Friday, June 20, 2014

The Tripods

I watched this documentary on the BBC's SF series, The Tripods last night and it was really entertaining, though I haven't actually seen the entire series.  There are a few episodes up on Youtube that you can access however.  I don't know why it was never collected on DVD, perhaps there's copyright issues or some other roadblocks.  But it would be something I'd probably enjoy were it ever to see daylight again.  It's taken from a trilogy of young adult novels by John Christopher. 

Humanity is taken over by aliens who rule domain over us in these three-legged machines.  At the age of 14 humans are forced into getting "capped", which is a alien implant and a way to erase or subdue any curiosity, rebellious ways,  and make us docile to more or less worship the aliens.  Three young boys (before the capping age) decide to rebel and they hear about a group of people from the White Mountain that are living with free will.  They decide to leave their community and travel to be with them.  That is the first season.  There's only two seasons, and sadly, they didn't get to make the third, concluding season.  It would be great, however, if they could make a movie from this set of books.
The above is the first part of the first episode, the other three parts on on YT as well.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Musically speaking

Progstreaming.com is a nice resource, particularly if you enjoy that genre of rock music, which is also an amalgam of other genres like jazz, classical, and so forth.  It's free to use like Pandora, and has several albums on it to check out in their entirety.  I'm currently listening to the above album, Ut Gret, which has sort of a jazzy, tropical vibe to it, that I enjoy. 

The Ancestors’ Tale features ten tracks, four of which are between seven and nine-minutes, the rest being in the four to five minute range. Looking at the instrument line-up you would be right in guessing that the music relies a lot on jazz and classical structures and approach. As such these compositions jump from one musical idea to the next. They continue to experiment along the way incorporating moments of free-form sonic experimentation, loosely structured musical bridges and so forth but they usually manage to pull it all back at some point to the compositions core melody.

 Line-up
Jackie Royce - bassoon, contra-bassoon, flute
Stephen Roberts - piano, electric piano, organ, Mellotron, mallets, samplers
Gary Pahler - drums, percussion
Steve Good - Bb clarinet, bass clarinet
Joee Conroy - fretless bass, guitars, Chapman Stick, electronics
   With
Cheyenne Mize - voice, violin
Sydney Simpson - double bass
Gregory Acker - saxes, flutes, percussion

 Given the unique woodwind instruments there is a bit of a Gentle Giant or Gryphon musical feel that surfaces once in a while although here the performance pulls even more from the jazz or classical idioms. In amongst all those instruments, the Mellotron is quite prevalent and fans of the instrument will enjoy its use in a number of compositions.

This is a short documentary on the San Francisco band, The Residents.  They are one of the weirdest bands that I know of, not that I always reach for their music often.  I'll put on one of their albums  ever so often and it will last me a while.  They came out during the punk era as I recall, though they don't fall into that category.  They are more avant garde, experimental, non-commercial, and just in their own uncharted territory.  That said though, they can be pretty fun when you're in the mood.  

The first thing in this video is Joel Hodgson = Instant win.
 
I stole that above riff from one of the comments off YouTube.  :-)

Tonight I listened to a seven-part Lost Interview with Frank Zappa.  He's also a noted musician that has been known to play odd music.  Odd is not really a great way to describe his music, however, as it is very broad in scope covering doo-wop, jazz, big band, classical, blues, humor, and some songs that are rather taboo smashing in some of their lyrics.  I still find his music as fresh and forward thinking as it always was.  What I find amusing about his music though, is when people like to think they are pretty open minded musically, and try to impress you with some new band or some heavy metal nonsense, or the next big thing, all you really have to do to trump their discovery is just play something by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention like their Freak Out album, or Absolulely Free, or We're Only In It For the Money, and they'll get a dazed look in their eye, and act like they bit into something bitter and sour. Ha.  And so it goes...

That's the first part of the interview, and you can find the other parts on YouTube if interested.  There's no music, just him talking about various subjects. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stanley Kubrick 1968 Playboy interview

The other night TCM Channel aired the 1968 SF film, 2001: A Space Odyssey by director Stanley Kubrick.  It still remains in my Top Twenty Films of all time status, and probably further up into my Top Ten as well.  An acquaintance made mention of the fact that few directors pay much attention to the invention of color in film.  They just think of it as the next step in technology coming out of the black and white era, and don't think much about it other than that.  They load it into their cameras and start shooting film footage, hardly much beyond that.   However, he cited Stanley Kubrick as a director that took advantage of the medium.  I wanted to re-watch the film 2001 with that in mind.  I do remember the film being very color oriented, particularly using the color orange in some of the settings and so forth.  But upon watching it again there are other examples too like in some of the color monitors and lights generated on the screen and so forth.  It made me re-think the film all over again.  Being a SF fan too, I think he more or less set a high water mark within the SF genre that's pretty darn hard to equal.  It's not all in the visuals, though they are spectacular, but of course the way he handled the story, the music, and a lot of the other facets of film directing.  It got me to thinking that such a well known project had to have gotten quite a bit of media coverage from that year, and I was curious if I could track down a Playboy interview with him.  Sure enough I did.  You can read it here, if interested. 

The other day I had a friend email me saying he was interested in one of my art works that I mentioned a few post ago.  Since most of them are still hanging in the gallery, I told him I could send him the Attack of the Crab Monsters image I made.  I mostly used unused paint from the other paintings to compose it, and since it was mostly done for fun anyway,  I sent it to him.  He informed me that the film was a 1957 black and white film written and directed by Roger Corman, and that he had found a copy of it along with two other early Corman films on DVD at one of the local media outlets in town.   That got me interested in watching the film as well as I never had seen it.  I've yet to sit down and watch it, but it's on my list of movies to check out.  While looking around the web I ran across a poem that a poet, Lawrence Raab, had penned also about the same movie. . It has everything that belongs in the perfect poem (I think): a sense of humor, a sense of context, and it places the reader and poem in a very specific B movie scene -- surreal elements -- which work wonders on the unconscious.

 I thought it was pretty good, and fun to read, so I thought I'd share it:

Attack of the Crab Monsters

Even from the beach I could sense it---
lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
like something in the air, a certain
lack of sound.  Yesterday
there was a mountain out there.
Now it's gone.  And look

at this radio, each tube neatly
sliced in half.  Blow the place up!
That was my advice.
But after the storm and the earthquake,
after the tactic of the exploding plane
and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked

like fate and I wanted to say, "Don't you see?
So what if you're a famous biochemist!
Lost with all hands is an old story."
Sure, we're on the edge
of an important breakthrough, everyone
hearing voices, everyone falling

into caves, and you're out
wandering through the jungle
in the middle of the night in your negligée.
Yes, we're way out there
on the edge of science, while the rest
of the island continues to disappear until

nothing's left except this
cliff in the middle of the ocean,
and you, in your bathing suit,
crouched behind the scuba tanks.
I'd like to tell you
not to be afraid, but I've lost

my voice. I'm not used to all these
legs, these claws, these feelers.
It's the old story, predictable
as fallout---the re-arrangement of molecules.
And everyone is surprised
and no one understands

why each man tries to kill
the thing he loves, when the change
comes over him. So now you know
what I never found the time to say.
Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
You know I always loved you.

By the way, I ran across the film on Archive.org

You can view it here, if interested. 


The Masters of Comic Books

This is an old 1987 documentary interviewing some famous comic book artist.  They share their philosophy and creative process behind some of their finest characters, stories, and series.  I still have a VHS copy of the it.  Harlan Ellison introduces each segment and there are interviews with Will Eisner who created The Spirit, Jack Kirby, who created and co-created many of the Marvel super heroes like Captain America, Fantastic Four, and many others.  Also on it is Steve Ditko, noted for co-creating The Amazing Spider-Man, Berni Wrightson, the horror artist noted for Swamp Thing, and  Frank Miller, and many more.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On Film Criticism

This guy, Chris Stuckmann,  has a film review show on YouTube.  I just discovered him not long ago while looking for film reviews on YouTube, and already I enjoy his reviews and his outlook on films in general. I totally agree with him about not going into every little detail concerning the film that he's reviewing.  I also hate when someone gives away spoilers unless they tell you ahead of time that they're planning on doing that.  That's not to say I agree with everything he says, but I think he presents himself well in his videos, and his videos are tightly edited and appear to have a professional nature to them, so they're fun to watch.  On this particular segment, which is one of his newer episodes, he goes into what he thinks is a good film review, and he also has some guest on it that also reviews films, and they talk about what they think are good reviews and how they go about approaching them.  All in all if you enjoy films, I think it's a pretty good little episode.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Redefining taste

I don't think I was aware of this website, so I thought I'd post it and pass it along.  It's a free webzine dedicated to SF.  The  issue above is May 2014 #93.  Inside there's some fiction, and non-fiction, and some links to some podcast as well. 

Over on a separate forum about movies, I posted this short article about Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Top Ten Favorite SF films.
It appears there's always detractors on the internet, and I can understand that, not everyone likes the same thing--that goes for life as well.  Articles of this nature are meant to open the doors for civil discussions, but I swear, I've run into a similar mocking vibe from other SF fans.  They are the ones that sneer at someone else's taste, which I don't get, unless you just like being a troll, and, for sure, there are plenty of those on the web.  But there are also the type SF fan that I've encountered that want to give a bad rap and split hairs over the definitions of the SF genre, which drives me a bit batty.   They enjoy SF, but always discount stuff like Star Wars, or even now, Star Trek, or something else, that doesn't contain elements of hard science fiction in them.  They always want to pigeon hole things, and point out your limited taste or knowledge.  (Eye rolls here).  Anyway, here's a recent exchange with me and another SF fan over the Top 10 movies that Mr. Tyson picked:

I shall call him, Anal-retentive lad...

Anal-retentive lad:   The Quiet Earth, Contact, The Island and Watchmen? Really? My respect for Neil just dropped a few points.

Me:   I kind of thought Contact would be on there.  I'm surprised some form of Star Trek wasn't.  Actually picking the movies he did made him seem pretty down to earth to me.  Would I have picked something different?  Probably, but it's his list.  The only one he picked that I didn't care too much  was The Quiet Earth, but it's okay to at least watch once.  I enjoyed it, but the ending threw me off a bit.

Anal-retentive lad:  I don't think I could do a top 10.  Too hard to eliminate so many great films out there  But easy to dump those four.  And GATTACA is infinitely superior to the cheese/beefcake show "The Island".  At least he chose Deep Impact over Armageddon.  But so few intelligent films.  Where is Primer, Stalker, Pi - ad infinitum.  Where is Ghost in the Shell?  Gojira?  I wouldn't pick any of the Star Trek films, I'd have to go to individual TV episodes, mostly Next Generation.  Call me if they ever make a SF film in the Star Wars series  None of this means I didn't watch them though.  The question, Raymond, (Fight Club - another top hard core SF film) is what films are worth watching again.  And again.  And spending our hard earned money to actually buy them?

Me:  (Actually, I was surprised he would even pick, Gojira or even Fight Club?)

Anal-retentive lad again:  Here demonstrates why the Hugo Gernsback definition of SF should be strictly adhered too.  Notice none of the films I mentioned have starships or aliens in them.  Ever read Blood Music?  There is a whole world out there that I think you've missed out on.

Or maybe redefine your interest as Fantasy instead of Science Fiction.

Me:  Well, I don't feel that I've missed out on anything.  I've seen all the films you've mentioned and enjoyed most of them to one degree or the other: Fight Club, which granted, I would not have consider it science fiction, but it's a pretty good movie, Gattaca, Ghost In The Shell, etc.  The only one I haven't seen that you mentioned yet is Stalker.  I realize that SF can be more than space opera, monsters and aliens, and so forth, but what you fail to realize or at least acknowledge is that other people may have different taste or preferences in a genre or films than you do.  (I'm not sure why that bothers you so much, it doesn't me, and I can allow others their own opinions and taste.)  It does not make your taste superior to someone else's, or their's superior to yours.

I prefer that SF be an open and broad genre and that many different stories and films can be mined from it and that goes for other films and genres.  I don't feel like I should have to redefine anything, perhaps you should lighten up a bit, eh?




Sunday, June 08, 2014

Arty summation and conclusion

For this past week I was involved with the wrapping up of the recent gallery show.  Shown above I was sorting through some of the art for the show, and arranged it on the wall.  One of my main interest in volunteering for this fund raiser was that I could view the art ahead of the actual opening, which really I didn't want to attend as it's overcrowded, noisy, and I don't do crowds very well. I hate making chitchat.  I guess I'm more the type person that if I have five or six very good and close friends that I can count on, I'd prefer that, over knowing three hundred people I barely know.  Granted I don't mind meeting anyone or knowing as many people as I can.   Overall,  it was pretty fun and kept me involved with artwork, which I enjoyed, met a few people and other artist.  I'm not a huge socialite, and tend to be way more introverted.  But it doesn't hurt to step outside the box from time to time, and I have to push myself to do so, and not stay in my comfort zone.


It looks like the fund raiser was fairly successful, which is good as I'd like the gallery to stay open and financially afloat.  Granted I don't know anything about that aspect of the gallery.  I hardly know much about how it's run or any of the behind the scene politics.  (I may not want to know either--just saying.)  It did give me a little insight, and not that I agreed with everything that went on, I was glad to be involved, and also I know what I might not want to do next year, if indeed I participate. 

What I find a bit weird about Tyler's city counsel and this might apply anywhere--is that they are trying to revitalize the downtown area.  They have this idea and message, which seems a bit utopian to me, which wants to portray the downtown area as some sort of art, showcase mecca, and it's not.  That said though, very few towns of this size: 95,000, are meccas of any sort.  Downtown areas, like Tyler, and like most midsized cities are mostly a place of business.  The major mall, which is not downtown was built a good deal away from the downtown area.  From there, restaurants were built and started to follow the money and grow, and then you had clothing outlets and other department stores that sprung up like Best Buys or Barnes & Nobles, etc.  Pretty soon, that's where the growth is, and it continues in that direction--away from downtown.  They are building a new strip mall further out that way presently, along with more banks branches, etc.  So I hate to sound defeatist here, but that leaves the downtown area with  a lot of vacant buildings in need of repair and so forth.  They have a few banks and stuff downtown, a Subway sandwich shop,  a hardware store, the library, a few little struggling boutiques, but that's about it. 

Oh, they also have a bar/restaurants called Rick's On the Square that struggles (I'd guess).  On the weekends they'll usually have a live band, and sell beer to mostly younger people, which is at least a venue for that sort of thing, and I assume, where they make most of their money.  But on week days, it appears to be a much slower business, serving overpriced lunches to business types, and selling prime rib to someone with a lot of coin to spend.  (And really I bet the typical business people down there get in their car and drive somewhere for lunch or eat at the Subway.  Who has $25. to spend on a meal each day?)   And so it goes.  So I guess I just don't get the hype or pipedream of come downtown, it's a great place to explore!  There's just not a lot there, and I think everyone knows it, but the stalwart city counsel-types, that just can't let it go, or think they can bamboozle someone with their constant PR.  But yeah I get it, and I also think it's a bit of small town mentality and pride.  At the same time it's also a bit of not facing reality, to me anyway. 

The only think I didn't care for with the volunteering came on the evening of the show.  I went down to the gallery, and really, I didn't think they needed me that much, but I guess it's better to have more people show up just in case.  I really didn't want to mix it up with the whole crowd thing.  I was asked to straighten the artwork and put some tacky putty under some of the artwork, and also asked to hang two signs on two different walls, which I complied--although they already had a guy or two that could have done that (and just one ladder anyway).  So I did that, and stood around for the actually opening, and then asked to hand out a flier (along with some others) explaining the whole ordeal.  Then from there, I mostly just stood around and watched the crowd.  It's weird though, as it appeared they were handing out hors d'oeuvres and appetizers and had wine and beer in the back, but not much was said about it.   I could have probably used a beer for the crowd scene, and maybe something to eat too as I had to arrive early to help set up.  Not a big deal, but it would have been nice to know.  There were no signs or anything about it, and the main lady of the event never made mention of it.  It's kind of like, if you were in the "know" then you knew.  If not, you didn't. 

So I stood around a bit and watched the crowd and did my best to chitchat.  I was starting to wear thin however, when one of the ladies up front, grabbed me over to the side, and I know it's a chaotic-type situation, but she rattled off something to me underneath all the crowd noise, and next to the guy playing loud retro rock music up front.  So I didn't catch it all, but she was saying something about the trash cans in the kitchen area, and that the trash needed to be emptied or something.  So what the hell, I said, okay.  I go to the back and see what's up, and I asked one of the guys manning the wine area, if he needed any help back there, and he said no, he said he just refills wine glasses. 

So I see the main woman running the event, and I asked her if she needed any help, and she rattled off something about manning the trash cans, and sort of threw a roll of  plastic trash bags in my direction, and said to take out some the trash to the green cans out on the sidewalk.  And to tell you the truth, I was a bit taken aback by it, also a tad offended.  I thought, does she want me to go around and police the area for overflowing trash and stick in a new bag in the trash container while all this is going on?  I sort of think that was what she wanted...  So just for the heck of it, I sort of walked around and looked, and yeah, some of the garbage cans were a bit full, but there were plenty that were empty. So I didn't think it was totally necessary or an emergency to do it at that exact moment. 

At the same time, I was never told I was going to be playing garbage man for the night.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not above that type thing, but she could have mentioned that at some point in time before the main event, or an email, or at one of the many meetings, something, and I might not have been so put out.  I thought, man, if I spill someone's half drunk wine on my new dress shirt, I'm gonna be pissed.  So, fuck it, that was my cue, exit stage left.  I stepped outside, and when I thought the coast was clear, I left.  There were plenty of men there to corral to do that duty afterwards, and plus, even though it's a non-profit gig, she gets paid to do her job for that, I don't.  I'll extend myself somewhat, but it only goes so far.  Overall though, it wasn't too bad.