Friday, February 29, 2008

A Mandatory Post.

No matter what happened today I had to post. After all February 29th only comes along once every four years. This blog didn't even exist when the last February 29th came and went. For a moment last night I had the crazy idea of creating a new blog, one on which I would only post on February 29th. But then I decided it wouldn't be worth clogging up Blogger with something silly like that. Of course there's a good chance someone does have a blog based on such an idea, and there are some blogs that are posted to so rarely they effectively perform a similar role, just not one connected to this unique date.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Where's Ours?

I was watching a report tonight on snow removal in Toronto. One of the gizmos they use is a mobile snow melting machine. The obvious question is why Saskatoon doesn't have one. At least I've never seen or heard any evidence of such a device being used locally. You'd think we'd need one more than Toronto.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It Has Begun.

I've started to get spam with my new Gmail address.

Oh well, I couldn't go spamless forever.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A New PDA.

I took a look at the latest Gun World magazine in the library today and had to roll my eyes a little at the ad on the back cover. It was an ad for the new PDA from Para-Ordnance. In this case however it's not a new electronic organiser, PDA standing for Personal Defense Assistant. Apparently someone in their marketing department got a flash of inspiration and figured out a new use for a familiar abbreviation. The "DA" part of the name does have a practical signficance, standing for double action.

Para-Ordnance is in fact a Canadian company, located in Scarborough, Ontario. First going into business to manufacture a paintball gun the company eventually went on to specialise in pistols based on the John Browning designed Colt Model 1911, offering such improvements as a larger magazine capacity and their own proprietary double action trigger mechanism. But don't expect to buy a PDA in Canada. With it's three and a half inch barrel it is considered a prohibited weapon, handguns being required to have a four and a half inch barrel under current regulations. Para-Ordnance does make various models that are legal in Canada, although getting a license to own a handgun does take some effort.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clothes And The Heroine.

Once again it's time for another visit to the wacky and often puzzling world of comic books. The shot above(sorry the quality isn't better) comes from issue 33 of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, the final issue of that Marvel publication, cover date February of 1977. It represents a couple of trends found in the '70s. First of all there's the fact that Deadly Hands was a black and white comic magazine. The '70s was the heyday of the format, with a wide range of titles published by a number of publishers, including Marvel, Warren with such titles as Eerie, and Charlton's adaptations of Space: 1999 and The Six Million Dollar Man. Since they weren't covered by the Comics Code Authority they allowed for less restrictions on story content and art, such as partial nudity.
Deadly Hands is of course a representative of the early '70s martial arts boom launched by the popularity of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon along with the Kung Fu TV series starring David Carridine. As with other media the comics business tried to cash in on the interest in martial arts by producing martial arts themed stories and characters. Deadly Hands debuted at the beginning of 1974, although Marvel's first martial arts oriented character Shang Chi debuted several months earlier. Interestingly DC Comics beat the rest of the industry by more than half a decade when it introduced the Legion of Superheroes member Karate Kid way back in 1966.(And of course beat the film of the same name by almost 20 years.)
The characters in the shot above are Colleen Wing and Misty Knight. Partners in the private detective firm Knightwing Restorations they are also sometimes known as the Daughters of the Dragon. They originally appeared as part of the supporting cast to Marvel's martial arts superhero Iron Fist, but were given their own solo storyline in the last 2 issues of Deadly Hands. Although the kung fu fad would eventually trickle out Misty and Colleen continued to make appearances in various Marvel titles over the years, and were given their own miniseries in 2005.
Although it's not evident in the above post Misty has an artificial arm, which gets refered to as a bionic arm in '70s stories, another '70s fad. Today it gets refered to as a cybernetic arm. As for Colleen she could be considered one of the first multiracial continuing characters in comics, being Japanese on her mother's side and mixed Chinese and Caucasian on her father's.
It was their costumes in this Deadly Hands storyline that amused me and prompted this post. Misty's is a black bodysuit with some funky zipup boots not visible in the panel above. Quite practical. But Colleen's costume? A low cut leotard topped off by a tiny top with a large "boob window." Although I don't have personal experience, being a guy, I would think you'd want a wee bit more support if you run around fighting villains with karate and swinging a katana.
You'd think that superheroine costumes would be a lot more practical these days given that there are more women in the industry and attitudes towards women have changed, and that you'd be less likely to see someone wearing something like that these days. But in fact they really haven't. Some might argue they've gotten worse. It seems that for every Ravager, whose outfit may be skin tight but is armoured and covers most of her body, you get the example of someone like Supergirl, who has worn some rather ridiculously revealing costumes in recent years. And Supergirl's outfits aren't even the worst offenders. The big US comic companies often state they want more women readers, but the way female characters are costumed is seen by some as another example of the questionable attitudes that still seem to aflict the biz.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

CIA In Saskatchewan?

I can't help but wonder if "the Company" will soon have agents running around northern Saskatchewan after today's announcement that a subsidiary of Edmonton's Triple Five Group will be prospecting for uranium. Triple Five, best known as owners of the West Edmonton Mall and Minnesota's Mall of America, was founded and is owned by the Ghermezian family, originally from Iran. The idea of Iranians out looking for uranium is sure to get someone paranoid. But there's one little fact that should hopefully cool things off. The Ghermezians are Jewish. Somehow I doubt they'd have much interest in helping the Islamic Republic expand its nuclear program. Of course it is possible the US keeps some sort of watch, no matter how casual, on the goings on in the uranium business here given that Saskatchewan is the world's largest producer of uranium.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Look Who's Come For Dinner.

It's always a good thing to be nice to your guests. I'm sure the furry fellow in the video above would agree. Apparently this guy is a regular visitor to Pip R. Lagenta's home via the cat door, as is the occasional skunk. And as you can see he seems to be having a fine time.

(Found via this post at More Words, Deeper Hole.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


A little bit back I asked if anyone knew what the Asian language station I was hearing on 1600 khz was. Now I have the answer. It's KZGX from Watertown, Minnesota. At the bottom of the hour I managed to catch the announcer saying "1600 kilohertz, Watertown," and with a bit of looking found out the callsign. They currently broadcast in the Hmong language. This was heard once again with the Sony SRF-59 mentioned in the previous post. A much easier catch in Saskatoon if you want to hear a Minnesota station is KSTP on 1500 khz, which at night produces a steady signal clearly audable on many radios.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Good Bye, Professor.

I just found out that veteran British actor Barry Morse has died in London at 89. His career as an actor began before WW2 on the London stage. He moved on to film in 1942's The Goose Steps Out alongside another newcomer, Peter Ustinov. He eventually moved to Toronto, leading to work on American and Canadian TV. To '60s TV viewers Morse is best known for his role as Lt. Gerard on the highly successful US TV series The Fugitive. To younger folks like me he will be best remembered as Professor Victor Bergman on the first season of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999 He is survived by his sons Hayward and Barry, and daughter Melanie. His wife Canadian actress Sydney Sturgess died in 1999.

Illegal Drugs=Bad, Illegal Guns=Good.

That is the message one might take from Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, which aired Sunday along with first 3 Death Wish films on American Movie Classics. In The Crackdown Charles Bronson returns as architect and sometimes killer vigilante Paul Kersey. When the daughter of Kersey's girlfriend dies of a cocaine OD Kersey is convinced to go back into action against two rival drug gangs. This of course involves him using firearms and explosives against the gangsters, firearms which he obviously acquires illegally. We're told that drugs are a scourge on society, one character calling drug dealers murderers. Yet it's apparently perfectly all right to acquire illegal weapons, although it should be quite obvious that the kind of people who sell them are going to sell them to whoever has the money, not just heroic vigilantes trying to avenge a teenage girl.

Of course it's a reasonable guess that I'm putting more effort into this post than screenwriter Gail Morgan Hickman did into considering any sort of philosophical contradictions in the script. You don't go to see a film like Death Wish 4 expecting to see a deep discussion of the rights and wrongs of taking justice into your own hands, and the means you use to do so. You go to see the lead character do in a bunch of nasties in various interesting ways. This film was made in the late '80s at the height of "Just say no" and the aftermath of Miami Vice, so drug pushers as central villains is no surprise. But it just as easily have been rabid racoon ranchers and the film would have largely been the same.

As with the previous two Death Wish films Death Wish 4 was brought to us by the Israeli kings of '80s B movie schlock Golan and Globus. Although they made a wide range of films it's action-adventure pieces like these that they're probably best remembered for. Menahem Golan's 21st Century Film Corporation would produce Death Wish 5: The Face of Death in 1994 after his partnership with Yoram Globus ended. I haven't seen it, but apparently Bronson's increasingly poor health is quite obvious in the film, and it was to be his last theatrical release.

Personally I found Death Wish 4 rather pedestrian, although Star Trek; Voyager fans may get a kick out of shouting "Oh no, Tuvok is selling drugs!" when Tim Russ appears as a drug pusher at the start of the film. You'd be further ahead to watch Death Wish 3, if only for the ridiculously over the top final reel where Kersey and the residents of a New York slum take on an army of street gang members and their motorcycle gang buddies. This includes the classic Hollywood trop of the good guys with handguns outshooting bad guys with automatic weapons, Martin Balsam gleefully watching all out mayhem break out in his neighbourhood, and at least one gang member who for some reason looks like a Southern redneck. Gavin O'Herlihy as gang chieftain Manny Fraker made me think of Clancy Brown as the Kurgan in the first Highlander film, although this was obviously not intentional since Highlander came out only a few months later. Sharp eyed viewers will also note that one of Fraker's crew is Alex Winter, who would go on to fame alongside Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"You're called what?"

As they did last year the government of Alberta has released details on the baby names given to Albertan children over the last year. The top ten are fairly normal even if I'm not a big fan of some of them. But there are also the oddballs. How about Raynebow-Roze? A name I wouldn't give a kid in the first place, but made even worse by it being spelled that way. That poor little girl will spend a significant portion of her life just spelling her name. At least the girls named Unique and Whisper have theirs spelt in the normal way, although I wonder how unique Unique might end up being given some of the naming trends these days. Oddly the names Ocean and Midnite were given to boys, when I would have expected them to be given to girls.(Some visitors may remember actress Ocean Hellman from the 1980s TV series Danger Bay.) I'm not sure why anyone would name their boy Obsidian-Angel. What a mouthful! From the top and bottom of the alphabet we have Aad and Aallisha, and Zymel and Zyren. I haven't a clue how you'd pronounce Aad, and strongly suspect it was made up so the kid would have a first name ahead of anyone else. And the name your kid after someplace trend continues with boys named Milwaukee and Cyprus, while girls were named Nevada and Venice. They also mention a girl named Alberta, but I suspect that might be a case of someone wanting to give their kid a very old fashioned name.

It would be interesting to talk to some of these kids 20 years down the road and see what they think about having names like those, or perhaps even if they still have those names.