Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Redemption

Here's an article I ran across recently on nine programs that the SyFy Channel is thinking about producing to revamp their programming and compete with other networks by having well-scripted programs.  Why it has taken them this long to reach that conclusion and why they have let their network slide in recent years by showing  half-attempted shows like Sharktopus and similar Z-styled programming is beyond me.  Maybe they finally figured that their network has slipped so far off the scale that nobody wants to advertise with them any longer or that a change is needed or just throw in the towel.  Yep, I'm being a bit harsh here, but really their programming has hit such an all-time low lately, the only way from here is up  (hopefully). 

Granted I do still watch FaceOff and enjoyed the Jim Henson Creature Shop reality based shows, but I don't know how long they could sustain something like that.  So we'll see what they can come up with in the future.  Here's a link to that article, at least the shows mentioned sound like they have potential, at least on paper.  Getting them in production, etc. is another thing.  Link to article.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Congress

This French, Israeli & Polish film has been released in Europe and there is a tentative deal to release it in video on demand or direct download here in the US, so it hasn't tested well.
Loosely based on Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress (1971) where the main character has been dosed with powerful hallucinogens put in the water by the government and he trips his brains out in the sewers underneath the Hotel where the "Congress" or better translated as "Meeting" of Futurists is taking place.

In this film, Robin Wright plays herself as an aging, difficult actor to work with who is offered one last gig - to be scanned into a computer and be used to make films for all time while she retires and collects the checks. As this is to be the future of film she doesn't really have a choice, and she has a daughter and a special needs son to take care of - so she needs the money. Harvey Keitel plays her agent, Danny Houston the sleazy "Miramount" Studio exec, Paul Giamatti as her son's doctor and Jon Hamm as her friend in the "animated world". Oh yes, this starts out as a live action film then a sniff of a magic elixir and she's transported to a 1930's style retro animation world (with more than a touch of Ralph Bakshi thrown in). Here there is craziness galore, more drugs (in the tap water), a trip to the sewer? maybe under the hotel, a flight through a more sensible part of the animated world, a return to live action, then a happy ending - of sorts.

Frankly I don't know who would like this, but sounds interesting enough to me if it ever sees an American release. It's done by Ari Folman, whose previous Waltz with Bashir is an acquired taste. This story is a science fiction hybrid where the Media Producers have taken over the world as all media becomes more invasive, more hallucinatory - taking over everyone's complete lives - with only a handful of "live" people living outside the animated world (in Zeppelins no less). The underlying story of Robin searching for her children in this crazy place is what the thin plot is hung upon, but rushing the ending to resolve it only adds to the confusion (or is the viewer supposed to be confused?)

Here's a link to the web site and there's a link for the trailer on it as well for the curious.  


Back when I was looking around on the web for images to paint for the Zira painting, I ran across a cool website, which is devoted to the Planet of the Apes franchise.  It has stuff on it mostly concerning the first set of Planet of the Apes feature films, starting with the original 1968 release.  But it also had a few additions to the newer apes films.  At any rate, the blogger of the site also had some magazines from the old Planet of the Apes comic books, which I thought was interesting to look at, so I thought I'd post a link here for those interested.  There are also some movie scripts on there if that interest you.   If you're an Apes fan it's a pretty cool site.  

I ran across this article from Rolling Stone magazine on the Top 20 Sci-Fi films of the 21st Century.   In all honesty, I think about half of them are duds, made poorly, and I certainly wouldn't recommend them.  I was surprised that they didn't even mention: Pacific Rim, John Carter, Avatar, The Road, Artificial Intelligence, Beyond the Black Rainbow, The Thing (sequel), Vanilla Sky, A Scanner Darkly, Limitless, The Hunger Games franchise, or the Star Trek films.  I could probably think of some other films I would have rather seen on the list.  One of the things I thought about after reading over their list and about the SF medium in films is how much an impact Stanley Kubrick had on me with his 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I don't think anyone will come close to that film.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

6 X 6 Show




Sitting here listening to some Stanley Jordan, his Magic Touch CD.  It's light and airy and pretty perfect for a Sunday afternoon.  It's one of those CDs where I could put on and listen to again right after it ends pretty easily.  He sort of has a style like Joe Pass, who I like a lot as well. 

I've added the artwork I took down to Gallery 110's 6 X 6 show this week.  I scrutinize my own art, and I guess that's a good thing.  Sometimes I'm satisfied with it, and other times I'm indifferent or wish it had turned out differently.  The first one, the landscape I titled, Dreamland.  I did it mostly as a "crowd pleaser" or as close as I can achieve something like that, meaning I was hoping to appeal to a wider audience and maybe get someone to buy it.  None of the sales go back to the artist anyway, it's a fundraiser for the gallery, so for the artist's part, it's all for charity anyway.  For me, I get to sharpen my chops a bit, and it get my mind thinking about art again, which has been fun to do. Also it gets me to network with other artist and schmooze, which is always fun too. 

The way the show is set up is that all the art on displayed is $20. a pop.  The audience is asked not to touch or turn over the painting to reveal the artist's name (sort of anonymity).  That way the audience or patrons learn what they like in art, and buy art totally for the image.  It's a novel idea, and I like the concept, although, I'm not sure I buy into the anonymity thing.  I wouldn't know the artist by name anyway, so it makes no difference to me.  I remember going to this show a year or so ago, and not knowing "the rules" of the show, turned over a few of the paintings just to see what medium it was painted in (oil, acrylic, etc.) and maybe to read the title, and a gal monitoring the show came up to me and said something like, "Don't do that."  She didn't announce or explain who she was or anything.  I asked her, "What do you mean?"  She said, "You are just supposed to take it up to the front and buy it."  Which again seemed out of context, and made no sense at all to me.  She walked off, and I just stood there and thought, what the hell was that about??   

The second piece, the yellow one, is an image I took from an old Twilight Zone episode.  I grew up on those and the old Outer Limits episodes. If you haven't seen that particular episodes check it out, it's one of my favorite ones, where a young woman is having major facial surgery as she is viewed as a mutant or outcast due to her disfigurement.  The way the whole episode is shot never showing the woman's face or the doctor's either, and the lighting is particularly effective.  I won't give away the plot twist or spoilers, but check it out.  I call the piece, Beauty Is In the Mind.

Recently I have thought about just painting monsters and maleficent menaces from SF films and such as imagery in different styles just to see what I can come up with.  I know it probably has a limited audience, but I'm not really doing this to make money, I'm doing it more as a way to paint more and express myself.  Some might find it weird subject matter to explore, but I feel it's a part of me, as I was raised on such pop cultural icons.

The third painting with the red crabs in it I took from the poster of Attack of the Crab Monsters or some such 50's SF film.  I haven't seen the film, I assume it's typical for the 50's decade.  I  mostly did it on paper and with just some left over paints when I was in the middle of the other paintings.  You sort of have stopping points in doing artwork (just to let the paint dry, or lunch breaks, etc.), and I hated to not use the leftover paint, so I composed that crab painting.  I went back and painted in some of it, and it looks a bit more finished out, but I sort of wanted a loose feel to it anyway.

The fourth painting is called Zira, and is the female ape from Planet of the Apes.  I'm indifferent to it as well, but I got close to the target.  Again, it's a bit rough and loose around the edges, but that doesn't bother me.  I have no idea how other perceive this stuff, but as I said, I'm mostly trying to find something to engage me, and if someone else can appreciate it, well all the better. 

Rather hurried week otherwise.  I found that part of my sprinkler system is leaking, and called to get it fixed, but they won't be able to get over here until Tuesday.  I hate that the leak has to go unattended until then, but I guess that's life. If I can find someone to come over on Monday I might try to get someone sooner.  I ended up joining Angie's List, just because I don't know anyone here really to ask about such handyman things, and I'm not that great at such stuff.  I can do some of it, but I have a narrow range.  I also had a water heater put in recently, and used Angie's List for it as well.  So far it's been worthwhile for the subscription.

I watched a movie directed by Peter Weir the other night called The Year Of Living Dangerously, and it was pretty good, along with another one by him called, The Plumber.  It was pretty good too.  It's Sunday, so I should get up and see if I can't knock out a chore to two. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happiness wrapped in camouflage

I was in Walmart the other day doing some shopping trying to restock a few necessities, and also checking out to see if they had any art supplies that might be worth buying.  The did have a little section on some art supplies, but I'm going to have to go by a "real" art/hobby store for some more paint.  Lately I've been trying to finish up a painting or two for the Gallery 110 show.  My art tends to lean toward contemporary, and I'm rather self-taught, so it's a bit of a struggle for me at time, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose.

At any rate as I entered the store they had a bunch of promo tubs filled with various items up near front, and I was looking at some hair gel, which I usually don't use, more or less just checking out what they had.  A guy walks over and I notice him out of my peripheral vision only, but continue my looking.  However, I hear an exclamation--"Holy cow!  Geez!"   I glance up and the bearded guy again say, "Cool!"  Then engages me in his enthusiasm.  He says, "They keep making new stuff--check it out, Duck Dynasty."    He points out that he'd found some one dollar band aids for scrapes and cuts, and it had the Duck boys faces on the cover of the package, and the band aids came in a camouflage-type colored pattern.   Now Duck Dynasty, doesn't blow my skirt up, but hey, you gotta find happiness in the small things in life, right?   I just gave him the thumbs up sign, and said, "Cool, camouflage."  And sauntered off into the wilds of Walmart shopping. 

So anyway, I've been engrossed with a little bit of painting.  I've been working on this silly landscape that's sort of colorful, yet, I can't get it exactly how I think it ought to be in my mind's eye.  Sort of frustrating, but that's how art goes for me at times, and I assume it's that way for every artist.  Though I assume everyone is different so some may suffer indifference more so than others.  At any rate, I'll work on it some more today, and push it into a few other directions and see what happens, but at some point I think I'm just going to have to let it go, and that'll be one of the paintings I'll turn in to the gallery.  It's amazing as the first painting I did, which is the head of a monster, more or less, happened so easily--you just never know, or I don't.

I saw the recent movie, 12 Years A Slave, last weekend, and it was pretty good.  I had my doubts at the beginning of the picture as it seemed the film started out rather odd to me.  It opens in the northern part of the United States, where blacks were free, but the main character and his family were shown in such a rosy light, which I get the contrast, but I found it a bit too rosy.  Perhaps my idea of how things were back then is distorted, but I would have thought that even though blacks had their freedom back then, there was still a lot of prejudice lurking around the edges.  That said though, the movie picks up once Solomon Northup is captured and sent off to the south to be a slave.  It's not a cheerful picture, but I assumed that going into it.  It gets pretty brutal at times, and you feel Solomon's hopelessness in his ordeal.  Overall all though, I thought it was a good film. 

On the lighter side of things, I rented a Doctor Who episode, The Brain of Morbius.  It was a fun episode, really a sort of Whovian take on the Frankenstein monster.  The twist is that the main villain (the mad scientist) is trying to create a body to house the brain of the war criminal from Gallifrey, but he needs a suitable head.  When the doctor (Tom Baker) and Sara show up, he decides the doctor's head would make a nice fit.  There's another side plot, as is usual for a lot of Dr. Who episodes, where some of the locals, the Sisterhood of Karn fit in the story.  Somehow they feel that the doctor and other Gallifreyans are evil and a threat to their way of life so they want to kill the timelord as well.  It was a fun episode.


Well, I don't feel like I mention music enough on this blog.  I'm a big music fan, and love progressive music, along with other styles.  I think I first encountered progressive music when I bought  King Crimson's album, In The Court of the Crimson King.  It's still an album and band I listen quite a lot.  The opening cut to the album, 21st Century Schizoid Man sort of sets the stage or rather bombast the listener with a whirlwind of sounds.  It's a pretty aggressive cut, but after that the song, I Talk To The Wind, soothes and balms your mind after the blistering opener, as does most of the rest of the album. When I first bought the album I enjoyed a lot of the songs due to the mellotron used quite effectively on the cuts.  It reminded me of the Moody Blues in some ways as it had this sort of orchestral feel to it, and also had this odd Sci-fi/fantasy imagery as well.  If you've not heard it, I recommend it highly, just give it some time to seep in if you find it's not your cup of tea right away.  By the way, here's a Youtube link to hear the entire album if curious. 

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's debut albums shares a similar feel to it, but whereas the Crimson album is a bit more guitar oriented due to Robert Fripp's influence, ELP are more keyboard based due to Keith Emerson's influence.  It starts out with an almost dirge-like opener on the first track, The Barbarian, and it's not until the next track, Take A Pebble, that it captures my interest.  Also while the Crimson album might lean a bit towards a jazz territory, ELP are a bit closer to classical.  I'm not a huge fan of ELP as they get a bit too erratic for my taste overall, but I still enjoy their first album at times.  Here's a Youtube link to hear the album. 

Genesis Live is an album I also still listen to today.  I think the first album I picked up by them is Selling England by the Pound, which is another great album.  So you can hardly go wrong with either.  I love the majestic sound on their Live album though and they really captured the live experience. The initial start to Watcher of the Skies with that mellotron wash, and then the crowd noise raised the hairs on the back of my neck then and still works today. Again, there's flourishes of mellotron on it along with other keyboards provided by Tony Banks.   In fact I might say that I enjoy all their earlier work up to the Wind and Wurthering album.  After that their albums get a bit spotty, where I like this song, but maybe not some other songs--they also got a lot more commercial in their later years, which some of their diehard fans don't care for as much.  But as I've listened to some of their more modern albums over the years, I can enjoy them as well on some level too.  Check out the full album on YT here.  Over on Youtube you can hear some of their other great works like: Trepass, Foxtrot, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or whatever you like. 

Think I'll end here for now.  This is a bit of my camouflage. 








Thursday, May 08, 2014

Cinemania

Cinemania from Stephen Kijak on Vimeo.


If you think of yourself as a film buff, and love movies, yet somehow the documentary, Cinemania, escaped your attention, you should give it a watch.  I always thought of myself in that same league of cinephiles, but I felt lightyears behind and dwarfed by the five New Yorkers in this film.  They are totally obsessed with movies and build their lives around that experience.

One of them,  Mousy Bill subsists on peanut-butter sandwiches from a tote bag and follows a precise urination schedule prior to each screening. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t had sex "in many years." The others are equally obsessed, maladjusted, and rather odd personality-wise, but I never felt like the movie was faked.  I know people from my past equally obsessed and with personality quirks. I guess you could say, on some level, I can identify with them.  Shoot, as far as I'm concerned I'm more drawn to and enjoy someone immersed in their hobbies and loves in life than a lot of other people. Granted I'm quite as on the fringe as any of these people, yet I find delight in their obsession. 

 

6 x 6 show

The Drybrush Master from Ben Tobin on Vimeo.

I've been a little busy lately with some artwork.  I ran across the above video today, which is about graphic artist, Greg Ruth, that I thought I would share.  It's more like the type graphic artwork that you'd see in comics and graphic novels.  My art isn't anywhere near that level, but sometimes I'll just like to watch stuff like this to inspire.  Plus I've been perusing Youtube for this type thing lately to get ideas about technique and just brush up (pardon the pun) on my knowledge of things.

A couple of weeks back I went to an annual event here in Tyler, which I wrote about earlier, where they had a bunch of artist selling, showing, and demonstrating their artwork at a historical landmark here in Tyler.  I met a lady there that makes pottery, and she told me that she gives lessons from time to time, and said if interested, I should consider taking a course.  So I got on her email list and sure enough she had a course one Saturday.  I don't know much about pottery, but hey, I was game.  It was a small class, and  just about the right size to manage.  We ended up making a sconce. 

This may have not been what I thought we were going to do in the class, but it's a starting point, and since I know next to nothing about pottery, I was just happy to learn a few things, and I was pretty happy with the way mine turned out (the above picture is not mine, just an illustration).  At any rate, I learned a few things from just being there that one day class other than how to mold the object and create the artwork, which is another reason I wanted to go.  I was hoping to network with others in the class as well, which I did.  Joan, the lady holding the class, asked if I'd like to volunteer for the upcoming 6 X 6 Gallery 110 show.  I told her I thought that be fine if it can be worked around my schedule as I've also got some dentist appointments this month. 

So the past couple of weeks I've met downtown at the gallery to find out about the show, and what all I might have to do.  It's fairly unobtrusive, so it's been pretty fun so far.  I also volunteered to hang the artwork coming in, which is a good way to view everything and not have to attend the opening night.  That's a good deal, although I'll be put to work, but I've been to their opening nights, and it's so crowded I found it a distraction and hassle.  The gallery is pretty small, and it's packed like sardines, and people are drinking, chatting, and with the noise level etc., gets a bit chaotic.  So this might be a good way for me to get a preview and not have to attend later.  

So right now, I've got three small 6 inch X 6 inch canvases that I've been working on.  One is already completed, and is sort of a pop art piece.  The figure on the artwork I got from an old episode of the Twilight Zone.   If you are familiar with that show, it's the one about a  young woman having her face redone as she thinks she's a freak, and wants to be like everybody else in society.  The doctor assures her that he thinks that's possible, but she's had several of these attempts and if  it doesn't work this time, she'll have to be put in with others of her kind. (You get the idea that the freakish people are separated from the rest of society.)  Well, the way this episode is filmed we never see the actors faces or the face of the woman until the climax where she gets her bandages removed.  There's a certain tension to it as they remove the bandages, and as a watcher you know there's going to be a twist ending.  Sure enough, one of the hospital staff shrieks as they remove the last of her bandages and at the final reveal.  I won't spoil the ending, heh heh.

At any rate, I'm being pretty diversified in what I've I'm entering.  The above mixed media work is more or less what I'm into momentarily, meaning contemporary art, and pop art that sort of thing.  The current painting I'm working on is more a crowd-pleaser, and is a colorful landscape.  This one is taking me longer that I would have guessed, which is always the case for this sort of thing.  I should have also primed the canvas beforehand, but it's working, so I'm going with the flow.  I haven't really thought about what I might do for the third canvas, but I've got a few ideas.  I'll just see what my timeline looks like and think about what I might want to do.  But overall, it's been rather fun.