Nov 30, 2008

Living at a Museum

Welcome to my entry for the "My Favourite Museum" boneyard. Now because Traumador has published on the Tyrrell museum and I couldn't really hope to add much to what he's already said, I've decided to come at this topic a different way.

For many of us museums are a fun place to visit and explore, some us very lucky people even get to work at them, but only a few of us can realistically claim to have lived at a museum.

I am one of those few. While I worked at the Royal Tyrrell Museum's Badlands Science Camp in 2005, for all intents and purposes I LIVED at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Though I worked at camp two years (2005 and 2006) it was only in the camps pilot year that I truly HAD to live at the museum. In this first year it was not certain how the general public and the locals would react to and treat our camp site. Being located just off the major footpath in Midland Provincial Park there was a lot of potential for vandalism and trespassing. So the staff were required to live on site to ensure that it was "secure".
Fortunately nobody had it in for our camp stuff, and every year after the first staff have been required to NOT live on site. Probably because of we the first lot. Not that we were badly behaved, but just rather it proved to be an odd experience for us AND the museum as a whole.
Now technically we lived in the camp's tepees, which, okay granted, weren't really a physical part of the museum. Yet they were just one step removed from being so. Being a mere 10 minute walk from the museum, and with no really infrastructure of their own to begin with (we didn't get a proper toilet at camp for 3 weeks!) we staffers ended up living out of the camp office and staff lounge at the Tyrrell an awful lot!

There had never been staff quite like us.
In the morning we'd wake up tend to any on site stuff, and than trek into the museum as the opening shift was arriving. Making us among the first in the place for the day. We'd shower, eat breakfast (in the staff room, much to the annoyance of some of the big brass), and than get to work in the camp office.
Our work day technically ended at 4pm like the other early people, but as all we really had to do was either go hangout in the badlands for the rest of the day or stay in the air conditioned and populated museum. So we usually opted to keep working until 7-8pm. We didn't mind not getting paid, there was a ton of stuff to set up before the kids showed up that first year.
By the time we brushed our teeth, hit the toilet (again it took us forever to get one on site!), and hiked ourselves back to the camp, we were among the last to leave the building.
Working at the museum two years previous had taken some of the magical edge off the place. Living there killed the magic off in many ways. The Tyrrell has never been quite the same for me since. Not that it is a bad thing.
In some ways I'm closer to the place than the people who have been working there since it opened. It has a feeling of home, and that's because, apart from sleeping, I really did live in that place (and when the kids were at camp we'd sleep one night of the 5 in the Dinosaur Hall!).
Now I've of course already posted about some of my work experiences at the museum, but mostly to do with the palaeo side of my job. Camp was a totally different set of experiences and rewards. I'd worked summer camps before, and I'd worked at the museum before, but combining the two has been my favourite job so far in my life.

Sure much of the magic was taken off working at the museum, but at the same time I gained something way cooler. I became Mr. Museum!
Building a camp from the ground up is intense and you need the help and resources of all kinds of people. Being one of 3 people running around and rallying this help and those resources I quickly built an incredible network around the museum. It was so cool to get to know and work with nearly every department and branch of the institution. Even cooler is that I can still go in and visit most of them even these days! I haven't worked there in 2 years!

The other awesome thing about living at work is the bonds you make with your fellow staff. Now this is more an element of the summer camp, and not so much the museum (and I have the same thing with many of the Kiwanians), but these guys are more like family than co-workers or friends.

Of course I also have always loved working with kids, and that was pretty much all I did both those years from the beginning of July till the end of August. The fact I was educating, and doing Dinosaurs and palaeo was just icing on the cake!

What was even cooler was that due to our program being 5 continuous days of living (with the kids) at the museum, we had to fill up the time with some pretty unique experiences to make it worth their while. As of such the kids got to be, all but one step removed from, actual palaeontologists those 5 days. They got to go places and do things other visitors could only dream of... Of course as the staff member leading 6 camps all summer I got to do it ALL 6 times! Two years in a row!!!

Our collections tour for example. My first 2 years as an interpreter I got to see collections once a year. After two years of camp and the 8 collections visits, I got "tired" of the place... Not really, but it wasn't an elusive elite place anymore.

The educator in me had a field day. Literally sometimes (pun intended!). My big complaint with teaching for real is you can't have fun like this or be this silly in the skool system.

Another one of the things I had a lot of fun with was the program development. Due to our having SO much time to fill we camp staff invented probably 2 days worth of stuff that was spread out throughout the week for the kids to do. It was cool seeing the 6 programs I came up with go from ideas on paper in the pre-season, get setup and put together usually just in time for the kids to arrive, and finally see the campers try them out.

Granted not all of them were hits or without their flaws. The problem with only have 2 months (with no great play testing time) is that sometimes these ideas didn't work out. The most infamous of these was my "bloody" Corythosaur.
Despite these set backs and minor crisis, I enjoyed them in a way too. I got to creative problem solve. Something I do enjoy about substitute teaching these days.

I also doubled my canoe experience those summers. Due to my being a certified (expired mind you) flatwater canoe instructor I got to lead all 8 trips of those summers. The red deer river was a piece of cake to boat, despite it being a "moving" body, and there were no truly scary moments or incidents. Mind you like all field outings there were many stressful moments for us staff, but the kids loved it.

However my favourite of favourite memories from camp though, were the themes. A summer camp theme is basically a improv interactive drama put on for the kids where all the events of camp are framed with a loose story. At Kiwanis these were put to minor to moderate use in my day there, and as it was my favourite thing I brought it to Science camp with a vengeance.
There is almost nothing else I love more in the world than putting on a costume and pretending I'm someone way more fantastic or cool than myself. Especially around kids as they have imaginations enough to keep up with my own. That and they appreciate make belief for the fun that it is!

Taking my 3 years at Kiwanis and their themes, I perfected camp theme to a level that will probably never be rivalled at our budget! You can get the whole story about that here.

A huge bit of camp, that lives on into this day, was Traumador. He was entwined in everything we did at camp. Often "helping" introduce or lead programs, or in a few cases the one delivering the program...

So much was Traumador a key part of these good times, me and Peter realized that to keep something of these summers alive later in our lives Traumador was our best bet. The Tyrannosaur Chronicles owes its existence to Traumador being the heart and soul of camp.

Those days are sadly over, and they're not coming back. I'll always miss the unexpected nature of camp, and the way every day ended up being a thousand adventures (big and small). You never know what was going to happen. Whether it be a random visit from the hospital helicopter (not for medical reasons thankfully!) one minute, head off to canoe the river, dig or look for fossils, or get into costume as a villainous "minion" jump into your car drive to the field trip across the valley so the bad guys appeared to be everywhere!

I still remember this moment with crystal clarity. This picture was taken 30 seconds after I delivered my last program at camp ever. Here you see all my key camp tools piled together on a chair as you'd never see them during a camp. During camp they were my lifeline, and always in use getting me to the end of the day. Now they were just idly sit here ready to collect dust. Because camp would never come to them (or me) again.
Yes I do miss camp often, but at the same time I also realize I need to get on with my life. More to the point there's bound to be something else out there that is as equal an adventure as living at a museum. So if you know what it is could you let me know.

Nov 27, 2008

Update: Phone Crisis

Okay lower Craig threat level to Orange striped Purple polka dots.

I will be keeping my phone while at Salmond.

The internet will hopefully be retained too, but this is a little more up in the air. If it is lost it'll only be for a week.

I'm still rather annoyed at the breakdown in communication on their part. With only a sign reading "Next week internet service will be lost" to go on there was a lot of room for imagination. I'm just glad when I asked the staff (all of whom knew next to nothing about any it) I did find out the phones were involved too.

So back to work. Which is a good bit of news. The work hasn't dried up. Despite only having two bookings for this week I've had 4 days, and nothing saying I won't get A CALL tomorrow making it my second 5 dayer week.

Nov 25, 2008

If it isn't one thing it's a *BEEP*ing other!

I'm getting sick of being a "real" person, and I haven't even made it a year.

So for a huge amount of this year I was waging a bureaucratic war to get paid, which I finally won.

I thought life was finally going to let up on me for a while. There haven't been any major issues, apart from Lady R getting sick a lot lately, and I've been getting tons of work...

Of course this is me we're talking about. As any of my friends will tell you, the universe will not let me do anything the *BEEP*ing easy way! Not ever.

Walking into the Salmond lobby this evening, I saw a sign that could very well spell the doom of my new success. They're cutting my Internet AND phone line next week.

Now the Internet I could maybe manage without for a month, but the timing is unbelievably bad. Especially given Traumador's big event next week (the same day as the cut funny enough!).

No, the part about this that has me furious beyond words is the phone line. This is where I get all my work from! If I lose my phone I lose my job, period. Due to the costs of mobile phone calls here in NZ, they won't call me on my cell (one of the many problems with a privatised school system, another example being the pay system!).

As for getting a "regular" job, Lady R has been looking for a job for almost a month, and with the current economic crisis going on, there are no jobs.

Now I'm writing this as of 10 minutes post reading the sign, and haven't been able to talk to the guy in charge of the communication systems. So they can't give me any answers till tomorrow. However if they can't make an exception for me, I'm royally f**ked, and yet again through no fault of my own!

Yeah growing up and being a "real" person is "awesome"!


Nov 10, 2008

Help out Laelaps

Brian over at Laelaps is in the running for a pretty huge blogging scholarship (which he could obviously use), but he needs our help!

Click here and vote for Brian Switek if you support blogging, science, and especially palaeotology.

Nov 8, 2008

It's good to know my University knows who I am!

In my efforts to get the pay owed to me (oh I did finally get paid some of my money), I need to prove the extent of my education and qualifications.

Which means transcripts and similar fun things (like notarized copies of degrees and diplomas). In my effort to get a transcript from the University of Calgary it was very reassuring when my account came up as this. There's only one small mistake, but it is a key one. Can you see it?

Now I don't have many nice things to say about UoC. Their more of a machine, trying to process as many students with as little effort as they can, than an educational institution. I'd like to say this is a new low for them, but sadly its more the norm. Like that time I was forced to cancelling graduating due to the setup of their website. That's another story though.

At least I have yet a new nickname based on someone's misspelling of my name. Though Kristin's were much funnier for "some" reason.

Nov 2, 2008

Bruce Timm's Batman Gotham Knight

Among my favourite TV shows of all time, and definitely on the short of best comic adaptations in my book is Bruce Timm's DC animated series (Batman, Batman Beyond, Superman, and Justice League). Of course sadly after the fourth season of Justice League this line of shows came to an end, and Bruce Timm moved on to make direct to DVD animated movies for DC.

I'd been meaning to check these out earlier, but due to their very delayed release in New Zealand it hasn't been till this month I started to track them down. Finding Superman Doomsday in the bargin bin, and than Batman Gotham Knight at the rental shop I've suddenly got more than I can effective watch in my busy schedule.

Since it had to go back Gotham Knight got the first viewing, and I have to say if its the norm than I'm regretting the $8 on Superman (hopefully that's not the case, but that'll have to wait till another day).

So the very brief review is of course I'm very very glad I rented this, and didn't buy it.

In a style similar to the Animatrix a bunch of independent animation teams did some shorts on Batman which were than combined to make a movie. To call it a movie is frankly a stretch, and this product is in essence is 6 shorts that barely tie together.

If there is one thing this "movie" has its style. So much of it you feel it being shoved down your throat the whole time the DVD is playing.

Sadly they over crammed it so much with style they forgot to put in anything else. There are some impressive drawings of Gotham, Batman, other characters from the comics that appear on screen for huge chunks of time, but forget this supposed to be an animated show. Rather in some of these sketches (the second in particular) feel more like a slide show of the artist's sketch book.

The majority of this style derives from anime, and sadly in most cases from the type of anime I don't enjoy. Story, dialogue, and action take a back seat to establishing a setting or a mood as characters just sit there blankly starring into space, at each other, or where ever and shots of locations of things go on for tens of seconds.

Making for some really dull view frankly. This shot being a key example. The only difference between this still shot and the movie is that, after the crook holding the hostage threats to kill her, the fire moves and we get to watch that for about 10 seconds.

Making it especially boring is that to establish the effect of Batman, most of the creators feel that Batman should appear as little as possible. Sort of like the shark in Jaws. So instead we spend 90% of sketches with kids, COPs, or Bruce Wayne flash backs.

The opening short was certainly the worse. Which I thought was stupid. Opening on the weakest just seems silly to me.

In a classic cliche a bunch of street kids sit around telling their tales of run ins with the Dark Knight. Only these are truly from a kids point of view which portray Batman as everything from a giant bat, a robot, and a living shadow (ALL terribly drawn I'll add!) with Batman showing up for 5 seconds in the end of the short. In the actual Bruce Timm there is a brilliant episode with this concept only the kid's tales are all adaptations of different eras of Batman meaning you get lots of Batman rather than none...

From here on the sketches tried to feel interconnected, and be in the Batman Begins universe. Note I did say try to. The sketches that were good were those that really tried to stick to this format.

However due to the 6 different styles it jarred you out of this illusion quickly. If not for Kevin Conroy being the constant voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman there were some sketches I wouldn't have caught on to who was supposed to be Bruce Wayne (though one of them once you catch it was a GREAT anime-ized Christian Bale)

So out of the 6 shorts, 2 were amazing/awesome, 2 were meh, 1 was just too boring to be anything above meh, and the first was just awful.

The success of the 2 good shorts was the fact they had some story to them. Overall these shorts had no build of any sort other than again mood/style. Most of them just putter storytelling wise with some dialogue about a gang war, and nothing more than that until suddenly for no reason gangsters show up and shot at things till Batman shows up to beat them up.
Sketch 3 really broke this mould with a great little story of Luscious Fox designing a belt gizmo that deflects bullets for Batman. The problem with it is that it works too well rather than not at all a repelled bullet critically injuries one of the gunmen leading Batman to realize with such a device its not just his life he is putting on the line.

Sketch 6 works due to the great adaptation of the villain Deadshot to the Batman Begins universe. I'll take my quick moment to state I've been saying we'll see Deadshot in Batman 3 since immediately after viewing Dark Knight. Forget those stupid Penguin and Riddler rumours, how would they work in the ubber real Nolan movies? Deadshot does, and I really think we'll see him.

Sadly short 4's attempt at adapting Killer Croc was just lame. Between him being a big thug who sharpened his teeth and wearing a crocodile skin and his in the end being a lackey of Scarecrow's this short's story was all over the place. If it had more than 10 minutes it might have been a mediocre story, but crammed in like it was it was just all over the place and lacked any suspense.
So to sum up. Gotham Knight had style to spare, but not much else. The 3rd and 6th shorts are definitely worth a watching if you get your hands on the DVD, but overall its not worth more than a $1-3 rental that alone buying.