Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brain Food (or, The End is Nigh)

What it is, cats and kittens! I'm now into my Research Week, which means (almost) a whole week's worth of classes taken off the schedule to better grant me time to alternate between working on assignments and sleeping in until sunset. (It's really satisfying, if you've never tried it.)

Of course, I can find time in a busy schedule like this one to partake in merriment and celebrations. Did you know, for example, that Sunday was World Zombie Day? It was! And it nearly went past me unnoticed -- just as Talk Like a Pirate Day usually does when I'm distracted -- except for the notices that I saw posted up all across the downtown on Saturday.

To wit:

My goodness! What a charming poster. And anyone who knows me knows well my appreciation for zombies; my main? old? other? Winnipeg blog specifically had a 'Zombie' tag for any and all undead-related content, allowing visitors quick and easy access to posts like this one or especially this one.

So, seizing the opportunity to get out and actually do something during my week 'off', I grabbed my faithful old digital camera and headed out that fine Sunday afternoon to see what sort of hijinks a bunch of people dressed and behaving like zombies can get up to.

I got there early enough that there weren't a lot of folks gathered; the march was scheduled for a bit later, so to this point it was just some folks milling around and looking various degrees of undead.

Note the cameraman interviewing the lead zombie while the crowd congregates. Slow news day in London, Ontario! Okay, granted, it's not as though I've yet seen a fast news day in London, Ontario -- but still. Good on the local news media to turn out, at least. It's neat to see that happen.

Figuring I had plenty of time before any actual zombie-walking happened, I took some pictures of buildings for giggles and then went up a block to go find myself an early supper. I splurged and dropped the eight bucks on a Chinese food buffet, because obviously that's the sort of health food you need for a downtown jaunt. Three plates and about twenty minutes later, I hit the streets again to see how far the zombies had gotten away:

Not too far, as it turned out. The parking lot that they were starting their route from is immediately to the right of that shot, so they weren't exactly flying down the street. They're very slowly getting away!

I went a couple of blocks down and found a good spot, and in due time the procession turned the corner and went right by me for some good shots.

If the dude on the left there doesn't seem terribly convincing, that's because he's actually an OBO security guy. (Not a zombie! At least, not yet.) The walk was buffered at all times by a small handful of security, likely just to make sure that nobody would get way too into their role and start biting things. You never know! Some people act, and some people method-act.

Not sure why they needed security, though, it's not as though there are many zombies in these pictures yet or--

Oh. Well, never mind, then! Pretty good turnout after all. My word, that is an awful lot of facepaint in this picture.

Oh, and there were lots of other folks taking pictures as well, so that was kind of neat.

Why were there Japanese kamikaze zombies? Well, why not? Surely there were a great many World War II air battles fought bravely across the skies of Ontario. I've got a History degree, don't even bother questioning me on this!

Also, the knowledge that zombie parents brought their zombie kids to the zombie walk makes me smile really wide and I can't really articulate why.

Heyyyyy, zombies can't work cameras! Zombies can't work cameras!

Again with the tiny zombie kids, which I'm sure should be terrifying the longer I think about the concept but I'm still really pleased that so many kids were excited to get made up like zombies and run around outside. That's awesome! The future is in good hands, as far as I'm concerned.

Okay, cross the street, cross the street, everyone hang on to your zombie buddy, green light, cross the street--wouldn't this picture be so much better with all the zombies holding onto one of those twisty polypropylene yellow cords? You were thinking it, admit it.

A nice shot of the Honest Lawyer bar and restaurant, framed accordingly by a gaggle of zombies and one ridiculous pink metal tree. I think I could get used to living in this town, it's got a certain charm to it.

To recap, there were a lot of people gussied up like zombies and strolling through the downtown. And though they may have resembled undead hordes of moaning, shambling corpses, it is very important to note that they all still made a point of following the traffic laws as directed.

See? Very important. Alright, buddy up, time to cross again!

See the green car at the intersection? This green car really just wanted to turn right, this didn't have to be such a big production. Poor guy probably had places to be, sitting there with his right turn signal on and waiting patiently while a hundred zombies very slowly shambled across the street. Bad day to be driving downtown, dude! Don't know what else to tell you.

The zombies continued down this road for a while and went past Victoria Park, the big charming park sitting right in the heart of the downtown area. So of course, me being me, I got distracted and wandered off to see what the squirrels were doing instead.

There was a cute conversation amongst a family of three while the zombies were going past the park, with a small boy about six or seven years old explaining zombie lore to his parents.

"It's a zombie walk!" he said, matter-of-factly, as though these things happen every day. "They're zombies!"

"Why are they walking in the daytime?" his dad asked. "Don't they only come out at night?"

"That's vampires," the boy huffed indignantly, which was really funny.

But the zombies aren't what we should be worried about, let me tell you that right now. Zombies, pfft, zombies we could all handle pretty easily. But if the squirrels ever decide to rise up and overthrow us, then oh man, we are boned. Not only are the squirrels faster and harder to see in the dark, especially the crazy gigantic black squirrels that seem ubiquitous in London, but there are a lot of them -- as you can see from the above picture, where they dot the landscape repeatedly and continue long past the horizon. I even ran into a squirrel who kind of looked zombified, which was awesome and off-putting and hilarious all at the same time.

Those are terrific markings. What a great squirrel, oh man. And then I ran into a little baby squirrel who walked right up to me and strutted around like he owned the place, and that was just all kinds of adorable.

D'awwwwww. Look at the little guy! The other squirrels in this city are (I am not joking) legitimately the size of small dogs, but you could have picked up this little squirrel and fit him in your shirt pocket if he let you.

What on earth was I up to again--

Right! Okay, now I remember. Zombies afoot. This guy had taken up residence at the park entrance, and every minute or so would loudly proclaim that the end is nigh. He also helpfully posed for a photograph when he saw me lift my camera.

"So how nigh is the end, exactly?" I asked him, walking up after taking the picture.

"The apocalypse -- is UPON US!" he blurted out, and it was clear he was having a lot of fun being in-character.

"Okay, cool," I said, holding up the camera. "So, which way did the zombies go? I was following them up along the park, and I thought maybe they'd come back down this cross street."

"Oh. They're going down a bit further so they can come all the way up Richmond," he explained, breaking character briefly to point along as he explained the route.

"Awesome! Thanks," I said, walking away to pick a good spot while he went back to his waving of signs and declarations of oncoming doom.

I sat down on some steps and had plenty of time to look at the photos I had taken so far, because as it turns out there were a good five minutes or so until the zombies came around the corner and back into view.

I don't know, do you think that's them? It might be some other--

No, no, that's definitely them. Good! They're heading up the street, they're...

...they're still heading up the street, okay, here they come, they're just on their way, they're...

Hurry up, already! Friggin' zombies.

Oh! This is important, this was a real hoot. Do you see the two girls standing at the corner there, waiting to cross the street?

I didn't see so much as hear these two go past me, when I was walking backwards up Richmond, because the girl on the right with the bag did not like the idea of a Zombie Walk at all.

"Oh, god," she moaned, appreciably on her way to freaking out a little. "I can not deal with this right now."

"This is, what," her friend on the left said as they passed me, "spooks? This is a spook walk, right?"

"I don't like this," the first girl complained. "Let's cross the street, let's go."

"Do you think that guy is with them?" her friend asked, which if you were wondering is what she turned in this picture to point at.

Yep, still there.

"I don't know," the perturbed girl replied. "Oh, god. This is not cool."

But, back to Sign Guy Dudley over here. He had increased the frequency of his "The END is NIIIIGH" calls as the zombies came up the street, repeating it several times as the zombies drew closer and closer until finally they reached the entrance of the park.

Now, you may be wondering: did they eat him?

Oh, yeah. They ate him good.

Still shots don't capture this at all, of course, but they had outfitted Sign Guy with some spurty 'blood' packets or something at the outset so that when the zombies took him down and munched him there were these picturesque spurts of red liquid shooting six feet into the air above the crowd. I know there was a video camera or two on hand, so maybe it'll be on YouTube shortly; it isn't yet, as best I can tell, but hope springs eternal. (Why, Hope's my middle name!)

Is it just me, or does that crowd seem smaller than it was? Did something happen to the rest of--

God damn it, zombies. Cross the street! There's nobody coming, you can go across just this once! The light is green, just cross the--what am I even doing, zombies probably see in black and white anyway.

There we go! That's better. It wouldn't do to get split into two zombie groups, that would just be unseemly. The very idea!

Waaaaaaaait a second, hang on now--is that a headcrab I see there?

It is! Ha ha, holy crap, one dude came as a headcrab zombie. That is brazen! That doesn't even fit into standard zombie continuity, but hell with it, it gave me a good laugh. You go, headcrab guy!

"Nice death scene!"
"Thanks. Nice headcrab."
"Hey, thanks!"

Being newly undead, of course, does not remove one's instinctual ability to pose in place for a photograph. (Not pictured: my grinning and giving him a thumbs-up from behind the camera. Well played, Sign Guy!)

You can see what I was talking about earlier with the red liquids, I assume. Dude got wrecked! Such are the perils of World Zombie Day.

And off they shambled down the road, in search of sustenance, on this their day of celebration. I kept the camera rolling. They were beautiful, those zombies in the mist. Okay, yes, there's no mist in the pictures; humour me, will you? I'm being dramatic.

So, yes! Happy belated World Zombie Day, one and all. You may have noted above that the poster at the top listed a website; the Zombie Walk also had a Facebook group and a spot on A-Channel that evening, because nothing says 'fetid shambling corpse' quite like A-Channel news.

(I'm being mean, aren't I? I'm sorry. A-Channel is sort of an extended running joke where I come from.)

My Research Week continues! Check back here soon; I've got another long post on the backburner that should be ready shortly. If you're not careful, you might even learn something from it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is This a Trick Question

Yeah, yeah, I know, just hours ago I mentioned all the work I have to do for tomorrrow. Humour me my brief lapses into procrastination.

Having just returned home to avoid the prospect of walking half an hour through the oncoming freezing rain, I elected to settle in and kill a bit of time by turning on the television and having a look through the channels. I'm as yet unfamiliar with the general tone of the 'community' television here in Ontario, but when I flipped past channel thirteen -- helpfully named "Rogers TV" -- I had to flip back again and peer quizzically at the screen.

Behold as I beheld:

haha what

I'm pretty sure at this point that future exposures to Rogers TV programming are going to underwhelm me, because my current understanding of this channel is based around a sarcastic question at the bottom of the screen and a dude who looks like he's about to crack up laughing any second now.

Scheduled future topics for this guy's show include:

"How about this weather we're having?"
"Does anybody still shop at The Bay?"
"Who even bothers to recycle their empties?"
"Are there any Maple Leafs fans left?"
"Shorts with socks and sandals: what are you, ninety?"

I am completely setting myself up for disappointment, aren't I? Ah, well. Dare to dream, I always say! But, back to work.

Wait No Hang On Where Did October Go

Has it really been eleven days since I last updated? My goodness. My entire understanding of time has gone out of whack since I got here, both because every week brings a handful of new assignments and because I live underground in a dude's basement.

(My basement apartment has a lone, tiny window; it opens into the garage. The Sun and I don't really hang out much anymore, these days.)

But fear not, gentle readers! Writing for fun may be a bleak proposition for me right now, but once I get these two assignments in tomorrow afternoon I'll be almost into research week. (Am I really almost halfway through the term already? My goodness.) I have plenty of work to do during the research week, of course, but the break from classes should grant me the opportunity to get up some of the awesome posts I've been wanting to write.

Check back here in a few days! You know I won't let you down.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Excitement Abounds

I slept in like crazy today, oh man. The workload is pretty ridiculous in this program -- I've got another three assignments due by next Thursday, oh man -- but I don't have class on Fridays during this term, so the end-week option of sleeping all day and working all night is a nice one to have.

I've kept surprisingly active, though, workload aside. I get out and about every so often, or chip in on some other project entirely, or find something in this big new world of Ontario that makes me smile real wide. That parade last weekend, for example! Remind me to post the parade pictures later. It wasn't a particularly exciting parade, mind you, but I'm a brother who finds ways to enjoy parades whether they're any good or not.

In the meantime, it would be completely out of character for me to not mention this next item. You may recall our new good buddy, Picnic Jesus, from a previous post; he was on a poster a month ago, smilin' and bringin' food to the hungry, and even the very idea that somebody out there earnestly (and without a shred of irony!) drew a festive anime Jesus on a campus poster made me shake my head and laugh despite myself.

Well, you'll never guess what:

He's back! He's so happy! And once I go out and buy some thumbtacks, he'll be adorning my wall!

Amazingly, despite the poster having been for a September 7th event, the poster had remained in place and mostly undisturbed for well over a month. The very idea! So when I exited class last night and walked past it, beholding in amazement that posters apparently just don't get removed in this building, the power of Picnic Jesus compelled me to roll it up and take it on home. The only thing on my wall to date is a small LOLA festival poster that they were giving out with any donation, so hell with it! I need to decorate, I'm notoriously thrifty, and I grin real wide every time I look at this.

Oh, dear. I'm boring you, aren't I? Well, okay, maybe this will prove a bit more interesting.

I watched a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in my younger days, and the modern internet incarnation -- RiffTrax, written by and featuring members of the MST3K cast -- fills me with glee every time I check it out. Hell, at one point they brought in Weird Al Yankovic to riff on Jurassic Park! Older readers will recall my frothing lifelong loyalty to Weird Al, given that it took me two posts to encompass how much I enjoyed his last concert tour.

My old buddy Gavin Jasper contacted me a little while back about the RiffTrax site, because the site had just recently added on a new feature -- iRiffs, a section devoted to letting people send in their own submissions for publication. The very idea! Jesus, this is something that he and I (and a bunch of other people) used to do to terrible fanfiction way back in the earlier days of the internet -- this is right up our alley!

So he, I, and a friend of his put our heads together and got to work; we've got a couple selections of material that will work well (and, without question, definitely deserve some old-fashioned mockery), but we started off by testing on an old wartime Superman cartoon short so racist that it boggles the minds of audiences to this day.

The title? Wait for it -- wait for it -- Japoteurs! Haha, holy shit, I'm not even kidding.

So our very first iRiff short will be out soon enough, once the audio is balanced and the submission details are aligned. But in the meantime, it turns out I've actually got a preview available for you guys; the original audio is kind of soft for now, so a couple of the gags might not make sense, but behold nonetheless!

I'm the second voice you hear, if you were wondering.

Exciting times, you guys! Thrill as my influence and reputation as a dangerously sexy media superstar continue to expand ruthlessly! I'm the face of new media, baby!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

raarh oh noo

I am twenty-four years old and I still draw dinosaurs on school handouts.

A Baby Dinosaur Visits Statsville, ink on paper, 2008. This is art, god damn it! Don't you judge me!

A bigger post will follow tomorrow, so drop on in. I'll see if I can't whip up some neat stuff.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Whoo Weekend Yes

Uptown Magazine! While Mom and Dad sleep in!

This week you can call me Willi Williams, because it's armagideon time. I know I may have mentioned this previously in passing, but my goodness I do not understand what the Canadian Press is thinking sometimes. What was this story even doing in the news that day, let along appearing in newspapers across the country ahead of financial collapse and ravaging hurricanes and killer food and everything else going on in the world? Is this supposed to be our feel-good distraction story? Man alive.

Gentle readers, I know that my last post had promised you a couple of neat things -- and that Uptown column is one of them, obviously, but unfortunately the other one isn't quite ready yet. Alas! So in the meantime, here's something I had picked up at LOLA but hadn't yet shown off to you all:

Yesss! Ha ha, oh man, what a great shirt. I was originally intending to buy a Plants and Animals shirt after the killer set they played that night, but since their shirts only ran in Large or smaller (and I am, to put it mildly, an extra-large dude) I waited to see what the Holy Fuck shirts would look like. And lo and behold! If a bandolero housecat in a cowboy hat and neck bandana on a t-shirt isn't worth fifteen bones, then I don't know what is.

Also in the "neat things" category, but placed squarely in the future: tomorrow at around noon the University of Western Ontario will apparently be throwing a homecoming parade down through downtown London, and anybody who knows me (or has read my work before) knows how much I love a good parade. I'll see if I can't take some pictures for you guys while I'm out there!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just Start Wailin' on Each Other

So the big Leaders' Debate was tonight! I had originally intended to just flip through the channels and then take a nap, resting up before working on the third of three scholastic assignments due in the span of a day and a half, but when I landed on the debate my ol' politics-junkie instincts took over and I ended up watching it all the way through. Strangest thing, though -- the debate actually had to be translated into English by the network, because all five candidates were speaking some kind of moon language or something.

Ha ha! Okay, I know, it was French. The French language debates were tonight, and they went the same way that our modern multi-party debates always go: the current leader in the polls goes in, under duress, and the other three or four parties -- four, this time around -- take turns sniping at him to try and knock him down a few percentage points. (I could have said 'him or her' just now, for the sake of argument, but let's not kid ourselves here. We only ever had the one female Prime Minister, and in her one actual election she won two seats.) It may not sound interesting to you, necessarily, but my interest in politics has always been in how the game itself is played; I approach it like high entertainment and draw a whole lot of amusement from the ensuing shenanigans, watching to see who makes the more hilarious missteps or which party meets with failure and derision despite its best efforts or what gigantic, egregious lie someone tries to get away with. It's fun! I've got no party loyalties to begin with, so I get to enjoy myself and treat the Canadian political system like an elaborate sport. Which it is, really, if we're being honest about it.

So I kicked back, and lay around, and watched the debates a half-second behind while they were translated from a language I do not understand for the life of me. (You should see me try to speak French, it's hilarious. BONE JEWER JUH MAPLE MILLE NEUF-CENT QUATRE-VINGT DIX-HUIT pamplemousse pamplemousse pamplemousse) It's all good, of course, but my favourite part was the obligatory be-nice-to-each-other segment; the moderator had each candidate turn, smile politely, and say a few nice things about one of the other leaders. Layton complimented Dion's willingness to collaborate, Dion complimented Duceppe's passion for Quebec advocacy, and so on around the table. Then Elizabeth May's assignment was to say something nice about Stephen Harper, and ha ha ha oh my god is she ever bad at being diplomatic. "You... you're a... a loving father, you have wonderful kids... and... uh... you're very principled. I don't like your principles, but you, uh..."

Making the leaders of each political party stop and be nice to each other, however briefly, is a really nice touch. It's something we don't see very often, and it's a fun little exercise to watch.

But! Me being me, here for the entertainment and fireworks, I think that we as a nation are missing out on a golden opportunity for some high quality awesomeness. Memorable, era-defining, oh-my-god-what-did-we-just-see moments of brilliance and passion and glorious animal savagery. We have the designated thirty or fourty-five seconds where each candidate is nice to each other, yes, but if we really want to capture the imagination of the voting public -- and lord knows we have been awful at that for the last couple of generations -- then what we should include in each debate is a full minute for each candidate to launch into the most bitter, vindictive, mean-spirited assholishness that they can muster right there on the spot against whoever is sitting directly to their left.

We'd all watch the debates for that, god damn it! That'd be must-see TV! All through the rest of the debate, they're obliged to be civil to each other; for a few shining moments, they're even (obligated to be) genuinely nice to each other. But then, right after that, we would watch on the edge of our seats as they turn to each other and go no-holds-barred Strong Style on each other.

"I hate you and I hate everything you stand for, you remorseless mouthbreathing shithead. Your policies are ruinous, your platform is bullshit and I want to projectile vomit every time I see your face on TV. I am picturing you dying and it makes me smile."
"You scum-sucking communist douchenozzle! I hope you get cancer of the everything, and when you die I hope they roll your bloated corpse out into a field for farm kids to shoot at!"
"Do you even realize how monstrously ugly you are, you assheaded hellspawn? Your entire face looks like the right side of Jean Chretien's mouth!"

And then right after that they have to go back to playing nice and quizzing each other pointedly about the environment, like nothing just happened. Wouldn't that be great? I'd pay money to see this! If we started doing this, maybe people would actually give enough of a crap to go out and vote!

Ahh, a man can dream. Come on, Canada, it's worth a try!

Dang, I still have to finish that cataloguing assignment. Well, back to work, I guess. Check back here sometime Friday, though! I'll have some neat stuff to show you.