Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Fortunately we did a lot of preparation for Halloween this year because I spent my whole day on a variety of deadlines. Erik is going away for a while so he gave me the hard drive of all of the Sockvile material so I can work on it myself. I put a number of entries in for consideration for the Filmpool premiere screening. I got an introduction animation/collage segment created for the French SF conference which has preliminary events tomorrow. I also did some shopping for the cocktail party on Saturday night. My film loop for the Halloween   window was created in colour 16mm from a kinescope of video shot at the zombie walk. It ran 3.5 hours without breaking. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

William carves pumpkin

William designed and carved this pumpkin. He is so ready for Halloween. When he got home today, he demanded that we imediately finish decorating the house. Not a bad idea consdering the weather is so nice today (sorry rest of the world, but it is really nice here (Hurricane Sandy is destroying the east coast and an earthquake just hit the west coast)).  Check out the foot of this scarecrow...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Making the grade?

In animation today, we discussed time laps and I got out the Bolex and we shot some time lapse, even though we were a bit rushed to do it (time lapse really can't be rushed).
This evening I carved this pumpkin. We have about 10 to carve up, but thankfully a couple of them are beginning to rot so we can skip them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Holy arts and crafts Margaret!

We went to a fowl supper this evening at Margaret's mother's church. Margaret was fascinated with this cross with rhinestones and string tied to it. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Comic book fair

William and I went to a big comic book fair at the Hungarian centre this afternoon. I only bought a few small items, some old damaged romance and horror comics for example. I talked with Steve Cameron (who I knew had a love of comics) and Dianne Ouellette who revealed that she also has a sizable collection. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dianne Ouellette screening

Last night we screened a collection of films by Dianne Ouellette that I curated. The turnout was pretty good, although not full. I'm not sure how to get people to a film screening anymore. The old methods of massive postering and handing out leaflets is probably still the best. Regardless, the event was very successful and we had a lot of fantastic conversations afterwards. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Szymon Choynowski obituary

Szymon Choynowski (Simon Chase) in 1986
I just got word that Szymon Choynowski, aka "Simon Chase" died in November (2011) in Mexico City where he'd resided for that past fifteen years or so. Szymon was a deeply private person and rarely shared personal information with anyone. I feel privileged that I had become his friend and that he had re-established contact with me in the last year of his life. He was born in Poland and moved with his parents to America in 1967. I recall him talking about the Expo in Montreal, one of the first North American experiences he had. I'm not sure how much time he spent in Canada in 1967, perhaps only days, perhaps longer, but it had a lasting impact on him. Eventually his parents took up residence in Mexico City and Szymon studied filmmaking in California. Shortly after the completion of his MFA at southern California, I think it was at Cal Arts (thanks for correction Amnon ), he saw an advertisement for a job teaching in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He applied and was given a phone interview by Terry Marner who then hired him. Szymon put all of his worldly possessions into his car (a Volvo I believe) and drove from California to Regina to become a professor in the Film and Video Department at the University of Regina. That was probably 1982 or 1983. He bought a house near the south end of the city, a flat roofed bungalow off the main bus routes since he didn't want to see people too often. He was very popular with the students, bringing in strange cult films he'd studied in California, using comic books as references, and listening and caring about people's ideas. I took a class from him in the summer of 1984. He hosted a Christmas party within the UofR film department that Christmas, wiring speakers and coloured lights between a number of the classrooms and work rooms, There will likely never be another party like it inside of the University. One student was fire breathing, the bar flowed freely, and the students bonded like never before. Somehow over that next year, we became friends. The politics at the university were hard on Szymon. He felt that the film department head was using him in bizarre political fights with the other fine arts departments. He was in the middle of things but given no respect. Szymon told me that he liked to be anonymous  to be able to go to public places and just blend in and be invisible. However, after a couple of years of teaching, he began to encounter people who knew him almost everywhere he went. He began to withdraw from social gatherings. He covered his house windows with aluminum foil, partially to subdue the light, but primarily to disguise his presence from people outside. He rarely answered his phone. The only reason I knew we were friends was that, on occasion  he answered when I began talking on his machine. He even called me. We used to go to diners for breakfast or cafes for deserts. I drove because he had sold his car. In 1986, when the university finally offered him tenure, to promptly resigned. I helped him with his garage sale as he tried to rid himself of material and become portable again. His massive record collection which contains such treasures as an obsessively complete set of every T-Rex recording, was sold to collectors. His porn was cataloged by year and sold in bundles at the garage sale. Richard Kerr, Szymon's replacement at the university, arrived in Regina during the garage sale and came to it (my first meeting with Richard). One of the only times he allowed me to bring a camera into his house was when the courier was scheduled to take his stuff (see above, my only clear photo of Szymon). A few days later, Szymon got on a plane and flew to Montreal. The next few years I only knew of his activities through people like John McCullough with whom he'd been in a band while in Regina (they once played at the UofR student bar, The Owl, and were kicked off the stage during a ten minute performance of one chord). Through John, or perhaps someone else, I was told that Szymon looked at Regina receding into the distance through the plane window and fell into uncontrollable laughter. However, Montreal French didn't come easily to Szymon and he moved within about a year to Vancouver where he lived for a few years. He worked at a company that sold professional electronics of some nature, going by the easier to spell name "Simon Chase". Sometime in the 1990s, his parents became sick and he returned to Mexico City to care for them. After they passed away, he stayed there, always a foreigner  never mixing in. Most information about him ended until he emailed me in February 2011. His letter begins

 "Dear Gerald,  I have wanted to write to you for well over 20 years. Why didn't I? Well, I suppose for the same reason that I haven't done much of anything.I really don't want to tell you about my life, because it is best left not mentioned."

Szymon in 1973 courtesy Elin Emilsson
Szymon suffered from what he called a "Borderline Personality Disorder" and his last message to me on November 3, 2011, although in many ways far more positive than the February message, hinted again at suicide. He never wrote to me again. His friend, Mark Bloom, informed today that Szymon died in November. I did not ask how, I don't want to know. He wouldn't have wanted me to know.

In April, 2014, the following photos of Szymon and his mother were sent to me by his friend Paulina Carlisle of Michigan:
Szymon Choynowski, early grade school
Szymon's mother

Szymon Choynowski, "a few years back" (2005-2010?)
"Here's one from a few years back of Simon, his mum and Lupe, their housekeeper.   I love his glasses... I have a vintage pair of Nicole Miller sunglasses with  frames the colour of orange sherbet ... one sunny day I was out and about driving and had those on .... and T-Rex (Get It On / Bang a Gong) came on the radio ...    I was suddenly washed over by a good, carefree and almost other-worldly  feeling and a thought:   "this moment IS Simon" ... he was quite into mod fashion and of course T-Rex ..and for some reason that perfect moment on that perfect day  FELT like Simon in a way.   Either you understand OR maybe think I'm nuts!!  I have a feeling it's the former."  Paulina Carlisle, April 4, 2014
Szymon as child, always loving animals

Szymon as teenager? and potential rock star

Szymon Choynowski in his 40s?

Szymon's parents, Mieczyslaw and Hanna Choynowski

Szymon's mother in newspaper for art exhibition

Szymon, sometime after 2000

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fish Eye

We got a new 8mm fish eye lens in this week at the university. This is a photo with it attached to the Canon 5D. Unfortunately, it is built to shoot with the smaller chip size of cameras such as the Rebel and not the full size chip, resulting in the unused area of black. Cool distortion though.
New mayor elected. We voted first thing in the morning. Disappointed but not overly surprised. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

strange developments

 It snowed last night, a wet slushy sort of snow. When I got out to the car, the blanket of snow has slipped down like a blanket and bunched on the bumper. It sort of looked like a face on one of the Bob the Builder machines.
Rob and I spent a couple of hours in the darkroom doing some processing tests. I really needed a whole day, but we did come up with some initial information to work from. Colour photographic paper will develop in C41 colour film negative developer. Black and white developer will also allow you to develop this paper but with less accuracy. In only one test could we see any sort of image and it was grey on grey, no blacks and no whites (see below). This was from using D-76 black and white film developer. When we tried to use Dektol black and white paper developer, the paper turned black too quickly. Perhaps it would work if we diluted it or developed for shorter times, but as we had to do everything in complete darkness, these tests grew quickly tiresome.

Monday, October 22, 2012

animation monday

Long day at work. I spent the weekend trying to finish writing my notes for the Dianne Ouellette screening on Thursday and didn't finish grading assignments until today. I think Margaret is coming down with a cold and I'd not be surprised if William and I are also on the verge. I think I wasted most of my morning, just simply not being able to concentrate and stay on task. A large Starbucks finally did the trick. Showed "Bimbo's Initiation  to start class, it's my favorite. Had a Halloween theme to animation I showed. Talked about cel animation mainly.
Margaret Bessai, William Bessai-Saul, Gerald Saul
Gerald Saul and William Bessai-Saul
Dianne sent me a couple of photos from 2002 (the Filmpool 25th anniversary) that she found when looking for images of herself. William wasn't even a year old yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

We party WITH Margaret tonight

My friend and colleague Christina Stojanova held a wonderful party this evening Her husband, the ever charming Ivan, is in town for a few days so they served up some traditional Bulgarian food. I had a lengthy conversation with Sean William Randall, an artist who Margaret wrote about in Gallery West last year. It ends up that his only film job ever was that around 1990 he designed (on paper) the backgrounds and buildings in Reboot. William and Daniel were pretty impressed (as was I). 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Margaret's partying weekend continues

William lent his alligator for the decor of the New Orleans themed food tasting fundraiser held by the Art Gallery of Regina tonight. Margaret in on the Board there and was one of the organizers  I can't eat much of this food anymore, and William won't eat spice, so we stayed home and watched Big Bang Theory. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Margaret leads a rich life

Margaret spent the day at her work conference and won the 50/50 fundraiser draw (over $400). This evening she went to the big MacKenzie Art Gallery gala/action (as Sylvia's guest) dressed in layers of nerd clothing (the theme was "Big Bang Theory"). We got her a Fantastic Four shirt over which she wore the 7-11 jacket I stole from them when I worked there in 1986 (I believe the statute of limitations on petty theft must have run out by now).
William and I watched "Brazil" then went bowling. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our cat's teeth

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, Sylvie, our cat, is very healthy and happy except for her teeth. Even though she's only three, she has severe gingivitis and today they operated and took out most of her teeth. She appears to be recovering well. I was surprised that she went directly to her food when she came home and gobbled up a bunch of her favorite large hard dry food pellets. William got to keep the pulled teeth. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

colour film by the book and improv with the boy

Couple of meetings today but managed to get into the darkroom and develop some colour film. I'm running out of C41 chemistry but found one last small kit of it at Don's Photo (they can't get any more after this, so will need to figure out a different deal). There is limited space to dry film at the University during the session (the studio, for example, is being used so I can't hang things there), so I just threw it in a bucket with a lid and brought it home to dry on the deck. It was rainy today but very very windy, so the film generally dried faster than it got re-wet (final drying before winding it up was on top of the pumpkins in the tv room).

 This evening William really wanted to go to the Combat Improv at the Artesian on 13th. It started off a bit slow but the second half was quite funny. William liked it all. Sat beside Jason Cawood for the first half and had a great chat. Jasonwas feeling old in this crowd. I decided that since it was William's choice to come, that I could average our ages to fit in. Eric Hill was running the lights and was stationed just over our heads. Even so, it was difficult to talk with him at any length.
Eric Hill

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Margaret

With this much gin in the house, how is she supposed to break old habits? 

Monday, October 15, 2012


When I was leaving for work this morning, a woodpecker was outside out front door. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fafard gallery

We spent the afternoon cleaning up more of the yard and outside of the house. I put the storm windows in. The new Joe Fafard commercial gallery had it's last day of it's first exhibition of Fafard artworks today. I was able to stop in for a few minutes. Great stuff, even if it's way out of my prince range. I have to say that the gallery itself, being a make-shift space, felt more like a surplus retail outlet than a high end fine art gallery. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Family visitors and steampunk

My sister Sharon and her family, including my nephews Chris and Michelle (pictured below in photos with William) are in town this weekend for a wedding. Chris and Michelle are both in university now, so the trip is short. We had breakfast at mom's and a quick visit. 

This afternoon we attended another steampunk workshop, this time headed up by Mike Jozsa who helped assemble the new mask for William out of an old fan and a scuba mask. After the workshop, we had coffee with Margaret's cousin Barbara von zur Gathen at the Magpie Cafe. We had some interesting discussions about herbal medicine and photography.

 I also had a nice chat with John Reichert who was also at the cafe. Ends up he's interested in steampunk.
William also finally got in Skype contact this morning with his Toronto cousins, Kiki and Kristin. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The egg drops here

William participated in the return of the egg drop at his school today. The survival of his egg won him a sundae from Dairy Queen. He also got some sort of classroom award and found his missing textbook. After his haircut, we came home and watched "Amadeus" (3 hour director's cut). 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fireworks at legislature

Couple of art galleries then to the legislative grounds where they had a decent fireworks display to commemorate the building`s 100th anniversary. Unlike July 1, the crowd was small and we were able to park close and get a nice view beside the lake. The cbc news later reported that some residents were confused by the fireworks saying that they don`t read the paper or listen to the radio or use social media, so it isn`t their fault that they don`t know what`s going on around them. Who`s fault is it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Italian meatballs

Today I had meetings at the Filmpool in the morning then spent the afternoon at the office where I met a couple students, sent a few emails, but primarily I continued to clean up since the radiator repairs. I'm actually getting it more organized than it ever has been, combing through old papers and so on. I need another day to hit the filing cabinet and then I think I'll have two areas of my desk to work on, which should allow me to multi-task and possibly accomplishing something when I'm there.
This evening I mad Italian meatballs, as per William's request. I've never made them before. The meatballs were nice but the sauce was quite bland. I think it would have been better if I'd used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grad students, Rob and Amber

My office radiator needed maintenance so last week I hauled half my stuff our of there to give them access. When I arrived this morning, they were working on it, so I worked with Rob across the hall in the recording studio. We talked ghosts and did some simulations of the early ghost photos.
After rebuilding my office for a couple of hours, I met with Amber, one of Rachelle's grad students to talk about hand processing colour film. She was saying that when she was living in the states last year, they could order photo chemistry from a place in Kansas but now she's discovered that they won't ship over the border. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lego R2D2

William started building the Lego R2D2 Margaret bought for cheap at the Cathedral Festival garage sale two days ago. It came it it's box with the instructions and computer disc, unlike the one which I bought through Used Regina a few months ago. However, unlike the Used Regina version, this one was only half complete. Disappointed, I pulled out the earlier purchased one (which I'd been saving for a cold winter day) and William started building it. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012


We had Thanksgiving supper at Richard and Gerda's, along with Margaret's family.