Monday, April 25, 2011

Photobucket

I didn't do a lot on Sunday, but that was okay. I enjoyed just relaxing on Easter, reading a little bit, and pecking around on the computer. I went out side for a bit to water some new tomato plants I'd planted the other day. I'd noticed one or two looking pretty droopy, and I guess you have to water them pretty much every day so I soaked them along with some of the other plants around the house for a bit. Continuing on with the movie theme I'd started on the previous post. Sunday night I watched part of The Amazing Race, and then decided to watch The King's Speech.

Photobucket

I really enjoyed The King's Speech, which isn't too much of a surprise as it won a lot of critical acclaim and also won many Oscars for best picture, best director, and Colin Firth also won best actor as King George VI. It also starred Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, and others. The historical drama is about the Duke of York who becomes King of England at the onset of WWII, but has a speech impediment. Geoffry Rush plays his therapist, who befriends him and helps gain confidence in himself to overcome some of his stuttering. Helena Bonham Carter plays his wife. I've enjoyed her in various roles ever since I saw her in A Room With A View, a Merchant Ivory picture from many years back. She seems to pick good roles and does a pretty solid job no matter which character she portrays, and they have gotten pretty broad in scope from a Death Eater in Harry Potter, to romantic and historical figures, to odd characters like the one she played in Fight Club. At any rate, there's a lot to like aside from the plot and story in The King's Speech. The pace starts out a bit slow, but picks up when Firth and Rush meet. Everything from the story to the costumes, the set designs, cinematography, soundtrack, and direction worked for me. A pretty recommendable film.

Photobucket

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child was a documentary on the NYC pop artist, a contemporary of Warhol and others during that movement. I enjoy this type art. I can see where others would have a problem with it. Basquiat also had emotional issues with his father or perhaps other issues with life (no less gaining fame at an early age) which led to heroin abuse. He first became famous for his art, then he became famous for being famous, and then he became famous for being infamous--a succession of reputations that often overshadowed the seriousness of the art he produced.

Photobucket


I like Pop Art. I like how there's a certain whimsy to it, also there's subject matter about the modern world sometimes contained within the imagery. I guess a common complaint or observation I hear is: My kid could paint that or I could paint that or whatever. The thing is, they never do. Basquiat's career divides into three phases, each characterized by a shift in style, subject matter, and reference. In the earliest, 1980 to 1982, he used painterly gestures, often depicting skeletal figures, masklike faces that signal his obsession with mortality, and imagery from street existence like building, automobiles, signs, and graffiti. His mid-period features stretcher bars that extend from the canvas, dense writing, collage, and seemingly more random imagery. They also reveal Basquiat's black and Hispanic identity with other historical and contemporary black figures from musicians to fighters and so forth. The last phase up to about 1988, displays a new type of figurative depiction, in a new painterly style, with different symbols, sources, and content.

Photobucket

At any rate, it's an interesting documentary if you enjoy that type thing or that art style. It shows a lot of his work, and interviews him and shows him as he paints a bit. All in all I found it interesting, and wouldn't mind owning a copy of the DVD.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Photobucket

I love movies, so I thought I'd do another movie update of the films I've seen lately and enjoyed. It seems more and more, that movies these days are more concerned with the teenage crowd, demographics, etc., and that's fine to a degree as I know teens are about the only ones actually going to the theater anymore. (I hate to show my age, but I think the last thing I actually went to the theater to see was Avatar. So it's been a while.) It seems producers and directors consider film making more as a cash cow and a way to generate DVD sales or some way to package a trilogy or series anymore. I think they also speak of this in terms within the biz as a tent pole picture, which we used to refer to as a summer blockbuster. But I do like some of that, and I like watching older films too, so I guess it's all good to a degree.

Photobucket

I think The Fighter was one of the more recently made films that I saw and enjoyed. Taken from a true story about two half-brothers played by Mark Wahlberg (Dicky) and Christian Bales (Mickey Ward). Mickey used to fight in the ring, and has as his claim to fame knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard during one of their matches. He has seen the limelight, but also his better days, and has now fallen into heavy drug abuse. Amy Adams plays Dicky's tough-minded girlfriend who helps him get on the right path, away from his dysfunctional family, and connects him with the right trainers and promoters to build his career. Some things are harder to change in life particularly when it comes to family ties, however.

Photobucket

The Hill (1965) starred Sean Connery, Ossie Davis, among others and directed by Sidney Lumet. It takes place in WWII at a British military stockade. Connery, Davis, and two other soldiers have been taken prisoner and are being punished or rehabilitated for their various crimes. The hill is part of that process as they have to march up and down it as part of their tough discipline. The sergeant that oversees them is a cruel unrelenting man. The story is a morality play of sorts, which brings about many questions concerning war, discipline, right versus wrong and so forth. Sidney Lumet also directed the drama 12 Angry Men, and there's a similar tenseness to this film as well. There were also aspects of The Hill that reminded me of the film, Cool Hand Luke as well.

Me and Orson Welles--was a period piece directed by Richard Linklater. Taking place around the 30's in NYC, one of the main characters, a high school teenager named Richard meets the rising temperamental director, Welles, and gets to star in the soon to be shown Shakespearian play, an update version of Julius Caesar. But fireworks erupt over certain aspects of the play and also over a lovely assistant, which both seemed to be attracted to (even though Welles is married). The actor portraying Welles did a rather excellent job, and I enjoyed aspects of the film like the soundtrack and era in which it was depicted, but didn't care too much for the excerpts of the play itself. The device of having a play within a film have been handled better in other films I've seen like Shakespeare in Love and Waiting for Guffman, and really I'd recommend either of those films first.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photobucket

I'm backtracking a little bit to Sunday. I eventually decided to go see what that Hwy. 80 Garage Sale was all about. Since I'd woke up early that day, I had my coffee and watched Sunday Morning on CBS (sort of a ritual wake up ceremony for Sundays). I poked around a bit, and thought, why not check it out? So I cleaned up my breakfast dishes and grabbed a few things for the road, like a coke, some munchies, a few CDs, and some bottled water, stuck 'em in an ice chest and my little travel bag I take for such things, and hit the road.

Of course, just getting on the highway right out in front of my house, a young female driver, who has stickers all over her windshield: Baby on Board, immediately starts to tailgate me. I think Tyler people are some of the rudest, clueless drivers and this is one of my growing pet peeves with them. They tailgate and speed, and if you don't get out of "their" way, they honk their horn at you. Believe me, it takes a certain amount of patience not to give these bad drivers the one finger salute. That aside, it was a rather beautiful sunny day, and I couldn't think of a better piece of music that fit that mood than the Texas born, blues rock album by Johnny Winter's called The Progressive Blues Experiment. It's a real rocking album, and sort of at the same time just feels like East Texas or the Deep South, juke joints, and all the imagery that comes from that.

Photobucket


So I headed out north, making my way up to Winona, a town of around 500 people, and also I guess where everybody from Tyler, which is a dry county, goes to buy their liquor. I don't understand this philosophy. I think perhaps back in the 50's or 60's this might have worked, before most places were wet, but now it just seems archaic to me somewhat. Prohibition has come and gone, and I don't think putting fifteen miles or minutes of driving time behind popping a top is going to matter much really. In fact it might be worse, as that makes people drive to a bar or restaurant to drink, and then they drive home drunk from there (rather than just drinking at home in privacy). So who knows? At any rate in Winona as you drive through town there were four or five liquor stores in a row--they know which side of the bread their butter is on. I drove from there on up to Big Sandy, which began the Hwy. 80 sale.

I saw some bikers on the side of the road, I guess just visiting, and a few spotty areas where a few people had set up a table or two, but thought surely there might be more than this. So I drove east over to Gladewater. Gladewater is somewhat known for some of their antique stores so that seemed perhaps my best bet. I got up there, and they did have some tables and tents set up for selling soft drinks, hot dogs, and such. A lot of the people had sort of handmade art like wooden crosses and whatnot, but nothing I was interested in. I walked through one of the antique stores, which comprised many little shops under one roof. They had the usual fare: books, glassware, furniture, candles, dolls, and that type thing. Someone there though did have a neat Battlestar Galactica lunch box, but at $45. it was too pricey for me. Someone also had a little spinner rack of comics that were overpriced out the wazoo, but had some neat copies of the Doom Patrol and other such DC titles.

I walk back outside, and look around a bit more, and saw a crowd off to one side of some buildings, and wondered why they were all gathered around, so I go over to check it out. They'd set up a small wrestling ring and two young teenagers were putting on a show. It was pretty corny and fake as hell, as their moves didn't look very choreographed or polished at all. The young kids seemed entertained though. I looked around a bit longer, but by this time, I pretty much had seen enough for my curiosity. It was a little bit of a bust, but at least I found an easier route to hit interstate 20 from my house to go to Dallas, and I found out where Winona was, so I guess it wasn't a total loss. Perhaps around larger cities more people turn out for such things, but around smaller towns, it's slim pickings.

Photobucket

The actress, Elisabeth Sladen, that played Sarah Jane Smith died the other day. I enjoyed her as one of the Dr. Who companions. She started out on Dr. Who as the companion to Jon Pertwee in the 1970's, and continued on with the next doctor, Tom Baker. She had her own spinoff series with K-9 and Company and later with the recent Dr. Who revival got her own series as well, which was still currently in production called The Sarah Jane Adventures. She will be missed. You can read about her: here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I went out to a few garage sales starting on Friday. This past weekend they had the Highway 80 Garage Sale, which I'd never heard of in West Texas. I think it begins in Dallas around Mesquite, and goes east along Highway 80. I debated on whether I wanted to go looking or not. So instead of doing that, I just looked around in the newspaper and found a few garage sales here in town that looked sort of interesting. The first one didn't have much to look at, but I was over near a pawn shop I go in from time to time, so as long as I was in the area I went by there.

Photobucket


I found the first season to Babylon 5 in there for ten bucks, so I was happy to have found that. I'd been wanting a copy of this SF television series from a few years back for a while now. I'd taped nearly every episode on VHS tape back when it was airing, but wanted at least the first season on DVD. It's about several races of aliens aboard a space station and the politics, smugglers, terrorist, and interactions of all the races that inhabit the station.

Photobucket


Also recently I bid and won a copy of the complete epic series to Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. I remember a little bit of these back in the 70's when they originally aired. I didn't care that much for them then as I wasn't too big a fan of Gil Gerard the titular character. But as time has gone on, I've found that some of these older SF series like Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica appeal to me now. For one, they don't make 'em like this anymore, they might be sort of cheesy, but at the same time charming (if you're a SF nerd like me), and are fun to watch. Plus being on DVD the picture quality is so sharp it brings a new dimension to the series. I watched the theatrical pilot this past weekend and the next episode after that as well. I was surprise to find Jack Palance starring in this episode as a charismatic cult leader of a race of people who had these odd powers allowing him to kill you if you opposed his will. Fun stuff.

After hitting the pawn shop, there was one other garage sale I went by on the way home. The ad said: hundreds of albums, so that piqued my attention. I drove by the place and looked out the window, and saw a young mom and dad sitting around on blankets minding their three young boys playing in the yard, but no vinyl. I drove around the block, and up along side their house, and got out, and asked the guy about the albums, and he said, "We don't have any." Which I thought, heck, I guess someone came by and bought out the entire thing--it wouldn't have surprised me as a lot of people collect old vinyl. I sort of inquired a bit further as to what happened, and he said they were his wife's mother's albums, and I take it they held sentimental value for them. But at the same time, I thought, well, I wish you'd have thought about this before you placed the ad, and I never would have wasted the gas and time to drive by. So I chatted with them for a bit and drove back home letting them enjoy their weekend, and me mine.

I caught the movie Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child off Independent Lens last week on PBS. Really interesting movie. He was a contemporary of Warhol and that Pop Art scene, which is one of the fun movements in art I enjoy. It had interviews with him and other people that knew him. He died at a rather young age. It also showed him painting and had a lot of his art work to look at as well. Interesting film, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Photobucket


I've always enjoyed the arts. I don't know when the interest began, probably sometime when I was a teen, although it seeped into my subconscious gradually and I wasn't really tuned-in to it at the time. I never took art in high school, but when I have the fantasy about living my life over again, I would take some art classes and probably some band classes too. I've tried my hand at art. I've done drawings, paintings, cartooning, collage, and photography, some more successful that others. I still enjoy going to galleries and shows. If I were rich like Steve Martin or Dennis Hopper, I would have collected art as they have done.

About fifteen years ago or more, the Dallas Museum of Art had an exhibition called A Century of Modern Sculpture: The Patsy and Raymond Nasher Collection. It was held during the summer, and had a lot of the sculpture inside and out on view. I like that it feature the outside art as well, as it allowed you to just roam all around the museum and you could go outside and soak up some warm sun as well. It was like taking in a large breathe of creative fresh air and a sort of senses overload. It was great seeing all of those sculptures on display. I still enjoy art and sculpture. Here are some of my favorites:

Andy Goldsworthy: nature sculptor, check out the film, Rivers and Tides for more on his art.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Henry Moore:

Photobucket

David Smith:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Edward Kienholz:

Photobucket

Isamu Noguchi:

Photobucket

Claes Oldenburg:

Photobucket

Roy Lichtenstein:

Photobucket

These are a few samples of their artwork. There are many other sculptors whose work I enjoy as well. Perhaps I'll spotlight a few others in later post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Photobucket

Hey Kids, Comics!

I kind of swiped that title from a friend of mine. He used to put out a few zines, comics, and for a while used to have a blog. Hey Drew. At any rate, he had a column with the same title. I thought I'd use it to highlight a few recent online comics. The amazing thing about online comics is that they are just as well produced as regular paper comics and fun to read. But these are free. How can you go wrong? Just go to the web link and start reading.

I thought I'd preview a friend's online comic first. I used to know Tom Floyd when he lived in Odessa in the 80's. He worked for a while at a comic shop (among other jobs), and was also writing and drawing a comic on the Elite label called Epsilon Wave, and some of their other titles as well. Epsilon Wave had an interesting plot/story in that it dealt with dreams, and the character he created would become a super hero under dream therapy. Since Elite was such a small independent label and didn't have the enormous funding of say, Marvel or DC, or even some of the smaller labels like a Dark Horse or Image, etc., they eventually went under. That's too bad as I would have liked to have seen where they went with Epsilon Wave and even their Sea Dragon title.

Well the current thing Tom is working on is his Captain Spectre and The Lightning Legion title. Tom makes no bones about being influenced by the pulps, stuff like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and writer like them that are high adventure. He also likes old movie serials and stuff that he grew up with from his childhood like Tarzan, Roy Rogers, Flash Gordon, Superman, and other heroes. Captain Spectre grew out of that love, and is a throwback to the Commando Cody: King of the Rocket Men serial. He started the strip in color, but eventually went to black and white, and I think with the switch to the newer black and white format has concentrated a lot more on his art work, which improves each time he puts pencil to paper. At any rate, check his comic out: here.

I also ran into a couple of other interesting comics. This next one is fairly light in story, but I think the art work is interesting. It's called Abominable about a Abominable Snowman or Yeti. I haven't read all of the story yet, and it's still ongoing. It reminded me of something similar to Walt Kelly's Pogo strip and also a bit of something like Jeff Smith's Bone, in that the artist, Charles Christopher, uses a bunch of forest animals as characters, and the Yeti creature is sort of a sympathetic caretaker of the forest. Sort of like Swamp Thing or Man-Thing, but with out the horror elements to it. You can read it: here.

And last, I found this fantasy strip, The Bean by Travis Hanson, which I thought was quite good. The art work took me a while to warm up to, but the story is what drew me in rather fast. It follows a young boy whose father has been killed. He works for a tavern (more or less as a captive orphan), yet longs for his father and is unhappy with his current situation. I really thought this was pretty good: here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Photobucket

Alan Moore, the British comic book writer, who penned The Watchman, From Hell (about Jack the Ripper), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, among other titles like Swamp Thing, Miracleman, and many others is now working on Neonomicon. It's a comic taking some of the H.P.Lovecraft mythos, updating it, and creating a modern detective yarn around that. I ran into the fourth issue in Hastings of all places. Before that I'd read a preview of the comic on the Avatar Press web site, which at least gave the reader a flavor of what it might be about. A lot of people think Moore has grown lazy by going back to this formula--taking an old mythology and updating it. I think some of that might be jealousy on their behalf. I say that as his modern work still offers a lot on the cutting edge of pop culture. Now granted his newest work, Neonomicon, is a bit shocking, offensive, etc. I thought about that, and then I thought H.P. Lovecraft probably was equally just as shocking in his day. So it's only fitting that an update should be as well. And it is. For me, from what I can glean from the preview and fourth book, Moore still is edgy, and enjoys pushing the envelope. It starts out with two federal agents going to an insane asylum to question a serial killer. The set up reminded me of Silence of the Lambs a little bit, except the inmate speaks to them in a Lovecraftian jibberish. You can check out the preview: here.

While looking around about the Neonomicon title, I ran across this site dealing with Moore's newest magazine as well. It's called Dodgem Logic. The magazine seems to be a mixture of things near and dear to Moore's own eccentric heart: comics, politics, gardening, and whatever else he wishes to include. The site, though a bit slow to load up, has three videos on it with fairly recent interviews with Moore. I was surprised at how congenial and humorous he was. Those are pretty funny if you have the time. The three videos take a time to load, so you'll have to be patient. Check them out: here.

Hint: Like some online videos, they are a bit wonky loading. I had to joggle the loading thing at the bottom of the video screen until it would smoothly work, otherwise the video would buffer and be choppy. But after a bit it would straighten out and work.

Otherwise: I was under the weather yesterday. Didn't do much but veg out yesterday. I guess I ate something that didn't agree with me. Feeling better today, and ate breakfast and drank some coffee, so I guess I'm back on the road to health.