Monday, June 22, 2015

NY - Monsanto Years

Here's Neil Young's new album, the Monsanto Years that's soon to be released.  It's politically oriented with some of the lyrics, but then Neil has generally always been that way to a degree or has grown more that way through his musical career.  Actually I respect him for that.  He seems to care about the little man, the environment, farmers, and that sort of thing.  Anyway you can hear the album in its entirety for free for a limited time only here:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

15 Scientist Share Favorite SF Books, Films

I thought this was an interesting article, in which 15 noted scientist share their favorite SF books and movies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Terror Takes Shape

The other night I was channel surfing, and ran across the original SF movie, The Thing from Another World directed by Howard Hawks, and immediately got caught up into watching it.  I also like the remake by John Carpenter.  Both films have a great way to induce claustrophobia and chills.  As you may also know, it comes from the John W. Campbell Jr. short novella, "Who Goes There?"  Campbell is arguably acknowledged as one of the most influential editors in the history of science fiction, and was the editor of Astounding magazine.  It was a time when the pulps were in their heyday.  At the time of Astounding there were many other such sensationalistic magazines competing with their own writers, which feature bug-eyed monsters with inciting artwork of spacemen helping spacewomen in distress. 

Campbell's magazine took a different tack, it was more subdued, understated, and emphasis was on logic, reason, and the scientifically plausible; and focused on how technology would impact on the average human life eventually turning the tide away from the pulps.  Under Campbell's editorship, Astounding spawned a new generation of writers who also included Asimov and Heinlein, among others.  

Under Campbell's influence poetic stories such as "Twilight," "Forgetfulness," and "The Elder Gods," he deliberately questioned many of science fiction's underlying assumptions, setting  a precedent that has helped the field to continue to thrive ever since. 

"Who Goes There?"  formed part of that revolution.  Although full of suspense and action, it turned science fiction away from stories that were merely suspense and action.  It also posed a scientific puzzle: Faced with an alien intelligence that can take over a human body and absorb memories, how do you determine who is a monster and who is human?  I thought John Carpenter's movie addressed that pretty well whereas the Hawks movie did not.

That said though The Thing from Another World remains a classic in SF that sparked off the SF/Monster movie boom of the 1950's, and remains one of the most powerful of that decade.  It is full of Hawk's trademarks: fast pace, overlapping dialogue, and an ability to elicit relaxed, naturalistic performances from the cast.   Hawks wisely kept the Thing (James Arness) off the screen for most of the film--something Ridley Scott also did with his film, Alien, so when you are finally confronted by it, there's a jolt.  Granted the earlier film doesn't have the special effects of the Carpenter film, and it's typical of adventure films made during the Cold War, with the shoot first,  ask questions later mentality.  But with The Thing I thought that mentality made sense--I would have too. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015


This past week I went to the new Mad Max: Fury Road film directed by George Miller starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron among others.  Overall, yes, it's a cool action SF flick.  I can holy endorse the mad petrol-fueled, super injected ride it provides.  In short, I rather loved it.  It was a good way to kick summer into high gear.  The story is lean and mean, and doesn't stall around for heavy exposition and background story, though there are pauses to catch one's breathe and add some story to the action.  A lot of the story is implied and the viewer is left to fill in a bit of the rest.   If I were to have a quibble, and this is a personal criticism on my behalf, not with the movie, but specifically at the movie theater, Carmike 14: THE SOUND WAS UP TOO DARN LOUD!!!!   I'll admit I am getting old, no surprise there, and I understand this type movie was made heavy metal loud, but does it have to play to ear splitting level?  I think not.  I'll admit I don't know what goes on up in the projection booth, but I suspect they are run by low wage earning teenagers, who don't know squat about much these days, but it's too bad Carmike 14 doesn't monitor their hired help better than what they evidently do.  They could also perhaps clean up their bathrooms ever so often as well as it was pretty nasty.  Just sayin'.

At any rate, this was one of the best entries if not the best of the Mad Max films for me.  I'd read and heard that a lot of the special effects in the film were practical, not CGI effects, and if that's true that's pretty amazing because there were a lot of them.  Of course you can expect some CGI, but it meshed so well with the overall film, it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't.  This was one of those movies that lives up to the hype, "if" you are wanting to watch an action film, and I think that disclaimer needs to be made as I'd read some negative feedback from some people that have said that it was all action and had no plot, etc.--that type thing.  I look forward to re-watching the film when it comes out on Netflix. 
This past week I also caught the last two episodes of Game of Thrones, Season 4, which is the last season on DVD.  Again wow!  A lot of action in some of those last two episodes, particularly with the battle at The Wall, and there was also a tying up of some of the plots during Season 4.  One of the ways the series has amazed me is how George R. R. Martin has been able to crank out writing the four novels and continues to write the novels to jive up with HBO series, although I think Season 4 is the second half taken from one of the books.  He's a writing machine as the Game of Throne has an expansive cast, multiple plot lines, and at times I've wondered if they are going to be able to continue the consistently great work that was laid down ever since Season One.  So far they have, even building upon the greatness.  It seems like each season has built upon the previous seasons, which amped up the tension, and finally with Season 4 we are given a few resolutions with the plot, not that it ends the story itself, just finding conclusions to certain plot threads.  Just enough for the viewers to feel rewarded and want to continue to watch.  Now I'm wondering where the story is going to go, some newer plots will probably be laid, and so on.  It's been a good TV series. 
I ran into this today if you're a Captain Marvel fan.  It's a two-part history of the Captain's Fawcett years.  You can read the first part, and there are links to the other parts on the site at the bottom:

Saturday, June 06, 2015

6X6 2015 Show

This is the three pieces I entered in the 6X6 Show for this year.  They are all basically landscapes in one form or the other, at least that's my take on it.  It's a fund raiser event for the gallery so all funds go to the gallery, but I'd be happy to know if any of mine sell, I guess that would be some justification for having done them.  I changed my outlook on creating art this year over last year.  Last year, my intentions were just to do something that appealed to me, having fun making it, and not worrying about the subject matter.  This year, I re-evaluated that line of thinking, and thought well, the object of the show is commercial,  so really it needs to be something to sell.   I still have no fault with my original intention, but tweaked it a bit more to see if I couldn't capture someone's interest enough to buy. 

First I had to wonder, what does sell?  I found a short tip on the web that addresses that:

Okay that last bullet about cows vs. bulls and chickens vs. roosters eludes me a bit, but I can pretty much agree with the first and middle paragraph.  It's a bit hard to distance yourself from what you like and what someone else might like.  Generally I never bother with that notion.  I generally think, well, just create you like and if someone else appreciates it too, good.  But as I said I re-thought the matter, so we'll see how it goes.

These are the other two I submitted.  I was happy they way they came out. 

Music usually helps to inspire me too while painting, and for the first one, which really is mixed media and was sort of experimental I was inspired by the King Crimson album, Islands.   The bottom two which are space art inspired I was inspired by Hawkwind's  Hall of the Mountain Grill album. 

I ran across this recent interview with James Gurney.  He's the artist and writer for the books, Dinotopia, which are books l love.  His art and discussions about art are an inspiration for sure. 

The Plien Air Painting below in New York City is pretty cool.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

It's More About Me

This is the home studio of Jonathan Hickman.  He's a comic writer and artist that's currently writing the current Secret Wars comic for Marvel.  He's also written for the Avengers, Fantastic Four, East of West, The Nightly News, and a bunch of other comics.  I found out about this from reading his older article on iFanboy called Concentric Circles wherein he just writes about different topics that strike his fancy.

I'll admit I don't keep up with comics as much as I used to--don't feel like spending the money nor have the storage space for them.  I've considered going digital as there's a new rental service called Scribd that's sort of like Netflix, which allows you to read as much as you like for a monthly fee.  It's one of those cloud resource things, and probably would work well for fans like me and others.  They don't have DC comics on board yet, but I think given some time, they'll become available too. 

Anyway, I ran across the above Hickman studio tour thing, and thought I'd share.  There is more on the site so if you're interested in those sorts of behind the scene details follow the link. 
There are other comic studio tours on there as well like the above on from Mark Waid, among a few others.  Unfortunately the site, Comicbookresources,  that host the tours hasn't provided a active link, so if you want to access other artist and comic people's studios, you have to type their name in the search window, and bring it up that way.  If you are into comics and entertainment of that sort, CBR is a good resource and news site.

Supposedly there are other studio tours by the below creators, so if you want to check them out, type in Jonathan Hickman Studio Tour (or whoever you're looking for), and see if it's still available--I haven't had the time to go thru everyone yet either.

  • Joe Quesada
  • Scott Kurtz
  • Frank Cho
  • Rick Remender
  • Matt Haley
  • Simone Bianchi
  • Mark Waid
  • Tony Moore
  • Top Cow Studios
  • David Lloyd
  • Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
  • Mark Millar
  • Mike Norton
  • Andy Smith
  • Jock
  • Mike Allred
  • Ryan Ottley
  • Mike Hawthorne
  • Freddie E. Williams II
  • Jamal Igle
  • Stuart Immonen
  • Terry Moore
  • Kody Chamberlain
  • Tony Lee
  • Francis Manapul
  • Pia Guerra
  • Jay Fotos

  • It finally got sunny here, so that means I can get out and do some yard work, which I did some of yesterday.  I tell you though, half the battle of yard work is messing with the machines (They conspire against us, and they'll be back).  I have a pretty decent mower--it's just a push mower not very plush.  But the darn Weed Eater is another story, talk about cantankerous.  Those blighters are finicky.  Talk about obsolescence.  I think my current Weed Eater has lasted about six or seven years.  I guess that's about the life span.  That's another thing about yard equipment, you never know if you're buying a dud model until usually after the fact.  I'm fixing to do a search to see if anyone rates any of them.  I did go over to Youtube yesterday, a good resource for this kind of thing, and watched a guy clean out the carburetor on a Weed Eater similar to mine.  I followed his video, and did the cleaning and also replaced the spark plug, but still it's not staying running.  Perhaps it needs a new carburetor.  Always something.


    Monday, June 01, 2015

    Daily Dose of Darkness

    Well, the weekend came and went, overall pretty fun.  Leading up to the arrival of guest, my sister and nephew, we'd been having some rough weather off and on.  Last Thursday I believe it was around midnight a huge deluge hit with thunder and lightning and sure enough it knocked out the power.  I went ahead and just went to bed afterwards because what else you gonna do?  But first I reported it to the power company here.  The recorded message said it would be back on two days later around midnight--that would be after my guest were to arrive.  I hoped they were just giving me the worse case scenario.  And sure enough they were as it back on the next day around noon.

    Anyway we had some fun and took a side trip to Canton, to the 1st Monday Trade Days, which is rather large flea market affair.  It was still rainy then, but we chanced it and really it was pretty perfect weather for it.  We also met my niece and her daughter over there.  Once everyone had gotten together we gave the flea market a look.   It never rained much at all, and we just looked around. The niece bought a few things.  Some of it was under a roof just in case a downpour happened.  We ate a lunch of sandwiches over there, and later headed back home.

    Once we got back we rested a bit and the nephew had some computer stuff he needed to do, I took a nap, and my sister ran by my aunt's to say hello.  We later convened and went to grab another bite to eat at a tasty Mexican restaurant.  When we got back we decided to watch The Imitation Game.

    It was a really good biopic about Alan Turing, who was the math genius who cracked the Nazi Enigma code during World War II, which provided a key role in winning the war.  Some say his efforts were the beginning of the computer age.  The lead role was played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who generally has turned in good performances,  and Keira Knightly was also a co-star, as well as a few other well known actors.  The film starts out in the present day, shifts back to before the war, and then back to his days in boarding school, and shifts between those timelines during the film filling you in on the man's life, but it's pretty easy to keep them all straight.  Benedict does a good job of portraying the eccentric math genius, and how his personality doesn't exactly endear him to his co-workers and peers.  I don't know how much is truth or fiction in the film, but I assume a large chunk of it is more or less made up to create the drama.  All in all though it was an enjoyable film.  I enjoyed it more than Unbroken--another film on WWII.

    TCM is presenting a free summer course on film noir online in conjunction with their movies this month.  I went ahead and signed up for it, just to see what the thing was about, and maybe to get a better perspective on noir.  It is evidently pretty self-paced and open.  You can do as little or as much as you like.  There's no test or paperwork or whatever.  It's mostly for grins.  But if you sign up as I did they'll send you emails on what's showing and what to look out for within the film, which you would not get if you don't sign up.  Plus they'll alert you as to what noir films are showing that week, that's the draw for me.

    The first email has been sent out along with what movie to watch this Friday, which is Fritz Lang's M.  Luckily for me I have it also on VHS, but have never watched it.  It's showing here too early around 5am, and that's a bit early for my routine.  At any rate, you don't have to watch everything, and you can do as you like, but the emails are informative as well.   Within the first email they have:  

    Welcome to your Daily Dose of Darkness.
    This is a course feature that runs Mondays through Thursdays. There will be four Daily Doses of Darkness each week. The Daily Dose is designed with your busy schedules in mind. Each Daily Dose provides you with a short, five-minute observation or insight into film noir to keep you engaged in the course. Each Daily Dose is self-contained and focuses on a single film clip from a movie in TCM's Summer of Darkness lineup. 
    The theme of the first week of Daily Doses is "Dynamic Openings." The first four Doses feature the opening scenes from films airing on June 5.

    Daily Dose #1: The Nasty Man in Black (The Opening Scene of Fritz Lang's M)

    Watch M on TCM: June 5, 2015 at 6:00am EDT
    Curator's Note: Watch the opening scene from Fritz Lang's 1931 film, M. What do you notice in these early moments from M as you watch the action unfold in the context of film noir? How is director Fritz Lang staging his characters, moving his camera, and controlling the lighting to establish a seemingly ordinary working class city neighborhood, albeit with an underpinning of dread and unease? What seems wrong about this place? Do we have any warning signs of trouble to come? What are some of the aspects of this scene that you feel are related to the film noir style? In particular, while film noir is considered a very visual cinematic style, pay attention to M's sound design. Listen to how Lang is building up the film's increasingly tense and unsettling mood and atmosphere by skillfully incorporating sounds originating from inside the film's world (such as children's voices, cuckoo clocks, church bells, and car horns). Curated by Richard Edwards
    Watch Film Clip: 

    Further Reflections:  
    After watching the clip, please go to Twitter (#NoirSummer) or the TCM Summer of Darkness Message Board to continue your reflections on this clip. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):
    -- What word or combination of words best conveys the mood that Fritz Lang is trying to create in this opening scene?
    -- In what ways can the opening of M be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

    At any rate, it might be a fun course.  While on the topic of film, I also found out about another film blog, called Some Came Running, which they recommended, so I bookmarked it.  It looks fairly interesting so thought I'd share it.  I've just barely looked at it, but here's a link: