Thursday, July 31, 2014

George Takei interview

Got a bunch of rain today, so I'm hanging around the house.  I missed this interview on NPR when it first came out, but it's pretty interesting.  George Takei came out of the closet, so to speak, late in life, but now is at ease with it.  He talks about some on his early life in an internment camp, and also some about Star Trek, acting, and being gay.  Here's the link.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

8-track

Last night I watched this DIY/ indie film called So Wrong They're Right on 8-track tapes and the people that still collect them.  8-track tapes were the big rage in the late 60's and into the 70's.  I remember a friend that got his first 8-track tape machine for his car, and picked up Cream's Disraeli Gears for his first excursion into the medium.  He played that over and over and over again, particularly liking the cut, Sunshine Of Your Love.  It might have been enough to burn me out on listening to the psychedelic album, but actually I still love it, and Cream as a band as well. 

When the 8-track phenomena hit it was big deal.  Granted I was already a music fan, and collected vinyl.  It was still my favorite medium for music, because I just didn't spend that much time in my automobile.  However, I remember my parents gave me and my brother a small portable 8-track player for the home, so we started buying some of the tape cartridges as well.  It became difficult to decide which way to buy the album:  8-track or vinyl?  I don't remember how I made the decision, because I had a limited budget.  But I do remember music stores use to have huge displays of 8-track tapes, and there was even 8-track exchange music stores that would allow you to exchange two 8-tracks for a new tape or a new "used" tape or something like that.  Plus they'd have a 8-track machine set up so you could listen to some of the used tapes and decide it you liked it or not.  I always enjoyed doing that as you could listen to a lot of music that way and discover things you were curious about.  That wasn't an option when buying the vinyl.

One of the things I wondered about while watching the documentary was if they people being interviewed were stretching the truth a little bit because as I remember it, the medium was horrible.  Granted it had pretty good sound quality, but the tapes broke in about two months or so.  Moving tape just has so many obstacles and is not that great a medium.  That's another reason VHS and Beta are a dead medium as well or nearly so.  At any rate, it was a fun romp down memory lane.

Here's a link to the full one hour and thirty minute film. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moebius






I don't exactly remember when I first discovered the art of Moebius, also known as Gir, or his real name, Jean Giraud.  I suspect it was around the mid-eighties when I started getting back into comics for a second time.  It was a very enjoyable time as I remember it as comics were experiencing a new renaissance.   Comic shops were springing up totally devoted to comic fans, that also had related SF stuff, fanzines, anime, and other things. 

The independent comic scene was also gaining headway.  The black and white indie comic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, had come out a brief time before I had begun looking at comics again, but I think it was on its fourth or fifth issue.  Other similar comics that had a little bit more adult sensibilities had came out as well, like Cerebus,  Grim Jack, Scout, Miracle Man, and others that were being created, which just made collecting and reading a pleasure. 

I think I first ran into Moebius from having attended a small local mini-convention that was held over in Midland, Tx at a Holiday Inn at the time.  Though smaller and localized, the dealer's room had quite a bit of stuff in it.  I was amazed as I stepped through the doorway, I felt as if I had entered some new dimension.  I was certainly among fans of the same sort of genre I enjoyed.  Several dealers were there some as far away of Lubbock and further, as I recall.  There was a guy that had some Epic Illustrated magazines, which were published by Marvel comics, and I picked up a handful of those, impressed by the art in them and by just perusing some of the stories.  Epic Illustrated, I think, was trying to capitalize off some of the fame of Heavy Metal.  Both magazines were the same in scope, both were larger in size compared to the typical comic book, had better printing, and were anthologies, containing several stories in them, some self-contained, whereas others had a continuing story arc (so you had to pick up next month's or several monthly issues to finish a storyline).  

Well, I'm thinking I ran into my first Moebius in the Epic magazines.   I'm thinking these were just  reprints from Heavy Metal (without having to go look thru some of my back issue boxes).  At any rate, that little experience more or less whet my appetite, and I was back into comics and fandom in general.

I think the next Moebius I ran into was his segment from the animated movie,  Heavy Metal.  His artwork is magical and highly detailed--his vision is strong and original.  It's no wonder he wasn't sought out for film designs like Blade Runner and Tron, among others, illustrations, and for his graphic storytelling.  Last night I watched a BBC biography on Moebius, and it also has interviews with other notable artist and creators like Dan O'Bannon, Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, and others. It streams well, and was pretty fun to watch.




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If you believe it, they will come


I'm always amazed at how people spend their free time, and what they chose to believe.  I guess if it doesn't hurt or kill somebody that should be okay.  Also if it enhances your life in some way, I guess that's a good thing as well.  I've always had a streak of skepticism, however, so I find it hard to buy-in to some oddball philosophies like Dianetics and Scientology, (I just went to their web site and the new age mystical music already starts up), no less the above religion or philosophy or whatever you want to call it.

Heck, I have a hard time with regular organized religion at times--not that I don't mind knowing more about it.  At any rate, for those that don't know Jello Biafra, he used to be a lead singer for the hardcore punk band, Dead Kennedys.  Since the demise of punk, he's sort of gone on to do standup and spoken word stuff, and I guess whatever else he can make a living at.

The above video is weird, I'll admit, and like a traffic wreck, at times hard to look away.  It doesn't help much that the members of  Unarius dress up in clown-like costumes.  I'll give Jello one thing, though, he was a pretty good interviewer, as he doesn't make fun of the group, adds some pretty good questions, and doesn't  mock them, more just asking unbiased questions.


Sort of seemed like some music from the British space rock band is appropriate after watching the YT video with the Unarius cult.  Beam me up Scotty. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Ray Bradbury

Story of a Writer (see post at bottom)  is a 1963 half-hour documentary on Ray Bradbury by David L. Wolper.   Included is Bradbury's "Dial Double Zero," a short story about intelligence within a telephone system.  Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but during the depression his family moved to Los Angeles as his father was looking for work, but the images of small-town Midwest life remained a part of his storytelling. 

Bradbury discovered SF fandom in his youth, meeting Ray Harryhausen, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Henry Kuttner, and began publishing his fanzine, Futuria Fantasia in 1939.  His first professional sale was the story, Pendulum, with Henry Hass for Super Science Stories.  In that year he met Leigh Brackett, who generously coached him in writing techniques. He later collaborated with her, completing her Lorelei of the Red Mist.  Ms. Brackett wrote the first half, and Bradbury completing it.  It's sort of a space opera romance.   I haven't read it, but here's a synopsis:
Hugh Starke, space-rat and convict, was being pursued by spacecraft into the unknown parts of Venus. He had just pulled off the largest lone wolf heist in the history of that planet. But now it looked like he was going to pay the ultimate price for his misdeeds. But fate had a strange twist on Starke's life when he woke up in a different body. A body that was strong and powerful. In a body of a Venusian barbarian named Conan. But was Starke anything more than a puppet in this new body? For he soon found out the strings were being pulled by the beautiful, but terrible, Rann. For Rann was like the siren, Lorelei, and it was Hugh-Starke-called-Conan that would have to fight her or be lured to his doom.

By the 40's Bradbury's style started to jell blending poetic and evocative elements, consciously symbolic, with strong nostalgic elements and leaning towards the macabre, some would say his writing is less SF and leans more towards fantasy and horror or weird fiction.  One story, The Million Year Picnic, appears in The Martian Chronicles, which is one of his more famous books.  It has interwoven stories, which tell of humans trying to colonize Mars.  It was later made into a TV miniseries.  

Most of his work adapted to film is fairly worthwhile.  Two early B-movies were loosely based on short stories by him:  It Came From Outer Space and The Beast From 20,000 Fanthoms.  Two other films from his books were The Illustrated Man, which is about a man covered in magical tattoos, that spring to life.  The other is Fahrenheit 451, a film directed by Francois Truffaut, is a dystopian future where books are burned that are deemed dangerous.  One of the main characters is a fireman that does some of the book burning, until he has an epiphany and sees the error of his ways.  From what I've read Bradbury was not happy with the way Fahrenheit 451 was adapted to screen, but I've always enjoyed the film.  



Thursday, July 17, 2014

What Batman does on an average day


These are pretty funny, and the guy playing Batman has the right tone of voice for the Batman. 

Rainy here today and I love the change in the weather, but summer is just around the corner again, as the weather man has predicted 100 degree heat in a couple of days.  Hope your having a good summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Appleseed anime 2004


I wasn't familiar with Appleseed, an updated anime from 2004, but I've seen some of the earlier versions of it back in the old VHS days, though never got around to watching it.  I'm not a huge anime fan, I think I'm more a fan of animation in general, meaning, it doesn't have to be Japanese animation.  I like Disney/Pixar stuff along with other animation.  I think one of my main complaints about anime is that most of the English dubbing never sounds quite right to me at times, in that a lot of the female characters sound too young.  Plus a lot of the SF anime has a lot of similar themes to the point of cliche: cyber punk, giant robots, alien invasion, space opera--I realize this is true for SF in general.

Plus some of these animes that were made as a series have many episodes so it's a very slow unfolding story sometimes.  I'm used to animation like Disney or Pixar, let's get the ball rolling, and it's over in about an hour and a half.  Most of the anime does have attractive artwork, but there again too, a lot of it looks the same, beautiful blue skies, or intricately drawn cityscapes.  I'm not trying to be totally negative, just pointing out a few of my reservations.  Plus, a lot of the anime isn't even science fiction, it could deal with romance or sports or what have you, and I feel like if I'm going to watch something like that I'd rather just watch a live action film concerning those topics or a classic film I've not seen.

From what I've uncovered, the original Appleseed came out in manga form in 1985 by Masamune Shirow.  Basically it's about our world set in the utopian city of Olympus around the 22nd-century, and is run by artificial humanoids.  It's similar in feel to Star Wars: A New Hope or at least that's some of the vibe I felt about it.  You have a society of rebels defending the utopian new world order, and the sinister oppressors trying to overthrow its development.  In the opening sequence to Appleseed 2004,  we see the protagonist, policewoman Deunan Knute,  fighting terrorist in some devastated part of the older city.   The action in these sequences was well done, and I have to admit the art style to the film was well done.  Computer graphics has come a long way and they can really create a life-like world these days.  I think that was one of the main draws for me in this movie.  The world building was phenomenal.  At any rate, it looks like the policewoman is about to be either killed or captured when she gets rescued--I don't think I'm giving away a spoiler here, as otherwise it would be a very short movie.

From there we are taken into the utopian city, and meet many of the inhabitants of the city and learn a bit of its history.  Deunan meets Hitomi, who is a member of a genetically engineered race of strong and intelligent beings who have taken over rule of the city.  We also learn some of Deunan's past, and the lover she once had and their history.  We find out that the terrorist want to destroy the central computer and thereby restore freedom and eliminate the genetically engineer race. 

Appleseed (aka Appurushido) was previously filmed in 1988; this newer version incorporates new digital animation technology which combines the look of rounded, three-dimensional images with the visual style of the traditional pen-and-ink process.  All in all it was a pretty interesting SF anime film, and a large part of the draw for me was the art.  But if you're into this sort of story, you might want to check it out.  



Monday, July 14, 2014

Blade Runner Analysis & fan art

Found this on the web, you might be interested:


And some fandom stuff.  I'll admit, I'm a fan, a nerd or whatever you wish to label me about science fiction.  And no, I do not like The Big Bang Theory.  If you enjoy it, that's fine with me, it's just not my cup of tea.  I know many that do enjoy it.  I just don't care much for sitcoms in general.

This is a painting from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds.  The anime is written by Hayao Miyazaki.  I've got a copy on VHS, and it's one of my favorite animes mostly due to the art and world building, but I like the ecological message as well.  The film tells the story of NausicaƤ (Shimamoto), a young princess of the Valley of the Wind who gets involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects.  NausicaƤ must stop the Tolmekians from enraging these creatures.

A painting by Morris Scott Dollens from Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom or John Carter of Mars.

Here is Dollens at his workspace.  I'm not real familiar with this artist, but I'm impressed with his artwork. 


This is a painting from  Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  I remember seeing this Disney film at the theater when I was a kid, and still enjoy watching it today.  Gregory Manchess is the artist, and wow, what an artist.  I've only recently discovered his artwork, but quickly became a fan of his art. 





Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jack Reacher and comics

Got a bad case of laziness today.  Probably because I didn't sleep all that well last night, which is odd as I slept like a log the night before.  You never know.  It's Sunday and I'm currently watching Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and it's okay, it has some nice action sequences, but for some reason, this series of films never really clicked with me and feels more like a Tom Cruise vehicle, or maybe it's just that I was never that great a fan of the original franchise.  I'm really waiting on The Strain, the new Guillermo del Toro horror series, that will premier on the FX Channel tonight.



Last night I watched Jack Reacher, which comes from a series of books about the character by Lee Child.  Tom Cruise was much better in that role for me anyway.   Jack Reacher is sort of a loner guy, a drifter, who gets tired of the military and its structure and drifts around the country.  In the movie he gets drawn into a mystery concerning a guy he knew in the military, and really didn't even like.  So from the get-go, he really could care less whether the guy goes to jail, death row, or what happens to him.  But I thought the movie had a unique way to draw both Reacher and the film audience into the film at the same time as the mystery unfolds.  There's some odd chemistry too between him and the female DA that's trying to prove her client's innocence.  All in all, I enjoyed the film, and maybe they'll make a sequel to this, I'd be up for that.

I ran across the site called Comicbookplus.com.  It has domain free comics and either you can download them or just read them online at the site.  It has some pretty interesting older comics on it if interested.  


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Foreign Sci-Fi


Check out this video I found on YouTube.  It's a Best of Non-American Sci-Fi films.  The poster did three different videos and I think all three came out well.  I was not familiar with the music he used by a musician that goes by the name of Legowelt, but I enjoy the music a lot and goes well with the videos that are featured.  He also did a good job of editing everything together. 

One of the films he highlights is a Russian film, Doroga K Zvezdam or Road To The Stars.  I was not familiar with it, but I found it on YouTube as well. 


Here are two other videos that he made about Non-American Sci-Fi Films.  They are well made too.



Antique Roadshow in Austin


Just getting back from a mini-vacation to Austin, Texas, where I met up with my nephew and sister.  Before I left, my nephew had sent me a route to take that might make my driving experience a bit easier, however, I thought about taking an alternate route, and that was a mistake.  I decided to go out south of town to Jacksonville, and take a "scenic view", the only only thing about that is I got turned around, and some of the roads were under repair, and it wasn't long until I had to backtracked a little bit to get on the route my nephew had originally sent.

To make matters worse, I passed a car coming from the other direction and heard a popping sound as a piece of gravel hit my windshield.  I've had this happen many times before, so disregarded it, but looked up again, and noticed that the ding has spread just a little.  I thought, did that just spread, and looked at it again, and it had spread even more.  That was a first.  Luckily, however, it quit spreading after about six or so inches.  But I have to admit it sort of bummed me out.

So I pulled over and took out the route my nephew sent, and headed off in that direction.  There are a bunch of small, rural Texas towns in this area, and while cutting back over to get to the main interstate, I had to go thru the small town of Malakoff.  I went over a rise, and came into town rather quickly and noticed a cop on the side of the road.  Then noticed it was 45 mph.  I think I was tooling along about eight miles over that, and sure enough, he lit me up.  I go on down a bit and  pull off the highway, and the trooper ask for my license and insurance.  This is the first time in a long time I've been pulled over for speeding.  But I was lucky this time as he gave me a warning citation, and told me to slow down and pay better attention, which I did.  Since it was close to the July the 4th weekend, I guess they were out checking for speeders, drinkers, and so forth.  But I was happy to get off with just a warning.

My nephew scored some tickets to the PBS program, Antiques Roadshow.  They select their participants by a drawing or lottery system, so we all three had put in for the drawing.  Neither my sister or I were drawn for tickets, but my nephew scored two tickets, so we lucked out. He works for a NBC affiliate TV station in Austin, so he used his press pass to get in, plus shot some footage of the show as well.  If interested, you can watch his TV promo here. 



The show will get three episodes from their one stop in Austin, but it won't televise until next year in 2015.  I took four items to get appraised, but we were not selected to be on the show.  Every item you take will at least be appraised by their crack team of appraisers, however, that doesn't assure that you'll be one of the selected who gets shown on the show each week.  We were lucky also in the time we were supposed to arrive.  Our arrival time was 11am, but they had people coming in as early as 7am.  It's quite organized.  It's all just the luck of the draw, however, and you have to bear in mind that they are trying to put on a televised show as well, and they have to have a certain amount of crowd control, and they also have a lot of post-production that goes into the program.

The items I chose was a cloth-sewn sampler from the 1800's.  It was sown by a eight year old girl at the time.  It's not particularly a pretty sampler, actually it's pretty run of the mill, but is worth around a hundred dollars or more probably because of the date.  I also took a cuckcoo clock.  I think it's dated from the 50's or perhaps a bit earlier.  It still works too, but due to the fact that they are mass produced and also sort of made for the tourist trade, it didn't get selected either.  My nephew had said he would like to have it if I ever wanted to sell it, so I ended up giving it to him later. 

The next item we had appraised was a pewter creamer.   Again, it's not all that valuable, but did have a makers mark on it.  I believe she said it was worth around fifty bucks or more, and was not all that old, but was made well and had a nice look to it.  The fourth item I took is the above figurine that I'm holding.  It's a pottery piece made in Vienna, and brightly painted.  It reminds me of a flapper showgirl or from that era, and has a nice deco look to it.  It got many compliments and remarks, so it's a head turner, and was the most promising piece I felt.  I had looked it up online before I left and saw a few selling on eBay for around $5,000., but the one I own has a defect around the hand and part of the arm where it was broken and then repaired, and so that detracted from the price.

When I first got up to the pottery table there were two guys that looked at it, and one sort of waves the other over to discuss things in private hushed tones.  They asked if we could hang around a bit as the woman that did the main appraising was currently eating lunch, and they wanted her assessment of it.  We said okay, so we  just stood over to the side as other people had things appraised.  We chatted with other people as well, and after a while the woman finally shows up.  They sort of go off to one  side and talk privately, and then she gives us an appraisal.   I assume it's a somewhat common piece, and from what she said was made in three different sizes.  The one we own is the medium size.  The largest is the most valuable.   I could only assume that the figure is fairly common (at least in the antique trade), but they said the pose of the figure helped in the value as the arms of the figure are stretching out as if she's dancing.  I think they appraised it around $2,000. or more due to it having been repaired.  All in all, even though it was a tiring day, and we didn't picked, we had a lot of fun.

After our full morning, we decided to go somewhere to eat, and by that time I think we were all ready for a meal, and to sit down some.  One of the things about Austin, is that they have tons of great restaurants, and they are not the commercial, chain variety, but more individualized.  The whole time we were there everywhere we ate, was super good.  We opted after the Roadshow just to eat somewhere nearby and ate at a place downtown called Moonshines.  It didn't look all that special from the outside, but was very delicious, even though all we ordered was a hamburger and salad.  The meat on the burger was smoked and very tasty, and we all shared a apple pie affair with maple ice cream.  Supremely good, and I was stuffed.  





Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Richard Feynman

I'm still around.  I just got back from a trip to Austin, Texas, which I'll update later.  Sort of slow getting back into the groove of things.  Last night not much was on the TV, so I opted to watch this documentary on Richard Feynman.  It was pretty good too. 

Off to see the dentist today, so have to get ready for that.  Shouldn't be too bad, except to pay for it.