Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guillermo Del Toro

Busy this week as I have guest coming at the end of the week, so busy cleaning house, etc.  We had tornado warnings last night, which lasted about an hour.  I always find those alarming as we never had them in West Texas.  It's been a weird, wet spring.  Wimberley, Texas suffered with flooding recently and Dallas has been hit with bad weather off and on too.

For Memorial Day I watched the World War II story, Unbroken.  It was pretty good, but yes, the book was better.  Angelina Jolie directed it, and I enjoyed some of the flight scenes of the bomber and the battles in midair.  The movie was taken a little bit out of order from the book, however, and I think she could have dwelled on Louie Zamperini's time in pilot training a bit more, so that we could have learned a bit more about his crew.  But I understand she had a lot of ground to cover with the film.  Overall though a pretty good film. 

The El Rey Network still has been interviewing famous directors, which you can access through Youtube.  So far Guillermo Del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino have been interviewed.  He has more of these coming up and I look forward to them  The Del Toro interview is divided up in to several parts, so you'll have to track down the other parts on YT.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spectrum Fantasy Art Live

If fantasy, science fiction, dark fantasy, horror, book illustrations, comic art, art that tells a story, and  other art that lies along those borders are your thing, they are going on this weekend at Spectrum Fantasy Art Live in Kansas City, Kansas.   I believe this is the third year for it, and I've yet to attend, but I sure would like to go.  It's on my bucket list for the future, if indeed they continue to still have the event.  It's basically set up like a comic con, but rather than selling comics, or people parading around in cosplay, or getting autographs from actors,  and that sort of thing, it deals more with art and the artist that make it.  I assume you can also buy artwork and prints, books, and other items there as well.

Since I live in a small to medium town in Texas there's not a lot of art, other than local art going on here.  In fact I think there's less here than from the previous town that I used to live in, which was about the same size in population.  I do get out and try and catch a gallery show from time to time, but I don't attend them generally if there's some sort of cover fee unless I know it's going to be a fairly reputable show.  Those generally haven't happened here.  The next best thing though is Pinterest.   I'm a member on there, it's free, and I'm surprised more people don't use it as you don't have to use it just for art.  You can save food recipes there, how to fix stuff, DIY projects, movie posters, I've got some live concerts from Youtube on it, some links to web comics, and all manner of other things there. 

I think this is the third week, it seems we've gotten rain.  I guess it's been sort of like that all over the nation, but dang get's a bit old.  I know some places like California are in a drought, so they could stand all the rain they can get I suppose.  Here though things are getting pretty water logged.  I got out yesterday and put the gutter up back on the back part of the house as it had fallen down.  While at the hardware store I also got a new chain put on the chainsaw, which I'll be needing once things dry out a bit.  Plus just other handyman stuff I still need to do--it's never ending.

I ran into a magazine online called Magma.  It's not a new article, but a fairly interesting one about the old Starlog magazines.  So it's a magazine about magazines!  It also has an interview in it with a John Zipper, who might also be behind the Magma magazine too.  At any rate, he talks about the early days of Starlog, what his job included, and how it was working for them.  I thought it was fairly fun to read and insightful.  You can increase the size of the magazine so that it's larger and more readable.  First click the diagonal arrows on the right side of the page.  Then once the page is larger, there's a slider function control on the left side of the page.  Sliding it will increase or decrease the page further.  Check it out here.

If my directions are unclear just monkey with it, it worked for me.

It's a short posting today, but I've got stuff to do.  Below is a video I found on Youtube about the differences between the fantasist Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo, both masters in their field.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fear on Film

 If you haven't seen the early video below it's worth a watch, particularly if you're a horror fan.  It aired in Los Angeles on the legendary Z Channel, a local cable channel that catered to film nuts until its inevitable demise in 1989. The host here is Mick Garris, a renowned expert in the horror genre.

Also if you haven't seen the documentary, Z Channel - A Magnificant Obsession about that local LA channel, which influenced the cable industry and other paid networks like HBO, Showtime, etc. Check it out sometime. I've seen it multiple times and still find it rewarding to watch, and there are clips from many important films and influential directors. 

The early 1980s were such a great moment for the horror genre, and these three men were right at the center of it all. This interview was probably conducted in early 1982—Landis had recently come out with An American Werewolf in London, and was a year away from releasing the video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which anyone who lived through the era will tell you was not just any ordinary music video—it was a 13-minute horror movie on the zombie theme, and both song and video featured a memorable vocal bridge by Vincent Price. Carpenter, of course, had kicked off the Halloween franchise in 1978, had recently come out with The Fog, and would release The Thing in the summer of 1982. Cronenberg, whose previous two features were Scanners and The Brood, was promoting Videodrone, which would come out in 1983, the same year as The Dead Zone. And that’s not even counting something like the first Evil Dead movie, which came out in 1981, or Alien, which came out in 1979. The Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises started in 1980 and 1984, respectively, and that same period saw a whole lot of Stephen King movies too, like Firestarter, Cujo, Creepshow, and Christine.

It’s a pretty interesting interview—Carpenter insists that movies don’t scare him but then admits that seeing It Came From Outer Space when he was 4 years old did scare him. Landis thinks that there’s been a change in horror movies—back in the day, the movies were fairly good but then the effect is ruined by the appearance of a shitty-looking monster; by 1981 the movies had gotten worse but the monsters actually look pretty convincing. The names Rick Baker and Roger Corman are bandied about liberally. Both Landis and Carpenter bemoan the need for entire days being spent to make a single effects-heavy shot. Cronenberg complains about censorship in Canada and points out several positive aspects of the U.S. system (this was taped before the introduction of PG-13, which precisely mirrors a suggestion made by Cornenberg). Cronenberg shows decent self-knowledge when he says, “My films tend to be very body-conscious”—an understatement, to say the least.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Great Beyond

Here's a podcast from one of my favorite NPR shows, Fresh Air with Terry Gross.  Astronomer Chris Impey discusses space travel, sex in space, and the connection between science and Buddhism.  Impey is the author of the book, Beyond: Our Future in Space.  Here's a link to listen. 

Here's another interview with Seth Godin on Singularity 101 that ranges on many topics: What does it mean to be human, artificial intelligence, technology, ethics, etc.  https://www.singularityweblog.com/seth-godin/

The new Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to be doing well at the box office, but I think I'd rather see Mad Max: Fury Road because I've been watching more action films lately due to mood.  From what I've seen and read Mad Max is going to do well too.  I ran across this video on Youtube, if you're a movie buff you might enjoy it. It is set up like a game show.  Mostly it's just a way to discuss movies, and whoever emerges as "the winner" is just subjective.  That said I thought it was fun and a pretty good time killer if you're in the mood.  It's from the crew known as Screen  Junkies, and Chris Stuckmann (a reviewer of films) is one of the participants, and Pat Healy (an actor that starred in the movie Cheap Thrills). 

Some of the topics they touched on were:  Pitch a Boba Fett Star Wars spinoff movie , who should play the next Punisher, who should direct the next Spider-Man movie, what film should be omitted from a franchise of films to make that franchise stronger or should never have been made, among others.  A fairly fun video.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Big, dumb, & loud

Last night I was rather tired after watching Antiques Roadshow and was channel surfing for something to watch and landed on Van Helsing.  I'd actually gone to the theater to see it back when it was released in 2004.  As I remember, I had gone with my friend, Roche.  We often would take in a film on Saturdays, our taste were pretty similar, it was a good way to end the work week, and also quite a fun thing to do.  Also as I remember, there really wasn't much else on and Roche and me both like action, SF, adventure type films, and this one seemed appropriate enough. 

However, when the movie began I immediately got out of the mood.  For one thing, I'd just worn shorts and a very light-weight shirt that night as it was the middle of summer, and it was subzero degrees inside that theater that night--that really didn't help matters.  I remember shivering and trying to watch the opening part to the story, and the volume was turned up so darn loud as some theaters overdo their sound systems, it was a totally miserable experience for me, and I wasn't that much into the silly film either.  So I told Roche, I'm walking.  He sort of looked at me quite astonished, as I think actually he was enjoying into the film, but I just said, I'm not feeling well, and split.

So last night I gave it another day in court, and I got a different experience from the film.  Mind you it was not that it is a high artistic achievement, but a different take.  When I saw Hugh Jackman in his costume, it immediately reminded me of Solomon Kane from the Robert E. Howard stories.  The story did have this pulpy feel to it, and taken in that mold, seemed okay.  Van Helsing is also a mashup of comedy, Universal monster flicks, and pulp adventure all rolled into one.  That still doesn't make it a great film, but taken within that context, it can be an entertaining one, if you're in the mood.

There are several things you have to ignore, however, there's too much CG in the movie, the movie plays too loud, even with the volume at a tolerable level, and really there's not a lot of plot to it, and what plot there is, is totally silly--so you more or less have to turn your brain down to #1 or so, and throw suspension of disbelief off a high gargoyle wall, and just watch it for mindless fun.  Also it could have been edited down a bit, as I thought it was a bit long.  With that said though it can be a fairly fun, escapism movie.  I really don't think it was made for any reason beyond that, other than maybe if it did well at the box office, another sequel might be made.  Which actually I wouldn't mind, if they played it a tad bit straighter.

The whole plot centers around Dracula trying to find and perfect the Frankenstein formula in a effort to create children with his wives.  Since they are undead, they need that.  The film gets started as Van Helsing is tracking down Doctor Hyde (of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and botches that adventure.  He returns to Vatacan City, his headquarters more or less, where he meets up with Q to get some high-tech weapons, and Carl, his sidekick.  The next stop is Transylvania where he meets up with Kate Beckinsale and learns eventually about her brother.  Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother, come from a long lineage of a family intent on vanquishing Dracula from their city.

Now you'll see characters swoop, tumble through branches of trees, fall backwards, get up leap tall buildings with a single bound like superheroes, so you just have to go with that.  Like I said, this film is pretty much all style, little substance.  But I think the style, is part of the draw.  I don't know how much of this film is CG and where the real set designs are used, but overall it has a nice look.  The costumes are great, and some of the creatures are pretty menacing enough to give a young kid nightmares, but it's all played for fun.  Granted it's a thin line whether you feel it goes too far one way or the other, and depends on your mood if you're into this sort of film at all, but last night I found it fun enough.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

FCBD Divergence

Free Comic Book Day happened last Saturday, and I've not participated in it or Record Store Day for the past few years, not due to a lack of interest (well, maybe a little), but also I had chores to do on the weekend that were more pressing.  I wanted to cut down a couple of sweet gum trees when I had a dry spell.  Here in East Texas we've had a wetter season than normal.  So this week, we were projected to have rain about every day for about five to seven days running.  Normally I don't object to such things, it's great for the lawn and flower beds, etc.  But sure it sure has made the surrounding areas waterlogged, brought out the mosquitoes, and there's been some puddling, which make yard work a bit more messy.   You tend to get out when it is sunny, and then stay inside when raining, and look out the window at the cardinals, rabbits, and squirrels as they scavenge about.  At least that's been my method of operation.  Plus I see FCBD and Record Store Day as a marketing ploy to generate business, and there's nothing wrong with that, but in the past has offered nothing really to speak of.  Plus if I want to buy music or a comic I just do so when I see something of interest, and don't do it on a regular basis anymore.  If I do collect something actively it seems lately it has been DVDs.  The last DVD I bought was used at a Salvation Army outlet called Inside Genesis: The Gabriel Yeas 1970-1975 (about the British progressive band, Genesis), I found a TCM Hammer Horror Collection four pack at a Dollar General which has Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, Horror of Dracula, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, and The Curse of Frankenstein (I love those older Hammer Horror features), and I also found a VHS called William Shatner's Star Trek Memories.  So I've scored a few things.

I ran across this article which was fun to read from the folks over at The Comics Journal, which is about two guys hitting up a few comic stores on FCBD.  It was fun to read and brought back a few memories.  Towards the end of my comic collecting I wasn't that much into superhero stuff, though I'd pick up some from time to time that had something new to say like Watchmen, Marvels, Kingdom Come, Astro City, and a few others.  I still have an interest in what's going on in the industry and still follow a few books like Velvet, Saga, and Winter World or whatever.  But I was also interested in some of the alternative titles too like American Splendor, whatever Crumb might be doing, Xenozoic Tales, Planetary, Preacher, some Dark Horse stuff, etc.

I also ran across this article from an early fanzine on what might be John Romita, Senior's first comic interview.  He's the artist that drew many of Marvel's superheroes back in the good ole days like Spider-Man and many others. 

I also found this early article on Carmine Infantino, he was the Silver Age artist that drew The Flash and many other DC heroes. 

As far as my Netflix watching goes, I have been more or less been binging on Season 4 of Game of Thrones.  That series really has been brilliant.  It's an adult take on fantasy, which means, it's not for children, unless you're a really liberal parent because it has sexual situations and ample buckets of blood and guts.  But aside from those two things, which normally don't bother me, the story has been totally engaging.  I've lost track of who some of the characters are, but you can still follow it along pretty well.  It's on the same level as Lord of the Rings in many ways.  I've also been watching the last season for Mad Men, which has also been an amazing run really.  It's a drama that started out in the early 60's that has sort of soap opera format (but don't let that put you off). The scripting, the set designs, the actors, and plots for me have all been engaging, and if you grew up around that decade you probably can appreciate it all that much more.

Musically I've been listening to albums I've had around the house, but find their way back into rotation depending on where my mood is at the time.  Thom Yorke is one of the main songwriters in the British band, Radiohead, whom I love a lot.  The first thing I heard from them was their Kid A album, which I still love.  The Eraser isn't much different from what Radiohead have done in the past, but I haven't listened to it much by comparison, and it still has that multi-layered approach, texturing,  and a very modern sound.  
I got in the mood to listen to some of the Paul Simon Anthology because I saw a couple of programs off PBS lately about the Vietnam war, one was about the draft, which went into a bit of history about it, and went up through the Vietnam years detailing the JFK and LBJ years, college protesting, Kent State, and all of that.  There was also a special on about the Dick Cavet show that I used to watch back in the day when I stayed up that late at night.  He was one of the best talk show host back then.  I also like Tom Snyder, who had some pretty hip guest on.  The fluff on TV in the late show spots currently are pale by comparisons and I have no interest in them.  I'll occasionally watch the monologues for David Letterman, but most of them are just promotions for some actor's new flick, without any spontaneity or wit.  Anywho, I was in the mood for some introspective rock after seeing those shows about the Vietnam era.  The Paul Simon Anthology offers some of Simon's early days with Art Garfunkel along with a large chunk of his solo career, which offers some pretty good pop. 

I'm a huge King Crimson fan, and lately have been listening to their fourth album, Islands.  It's softer overall in tone than their first three efforts, but every bit as engaging with classical and jazzy elements.  Next to the Beatles or really on the same level as their musical excellence I'd place King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd to a degree as well.  All of these bands were very much into progressing their sound, going in multi-directions, and expanding upon what they did before--re-upping on what they had done and experimenting with some new direction in song writing and studio wizardry.  All great bands.
I'm probably not the biggest Hawkwind fan, but I like them well enough.  Their sound had a space rock, jammy vibe to it, and at times I get in the mood for it, though at times it sounds a bit dated.  Though that doesn't detract from the music.  Their first three or four albums are their best ones.  I don't quite put them on the same caliber as say Pink Floyd or maybe even Ozric Tentacles, which have a similar feel to their sound, because Hawkwind tend to keep mainstream rock and roll riffs and just layer synth on top of that, but like I said, when I'm in the mood, it's fun stuff, plus they had great album covers. 

I'd forgotten how great an album, Peter Baumann's Romance '76 album is.  He was one of the members of Tangerine Dream.

Unfortunately one of their original member, Edgar Froese, passed away recently (Froese is the one dressed in the blue vest, Baumann is sitting down in the middle, and Christopher Franke is standing on the left).  Here's an interesting obit on Edgar Froese and the band if you care to read it.  At any rate, Baumann's Romance '76 doesn't stray too far from their legendary sound of what they were currently making during that timeframe, but it's still a pretty amazing album that is artfully crafted, subtly textured, and an amazing album if you enjoy early synthesizer music.  I have around sixteen or more albums by the band, most on vinyl, some are solo efforts, some are soundtracks, and then I have several compilations by them on CD and well, I'm still a huge fan.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Delia Derbyshire and Stupid Texas Politics

Here's a link to Delia Derbyshire who worked with the BBC creating the music for the Dr. Who program.  I don't know how long the link or podcast will be available, the BBC doesn't seem to leave them up for very long for some reason.  So if you what to hear it, better snap into action.  I wondered what part of the co-creation for the Dr. Who theme music she had to do with.  It was written by Ron Granger, but I assume she took what he created and more or less molded it into something more that could be used for the show.  I assume it's more akin to what George Martin did for the Beatles, producing it and used studio equipment to refine the theme further.

You may have also heard that actress, Grace Lee Whitney that played Yeoman Rand on the original Star Trek series passed away a few days ago.   Here's an obituary if interested.  

Here lately, now that spring has sprung, I've been doing more yard work.  I've been cutting back some brush and weeding (there's a lot of Poison Ivy that needs to be sprayed with weed killer), putting down fertilizer, and recently cut down three sweet gum trees, and I need to get someone to cut down or trim back a few others.  Pain in the butt, but there's always something (my Dad's favorite phrase).  Ha.  I also have family (my sister and nephew) coming down for a quick visit at the end of May.  We're planning on going over to Canton, Tx. to where they have an outdoor flea market called First Monday Trade Days at the beginning of each month.  I've always wanted to go there just to see what all they have and to see if it's worth returning to at some later time.  

Texas politics has turned crazy recently.  Both our new governor, Gregg Abbott (Hey Abbbbooot!), and Congressman, Louis Gohmert (whom I refer to as Gohmert Pile), flame the conspiracy theory that Obama may be instituting martial law in Texas by some "secret" military training exercises.   Here's a TV clip where also a military spokesperson is speaking on behalf of the military exercises trying to shed some light on what they are actually doing.  He gets put down by some of the rednecks saying they don't believe a thing he says--nice, way to support the troops!!  The redneck yahoos are rallying around like some serious shit is about to hit the fan.  And yet Abbott and Gohmert could have quelled this whole incident by issuing a news article or a press conference or town hall meeting or something, but then they would look like they are siding with Obama or the left wing.  I guess politician will stoop to any idiocy to appease their idiotic voters and constituency.  Another agitator that loves throwing gas on the fire to flame the whole conspiracy is the Austin so-called "news" radio station and program, Info Wars and its chef spokesman, Alex Jones.  That guy would love to see a civil war or something.  He's a total loon in by book, and anyone that listens to him needs to book a session with a shrink fast, and get on meds asap.  As far as I'm concerned, if you can't be truthful and transparent about situations and politics, you're a damn liar about any of it, no matter how "Christian" you claim to be. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Recent podcast and interviews

I listened to a couple of interesting podcast this week from Terry Gross's show on NPR, Fresh Air.  Generally speaking she has the best radio show around for enlightening topics and interviews.  I generally don't care too much for the political themed ones, but depending on the topic they can be okay too.  Anyway today I listened to the interview done with British actor, Timothy Spall who plays J.M.W. Turner, the artist portrayed in the new Mike Leigh film, Mr. Turner.  I'd heard it before, but was worth a second listen.  I look forward to the film, which releases this next week.  Here's a link. 

The other interview was with Louie CK, who has a comedy show on the FX Channel, which I've been enjoying as of late.  It's taken me a bit to get used to Louie's humor as he works blue.  To some people that doesn't matter, but sometimes I find it offensive.  Also I think it's easier to work blue, than not.  Offensive may not be the best word for it either.  I know it's a subjective thing, and sometimes I find it offensive and other times not so much.  I like Bill Maher too, and he's more or less no holds barred on profanity or any other topic at times, but I like that he can be rather honest or upfront on some topics.  Like I said, it's a thin line and subjective.  Weird I know, I'm human.  Here's the link.

While on Bill Maher, there's been a recent Playboy interview with him that I found interesting here.