Sunday, July 31, 2011

Did I just see that, or did I imagine it?

This is pretty weird and, on a superficial level, kind of primitive. I get a good feeling from it, though.

William Tyler's The Cat and Chicken They Go Swimming from CGAC VPW on Vimeo.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Open question Friday Random Ten

I just may or may not have cured myself of the hiccups. For the night, I mean, not forever. Which remedy would you say works best?

1. Grizzly Bear--Knife
2. Beck--Walls
3. Ladytron--The Lovers
4. Talking Heads--With Our Love
5. Patsy Cline--True Love
6. Wes Montgomery--Days of Wine and Roses
7. Roxy Music--All I Want Is You
8. The Beatles--Drive My Car
9. Fol Chen--The Longer U Wait
10. Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross--Charleston Alley

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eye to idea (not all headers can be good)

Can pictures spark ideas? Most definitely. What's the best way to derive an idea from an image and see it through to fruition? I'm still trying to figure that out for myself.

I think it has something to do with picking up on a quality of the picture, something in the thing depicted and the way it's depicted. And at some point you have to let it go and go off in your own direction. More than that it's hard to say.

Anyway, a recent discovery whose work does seem to pluck the narrative strings is Canadian Brad Phillips. He's a versatile painter, from still lifes to mysterious group scenes. He does his fair share of nudes, too. These it's harder to work off of from a narrative point of view. If you as a writer ask "Why is she naked?" the obvious answer is "Because she took off her clothes. That's how it works where I come from." Still, these are worth appreciating.

But he's very good at shadows and light. Shadows that highlight, and light that looks like it's coming from somewhere. I find it evocative, even if I don't know right away what it's evoking.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

At home with horns

While I'm a little late here, and I know there have been a zillion Amy Winehouse tribute blog posts already, this is a nice song, so I'm running it.

Oscar Wilde said, "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground." Let's just say that tends to get forgotten in the rush of YouTube comments.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Forgot what I was going to say. Oh well, I'll recover it in some form later.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Running for (no) class president

He knows, doesn't he? It would be pretty hard to miss. So yes, I'm quite sure that Herman Cain knows that he won't be president, won't be the nominee, won't get to point at Obama face to face and scream, "Look! Look! I'm blacker 'n you!" Regardless of what victories he may score in meaningless polls and penny-ante endorsements, it won't happen. Try to find a picture of the man looking relaxed or even slightly upbeat. No, he's always got the expression you wear when you smell something putrid, hope it's not you, and really hope that no one blames you either way.

So what's with the raw meat he throws at Muslim haters? Sure, saying that communities can ban mosques 'cuz they feel like it is a great way to show that you've skipped over all the faggoty passages in the Constitution, but is it a path to victory? Of a sort. It's almost inevitable that when the chips are down, the GOP will hand the sash to Mitt Romney. Rick Perry if they're feeling bold. But win or lose, these guys will never go far enough in pushing the Christians-on-top agenda. Especially not Romney, who a lot of the base don't believe is Christian himself. Cain will always have run, and no one can take that away from him. And he will always have run the most hardcore anti-Islam campaign. Which means that for right wing groups who believe in the uniqueness of Muslim evil against all opposing evidence, Cain will always be a welcome and well-renumerated speaker. In the English language, nothing can match the sweet melancholy of the words "if only."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Off the fritz Friday Random Ten

Whoo boy. Well, this may be the ultimate in short posting weeks. For a few days I was just too preoccupied to post anything. Then last night I was going to do something, and pretty much the exact moment I tried going to Blogger, I lost internet connectivity. It seems to have been a regional thing, related to the heat, which by the way has been and is horrendous. In conclusion I may try rescuing some near-forgotten post in the next couple of days. Await with baited breath.

1. Pink Martini--Ohio Ohayoo
2. They Might Be Giants--Alienation's For the Rich
3. Talking Heads--The Good Thing
4. The Beatles--You Won't See Me
5. Shannon Stephens--In the Summer In Mthe Heat
6. Fol Chen--Please, John, You're Killing Me
7. Simon & Garfunkel--Overs
8. Fiona Apple--Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)
9. Roxy Music--Prairie Rose
10. Nancy Wilson--If It's the Last Thing I Do

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Awk? Nevermore?

The Raven_by Sam Huf from vca animation on Vimeo.

The claymation work here is pretty fantastic. I'm not sure the flat/computerized reading does Poe's words any favors, but the animation is there to pick up the slack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Boz-ian Friday Random Ten

Reading Barnaby Rudge now. In fact I was reading it in a coffee shop tonight, and that broke the ice with a barista who's a Dickens fan. Now the barista is male, I'm not gay, and I don't think he is either, so you may have to adjust your icebreaking expectations down a little, depending on where they were. But positive social interaction is never a bad thing.

The book's 22nd chapter contains a robbery that also stands as a vivid scene of barely-averted rape. It's very effective, and Victorian English novelists were working under more content restrictions that French writers of the same period. But you knew that.

1. Grizzly Bear--Central and Remote
2. Devo--Mongoloid
3. Nancy Wilson--The Nearness of You
4. Roxy Music--Out of the Blue
5. Yo La Tengo--Nothing to Hide
6. The Dresden Dolls--Good Day
7. Talking Heads--I'm Not in Love
8. They Might Be Giants--(She Was a) Hotel Detective
9. Soul Coughing--Collapse
10. Patsy Cline--Strange

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strings attached

I know I've blogged about—or at least posted video of—the Muppets before. But their media presence—and phrases like that may be considered "part of the problem"—looks set to explode to perhaps unprecedented levels. And this is a surprisingly thoughtful essay on what's become of them since their acquisition by Disney. The writer makes a salient point here.

Now, Jim Henson was always a willing participant in the marketplace, and as Malcolm Gladwell points out in The Tipping Point, Grover began as an IBM spokesman. Which is certainly true, and Rowlf the Dog did films for corporate meetings. He sold typewriters door-to-door in Henson’s early “meeting films,” a peculiar subgenre of the commercial designed for business-to-business sales pitches. It’s all there on YouTube. Gladwell argues that "Sesame Street" was an extension of these commercials, but he’s got it the wrong way around. It’s the commercials that embody the ethos of "Sesame Street." I laughed—forcefully, involuntarily and out loud—at one reel in which a character was shot at point blank because he said he didn’t use the product. Later, I couldn’t even remember the product’s name. These works are not just making a buck for the buck’s sake. There’s a willfulness in them, a refusal to ever place the market’s demands above one’s own values. We see it again in The Muppet Movie when Kermit refuses to do a commercial for Doc Hopper’s frog legs. Like Kermit, Henson was unwilling to compromise his vision, and as best as I can tell, he made the buck to pay for making more Muppet shows.

In a 1979 interview with Morley Safer for "60 Minutes," Henson describes his job this way: “Kermit finds himself trying to hold together all these crazy people, and there’s something not unlike what I do.” Why would anyone choose a job like this? With a hypothesis clearly in mind, Safer asks him, hardball-style, how much the “Muppet Empire” is worth, “scores of millions, millions?” Henson, visibly uncomfortable, defers to Kermit, seated beside him, who riffs nervously on the cost of green fleece and ping pong balls. Under Safer’s stare, Henson eventually admits his business is worth millions, “probably.” As Henson awaits the next question, his eyes appear dewy, perhaps hurt or angered, at the insinuation that money is his real game. This is, after all, a man who stayed up all night painting numbers for "Sesame Street"’s Number Songs.

It might seem like hyperbole or some kind of lard in our cynical era. Netflix categorizes "Fraggle Rock" as both “feel-good” and “family-friendly,” and descriptions like these can make the work seem unserious. But it’s no small feat to balance art and commerce. So few of us actually attempt that “Rainbow Connection” and fewer still succeed. It's not naive to admit that what we like about the Muppets is this willful spirit—that art is something to do for its own sake.

Participating in the marketplace is not necessarily selling out. That does not mean, however, that there's no such thing as selling out, or that it's not a danger. It's a matter of whether the dog wags the tail or vice versa.

There's a video readily available online of all the Muppet Show characters doing a lip dub of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's cute and all, but I can't shake the suspicion that it was dreamed up by a young marketing exec using the equation "classic characters + classic rock = massive web hits."

Some form of this doubt is going to follow just about every new project featuring these characters. Part of it is that the appearance and the broad character tics keep recurring, but the details of characterization and performance are lost. Or maybe the lightning just doesn't want to go into the bottle now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sea life

There's such a great picture at this link, and it's an illustration of a very impressive culture. The Bajau Laut spend almost all their lives at sea, something that for the most part even professional sailors don't do.

It's not too surprising that they've come up against troubles caused by modern industrial fishing. But you have to hope that they can keep their way of life going.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


There's a hoary joke about a Texan who goes to Paris, sees the Eiffel Tower, and says, "How many barrels a day do you get out of that one."

Texan actor Owen Wilson is never that gauche in Midnight in Paris. He loves the City of Light so much that he wants to marry it. His fiancee and prospective in-laws are another story, namely the story of the Ugly American. If the movie has a serious flaw it's that you might not understand how Wilson came to be engaged to Rachel McAdams. Of course there's a brief scene where she starts to kiss him on their hotel bed, suggesting that her character can be persuasive when she cares to be.

So, time travel. Yes, it's a big part of the movie, and accomplished without any special effects to speak of. A blessing to Gil in that he gets to spend time with his Lost Generation idols, including a jaw-dropping Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway. (I know very little about this actor except that he was on Law & Order: Los Angeles, which I didn't watch and apparently no one else did either. But he'll turn up in more places, I'm sure.) The charm of the past never dims, but the film winds up stating that the present has it's place too.

All in all a pleasant experience. Also when I saw it I got a $2 bill as change. Those give you a distinctive way to leave a tip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paradoxical Friday Random Ten

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who make sweeping, generalized statements and those who don't. You're either one or the other.

1. Elton John--All the Young Girls Love Alice
2. The Veldt--Wanna Be Where You Are
3. The Beatles--I'm Looking Through You
4. Simon & Garfunkel--At the Zoo
5. L'Attirail--Ouzeri Dabanonghy
6. The New Pornographers--Use It
7. Blossom Dearie--Thou Swell
8. Devo--Jocko Homo
9. Grizzly Bear--On a Neck, On a Spit
10. Duke Elliington--Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why is this beer different from etc etc

Just tonight picked up a six-pack of Hebrew--The Chosen Beer: Messiah Bold. It's a dark ale, which I tend to favor. They went out on the packaging. The letters in "Hebrew" are shaped to look like, well, Hebrew letters. There's a picture of a guy I'm guessing is supposed to be Hassidic, although it looks kind of like Trotsky starting a rap career.

The flavor is strong, again, which I like. It's also strong enough alcohol-wise so that drinking a second isn't a great idea on a weeknight. Three and you're on your way to a lost weekend.

Pretty good, although I wouldn't start any beerhall putsches with it. (Too soon?)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strange, true

Indulging some comics geekery here.

The idea of Dr. Strange as Marvek's equivalent to Superman is an interesting one, and holds water in a couple of ways.

Stephen Strange is powerful on a Superman level. Which is to say, if he joins a battle, in most cases that means he's already won it.

And he does have the same calm determination to do good. If anything even more serene.

The analogy falls apart a little when you look at the characters in their respective social environments. After all the changes the DC Universe has been through, Superman is still the unifying force. He's the hero all the other heroes look up to, who they look to for inspiration,

In the Marvel Universe, that role is largely filled by Captain America, although the Fantastic Four in aggregate may also play it at times. Strange is, for all his godlike power, a specialist. He's the man you go to for mystical answers no one can give. But he doesn't have a high profile and doesn't really want one.

So there's a public hero on one hand and an intensely private one on the other. Each is ideal and untouchable in their own way. And also relateable in their own way.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The better part of valor and Saturday Random Ten

Last Sunday one of my friends was bitching about the previous Sunday. That Sunday another one of our friends had been out with us. And he talked about stuff that I thought was pretty interesting. The first friend thought it was boring, and seemed to think the boringness was so obvious that everyone would agree. Needless to say I didn't, and I'm not telling the person in question about this. I've learned there's nothing really to be gained there.

The first guy also wants me to tell the other guy that he needs to lose weight. Um, no. That's a no-brainer.

1. Fionna Apple--O' Sailor
2. Patsy Cline--Walkin' After Midnight
3. Radiohead--Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
4. Fol Chen--Winter, That's All
5. Grizzly Bear--Plans
6. The Welcome Wagon--I Am a Stranger
7. XTC--English Roundabout
8. Miles Davis--Deception
9. Soul Coughing--Soft Serve
10. David Bowie--African Night Flight

Friday, July 1, 2011

Not just another pretty face

Tonight I finished reading Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a book I had somehow never cracked open all through high school and college. What I had done, a few years ago, was watch the 1939 movie with Charles Laughton. As I recall he did a good job, but it was a different kind of thing. For one thing, while Quasimodo's body may be ravaged, he's only a couple of years older than the teenaged heroine Esmerelda. Laughton, never young when he was onscreen, filmed this when he was 40.

Quasimodo is no more right in the head than he is in body, and he is not in point of fact the title character of the novel in it's original French version (Notre Dame de Paris.) However, he is as much a hero as the story has, or needs. Pierre Gringoire is a coward and a dupe. Dom Claude Frollo is compassionate, but his better nature curdles into villainy. The loathsome stud Phoebus would have his own "______ is a Date Rapist" Facebook page in contemporary times. And Esmerelda is in love with Phoebus, which tells you all you need to know.

The author of this editions afterward excoriates the 1996 Disney version. Haven't seen it, but it just seems like a bad idea. I can't see them keeping anything like the original ending, for one thing.