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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Seeing famous people

Went to two live interviews recently.

The first was last Thursday night with British comics great Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitian, Global Frequency, Hellblazer, talking at a bar on Bathurst while he was in town for the ComicCon. He had a short prepared talk ("Hardly ever do these things. Last one was in Italy, and since saying "hello" in Italian takes five minutes it only need to be a page long") and a much longer Q&A.

Great evening. The talk was about stories (" And it's not the Gaiman "We are all stories, and now let's have some tea" idea. That'll get back to him in about 30 seconds") but digressed into his relationship with his dad, among many other things.

The Q&A was so much fun. He got asked about writing the X-Men in the 90s ("Penance for my sins") and how slavish editorial oversight meant "the books made no f*cking sense at all". He got felt up once by Tilda Swinton, who was quizzing him about Hellblazer prior to her appearing in the movie. Alan Moore is a great guy, but needs to cut down on the spliffs, and had a cave dug under his house so he could do magic. Now he can't move because "Warren, no one wants to buy a house with a magical cave".

Everyone wanted to hear the Patrick Stewart story ("All actors are mad"). Patrick Stewart is a huge fan of Warren's character Spider Jerusalem (protagonist of Transmet), who is an insane journalist bastard, and once used a cat to wipe his mouth. Patrick wrote the introduction to one of the comic collections, and had let it be widely known that if anyone is interested in doing a Transmet movie, he'd love to play Spider.

He told Warren once that he was receiving some award from Prince Charles, and while in line, he suddenly thought, "What would Spider do?". And the answer was "He'd head-butt Prince Charles." So Patrick can't remember how the ceremony went because he was trying too hard not to head-butt the Prince of Wales.

Saturday Errol Morris, the documentary maker (Fog of War, Thin Blue Line, Fast Cheap and out of Control was interviewed at U of T, part of Hot Docs. This one wasn't as much fun. He's an amazing film-maker, and had some very interesting things to say, but his personal style just really got on my nerves. He'd take forever to answer any question, and by the time he finally got to the point you'd be going "THANK YOU!!".

So I learned a lot less than I was hoping to. What I did learn was great, like he was a private eye for a while, and how that ended up helping his film-making, but there wasn't enough of that. You'd see the punchline of his story coming a mile away, and he'd walk the entire mile to get there.

Still, we got some good commentary on Mr. Death, and The Thin Blue Line (which got a guy off of Death Row and out of prison in Texas). And they showed some of his commercials (his real bread and butter), including a series of 2004 Election ads that unfortunately were barely run, and consisted of Republicans who voted for Bush in 2000 explaining why they were going to vote for Kerry in 2004.