Friday, March 30, 2012

A Dirty Dozen 'Mechs

Basing and varnishing notwithstanding, the first half of the models that came with the Battletech Anniversary box are done. The quality of the models is still a long way from the detail I am used to painting, but a little ink goes a long way to bringing out what's there.

The best thing about painting a passel of giant robots like this is just how liberating it is. Since they aren't intended to be a cohesive force, they don't have to (and really shouldn't) have a uniform appearance. Since they operate on all sorts of planets, they can have all sorts of unorthodox camo or paint schemes. And since they are giant robots ranging from 30 to 100 tons, you don't lose a lot by ignoring concealment altogether, and getting by on style and audacity instead.


Some of these paint jobs (like the green and grey Zeus, and the brown, black and white Dragon) are intentionally reminiscent of paint jobs I had done on my original Ral Partha 'mechs those many years ago. I even had one like the yellow and black striped Clint, which I based on a vintage CF-104 Starfighter .


Putting a bright green colour scheme on something called a Grasshopper seemed pretty natural, as did the round orange head on the biggest 'mech, the 100 ton Atlas. Possible names for that one include Samhain, Big Jack and Helloween, but I've always loved the idea of a fearsome war machine called The Great Pumpkin.


And yes, the red and blue 'mech is called a Spider. I just couldn't help myself.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

'Tooned In

A little over a year ago, we attended a friend's wedding in Calgary where he and the bride invited all the guests to have their caricatures done to commemorate the occasion.  I thought this was a really novel idea, and also would far rather see myself immortalized as a cartoon than as a photograph anyways, so all four of us got in line.  When Audrey and I saw the finished result, all I could think was, "There's been some mistake; this is a picture of my wife and my father..."

The girls' caricature turned out really well too, but even a mere year later, they already look older now.
The artist, Tom Milutinovic, banged these out in less than ten minutes apiece, which, to someone who needs a ruler and protractor to fashion a convincing stick man, is astonishing.  While he drew the girls, he chatted them up about school and shows that they liked, and when it was our turn, he and I talked about comic artists we both liked, including the legendary John Silvestri.

The end result is a great keepsake and a reminder of a wonderful evening.  Thanks Roger and Peggy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Evenings in Contrast

In my heart of hearts, I still sometimes find myself doing things and looking at them from the perspective of "well, that's what grown ups do". Being a grown up is something I hope I will never become fully accustomed to,and looking at my past blog posts, I don't seem to be in any danger of that. Still this weekend's activities show the varying maturity indexes that we latter day Peter Pans need to roll between.
On Friday, we had a new furnace and hot water tank installed in our home. This is a bit nerve wracking. As it involves making a significant change to your domicile and the expenditure of not insignificant amounts of money. In fact, you can't help but feel a little cheated, having forked out thousands of dollars, and not being able to call up your mates and say, "hey, why don't you pop by and check out my new central heating unit?".

Still, it is a relief having removed our home's original 1978 model furnace, and to have replaced it with a newer, more reliable and more efficient model. And if you should want to come over and see it, you need only ask.

Tonight highlighted the other end of the spectrum, as I finally sat down and diligently applied the basecoats to two dozen Battletech figures.

I've painted a lot of different models over the last two decades, but I believe this is the first time I've put a brush to a 'Mech since about 1990, so it felt a little weird. This is strictly a practical exercise though; I don't have to worry about specific livery schemes, camo patterns or regimental insignia, and they dont have to look like a coherent force (unlike, say, a Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine army) so this is just about getting a few different colors on them and making them look distinct. And to do so as quickly as possible, as G&G VII is only a little more than a month away.

Even when working under a deadline or sense of obligation, I have always found this kind of painting to be relaxing and rewarding, and Audrey and Fenya did some sewing and laundry while I studiously applied pigments to toy robots, and we watched a couple of episodes of Magnum p.i. Thinking back, it might have been a similar scene when I lasted painted models like these, except for the company...

Last night bridged the gap perfectly between my grown up and not-so-grown-up selves, as Pete held his third ever Geekquinox in honor of the (official) beginning of spring. His theme this time around was 'butter', and as usual, he outdid himself.

Even better than the food was the company and conversation; we are a pretty diverse group in many ways, at least if you look at our beliefs or incomes or whether or not we have children or what we might do for a living, or who we might vote for in the next election, but we can all get along and share our wonder and appreciation of the good things we have in our lives. We can share some wine (or not) and allow ourselves to get silly like kids while talking about furnaces and parenting and what the future might hold.  How silly?  I might be setting us up in a dodgeball league later this year, how's that for silly?

A fellow I once worked with said, "Most people think that being mature means acting like an adult, but I don't think that's right; I think maturity is knowing when it's acceptable to act like a child". I think he was absolutely right, and splitting the difference between toy robots and furnace purchases are evenings of fellowship like Geekquinox. Thanks Pete!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Well Seated

I have always liked, though never owned, the wooden deck chairs known as Muskoka chairs in Canada or Adirondack chairs in the U.S.. Partially it is their sturdiness I find admirable, but the way they are canted makes reclining critical to one's comfort, and as a result, they are best suited for decks and patios and the like.

We visited friends of ours in Red Deer last weekend, and they have recently added a Muskoka chair to their living room. It was a Father's day gift, and since Dad is a pretty woodsy fellow who originally hails from back east, it is singularly appropriate for that reason alone. This particular chair, however, was decorated by a local painter named Sasha Grinell, entitled "Relaxing Fall", and donated for a silent auction fundraiser, which Dave's wife managed to win.

I am not usually the type of guy to get jealous of other people's furniture, but I think this is just a fantastic piece of practical artistry. I love the contrast of the fall colors and the monochromatic birch trees. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but it certainly illustrates how an ordinary assortment of wood designed to keep ones behind off the damp ground can be transformed into something remarkable.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Carter: They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

My good friend Earl J. Woods has already posted an insightful and well-written review of Disney's John Carter movie, but I thought I should chime in with what I appreciated about it.
Classic Leading Man - I've never watched Friday Night Lights, but Taylor Kitsch brings a lot of emotionally intense, square jaw, old-school adventure hero physicality to the role of John Carter, which is really fortunate, because, really, nothing else would do. Ex-cavalryman, treasure-hunter, and adventurer who first appeared a century ago in the pulps, mysteriously transported to a distant planet? Instead of a wordy soliloquy or tearful confession, the reason for John Carter's emotional reluctance is conveyed by nothing more than a series of almost microscopically brief flashbacks and Kitsch's pained expressions. This is very much a larger than life role that Kitsch amply fills out without being subsumed by it.
Classic Leading Lady - In the original stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs spends copious amounts of ink describing exactly how beautiful and desirable Dejah Thoris, the titular "Princess of Mars" is, and it is quite the intro to live up to. Lynn Collins does a fantastic job, creating a character who is not only a royal beauty, but also, smart, brave, and an accomplished swords woman.
Best CGI Character Since Gollum - The chieftain of the green Martian Tharks,Tars Tarkas, is ably voiced by Willem Defoe, who seems to take more to this character than he ever did to other genre outings, like the Green Goblin. The Tharks are wonderfully designed, and director Andrew Stanton gives us many opportunities to observe them in close detail so we can appreciate the texture of their skin, the coloration of their tusks. In medium shots, the expressiveness of their four arms makes their body language almost palpable. Defoe's Tarkas balances the need to be a strong leader of a savage tribe with his need to be curious and to express compassion.
Fantastic Design Work - Where to begin? The opening set piece, a battle in the sky between two brittle and elegant airships, showcases fantastic imagery ranging from the armour of the warriors, to the airships themselves, to the imaginative ways they are controlled, to the vistas beneath them. The architecture, creatures, costumes, weaponry, and archaeology hearten back to an attention to detail not seen since The Lord of the Rings.
Lighter Moments - As you might expect from a Pixar alumnus, Stanton takes care to leaven the action and pervasive threats with light touches of humor, but never at the expense of the dignity of the characters or by underestimating the intelligence of his audience.
Supporting Cast - I have always felt a little guilty when I watch James Purefoy's portrayal of Marc Antony in HBO's Rome, surely it must be wrong to enjoy his swaggering, bullying presence on the screen as much as I do. Seeing him in a more likable role as Kantos Kan, noble of Helium and ally of Dejah Thoris, is a real treat. Speaking of Rome, Dejah's father, Tardos Mors, is played by Ciaran Hinds (Julius Caesar), and John Carter's terrestrial lawyer is portrayed by Caesar's body slave Posca (Nicholas Woodeson).
Danger and Disney - This is old-school kick-ass Disney that does justice to the brutality of the stories that spawned it.  When John Carter wades into a tribe of pursuing Warhoon, it's not as gory as, say, John Milius' Conan, but it's still a savage symphony of sword and sinew that looks like a series of Frank Frazetta paintings brought to life, which is probably the highest praise you can give it.

The movie is already being written off as a flop by many, undoubtedly due to in its inability to garner back a sizable percentage of its considerable budget during its opening weekend. This is a real shame, and a bit unfair to boot. You can pay the same ticket price regardless of whether you are seeing Avatar or The Descendants; the price tag of the movie's production should be of no concern to the viewer. That being said though, I paid a little extra to see it in IMAX 3D, and it was great: thoroughly immersive, non-intrusive, and not dimly lit or dully coloured at all.

Perhaps if a little less was given away in the trailers, or if there had been more toys released to support the imagery (not that this helped Green Lantern I suppose...), John Carter might be doing better box office, but it is futile to speculate. Anyone who paid good money to see The Phantom Menace in its recent 3D re-release owes it to the rest of us to suck it up and go buy a ticket to this movie. It is a reminder of how easily attainable the rapture of classic adventure cinema, from The Thief of Baghdad to yes, Star Wars, can be.
I can only hope that enough positive word of mouth, and perhaps healthy home video sales, get this worthy adventure classic in front of more eyes so that we, like John Carter, might have the opportunity to return to Barsoom.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Battle at the Bend

I haven't played with my Tau army for a year or two now, so when Jeff and his son Connor came over Sunday before last for a game, I was happy to accede to Connor's request and field them instead of my Valhallans or Tyranids or Dark Angels. Connor got a bunch of Tau for Christmas and was anxious to see them in action.

A lot of the time that I should have spent re-reading my Tau codex (or even the rulebook) I instead used to figure out how to put my army list and reference sheets onto my iPad, which I eventually succeeded at. I took this as a small victory for paper usage, and a bigger one for ink cartridge avoidance. I'll never go to digital dice rolling, but the iPad is a great way to cut down the amount of paper I have blowing around, plus I wrote this blog entry and took the pictures with it.

I had the table all decked out before they came, and after some last minute substitutions for missing or unpainted men, we were ready to play. The mission we rolled called for us to come at each other from the long table edges and try to keep a unit in control of an ammo dump on our own side while trying to get another unit into proximity of our opponent's. Jeff's Imperial Guard and Connor's Eldar make a good team for this, combining the Guard's firepower and numerical superiority with Eldar prowess and mobility.

Despite being only 9, Connor has a good handle on most aspects of Warhammer 40,000, and a frankly astonishing grip on the extensive background of that war-torn future. Jeff made it clear that Connor would be responsible for deploying and moving his own units, and even let him choose where to establish their side's objective. He elected to place it beside a hill, and surrounded it with a unit of Guardians. With two Guard command elements in the ruins to his right, and another squad on the hill to his left, they had a fair amount of boots on the ground in terms of defense.

Seeing how many of their forces were arrayed to my right, and with an eye toward seizing their ammo cache early on, I cunningly deployed my forces in a refused flank configuration. This would have worked extremely well if my own objective had been ruse or a fake, but since it wasn't, I left myself terribly over extended and almost completely incapable of mounting a cohesive defense, as becomes evident later. Ah, well! I had left a couple of units in reserve, and since my plan for them was almost certain to fall apart before they arrived, maybe they could shore things up...

I hadn't used my river scenery for a while, and wanted to make a good impression on young Connor, so we ended up playing with a 4 inch wide river with one bridge and one fording point. We could have made things extra difficult and made the river impassable, but elected instead to make it very difficult and dangerous to boot, meaning every model going in, coming out or moving through it had to roll a dice, and would vanish on a roll of 1.

(In answer to your question, yes, it is a little disheartening when a terrain feature accounts for more casualties than one of your supposedly 'elite' units; thanks so much for inquiring!)

Our less-than-epic conflict quickly turned into two separate mini-battles. On the left, my Hammerhead gunship inched forward, supported by my Crisis suit commander and his bodyguard. The submunition rounds from its turreted railgun cut fairly significant swathes of Eldar and humans from the field. The squad of Fire Warriors inched up as well, but I completely neglected to run them in the shooting phase, opting instead to take a handful of dodgy shots with the few pulse carbines in the squad, which meant they would not be in position to take Jeff and Connor's objective away from them before the game ended.

The Hammerhead is not a super durable tank, being a skimmer and all, but it shrugged off 4-6 autocannon shots and one hit from a lascannon thanks to a timely appearance by a '1' on the die. When Jeff's Stormtroopers parachuted directly behind it with both a plasma AND melta gun though, I thought the jig was up for certain. The sole survivor of the command element also brought his microwave tank-cooker to the party via the front of the tank, but not a single melta was able to hit, and the plasma was unable to penetrate even the rear armour of the Hammerhead, so the Greater Good was able to prevail. Soon only a single human stood on that corner of the table prior to his hasty departure.

Once my Stealthsuits finished their flank march and appeared on that side of the table, they 'sanitized' the objective, and moved in to contest it.

The other side of the table was a far different story, however; my reserve Crisis suits got sliced into ribbons by shurikens right after they dropped onto the table, but my contingent of Kroot rushed out of the trees with their loyal hounds and turned Connor's jetbike squadron into just so much fast food.

Unfortunately, this put my savage avians in the path of two of Connor's elite Aspect Warrior units: his Dire Avengers, whose merciless shuriken catapults sectioned up a handful of Kroot like so many broiler chickens, and his Howling Banshees whose psychosonic screamer masks paralyzed them until their powerswords could finish them off. And then the Guard Sentinel strode in and stomped a couple more for good measure. The survivors tried to run, but who are we kidding? There's fast, and then there's Eldar fast. They stood no chance.

In the end, we successfully contested each other's objectives and ended in a draw. Jeff and I only moderately embarrassed ourselves with our rusty rules knowledge, and Connor distinguished himself as both a worthy ally and foe. All in all, a great game, and a wonderful way to end a couple of dry spells!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mech No Mistake

So, a combination of nerdy nostalgia combined with a chance encounter at the game store means that I am wandering back into the world of Battletech for the first time in, gosh, it must be over a decade.

Battletech was my first military sci-fi war game, predating Warhammer 40,000 for me by several years. Players assume command of various walking tanks called battlemechs and maneuver them around a hexagon gridded map while raining hot death on one's opponents.

Before I went off to college, my mates and I played an awful lot of this game, and why not? An elegant set of balanced mechanics, a fascinating (if terribly derivative) gaming universe, a robust construction system that let you modify existing 'mechs or create your own, and, most importantly, giant robots.

The game has changed a lot since it was introduced 25 years ago, mostly by necessity. You see, most of the 'mech designs, including those used on the box and book covers, were lifted pretty much wholesale from Japanimation series like Robotech, which very few people in North America had heard of at the time. It was heartbreaking to see some of our favorite vehicles, like the beloved Warhammer, Phoenix Hawk and Marauder replaced by much blockier and less elegant iterations once this came to light. And all this after having to change from their first name choice of Battledroids due to some understandable opposition from George Lucas!

Eventually, the game makers took the bold step of evolving the in-game universe, and introduced renegade factions from outside the established borders of the Inner Sphere equipped with much higher levels of technology. While this galvanized the interest of the hardcore crowd, more casual gamers like myself lamented the loss of the elegance and streamlined play and simply drifted away.

I could bore you with many a war story from the Fourth Succession War ("...and then I go prone"), but suffice to say, coming across the 25th anniversary introductory box set took me right back to those early days of balancing tonnage, setting up hex maps, and coordinating the movements of fast and fragile scout 'mechs with ponderous 100 ton assault monsters. Best of all, it is pretty easy to play with anywhere from 2-10 people, making it a great fit for G&G VII in May.

The box set comes with extremely sturdy mapboards, a comprehensive assortment of rulebooks, and two dozen plastic battlemech models. The loss of the original anime elegance notwithstanding, some of these really do put the 'ech' into 'mech, if you catch my drift. It's hard to complain when I can still recall playing with cardboard counters folded into standy bases instead of the lead miniatures we would use later on, but these figures really are about one step up on green army men, and I am not too confident in their ability to take paint. That said, I certainly have no intention of playing them as unpainted grey plastic, so we will just have to see how it goes.

I was a little disappointed to discover one 'mech had broken off at the waist, and that the Zeus had his left leg broken off in two sections, but worst of all was finding that the 80 ton Awesome came out of the box with his furshlugginer arms glued on backwards! Even these gaijin mecha look better when they are facing the right direction. Still, it's a couple dozen more 'mechs than I had yesterday, and I didn't have to spend $200+ getting them.

So, yes, with a little trepidation, I am looking forward to revisiting the 31st millennium for a little while; I am sure it will provide a nice break from the 41st that I am so much more familiar with.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Old School Heroics - Justice League: Doom Review

If you are the parent of anyone grade three or older, I hope you have shown your offspring the Justice League animated series from a few years back. Since comic books now seem largely aimed at a more 'mature' market, this brightly colored and wonderfully written series is a great way to expose children to this modern-day mythology, and even squeeze in some lessons about unfashionable things like justice, and friendship, and sacrifice. Plus, the writing was strong enough that a number of my friends without kids began watching as well.

When the tv series ended, and was replaced with some flat renditions of Batman and the Legion of Superheroes, I was pretty disappointed, but the 3-4 direct to video releases per year that DC has done have been uniformly decent. My favorite to date had been last year's Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, but it's now been supplanted by Justice League: Doom.
Doom opens up with a fantastic set-piece pitting Batman (and eventually the rest of the League) against the Royal Flush gang. In addition to being a great bit of animated action, it also does a great job of reacquainting us with this iteration of the League. For instance, Hal Jordan returns as the original Green Lantern, and is ably voiced by Nathan Fillion, and while Michael Rosenbaum does similarly as The Flash, he is no longer playing Wally West, but Barry Allen, the original Flash. I suspect these changes (and the inclusion of Cyborg, who I remember most from the Teen Titans comics of my youth) were made to maintain some sort of continuity with DC Comics' gigantic reboot last year, the so-called 'New 52'. Frankly, as long as Kevin Conroy is playing Batman, they can do what they like with the rest.

Despite these changes, Doom feels like an extra-long, bigger budget episode of the animated series, much like Crisis on Two Earths before it. Much of this is due to the excellent screenplay by Dwayne McDuffie, one of the series' strongest writers, who was also one of the few black men writing comics before his untimely death last year.

The story grows around the theft of Batman's 'contingency plans': means of containing his super-powered comrades if they should ever cross the line, become possessed, or be replaced by doppelgangers from an alternate reality.

In the hands of immortal super-villain Vandal Savage and his Legion of Doom, these strategies become highly effective and lethal weapons to be turned against the League, in a series of diabolically well planned death traps and ambushes. After all, what else would you expect from Batman?

Doom is not just entertaining as we watch legendary heroes tested to their limits, but we get insights into their all too human psyches (and yes, this also includes Martians and Kryptonians), and some great debates about the sanctity of trust versus the safety of the world. There are plenty of laughs, too, as McDuffie's dab hand at superhuman banter gets a final chance to shine,
You can see the trailer on YouTube, but I would honestly recommend against it; with a running time of only 77 minutes, there is not a lot of time to sneak in surprises, so you might as well enjoy the ones you can, right?

A big-screen Justice League does not appear to be in the cards anytime soon, but honestly, these DTV adventures are the next best thing, and they come out far more regularly. If you want some thrilling heroics with familiar, larger than life characters, and a surprisingly legitimate sense of peril, it is well worth checking out Justice League: Doom.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

From Carpets To Cassettes, Via Kohlrabi

One should refrain, we have it on good authority, from giving a mouse a cookie; for if you do, he is surely going to want a glass of milk. If you give him a glass of milk, he is going to want to wash his face, and so on, ad infinitum.  This afternoon, friends of ours gave us some floor coverings, and this simple act of generosity initiated a series of events that culminated in our divesting ourselves of literally hundreds of old audio cassettes.

On our way out to church this morning, Audrey informed me that we would be stopping to see these friends of ours in order to both drop off their crock pot (left at our Oscar party) and to pick up a couple of area rugs they were no longer using.  Fair enough, I thought, and asked where they were going, as there had been speculation about a number of possible locations during previous conversations.  Her plan was to put one or both in the unfinished section of our basement, and since this would result in a warmer and comfier circuit to and from the downstairs (i.e. beer) fridge, I expressed my immediate and unconditional support.  Since they were rugs and not carpets, I figured no actual work would be required, having witnessed rug deployments on a number of previous occasions.  No gluing, no cutting; no muss, no fuss.

Obviously I had neglected to take into consideration the fact that a number of items currently at rest on the cement floor would need to be moved prior to the rugs doing their thing.  Fair enough, I thought, so Fenya and I moved the old toy box, the bottle and can bin, the dog food, the dance pads and a few other things.

This reallocation of goods revealed a horrifying assortment of brobdingnagian dust bunnies and an assortment of other detritus such as errant bits of kibble and many a wayward bead.  Clearly, even a rug could not be situated in such squalor, and so we dragged out the vacuum cleaner to rectify the situation.

We hadn't even finished the vacuuming when Glory appeared at the bottom of the stairs with the Swiffer, under the direction of her mother.  Well, now that the dust had been removed, it only made sense to throw a little more elbow grease at the cement floor before covering it with a rug, right?  Fenya kindly took care of this while I packed away the vacuum cleaner, and soon, the entrance to the basement was cleaner than it had been since we moved in, I'm guessing.

At last, Audrey and I were in a position to finally place the rugs.  Her original plan was to lay them in an overlapping l-shape, so both the entrance and the area directly in front of the refrigerator could benefit from this comfy coverage.  However, she became concerned that someone might catch their foot on the topmost rug, and seeing the potential for spilled ales, I quickly shared her concern.

"We can place the two rugs side-by-side," she estimated, "if we can fit this other one under the fridge." I wasted no time expressing my opposition to this, since emptying the fridge to facilitate moving it vastly exceeded the personal resources I had budgeted to expend on this endeavour.  Audrey's deft measurements soon revealed that the fridge would not necessarily need to be moved, merely tipped, a far more agreeable option.

Tipping the fridge did not seem to present a problem in terms of its contents, but like every other flat space in the basement, the top of it was laden with a variety of items, including a space heater, a bundle of blossoming twigs, a fan, and boxes full of about 500 cassette tapes dating back to high school for the both of us.

Well, a few minutes later, we had emptied the top of the refrigerator, tipped it the required amount, and slid the rug under it.  There was no denying the two rugs both looked and felt good, but viewing the boxes of cassettes, we both realized that, having lugged them from college to our first apartment together, and then to Toronto and back, and finally into this house, there was very little point in returning them from whence they came.  After all, I had listened to perhaps 7 of them since moving into this house six years ago.

And so it came to pass that I spent much of the remainder of the afternoon going through these outmoded sound storage devices, dividing the commercial tapes from the copies traded with friends, and simultaneously  jotting down which of them would be worth replacing.

Strangely, there won't be as much replacement as I'd thought.  Many of the cassettes I'd purchased had been done on the basis of a strong single, and often the accompanying album did not bear this out, such as David & David's "Welcome to the Boomtown".  Others had been superceded by various "Best Of" collections or box sets, or simply reflected an exploration of my youth that I would be just as comfortable revisiting through YouTube, if at all.

There were some exceptions, however.  The first was in a handful of oddball cassettes, like the "Diane Tapes" of Agent Dale Cooper from the television series Twin Peaks, or the soundtrack to the brilliant blaxploitation spoof, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka", that I can't imagine finding in another medium, and will hang on to them in the meantime.  Others, like the audio tour of Gettysburg from our 1998 visit, or the tape of Conversational Klingon failed to make the cut.

The other exception was the assortment of mix tapes made by myself and others.

I explained to Audrey my reluctance to part with these audio time capsules, and she quickly agreed that we could find room for them.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my first 'serious' mix tape, made largely with tracks from my friend Rob's collection, hence the name Kohlrabi.  Rob was a bit of an audiophile, and showed me how to correct the recording levels in order to avoid jarring changes in volume, as well as explaining how to properly construct a properly balanced and paced mix tape, moving seamlessly between genres and tempos.

Later came Return of Kohlrabi, Son of Kohlrabi, It Came From Beyond Kohlrabi, and many others.  Even tapes I made for others bore similar names, like Gift of Kohlrabi, or Seasonal Kohlrabi.  In college, several of my friends saw the appeal of this quirky naming convention, and quickly adopted it for themselves.

Radio Free Kohlrabi was taped from a number of demo CDs we discovered languishing at the campus radio station.  "There is a warning label here that says 'Not For Resale'," one person observed nervously.

"That's fine," I reassured him.  "There's no money changing hands here, right?"

Others were specifically recorded for a road trip or vacation, such as Kohlrabi Mountain High, or Pete's Chaosburg Address from our trip to Gettysburg, Chaos being his own iteration of Kohlrabi, even prior to our meeting.

Looking back at these collections, it is comforting to see that I have been an eclectic music listener for as far back as I can remember, due in no small part to the diverse tastes of my friends like Rob and Island Mike.  Some of these Kohlrabi tracks are still the soundtrack to my life in some fashion or another, while others have a far more vestigial resonance, or serve as a trail marker to a place where I once was, but am unlikely to return to.

I don't know how much Kohlrabi lies in my future to be honest; even with the technology to burn compact discs for truly Digital Kohlrabi, I don't do it very often.  This is the age of the playlist, after all, not the mix tape.

We only have one working tape player in the house, and it is a bit dodgy, to be honest.  If I had a lick of sense, I would transfer the Kohlrabi Kollection to the computer in an mp3 format and listen to it like some sort of time travelling podcast series.  I wish I had written down the date they were recorded, but knowing they reflect what I listened to between, say, 1986 and 1999 (I don't recall recording any after we returned to Edmonton from Ontario), they still have both a sentimental and archival value, at least to me.

I knew that moving rugs and carpets would shake loose some dust, but I certainly wasn't expecting any from  25 years back, and I didn't expect it to bring so much nostalgia along for the ride, but like giving that mouse a cookie, it is impossible to predict where such ventures can end up.