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This is how you play an accordion

This guy is playing the accordion and making it look cool.

What made Seinfeld so funny

Jerry Seinfeld was the straight man.

Q: Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.

A: Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter. You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn’t care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.

Christmas Eve

After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.

Wendy

  • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
  • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
  • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
  • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

Olympis PEN EPL-2

Mark

  • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
  • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
  • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
  • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
  • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
  • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.

Oliver

  • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
  • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
  • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
  • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
Memorex CD Player
  • Hutch got him an art set
  • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder

Lee

  • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
  • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

Brittany

  • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
  • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.

Me

Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.

Best Contract Negotiation Ever

And this folks, is why Scott Boras is worth the big money.

Royals

Am kind of digging this song right now.

Buffalo’s Grain Elevators to Be Used in Large-Scale Narrative Lighting Display

Why can’t we do this in Saskatoon with our three mills?

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which oversees the development of the Buffalo waterfront, has come up with the plan, and they’ve enlisted Ambiances Design Production to do the lighting work. As the Buffalo News notes, Ambiances has received praise for a similar project in Quebec City, which was originally planned as a one-time show, but was adopted as an annual light show because of its success. Part of what makes Ambiences’ work unique is that it involves narrative storytelling, and it could be used to tell Buffalo’s stories.

Buffalo’s civic leaders think that could be key to drawing tourists to the reenergized Outer Harbor and Silo City areas. “People have talked for years about getting some of the people who go to Niagara Falls. Well, this is the type of thing, because of the spectacle of it, and because the Buffalo grain elevators are so otherworldly, that will get people down here,” preservationist Tim Tielman told the Buffalo News.

The first phase of the project will involve lighting a couple of large grain elevators near the waterfront, along with the underside of the Skyway and the Michigan and Ohio street bridges. The second phase would involve illuminating a total of 14 grain elevators, and incorporating fire, pyrotechnics and 3D video projection on the side of the Connecting Terminal grain elevator, which is located just at the edge of the recently-revitalized Buffalo Harbor.

Rufus

A vampire movie shot in Dundurn, Saskachewan.  Make sure you watch the trailer.

Rufus is afraid and alone. Stranded in a sleepy prairie town after the death of his hundred-and-seven-year-old traveling companion, Rufus is determined to make a fresh start. Hunted, poked and prodded, Rufus knows people are always pegging him as this or that. If there really are vampires, Rufus has never met one. Sure he has some quirks. So what if he likes the taste of blood? It’s not like he’s addicted. Rufus does not age or feel the passage of time. he’s a boy and will always remain so. When a multi-national drug company discovers Rufus? genome just might be the fountain of youth and a cunning vampire hunter arrives to claim the boy as the property of Bristol Anderson Pharmaceuticals, Rufus knows it’s time to move on. The only problem is, Rufus like his new life and the pretty girl next door.There’s no such thing as vampires! They are just stories in books. What’s a boy to do?

The Last Great Telescope

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope and the world’s largest land-based movable structure. It is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) site at Green Bank, West Virginia, USA. NRAO is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 mile zone where all radio transmissions are either limited or banned outright, to help the telescope function properly. With the growing popularity of radio-array telescopes, the GBT may end up being the last single-dish telescope of its kind built in the world. 

Ray Donovan Official Trailer

 

 This could be the next series I binge on.

LAX

 

While I think this is cool, I also find it depressing.  If we ever built such a thing in Saskatoon, we would use it for advertising rather than art.

Bluebird Cafe

 

 My friend Darren Friesen playing in Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe 

Canada’s navy not shipshape

The sad state of the Royal Canadian Navy

HMCS Iroquois DDH 280

There is also one other problem to solve.

A decision is needed on whether or not the Coast Guard’s long-planned new polar icebreaker will be built first at the same site.

The icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is set to retire in 2017, and will be replaced by a new Polar class icebreaker CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.

Meanwhile, the two RCN ships the new class will replace just keep getting older.

Both HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver will be 50 years old (at least) by the time they head for the breakers. That would qualify them for museum status in most countries around the world.

During their lifetime they have contributed to the 1991 Gulf War and humanitarian aid missions in Florida and the Bahamas, peace-making off Somalia and East Timor and have been poised for the evacuation of non-combatants from Haiti.

The ships are also single-hulled which is in contravention of most international environmental standards and limits the number of ports that will accept them.

The RCN is acutely aware of operational limitations and is busy talking up the project.

National Defence and the Canadian Forces say that the new Berlin-class ships should “provide a home base for maintenance and operation of helicopters, a limited sealift capability, and support to forces deployed ashore.”

Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, the now-retired commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, told a defence industry conference in Ottawa that the design had been selected “following a thorough, third-party-validated process, during which two designs were compared in depth based on capability, cost and risk.”

Clearly he is a fan but at some stage a keel will need to be laid and works begin. Even the most optimistic naval planner admits Ottawa is still years away from signing a detailed build contract.

Then there is the rest of the RCN fleet.

Canada’s Iroquois-class destroyers, our principal naval warships, are on average 40 years old. They are due for retirement/replacement.

The Halifax-class frigates are due for retirement/replacement starting in 2025.

Therefore, just to maintain the navy at its present operational capacity, Canada needs to build 15 new warships while completing the support ships and rebuilding the Coast Guard’s fleet of icebreakers at a time when the world is turning its attention to increasing sea traffic through the Northwest Passage.

And of course this is by a military that can not figure out how to procure anything right now and has an aversion to buying off the shelf designs from other navies (although it looks like they did with the JSS vessels).  Part of the problem is that unlike other militaries that regularly upgrade their equipment, Canadian equipment is kept well past its best before date.  The military is then forced to go after the cutting edge because it is going to have to last so long.

The Original Cast of Sesame Street

Original sesame street cast

Oscar the Grouch is orange!  He became green in season 2.

Roger Ebert’s 10 Great Film’s of All Time

Sadly I haven’t seen all of these.  As a tribute to one of my favourite reviewers of all time, I will make sure I see all of them.

At one point in pondering this list, here’s what I thought I would do: I would simply start all over with ten new films. Once any film has ever appeared on my S&S list, I consider it canonized. “Notorious” or “The Gates of Heaven,” for example, are still two of the ten best films of all time, no matter what a subsequent list says.

I decided not to do that–trash the 2002 list and start again. It was too much like a stunt. Lists are ridiculous, but if you’re going to vote, you have to play the game. Besides, the thought of starting with a blank page and a list of all the films ever made fills me with despair.

So there must be one new film.

The two candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life,

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

Speaking of Roger Ebert, can I say that it is awesome that someone who on his dying day was still planning new projects.

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.

At the same time, I am re-launching the new and improved Rogerebert.com and taking ownership of the site under a separate entity, Ebert Digital, run by me, my beloved wife, Chaz, and our brilliant friend, Josh Golden of Table XI. Stepping away from the day-to-day grind will enable me to continue as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and roll out other projects under the Ebert brand in the coming year.

I respect Roger Ebert tremendously and I hope he rests in peace but I want to be planning, organizing, and putting together projects until the day I die.  Good for Ebert.

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

Always technically savvy – he was an early investor in Google – Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His rogerebert.com had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 “Person of the Year” from the Webby Awards, which noted that “his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web.” His Twitter feeds had 827,000 followers.

Ebert was both widely popular and professionally respected. He not only won a Pulitzer Prize – the first film critic to do so – but his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, among the movie stars he wrote about so well for so long. His reviews were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide.

Warren Kinsella’s take on the Jack Layton movie

Kinsella has some interesting things to say about the Jack Layton film

As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.

Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.

In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.

Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.

Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.

Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?

The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.

That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.

It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!