May the 4th Be With You

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

So, as some of you doubtless know and more of you likely don't, I'm going to Europe this summer. The plan was to hang around until the end of June for Larissa's grad, but I sat down last week with my book trying to squeeze in my itinerary and arrive in Greece in time to enjoy the summer/potentially find some work during the tourist season and realized there's no way it's feasible. So either I had to axe the Europe part and focus on Greece or I had to leave earlier.

So, unfortunately, I will miss Larissa's grad. I've not got my tickets yet, but the two candidates are May 4 and May 10, depending on whether or not I stop at Iceland. I talked to the travel agency today and it seems like stopping over in Rejkyavik is not exactly convenient, so I'm not sure about that yet.

Also, that's coming up crazy fast in either case, and I now realize I have a LOT of stuff to get done before then, at work, at the restaurant, and at home. One of those things is this webpage so it's easier to update from wherever I may be, which is why this blog is sort of vacant at the moment. When I'm over there, I expect this will be the place I keep in touch with home.

Anyway, there is some exciting news out of this. Thanks in large part to Tre over in the UK (I owe her BIG time!), I was able to get myself a ticket... to Star Wars ... on OPENING NIGHT... at the LEICESTER SQUARE ODEON!!!!!!!!!! Yeah. For those shaking their heads in puzzlement, I should explain that this is THE premiere cinema in London, and is second in the world only to the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Likely George Lucas and others involved in the movie will be at this theatre to see the show. And I'll be there for the opening night evening show!!! Thursday May 19th.

I'll continue this later, I've got company here, but needless to say I'm excited! Europe, Star Wars, and a Futureheads show coming up very quickly. It's gonna' be a heck of a spring!

Be Cool? Just be Good.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I got a call from Jonathan last night, he was going to see Be Cool, which I hadn't really heard of except from him and don't remember seeing a trailer for. I should add that my record at assessing a movie's merits based on its trailer is pretty spotless. In any case, I'd been craving a movie for the last couple weeks, so I went.

The premise of the movie is essentially that John Travolta is trying to get a young lip-synch/dancer's (AKA singer/pop sensation) career launched while at the same time launching his own return to the music business. Not to mention a Honda Insight that, if this was supposed to be some sort of product placement gimmick, failed hilariously. You don't have the character switch from a nice Cadillac to an Insight and expect to wrack up sales in the comparison. It looked like it should have belonged to The Rock's flamboyant and poorly developed character, even if it wasn't painted baby blue.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for environmentally friendly cars and moving away from gas - my next car purchase will be weighted heavily on how clean it is or failing that, on raw speed. But come on! At least try to be subtle. Or better yet, be happy with the millions you're grossing at the box office without the shameless plugs. To be fair, it did provide a comedic element and they did all make fun of it as "Cool van Cool" (AKA Travolta) himself weekly attempts to defend it. Anyway, enough on the car.

To be fair, the movie was not without its comedic moments. Sin's posse was a constant source of amusement, like a puffer fish inflating itself to intimidate other fish. Vince Vaughn was funny at times but overstayed his welcome. The Rock did about as well as The Rock could ever do with a name like The Rock. The movie and cast all took a few jabs at themselves as well, which were probably my favourite part. And though there was a genuine attempt to make the plot look like something more than the tired career launch movies of yore, it fell short. Travolta devises a convoluted scheme wherein he managed to pay off label TLM's $300k debt, sign Sin as producer, eliminate rival "Nicky", hook up with his dead-friend's wife/TLM record exec (Uma Thurman), and turn the Russians that are after him. We see it all happen, and it is clever in its own overblown way, if you discount the fact that it's outrageous and never ONCE do we see how it is that Travolta has the foggiest clue what's going on, why there's a dead Russian in his room, what the fate of his hitman was, or anything else. Unless he somehow gets a newspaper from the future that's able to read minds, bug offices, and take the dog for a walk, I don't see any way that he would have accumulated the information needed to devise anything remotely this clever.

In the end, we paid $6 to see the movie because the film was scratched and it's doubtable it was worth that. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good. And certainly not cool. I'd give it a 2/5.

[Listening to: Beulah - Yoko]

Saskatchewan: For Rent

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

For Rent - Saskatchewan. 1 million people OBO
Just a quick heads up that if you're looking for a place to rent (anywhere in Saskatchewan) or are looking at renting out your place, a friend of mine has started a new website to help you out. The site is and he's letting people use it completely free for a few months, so I thought that someone that comes by here might be interested. If you have any feedback, I'm sure he'd also be very interested in hearing it since he's looking to make it a great site. He just launched it last week, so keep checking back as people find out and start really pouring in their properties.

This shameless promotion brings me no income or anything, but he's my friend and I'd like to see him do well (plus it's free). Don't worry, when YOU try to start a business, I'll help you out too.

Stage 7

After my long-winded and underwhelming attempt at conveying the immense gaming experience from Sid Meier's Pirates!, I think that a slightly shorter post might be in order. It's looking more and more like I'll be heading for Europe this July. I have to start researching and deciding where exactly I want to hit. I had thought I'd go see Scandinavia and Russia and then pop down to France, but France is anything but a 'pop' away from Russia. That said, who hasn't wanted to visit Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and various other spy havens of the world? Now I think it might make more sense to start in France and go up to the UK and around. If I'm going to see Scandinavia anyway, I definitely want to get north of the Arctic Circle, since I've never gotten around to doing that here in Canada. Should be pretty wild to have the sun up past midnight or maybe even never setting. Other than seeing a few places I missed last trip through Europe, and revisiting a few places I wanted to spend longer at - concluding, hopefully, with a little bit of living in Greece - I'm not too picky about where I go or how long I'm there. It sounds like they won't let me stay in Greece for more than 3 months without joining the army - maybe it'd be worth it just to get into shape.

For the moment, however, I've got bigger problems. And I mean big. But I think you can help me. Just visit this website. I got as far as Stage 7, but I'm completely stumped now. Give it a try! Be sure to leave a comment if you get past me.

Riveting Update: Dave helped me pass stage 7 and then we worked together to finish the other 15. Yeah!

In The Clutches of Long Shanks The Magnificent

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sid Meier's Pirates!

Arr, t'were best that ye be careful plundering this blog or I'll keelhaul yer carcas and leave ye to feed the barnacles on my Sloop's belly! If you haven't been following, Sid Meier's Pirates! has been responsible for increasing amounts of debauchery. I'm hoping that's at an end now, as I've recently completed the game with a perfect score. My pirate's name was Long Shanks, so named for his long dancer's legs and other appendages of note. He lived a good life, and rather then tell you of my own life, which has revolved largely around nothing blog worthy, I think I'll tell you his story instead:

When Long Shanks was young and still went by the name of just "Shanks", he lived with his family in Europe. They weren't poor nor exactly well off, but they were about to be. A shipment was to come in with an old friend, Marquis Montalban, that would put our financial woes to rest forever. Instead, Montalban hijacked the shipment, killed his parents, and kidnapped his sister, aunt, uncle, and grandfather, all of whom were at a party celebrating their recent good fortune. Shanks managed to get away with his life and swore to find his family and get revenge on Montalban. Soon, he was old enough to join the navy and took sail to the Caribbean to find that most evil of pirates on a French sloop. The voyage was long and not so fun, to put it mildly, and one day, Long Shanks (for they had grown) was pushed to the edge by their pudgy captain and led a successful mutiny, despite the implications this would have for his resume.

Welcome to Beautiful Tortuga
They arrived in Tortuga on New Year's Day, 1660. Don't feel bad for the helmsman, he drank just as much rum as the rest since drinking and driving apparently wasn't a big problem with wind-powered vehicles. Anyway, Tortuga, a beautiful French city in what would become Haiti, with a rather unscrupulous governor and his mule-bred daughter. On meeting the governor, however, he was granted a Letter of Marque, and was instructed not-so-subtly that if a few Spanish ships were to get plundered, what would be the harm? So, it was off to fortune, glory, and ... oh, yeah... rescuing family members. After, of course, recruiting a new and well-rested crew.

Map to The Roc's Treasure
Leaving port, Long Shanks was almost immediately accosted, not once by twice. Word had spread of the new kid on the sea and people wanted a piece. The first attack was from a pirate who jumped overboard rather than be caught, his name was never discovered. Though gold and spoils were taken, by far the most valuable prize was a Royal Sloop that would serve as Long Shanks flagship for the rest of his years. Having just transferred some crew and supplies to the new ship, the second attack caught them by surprise, but never off guard. It was the raucous Roc "Roche" Brasiliano, sailing from Havana to Port Royale. The attack went long into the night but was eventually won. Documents are sketchy, but it appears that Roc may have gone down with his ship after this battle, which was struck by lightning from a clear blue sky. The sailor's aboard Long Shanks' Royal Sloop Thetis took this as an omen and swore never to speak of the battle of Roc's demise to anyone. The only proof of this encounter aside from rumours scrawled in faded notes are the treasure map which was presumably won in the conquest.

These early events brought Long Shanks almost instant fame. Soon, sons across the Caribbean were being called "Long Shanks" as a term of affection or at least as an indicator of their height. However, the governor was not supportive of Long Shanks (and his daughter was in no need of support - if you catch me meaning) despite the good he'd done. He attacked Spanish treasure ships hauling silver from the mainland to Spain, he attacked ships carrying military payrolls and troops, and in a daring move, even captured a Spanish governor en route to Cartagena. If Tortuga was to be his home, a new governor with a better attitude and a beautiful daughter must be installed. This was accomplished by a visit to a small settlement with a progressive mayor who was liked by Long Shanks and had amassed enough popularity to be granted governorship of Tortuga by France. Long Shanks personally escorted the new governor and successfully ran off three pirates who descended on their convoy.

Do not mess with Long Shanks
So it was that Long Shanks was well-favoured by the governor of Tortuga and his not-coincidentally beautiful daughter. In fact, for his various actions on behalf of France, he was promoted to Captain and then Major within his first year of service. Further, because of his actions against the Spanish, the Dutch had also promoted him to Captain without even needing to issue a Letter of Marque. The English might have done likewise, but he had twice thwarted their attacks on French towns and had earned their ire. The Spanish, of course, were not so polite. Aside from stealing their treasure and payrolls, he was aiding their enemies (which is to say, everyone/anyone). Once, as Long Shanks sailed peacefully past Cumana en route (so he says) to a Jesuit Mission, the governor of Cumana sent out a pirate hunter to destroy Long Shanks. Of course, no pirate hunter was any match for Long Shanks and he was promptly sunk. So enraged was Long Shanks that he turned his ship into port and attacked Cumana. After overrunning the guards, he installed a new governor, a French governor, and gave the city to France. Spain responded by putting a 10,000 gold piece bounty on his head, and also resorted to escorting wealthy ships (which only served to identify them as wealthy in Long Shanks' eyes) but few were the governor that dared to send pirate hunters after Long Shanks again.

The Baron's Defeat
It was around this time, when Long Shanks was sailing on the Spanish main, that he heard rumour of Baron Raymondo, henchman of the evil Montalban, sailing north to San Juan, presumably to sell babies or something equally evil. Long Shanks immediately set off under full sail and very rare easterly wind and managed to intercept the Baron as he was leaving port. Cannons rang out to the next day, as the ships circled each other like wolves, each waiting for the other to make a mistake. The Baron made the first one. A devastating barage from Thetis' 20 cannons rendered the Baron's ship immobile and killed many of the crew. Long Shanks sailed his ship in, rammed the Baron, and brought his men swarming onto Raymondo's boat. The swordfight was intense, with many crew members on either side dying, but Long Shanks put an end to it by backing Baron Raymondo to the edge of the ship and forcing a surrender. The Baron divulged the locations where various family members were being kept in exchange for being dropped off on a small, remote island.

As he sailed the Caribbean following obscure maps to his relatives (as well as vanquishing various pirates and digging up their treasures), Long Shanks made frequent stops in Tortuga to visit his governor friend and more importantly, the governor's daughter. He made a point of dancing with her any time he was in the area and slowly they fell in love. It turned out that she was a woman of the people and had many inside sources that aided Long Shanks' career. In fact, she often provided him with clues and map pieces to lost cities through her contacts. While Long Shanks had relations with many other girls in many other ports, it was mostly a matter of being polite and discovering what they knew. He'd throw them the occasional ruby ring and everyone was happy. It wasn't like that in Tortuga. For her he reserved all the finest treasures, some stolen, some paid for at exorbinant rates. A jealous ex, who was a master swordman of the highest regard, challenged Long Shanks to a duel and learned exactly why the governor's daughter had fallen for him - and I don't mean diamond necklaces, long dancer's legs, and slapdash good looks!

Looking for family
The romance continued as Long Shanks recovered his remaining family members, one by one. How they survived in small, remote cabins locked inside with no apparent access to food or water for so long is a mystery, but nevertheless they were more than thrilled to have Long Shanks kick their door down. His family rescued, he returned to Tortuga, thinking of settling down and perhaps marrying the governor's daughter there. However, in a really unfair plot twist, the love of his life had herself been kidnapped by the evil pirate Mendoza. He banked his accumulated wealth in Tortuga, after dividing the proceeds with his loyal crew, of course, and after acquiring some new hands, set out to find Mendoza, knowing only that he'd last been seen in Marcaibo on the Spanish mains. Unfortunately, the Spanish had not forgotten his past transgressions and refused to let him into port to question the tavern owners or even get supplies. Long Shanks sacked city after city with his large crew of nearly 300 pirates, not to mention various Spanish ships (having need of more ships to house his crew) and the price on his head rose to 24,000 gold.At this point, no governor could resist sending a pirate hunter out to capture Long Shanks and claim part of the reward for himself. Although his actions on the Spanish main put him in high favour with France, Holland, and England, It was too much. Whille they would give him sanctuary, bestow frequent promotions (he was already a French and Dutch Duke as well an an English Admiral), there were few cities on the Spanish main that weren't, well, Spanish.

Lost City No More
Long Shanks had to disappear for a while and went seeking the lost cities he'd been told about. He discovered the Mayans, the Incas, the Olmecs, and the Aztecs. He accrued approximately 50,000 gold from each city, though being the kind soul that he was, gave some to his Jesuit friends in exchange for the shelter they'd provided him in those early years. Recognizing a good man when they see one, the Jesuits offered to send a highly-ranked priest to the Spanish and plead the case for Long Shanks' amnesty. Now he was free to sail (and trade!) in Spanish ports and through some anti-pirate action on his part, even earned their favour and a rank of Colonel. More importantly, he was able to follow Mendoza and tracked him to Nombre de Dios, where he had left only recently for the city of St. Augustine. It was a long voyage, and on the way, Long Shanks aagin divided the plunder in Tortuga and told the governor of his daughter's presence in St. Augustine, and then went off. As fortune would have it, Mendoza had left St. Augustine at around the same time that Long Shanks had left Tortuga, and the two crossed paths near Havana, where he rescued the governor's daughter. While she was hostage, she'd overheard enough discussion to piece together the location of Montalban's secret hideout, north of Vera Cruz, knowing that Long Shanks would soon come for her. They were married and quite wealthy through Long Shanks' exploits. Though he was the most famous pirate on the Caribbean, married happily, wealthy, and reunited with his family, one thing remained. He needed to confront Montalban.

He took one last voyage to Montalban's hideout with a minimal crew. Arriving, he discovered that Montalban had recruited many locals to defend his lair, and was forced to flee to gather an invasion army. With his fame having spread across the Atlantic, and the promise of Montalban's large treasure (reputed to be almost 100,000 gold) as a carrot, Long Shanks easily recruited the 300 men he'd need to overrun Montalban's security. They attacked in June of 1686. Montalban was a fierce foe, but Long Shanks found that by timing his defence just right and only counter-attacking when the advantage was strongly in his favour, he could beat Montalban. The prize claimed, money earned, and Montalban serving as a cabin boy for Long Shanks, they sailed back to Tortuga, running the occasional errand or good deed to keep the men entertained, and elevating Long Shanks to a Duke in every country.

Long Shanks' New Family
Finally, at a ripe old age of 47, Long Shanks retired completely and remained for the rest of his days in Tortuga, where he was granted governorship with the blessing of the present governor and father-in-law. Long Shanks was never again seen on a boat, except when he and his wife vacationed on one of the many land endowments he'd been granted throughout the Caribbean (some 20,000 acres). The pirates eventually followed Long Shanks' lead and retired or turned to more legal and less dangerous avenues like shipping and trading. And although his time would come to pass, the legacy of Long Shanks would live on forever... in blog form.

See the legendary Long Shanks' Standings here.

The End.