February 25, 2007

Partial January recap

A while back I mentioned that one of my past students had come over to Canada for a month to study English. He arrived here early in January and studied on the weekdays. It seemed that there wasn't much in the way of homework, so his afternoons and weekends were free to go siteseeing and things. Disappointingly (at least to me) it seemed that the school he'd arranged his homestay and studies through didn't really organize any extracurricular activities for the visiting students. Knowing roughly how much the cost of coming here to study is, that was a big let down for me, and I can only imagine how frustrating it was for Shuhei.

Since i also had to work full time, I didn't have much free time to show him around that much but I tried. Not having a car made it even more difficult! Rather than going into the details I'll just give a quick rundown of some of the things we did and places we went.

First weekend: Calgary Roughnecks season opener
Second weekend: Walked along the Bow River and around downtown
Third weekend part 1: Trip to Banff National Park
Third weekend part 2: Calgary Hitmen game with Shuhei's classmates

Final weekend: Farewell lunch

Well, at least the weather was nice

Went down to the Roughnecks game with a few friends on Friday night. It wasn't a terribly interesting game, at least it wasn't until the last few minutes. They'd been outplayed for almost the entire game and didn't start to play until the last 5 or 6. Of course they were in a deep enough hole by then that it didn't matter. Both teams flew back to Toronto for the second game of the back-to-back, which I'm sure wasn't much fun for the losing team.

The loss was followed by a very shocking move: the first and only head coach was fired, also resulting in the assistant coach resigning. They played the game in Toronto without a new coach and won handily by all reports. What will come from this point is anyone's guess now.

Today I spent a good part of my day walking around or on the local transit. Not exactly the most fun, but I was able to get all the items I was looking for and enjoy the sunny afternoon weather. Not tired enough from all the walking, I decided I needed to hang shelves around the house, do all the laundry I could find, rearrange all the furniture in two rooms, and basically make a huge mess. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually get something that I planned to do done.

February 14, 2007

Contrasting Concerts

Yet another forgotten event popped into my head this afternoon: a concert I went to the night before my company Christmas party back in November.

It was sheer luck that I happened upon the show actually, and if one were a believer in fate this is as close as I've ever seen to it. Anyway, at work that day I had been talking about music with a couple of co-workers, and had mentioned one of my favorite blues artists during our chat. I had heard he had a new CD coming out and was sad that I had missed his show a few months previous, which had been a week or so before my return from Japan.

When I got home I was just settling in for what looked to be a quiet Friday night at home, and started flipping through the free entertainment paper. Nearing the last few pages I saw a picture of a guy who looked familiar, stopped, then stared, and finally clued in. It was Jim Byrnes, the guy I'd been talking about that very same afternoon. "When oh when was this concert?" I thought, "I absolutely have to go to this." So I made a mad dash to the calendar and came to the realization that it was TONIGHT.

I made some calls and couldn't find any tickets available online, or from Ticketmaster. Nor could I find anyone willing to brave the extremely cold weather to go. But, I decided to take my chances and head down anyway. Maybe I could get a ticket at the door, and if not...well at least I would have tried.

Turns out that the show was in a very small little community centre, and it was fantastic. I guarantee you I was the youngest person there but I honestly didn't care. For those of you who don't know who Jim Byrnes is, you've probably seen him on TV and never even knew it. His most prominent role was as Joe Dawson on the Highlander series, and he's done guest-appearances on tons of other shows, as well as a lot of voiceovers. On top of that, the guy is a standout musician too.

The show was easily worth my $25 and I haven't had that much fun in a long time. Jim's good natured storytelling between songs, and his love of performing were bright lights on a dark and icy evening. You could tell that he loves what he does down to the core of his soul, and it oozed out into the audience as well. I count myself extremely lucky to have had a chance to chat very briefly with him after the concert, and get a copy of his latest album House of Refuge signed. I'll never forget how friendly and approachable he was, even though you could tell he was obviously tired and eager to return to his hotel.

Now for the contrast. In January I was generously given some tickets to a band that I've liked for a long time: Evanescence. Needless to say, this performance was at a far larger venue, the Pengrowth Saddledome. From the moment we walked in the door, complete with security check, I just felt off. My sister and I thought the first act was quite good, but can't recall their names. I actually can't remember the name of the second band either, despite having heard a few of their singles on the radio. I must be getting old or something, because even I thought the guy swore too much during his exchanges with the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I'm not allergic to harsh language, and could certainly be blamed with using it a little too much myself, but I just didn't enjoy the act. Their music was very off-kilter as well, being either very radio-friendly poppish, or schizoid heavy. No flow to their act at all.

Much to our relief Evanescence finally took to the stage. Our seats were good, almost directly across from the stage and with only one row of people in front of us. While they were a little farther away than I'd have liked, they certainly afforded us a good view. The stage, lighting and everything were top notch. The band performed well and looked comfortable on-stage. My main complaint was Amy Lee herself. She pissed me off everytime she vocalized anything that wasn't part of a song.

Why, you ask? Her attitude was so, "poor tired, touring me" that it leeched any enjoyment I may have experienced right out of her performance. She simply didn't want to be there, and made it crystal clear every time she opened her mouth. Having performed live myself dozens of times, I just don't get it. I hated rehearsing, moving gear, setting up and all of that shit. But when it came down to stepping onstage and entertaining people with our music, that made it all worthwhile. If you as a performer find that part onerous, you're simply in the wrong fucking business. Your fans are the people who've made you famous (and probably rich), so don't go whining about how tired you are of the hit song they paid to hear you perform. Just bloody do it, and at least pretend you're happy to be doing it. Otherwise, find another damn job.

I can only hope there are more performers out there like Jim Byrnes. He may never get wealthy doing what he does, but he obviously loves it. And in that, makes everyone who's lucky enough to see him perform, a little richer in the process.

February 12, 2007

Home for the holidays...sorta

Alright, I think I'm covered up to late November or so at this point. Could be I'm only writing for myself at this point...I don't know who's even reading this junk! :P Anyway, pushing onward into December.

The first week was kinda disappointing, as one of my co-workers finished up his tenure and moved on to greener office space. Or something. Let's hope that it wasn't actually green unless it was the paint, because that would just be gross (and unsanitary) otherwise. With him leaving that leaves me as the only person in my department under the 40 year old mark. Now, I get along with the rest of the people easily enough, but it still isn't exactly all fun and jokes. Nor do we hang out during lunch or anything so it got a little boring. The time definitely passes more slowly when there's no one to laugh at, er I mean with, you.

I soldiered on though and finally made it to the meagre Christmas break. Only getting Christmas and Boxing Days off meant that we had a five-day break, then back to work for two days, and another three days off for New Year. That basically sucked in terms of planning or doing anything exciting, because it was all split up. I certainly missed having the two or three weeks off like back in Japan. I'd gotten really good at spacing out my holidays and using them at opportune moments to maximize the length of my breaks there.

Christmas was nice. I went to visit my Grandma in the hospital on Christmas Eve, and certainly brightened both my spirit and hers. She's always so much fun to talk to, because she has great stories and is happy to tell them. I better go visit her again soon. After visiting with gran I drove out to my sister and her fiance's place in the mountains to spend Christmas day with some of the soon-to-be inlaws and various other relatives.

The food was great, the weather and view decidedly Christmas-y and all round it was a good time. I also got some of the best gifts I can recall in a long time. It was a shame that dad was unwilling to drive out to join us after work. He works a variable shift type of thing and didn't come out after his 12 hours on Christmas day, so we all trooped off to the parent's house for another feast on Boxing Day. By the time I had to go back to work on Thursday I felt like I needed to fast for a year and take a vacation to rest up from all the driving.

Unrelated to the holiday season I went out with for dinner some of my newfound friends from work that same week. We had a good time (at least, I think we did!), but I did feel bad that one of the girls fell ill the next day. She'd never had Korean barbecue before so it was a little like maybe we'd poisoned her inadvertently. Thankfully she bounced back without too much unpleasantness, and is still talking to us so I think we're all forgiven. Korean barbecue hasn't been suggested since though!

Disappointingly I spent New Year's Eve at home by myself. The few friends I had gotten in touch with since coming back were all out of town or already had plans arranged. So, I did my best not to feel too bummed out, watched some stand up comedy on TV and went to bed shortly after midnight. I'm not prone to depression, but I can certainly see how a lot of people must feel really down during the holidays. If you didn't have friends or family to share time with year after year, the holidays could easily become an unpleasant and stressful time, rather than the fun and happy time most of us get to enjoy. So remember that the next time you're sitting around having a good time with the people you care about. Savour every second with them that you can. A lot of other people aren't as lucky as we are.

十二月 と Christmas の しゃしん を とりました。 下 の link で あります。

February 07, 2007

Creative outlet or childish passtime?

Most of the people I know are more than cool with the fact that I'm basically a big kid who sets his own allowance. Once in a while though someone asks the question "what do you do in your free time?" and is a little taken aback by some of the answers. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then this post is for you.

First as you may have already noticed by some of my previous ramblings and pictures. I collect toys. I collect a lot of things, but for now let's stick to that. Over the course of my life I have amassed a very sizeable collection, and it often gets raised eyebrows by the unitiated. Admittedly, I've been buying a lot less and have been actively trying to downsize, but it's still hard to find space for everything sometimes.

So what do I do with all this accumulated plastic? Not much really. Most of it stands on a shelf or is packed away in boxes like almost every other man's collection, whether he's single or not. That's not to say women don't collect things too. I've seen a lot of wierd collections in my time, ranging from the relatively standard shoes and bags all the way up to Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse trinkets. I guess us guys don't exactly have the market cornered on the collecting-of-things, but I digress...

Talking about toys, I was sitting around one day after sorting through yet another box and thinking to myself, "What the hell are you going to do with all of this stuff?!" While I didn't come up with an answer for that question, I did come up with an idea. I've always liked creating things, whether it be drawing, painting, animation, writing music or whatever. So I thought I might as well try making so toys of my own. You may have seen my first attempt a few posts back. Which brings me back to the title of my article.

Whether you think collecting toys (or anything for that matter) may be a little on the wierd, freakish or downright childish side; it can be a creative outlet as well. If you don't believe me, take a look below and tell me that sculpting and painting these figures is any different than building models or trains. It's not, but most people just are just ashamed to admit that sometimes they wish they could let go of all their adult hangups, plop down on the floor and just play once in a while. Er...not that I do that. I'm just taking pictures of my latest creations. ;)
  • Guardian - leader of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight.
    Construction notes: I made Guardian out of two figures (parts of a red figure and a white figure), hand painted the maple leaf / uniform, and used a microman Batman figure for the head. Of course the ears got cut off and resculpted to look right.
  • Nemesis - immortal agent of retribution.
    Construction notes: This was a pretty simple paintjob; black paint over a red figure. The tough part was creating the cape. It's made from a piece of old umbrella, painted, glued and stitched in place. Lot of work that thing!

日本語 で 少し せつめい します:

こども 時 から おもちゃ を しゅうしゅう して いた。 だらか さいきん figure を つくいました。 上 の しゃしん は ぼく の 二番目 と 三番目 つくった の おもちゃ です。 たぶん ちょっと こどもーぽい な しゅみ けど おもしろい も ね! どう 思ういます か?

February 06, 2007

A little TOO focused

Well it seems that I may have to eat a little crow over the last post there. In my hurry to recap the past few months I actually glossed over a few pretty major events. Definitely not cool, but at least I'm addressing it now rather than pretending my oversight never happened in the first place.

The first event that I skipped over would have to be my friend's wedding out in Banff. Yes, I've been there a few times since I came back. I can certainly think of less scenic places to hang out, so uh...yeah. Anyway, it was really cool that they invited me up to see them exchange vows and have a good time. The ceremony was nice and it was good to see them both after well over a year. They're a good match.

I was also able to see some other friends, one of whom was kind enough to give me a ride TO the wedding. It's a long walk from Calgary so I probably would have just stayed home. It was a nice change to be able to actually go to a wedding I'd been invited to. I missed a lot of them while I was away which was a real shame. I certainly would have liked to be there for more of them.

On the topic of weddings, an old friend from high school also tied the knot in December. Once again, I was unable to attend the ceremony but was able to make it to the bachelor party. The best man had the great, yet extremely disturbing, idea of dressing the groom-to-be up in a dress and taking him out to get shot. Well, with paintballs anyway.

We had a good time inflicting some much-deserved pain on our friend (all in preparation for the greater pain of married life, if you ask some people). Afterward we tried to dull the pain of the welts and bruises by getting him as drunk as possible. While we were sitting around the table we realized that it had been over five years since all of us had been together in the same place, which was rather sobering. But only for a minute or three. We've been friends a long time, and that's something you can't replace, no matter where you all end up in life.

February 05, 2007

No focus

Some days, it just seems like there's a total lack of direction. Today isn't one of them, but with an hour or two less sleep it certainly could have been. This post however is entirely without direction. I just decided that I felt like typing more than staring at the TV screen. Why this screen is more appealing I can't really say. It certainly requires more thought and work to sit and type than it does to drool (only figuratively of course) in front of the TV.

Well since the last post was on the topic of going back in time (without the fancy DeLorean sadly), I might as well continue on that track. I think I've pretty much covered September and October. For all you calendar-challenged out there that would bring us to *gasp* November!

Plain and simple, not much of note occurred in November. At least, I certainly can't bring to mind anything terribly momentous other than the company Christmas party in Banff. That was a pretty swanky setup. Hosted at the Banff Springs hotel in (you guessed it) Banff, it was very cool. Unfortunately I forgot the camera I had borrowed in order to take pictures of the place, which was really disappointing.

The hotel is fabulous. They actually give you a map of the place when you check in, because it's so incredibly huge that there is a high probability of getting lost in the myriad of corridors, stairwells, halls and lounges. The party was a lot of fun, and I had a chance to chat with several of my co-workers outside of a work setting and actually get to know a little about some of them. I certainly would have liked to talk with some more people, but there was only so much time in the evening, and many people were with guests or family, so I didn't want to be too intrusive or interrupt other conversations.

I was able to go back to the hotel in January and finally take a few pictures. The Christmas decorations are long-since removed, but it's still worth a look. Click the links I've included here for a small glimpse of the grandeur!

February 04, 2007

Rewind a little bit

Ok, so I covered the whole 'found a job' thing a few days back. But what exactly did I do with my time before I found said job? Well, I spent a lot of time surfing the net and reading through newspapers looking for, and applying for various things. I had a few interviews, an offer that was appealing even though the money was way too low for my experience level and eventually lucked into this one by well...luck. It helps that my sister knows like everyone in in the city too.

Of course there are only so many new jobs posted everyday so it wasn't like I could sit and apply for stuff for hours and days on end. I needed something to fill my time. There were a lot of books read, most notable being the final volume in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I have to say I wasn't that surprised at the ending, but it was probably the most suitable ending. There's a prequel comic book coming out very soon that should be well worth a read, and I'm pretty interested in checking it out.

The other major things I started doing were sorting through all the junk I'd been storing in my parent's basement (saved a ton of money rather than renting a storage space) and drawing a short 6-page comic for a friend upon request. While I can't show you photos of the stuff at mom and dad's (how exciting would a pile of boxes be anyway?), I can show you the story I drew. I believe it's slated to be colored, but I don't know exactly when, so um...yeah. Here is a link to the story:


享年 の 九月 と 十月 で あたらしい しごと を さがしました。 けど 毎日 もし それ だけ したら つまらない。 だ から ともだち は ”マンガ の おはなし を かいって ください” と ききました。 上 の link には わたし の え です。 見て ね?

February 03, 2007

Setting my inner-geek free

Not that it's ever actually been in hiding, but I suppose there are some of you out there who don't know that I am a huge collector of comics and toys. Well, while I was in Japan I happened upon the absolute coolest action figures I've ever seen: Microman!

The cool thing about Micromen figures is that while they do come as unique figures with their own backstory (don't ask me what it is, I can't read enough kanji to figure it out), there are also male, female and girl model blank figures available in like a trillion colors for people who want to make their own characters.

So, I thought I'd give it a try and start with something easy: Symbiote Spiderman. I actually made this guy a little over a year ago, but was never able to take very good pictures of it until recently. It is just a black micro-male that I painted with a less-than-accurate Gundam marker. I think he still looks pretty cool though, and I even made a few little weblines for him to swing around on.

I made a cheezy little story out of some pictures last week. The other figure is Green Goblin from the Marvel Legends Showdown toyline. I'm still questing after the last few of this series, so if anyone can hook me up with Wave 4, or Silver Surfer from wave 3 please let me know!

Oh yeah, the link for the other pictures is here: http://s66.photobucket.com/albums/h248/Obsidian3d/Customs/SymbioteSpidey/?action=view&slideshow=true

February 02, 2007

I only have to make it one more day

Ugh what a week. Work has been a serious chore this week. January and February are the big crunch time for this new company I'm at so everyone, their dogs and even the dog's fleas are in a hurry. Today was a vast improvement over the beginning of the week and I'm eyeing Friday to hopefully, end in a nice smooth finish. Have to wait and see on that one.

As for the whole blogging thing, I don't have a vision or direction for what I'm going to post here. But then, from what I've read on a lot of others neither does anyone else so I guess I'm right on track.

Totally unrelated, I realize that none of the pictures from last year's posts work anymore. I did some reorganizing of my online photos and broke all the links in the process. I'm too lazy to fix them, so they'll just show up as sexy red Xs. Isn't that hot?

Let's see...oh yeah. On Saturday my friend goes back to Japan after being here for a month or so. I've spent a lot of my month showing him around and trying to help him have a good experience here. I'll try to post a recap of the month with a few of the pictures I took to alleviate you readers from the copious amounts of nonsensical text I am somehow able to pour into this space everytime I sit down. Pretty amazing for someone who starts off saying that they don't have anything to say!

Oh, and for all you people without Japanese language support on your computers...the next line or two will show up as not-quite-so-sexy little rectangles.

日本 の ともだち へ!

ひさしぶり よ。 ながい 間 から 会った です ね。 さみしい。 もし しらない なら、 今年 の 九月 日本 に 行く つもり です。 けっこ 二週間 ぐらい けど まだ しりません。 会って あそびましょ。