekends ago I began doing some research about e-readers and inevitably found myself looking at tablets.  Some will argue that an iPad is the clear front runner in this category, but on price point that's far from the truth.  What I eventually decided on was the Lenovo Ideapad Tablet with 32GB and Wi-Fi.  Here's why I came to that decision and what I've come to really like about my tablet in general.

1.  Value for Money - A quick scan of tablets will show how competitively priced the Lenovo is (compared to other tablets and laptops).  I ended up spending about $350 for a tablet with 32GB of memory, a 10.1" screen, a front and rear camera, a stylish design, and that is easily customizable in terms of the display, apps, what widgets go where, etc.

2.  More Than an E-Reader - I was really just after an e-reader to begin with, but found it hard to pass up the ability to freely surf the web, watch YouTube, check facebook, download from the Amazon Kindle store, or scroll my emails (all at the same time).  The point is that this tablet is a lot more versatile for not much more money.

3.  Portable and Convenient - I found it cumbersome using my laptop in bed when I just wanted to check blogs or read web pages and a tablet is the answer to that.  The Lenovo is comfortable to hold thanks to the rounded edges and although it may be a bit on the heavier side for tablets, I still find it quite light. 

While I haven't taken it on the road with me yet, I also like the idea of having my maps downloaded and having a large screen to view them.  Navigating maps on my iPod Touch hasn't always been the most convenient and now I don't necessarily need to bring my laptop on the road with me either to stay connected.  

4.  The Show-Me Factor - How often do you have someone over and end up talking about a funny YouTube video or webpage?  The tablet is quick to launch and easy to pass around for moments just like that.  It's also what makes the tablet a great presentation tool, and it was really convenient to pull up my portfolio and scroll the pages when I had people over.

5. Adaptability - What I love about my Lenovo Ideapad (and a tablet in general) is the way that you can continue to change it based on how you use it.  There are plenty of apps to play with and explore, and the Lenovo Ideapad has 5 pages that you can flip through and customize however you want.  I'm sure I'll continue to find more fun ways to use it as I play around a bit more.

In my personal opinion having used this product for a couple of weeks now (in addition to my regular PC, laptop, and iPod Touch) I'd give the Lenovo Ideapad a solid 8/10. The only areas that I'd really make improvements to would be the speaker, which could be a bit stronger.  The tablet could also be a bit lighter, and I'd like to see more apps for Android products.  For the time being though, this is a more than adequate product for a casual user like myself and it's exceeded my expectations. 

For more specifics check out the review of this product on PC World 

Jan 23, 2012

Best Oscar

Ten years ago for one of my final projects in Art 30 we were tasked with creating something out of clay.  Being the humble movie lover that I am, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to craft an Oscar for myself before leaving for film school in the fall.  This was the result.

The top half and base were created and fired in the kiln separately, and I spray painted the top half gold and rubbed the base down with shoe polish for a really deep black. The two pieces were then attached with super glue, and it's held up ever since.  For an art project that I had in my room in high school, in my various dorms, back in my parent's basement, and now in my own place, it's become a symbol of my successes in moving forward with my career.

I couldn't be more proud of this little art project, and it actually contributed to a real achievement at the time.  I received a scholarship from the Art program at Hat High for having the highest mark in the program that year - which was actually more of a reflection of my willingness to experiment with every medium they'd let me try I think.

In any case, the nominations for the Academy Awards come out tomorrow and I'll be ready to check out as many of the films as I can before the broadcast.  In the meantime I'm going to continue working at completing my faux E.G.O.T.  A few months ago I found a gramophone statue at Value Village that looks just like a Grammy.  Emmy and Tony here I come!   

Jan 20, 2012

Enough To Do Something

I saw the new movie, The Descendants starring George Clooney the other night.  It was a great flick about embracing ones past and the future it presents, and there was a quote that stuck with me.  When Clooney's character is discussing inheritance for his kids, he says something along the lines of, "I want to give them enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing".

That's a brilliant way to think about it.

These days (and as a goal for this year in fact) I find myself in want of doing and experiencing more things. I want to go places, see things, and I'm not even referring to grand vacations necessarily.  I want to go to several museums in Alberta this year, I want to go to a car show, it looks like I'll be going to the Rockies a couple of times this summer too.  The idea that we should be content to stick to a routine or adopt entirely predictable habits is a bad one.  

Having enough money (or time in a lot of cases) to do something is just as important as the personal time to do nothing.  However, the goal shouldn't really be to do nothing at all, the goal should be to have the freedom to do a bit of everything as you see fit.  Rich or poor, it's easy to be lazy.  Finding new ways to be passionate about life takes work.

The lesson perhaps, and what I took away from that quote, is that we should feel accountable to the decisions we make in the pursuit of our own happiness.  We should feel a bit pressured to experience things while they're there to be experienced. Whether you realize it or not, your time is actually your own.  And, it's enough to do something.

Jan 18, 2012

Flip Cam Wide Angle Lens

Last Christmas I got my Flip Cam and was excited about the opportunity to shoot more home videos with it.  I actually used the camera so much throughout the year that I began looking for ways to enhance it.  I'd come across several wide angle lens adapters on Amazon, and this Christmas I finally got one.

The Rokinon lens comes with several adhesive magnetic rings that you can easily attach to your Flip Cam.  The lens itself has a magnet in its base so attaching it is a breeze, and for any skeptics, the lens really does make a noticeable difference by increasing the field of view 0.45 times.  The connection also feels very secure so there's really no fear of the lens coming off unless you want it to.

As far as simple upgrades for your video equipment are concerned, this is by far one of the most affordable options available for what's already a very consumer-friendly camera.  Below I've posted a clip to give you a better idea of how the lens works and what the footage looks like.  Pick up one of these lenses for a bit of added versatility when capturing your next home video.

Jan 17, 2012


After our ride on the historic 2816, my Dad and I took the opportunity to check out one of the modern Canadian Pacific diesel trains on display in the rail yard.  As common as they are to see throughout the prairies, this was the first time I'd ever been inside one.  

Stumbling onto all of these great pictures that I shot in 2006 has me thinking that I should do a bit more digging.  There are a lot of stories and photo sets that I've never really shared with anyone, and I like the idea of posting them for posterity instead of letting them waste away on CD. I love rediscovering experiences like this all over again.