Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sci-fi books

Hankering for something to read?  There's plenty if you have the time.  I ran across this link to many SF books, which they refer to as stand-alone novels.  The one above called The Mount by Carol Emshwiller sounded like an odd weird tale, so it appealed to me.  There's enough subjects covered on the list for ever taste however, whether it be space opera to alien invasion.  Here's a link: http://best-sci-fi-books.com/reddits-favorite-stand-alone-sf-novels/


The last book I bought was last weekend.  The Salvation Army was having a fund raising drive so I dropped by to see what they had.  The prices were very reasonable, but they didn't have a lot I was interested in.  I did however pick up the book by Joel Fuhrman, MD, Eat To Live (for twenty-five cents).   You may have seen Dr. Fuhrman on PBS during their pledge drives raising funds for your local PBS affiliate.  I think that's where I first noticed him.  I've since seen him on Dr. Oz.  His main goal is to get us to eat more fruits and vegetables, and stay away from processed foods.  He says that research has shown that in doing so you'll lose weight and also it helps to ward off diseases.  The more more nutrient-dense food you eat, the less you'll crave fat, sweets, and high-calorie foods.  Also if you eat the right foods, you can go back for seconds and thirds and not feel guilty.  He also says the the side dishes we used to eat with our meals, the salads and soups, and veggies, should be the main course of the meal as the above food pyramid shows.  The biggest portions we should be eating is veggies, then fruits and beans/legumes, also including nuts in the diet, and lastly the top part of the pyramid.  He sites GOMBS as being the superfoods: greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, and seeds. 

I don't have too much of a weight problem, although I could shed five or more pounds.  My problem is, I never knew really what to eat, or more specifically what is the right things to eat.  I'm not too picky of an eater so I don't mind most foods.  I don't have many stomach problems with acid reflux or what have you--though if you do, this book might be a way to solve some of that.  I used to think well, I'll eat at Taco Bell or wherever--how bad could it be?  A burrito has flour, beans, tomatoes, cheese, a little meat--it oughta be good for you, right?  Wrong.  I was fooling myself, but I don't think I was any different from most Americans.  Nutrition like personal finance is just one of those things we were never taught in school, but since it's one of the more practical things in life, it should be.

Anyway, I'm fixing to get up and take a walk.  Helps to get a little exercise too. With the warmer weather, I've been trying to get back into that routine again.  I should have been more active during the winter too.  Hindsight is 20/20.

I went around town the other day and took some pictures, so thought I'd share.





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Most admired companies 2015

I ran across this today and thought someone else might be interested.  I got in the stock market in 2000, and it's been a learning process.  I'm still learning and holding my own.  It helps that we have been in a bull market. Like a lot of Americans I started by opening a 401k plan at work.  My company didn't do any matching or anything, but they were with Vanguard, and that's a good mutual fund with many options.  But on the side I also opened my own stock portfolio. 

At any rate, thinking about the future today, and what companies or sectors will bode well for the future.  I assume medical will always be a good sector as baby boomers age, might as well throw pharmaceuticals in that mix as well, cyber security probably will as well, and some sort of health foods and restaurants.  We as Americans like to try to stay healthier these days or that seems to be the trend.

At any rate here's an article from the  Fortune magazine site on which companies are the world's most admired for 2015.  http://fortune.com/worlds-most-admired-companies/apple-1/

Monday, April 27, 2015

Like A Velvet Glove

I ran across a few interviews with Daniel Clowes.  One of them, the one from the Comics Journel I already had read some time back when I was more involved with comics and had a subscription to the Comics Journel, but I'll share it.  Clowes had two movies made from his comic stories.  One was Ghost World, and the other was Art School Confidential.  You may or may not have enjoyed those films, or maybe you haven't seen them, but either way that's a frame of reference.  As they say, the books, or comics books are much better.  Clowes has a oddness and humorous aspect about his work that rivals David Lynch in some aspects, that sometimes doesn't translate to the screen.  At any rate, here's the Comics Journal interview.

The next two interviews I haven't read or seen, so I'll have to come back to them later as I've got a dentist appointment today to get a cavity filled, woo hoo!  One of them comes from Mother Jones magazine, and the other is a video from the Vimeo site.  For whatever reason a lot of the videos from Vimeo don't load well or stream smoothly for me, but the Daniel Clowes: Art's Talk seems to, at least initially when I was looking at it earlier. 

Of the two films mentioned above, I'd start with Ghost World first.  It's probably the better of the two, but I can appreciate them both on some level.   Ghost World was directed by Terry Zwigoff, who also directed Crumb, the documentary on Robert Crumb, the underground cartoonist--another one I'd recommend seeing.  It also stars a young Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca, and Thora Birch as Enid.  They are a pair of disaffected teenagers, Rebecca, a bit older, who are best friends, and live in Los Angeles that go about their days going to thrift shops, music stores, etc. Steve Buscemi is also in the film and plays a a miserable, outcast type guy who collects vintage blues, jazz, and ragtime 78s.  He ends up getting to know Enid. 



Sunday, April 26, 2015

David Fincher & Other movies this past week

Today I ran across an interview with David Fincher on the Playboy site.  He's the director of many successful films: Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Game, Seven, and many others.  The last movie I saw by him was Gone Girl, which I enjoyed.  For the most part I like his films, some more than others, but he seems to make smart films that make you think.  Two of my favorite by him are probably The Game, sort of strange film that's not really Sci-Fi, but has that feel to it or speculative fiction.  The other is Zodiac about the serial killer that plagued the San Francisco area some years back.  At any rate, if interested here's the interview. 

I found out about the interview through another site I ran across called Beyond Cinephilia & Beyond while looking around on the web.  It's a site devoted to films, and maybe you have to be a member to get full access to the area, but at least has a lot of links to some directors, films, and such.  He also had a link to scripts, which if that interest you check them out on the site. 

Last night I watched the horror film, The Babadook.  It was a pretty good horror film for a change.  I say that as lately the horror genre just hasn't done much for me.  A lot of horror films are devoid of tension, which I think makes for good horror.  They dwell to much with gore, or it's cliched with a setup and kill off premise, and I loose interest rather quickly.  There's not much gore in the Babadook, with the exception of perhaps one quick scene, but otherwise it's a pretty well made horror film about a young woman trying to raise her son who has emotional problems probably caused by the absence and death of his father.  At some point in time her son finds a creepy children's book about a boogie man type character called Mr. Babadook.  What I liked about the film was the way the intensity was mounted reminding me of The Exorcist a little bit.  The intensity came in waves, then there would be moments of pause, and then build more intensity.  When I say intensity, I mean tension, but it's not graphic, and it's not extreme either, but it does help to amp up the scenes.  All in all a pretty good film.

Earlier this week I caught the animated film, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya directed by Isao Takahata .  I'm not sure if it's considered anime, although it was created by Studio Ghibli that have made many other well known anime.  But if it is, it was different from their norm in its watercolor art style, which I didn't mind at all.  In fact I'd like to see them vary more and more in their styles and artwork.

It's a pretty straightforward Japanese folk tale taken from "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" about a farmer finding a young baby in a forest, inside some bamboo he's harvesting.  The older couple adopt the girl and raise her as their own.  In the forest while she grows up she befriends many of the rural children around the region, and has a slight crush or fondness for one of the boys.  Amazing enough the story is fairly linear in its telling, yet doesn't get boring at all, and a large part of it is due to the artwork with its subtle, organic depiction of nature, but also has some action scenes which are handled well too.  The story itself is endearing, charming, emotional, and really well crafted. 





Monday, April 20, 2015

Edgiest SF

So I'm sitting around here tonight surfing the web for bizarro SF stories.  I know that's a subjective topic to be looking for because bizarre is going to differ from person to person.  There are plenty of examples of bizarre weirdness in comics about aliens and such, and the same is true for movies.  But off the top of my head I don't know of much SF literature that deals with it--and to be honest, I'm not even sure what I'm looking for other than something edgy.  I not sure if I'm looking for something that's hyper violent, oddly alienesque, or just plain weirdness, but something along those lines.  I'm pretty sure someone would tell me to check out some Phillip K. Dick, and I'd agree his books have a bit of that.  But to be honest, I've never really enjoyed his writing style.  Dune might be a pretty good example particularly, God Emperor Dune.  I also think Octavia Butler's Dawn has a nice style and writes about aliens in a very good way for an example.  Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination might be another example of edgy, at least in my opinion.  But I'm curious to find something even more bizarre than those, although the above example are good for novels.  Moreover I'm looking for some SF short stories. I think that would be fun to read. 

Anyway during my search I ran across the book, The Bizarro Starter Kit from the web site, Adventures In SciFi Publishing.  There's a review for it there as well if you care to read it.  Also you'll find some podcast there, which I'll have to check out, which is why I'm also posting it here. 

On another topic, (though still sort of staying with the bizarre theme) I watched Interstellar over the weekend.

Was it as good as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Probably not by my judgement, but it was really, really good, and if you enjoy SF, it's a must see film.  Highly recommendable.  It was ambitious, far flung, visually amazing, mind expanding, and certainly worthy of all the great praise that's already been given to it.  Did I find any flaws with it?  Maybe, but they are small and hardly diminished my overall enjoyment of the film.  The score by Hans Zimmer also went well with the film.  Again it's not an awesome score like the one in 2001, but I did enjoy it and thought it meshed well with the film.  I have to give it to Nolan for being able to convey stories that can get pretty abstract by design, yet make them palpable for the average movie goer.  He did the same thing with the movie, Inception, although I wasn't as impressed with it, nor did I enjoy it as well.  But again, at least I found it ambitious and full of ideas.

The below video on Mecha anime is just for grins.  I don't care for most of the music, which comes from the time period, most sounding like awful disco to me.  But it's a fun anime of old school giant robots. 



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Art Talk

This is the album cover to one of Sonic Youth's albums called Sonic Nurse painted by the artist, Richard Prince, and I think it's one of their better efforts. It's a pretty easy place to start if you're unfamiliar with their avant-garde brand of noise rock.  For the longest time back in the 90's I tried to get into their music and always found it to be off-putting, pretentious, impenetrable, puzzling, uneven, noisy-for-the-sake-of-it among other things.  And then one day it clicked for me, which is not to say I still don't feel that way at times.  I have to be in the mood for that type of discordant style of music to full appreciate it.  But at least I can appreciate it now whereas in the past I could not. 

At any rate, one of the draws to Sonic Youth's albums or any other musicians' albums really is the album art.  Album art is suppose to induce or seduce you into picking up the album, much like a book or comic.  Back before the internet and when I was growing up,  it was about all you had to go on as to what the band might sound like, unless they  had a hit single on the radio that you'd heard.    And for a large part of  it, captured the music visually pretty well.  Sure ever so often I'd buy something that I didn't like, but I was surprised at how most of the time the album art went so well with the music inside. 

At any rate, today I ran into this video on the artist, Richard Price, so I thought I'd share.  I like this sort of thing, as I'm interested in art and the artist that made it.  What's behind their thinking, what the process to making the art, what are they trying to communicate, what's their motivation, etc.

Here's some links to other videos in that manner.  Most of these artist I'm unfamiliar with so I have a lot to look forward to and discover:  http://www.vice.com/series/art-talk

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

RIP Herb Trimpe

Last Monday 4/13/15 Marvel artist Herb Trimpe passed away.  He's known for his work on The Incredible Hulk comic, but also penciled many others like Iron Man, Captain America, Sgt. Fury, Ant-Man, Killraven, Machine Man, Godzilla, G.I. Joe, Shogun Warriors, The Transformers and many more.

I'm not real familiar with his art or the stories that they were drawn for because I wasn't collecting comics at that time, but I can see how someone could become a fan of his dynamic style.  I read a tribute to him this morning by Savage Dragon creator, Erik Larsen, and it was a nice remembrance.   It made me want to scrounge through some of my back issues to see if I happened to have any of these comics of the Hulk from this era.  I know I have a reprint of the Wolverine vs. the Hulk issue.  I remember back in the mid-80's Wolverine had become a hot property, and that issue which pitted Wolverine against ol' green skins had also become a much sought after issue, so the back issue price had risen.  I was just interested in the story and art, so the reprinting worked fine for me, and it is a fun story.

At any rate, if interested in reading Erik Larsen's remembering of Herb Trimpe, it's here.  



Monday, April 13, 2015

Rain and Crimson

Sunday I was in a funky mood.  Saturday though was a pretty great day as the sun had come out, and the weather felt cool and great, so I wanted to get out of the house.  I went on Craigslist to see if there were any cool garage sales in town, and noticed a listing for an estate sale by Divide and Conquer.  I like going to their sales as they tend to do more up-scale type estates, and even though I may not buy anything, I enjoy seeing some of the properties and neighborhoods where the sales are held.  Since it was on a Saturday that's the last day of the sale, so most of the good stuff is picked over, but the upside to that is everything is priced at half price.  I really didn't find much there that I was interested in, but did pick up a cheap $1.50 gold photo frame that I thought maybe I would use.

After that I ran by Home Depot for a bit.  I'm thinking of buying some, what are called, Knock-Off roses for my gardens, which are a variety of rose that you don't have to prune, and pretty much maintenance free.  Believe me, I'm all into that!   Later on that night, I caught a Dr. Who off KERA called Spearhead from Space.  I don't know if it was just a one time thing or they are going to be rebroadcasting these older Who episodes, but I hope of course, it's the later. 

There are a couple of things notable about this episode.  For one, it's the first episode starring Jon Pertwee as the doctor.  Also they bring back some familiar characters like Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the division of Unit.  It also begins a more earthbound Dr. Who series of episodes set within the present day, with more conventional modes of transportation like vintage roadsters, helicopters, etc.   It was also shot on film, whereas the other episodes were shot on a video tape type format.  I'm not sure why the change in formats for this one episode, but generally they stuck with the video tape to shoot them as it was more cost effective.  Supposedly Spearhead from Space also was influenced by the older British film, Quatermass II at the beginning as a radar station detects the coming of a meteorite shower, which bears an alien consciousness within them.  All in all a pretty good episode with some pretty ghoulish looking robotic creatures in it.

Sunday we got a bunch of more rain, which we've been getting tons off.  I'd like to have a lot more sun, before the temperature turns into summer heat.  But I guess it is what it is.  Sunday I did catch a cool rock concert that I stumbled upon from Youtube.  It's the 70's version of King Crimson.
With their album, Larks' Tongue in Aspic,  they were transforming their sound.  They changed up some of their members picking up Bill Bruford on drums from the British band, Yes. They also got John Wetton from the British band, Family on bass. And also incorporated David Cross and Jamie Muir on mellotron, drums, and an assortment of other instruments.  A lot of the players in Crimson switch off instruments too depending on what the songs call for.  For example, Robert Fripp can be seen in the video playing mellotron on one song, while mostly he's their guitarist, and so forth.  They still kept their progressive rock style, but were making it more intense and rhythmic at this time.  That era is still a great one, and I still remain a great fan of theirs today.  Lark's Tongue, along with their album, Red, and Starless and Bible Black make a triptych of rock albums that remains to this day experimental, enigmatic, and avant-garde.





Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Look Ma, No Strings


A friend brought it to my attention the other day that the Gerry Anderson SuperMarionation has been updated, and is being produced.  The new version is partly made by Weta, who did the effects for the Lord of the Rings and King Kong movie. The craft and characters are CGI, but backgrounds and sets are live miniatures.  Whether your take on the new update is probably going to be subjective.  If you were a super fan of the show, you'd probably be up for watching the shows just to see how it turns out.  And if you're a very critical negative nabob, well, you'll probably find something to hate.





I don't think whether the puppets have strings or not matters to me as to whether I'd give the show a chance or not, I probably would.  I'd be more concerned it they had interesting stories to tell, and if they are produced pretty well.  In all seriousness, they aren't made for an adult's interest anyway, no more than the original Thunderbirds were.  This show is not meant for me or people who grew up with the show. It's aimed at todays kids. Remember that we were all kids once too.

 There is no point in the 'Oh my god they have changed this and that' mentality. What, you didn't expect some changes? They were never going to make it faithful to the original, and its naive of anyone to think they would.  From what a friend has told me they've updated it for modern kids, and his overall impression of it is pretty good.  He goes on to say: the theme retains just enough of the original, there were some nice little nods to the original series - a quick clip of Stingray, the Space 1999 Eagle-like nose of the underwater drilling rig, and the TB1, 2 and 3 launch sequences are excellent, keeping the original 5..4..3..2..1 countdown from the original series voice...and even the 'orange squeezer' in the TB1 launch bay, and they do at least seem to be setting up storylines for possible future themes...such as the Hood/Kayo family connection, and the 'disappearance' of Jeff Tracy.

He also said he enjoyed the design of the craft as well, different but not massively so, kind of pumped-up and with some interesting gadgets (saying he loved TB3's foldable fins/grappling hooks, and TB4's detachable medical pods).

Plus the real sets and backgrounds are a nice touch - loved the big miniature of the Hoods retro-looking craft at the end.

It sounds fairly promising to me, and I'd give it a chance.   I ran across another review of the series, which sounds positive as well.  You can read it here. 


Monday, April 06, 2015

TMNT

I ran across this story detailing a behind-the-scenes retrospective of many of the obstacles that were faced in the making of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  I've only been a marginal fan of the franchise, but I enjoyed it enough that I bought some of the comics, and could easily see why they were so appealing.  For one, they were one of the first independent black and white comics in the mid-80's that sort of fueled the independent comic wave.  I'm sure there were independent comics before the turtle craze, but I don't think they were as popular, because right off the top of my head, I can't recall what it might be.  Granted you had underground comic that were more or less independent comics, but that's like a totally different thing.  I guess Harvey Pekar's American Splendor came out perhaps about the same time or maybe a bit before, but again, didn't have the same popularity.  There was Heavy Metal magazine, but I don't necessarily think of it as independent.  I think of it more as a showcase anthology for foreign comic talent. 

At any rate, TMNT were a pretty big hit at the time.  I enjoyed the simple of art of it, and I think that was part of the draw (no pun intended), and the story and the turtles origins seemed fresh, fun, and easy enough to follow.  I remember the early back issues during the mid-80's were always expensive, and they even had gone into multiple printings, so you'd see prices for a first issue run, or a 2nd, or 3rd issue run.  It got kind of ridiculous, but that's how it was back then.  You'd think that a movie on such a hot property would be a given, but you'd be wrong.  I found this article on what a struggle it was to get the first film made.  I found it interesting, coming from a Hollywood perspective.  If interested you can find it here.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Smothers Brothers

Back when I was a teenager growing up there were a handful of programs on TV that I enjoyed watching.  I had to compete with my brother on a few of them, but most of the time we had similar taste so it worked out well.  If memory serves, The Monkees came on Monday nights, and we'd always watch that.  It was a silly program, though I still enjoy their music from time to time.  For whatever reason, it was tailored made for teens, and more than likely to sell their music. We also watched Batman (with Adam West and Burt Ward as Robin).   Silly as they are I can still watch them ever so often today, though I really have to be in the mood.  But back then, it was hugely popular.  The other was Star Trek.  It was like anything else on TV.  There was a kid that we hung around with next door and he was a huge Trek fan too, and we used to discuss the recent episodes from the week.  The episodes were strange and sometimes mindwarped my teenaged dinosaur brain trying to stay up with them, but the special effects were par excellence, I always thought. They were like indulging in Owsley LSD-25 acid without the chemical equivalent.  Who need to turn on, tune in, and drop out, when you could beam up?

And then there was the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which was attractive to my teenage rebellious side, funny, hip, socially conscience, and was a huge pop cultural showcase for many of the rock bands I loved at that time.  Growing up in a small town and isolated you hardly got anything like that, even in magazines.  Even if you grew up in LA at the time, but were eighteen, you would be too young to go to any of the rock clubs.  So TV was it!  The Smothers Brothers had the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Mason Williams, The Who, Pete Seeger, the Byrds, Donovan, Joan Baez, among many other performers of the age as their musical acts.  I suspect that the performances were lip synced or recorded previously to the broadcast, but back then it didn't matter to me, and I probably didn't know the difference anyway.

I often wished that someone would offer some type of variety hour similar today, but I don't know of anyone with that star power like the Smother Brothers, and although they're still around, I don't know if they'd carry enough weight with a younger audience to get the viewers.  And if they had someone else as a host, I can't imagine who that might be--to appeal to a young audience and adults as well.  At any rate, I recall the era fondly even though it had its share of troubles like every era.  I ran across the link to a Smothers Brothers thirty minute podcast called The Uncensored Story.   There is also a book out now called Dangerously Funny, which actually I'd like to read.


Last night I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  I've read that critics have said it's not as good as the previous two parts to the story, and maybe that's accurate, but if you're a fan of the franchise, I think you'll enjoy it and find it interesting.  I certainly didn't find it boring at all, and enjoyed being able to return to the world of Katniss and her plight.  Actually I had forgotten how HG: Catching Fire, the second installment had ended, and I thought a brief recap of the ending of that episode might have been nice.  But I soon more or less remembered, and was caught up in the current struggle and world building that the Hunger Games captures so well.  I can't wait for the final episode. 

Friday, as I prepared a late lunch, and did dishes I listened to Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a NPR program I enjoy from time to time depending on who the guest interviewee is.  I wasn't aware of  Hilary Mantel, nor of her books of historical fiction, but got caught up in listening to the interview, her take on history and life, and oddly enough found her voice appealing.  If you care to hear it,  you can find it here.  Tonight on PBS Masterpiece Theater they'll be showing the first part of her drama, Wolf Hall.
 
The historical drama about Thomas Cromwell and the Tudor court begins with King Henry VIII, desperate for an annulment from Katherine of Aragon, stripping Cardinal Wolsey of his powers. Wolsey, hoping to regain the king's favor, turns to his ever-loyal aide Thomas Cromwell for help.  During the Mantel interview, however, the writer touches on several things of that history that always alluded me like how Henry the VIII, could divorce his wife, and then have her executed.  I, of course, still don't quite understand that part of it fully, but can understand more what all that was about after the interview, and understand, it was a different place, time, and customs.  Tonight also begins the last part of the Mad Men series.  I've enjoyed that program, so I'll certainly tune in to it.  I guess I'll have to fire up the VCR tonight.
 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Happy Easter--Mishmash

Hey something about comics.  Back in the 90's comics were undergoing stagnation somewhat.  All through the 80's there was sort of a resurgence in comics.  Mainstream books like X-Men, Swamp Thing, Batman, and Fantastic Four to name a few were all pretty strong.  The market had gone to direct publishing, and although you could still buy comics at the convenience stores and newsstands, there were also specialty shops that exclusively to handled comic books and back issues.  It was around this time I got back into comics.  Prior to that they were pretty oblivious to me.  At that time I remember attending a small local comic con at one of the Holiday Inns in West Texas.  I saw an ad for it somewhere, and had just begun to get interested again in the medium.  At that time, Frank Miller was doing Daredevil over at Marvel, and a British writer, Alan Moore was writing Swamp Thing for DC.  Some of the independent comics were also getting published, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the hot titles too.  At the small comic convention I was really surprised by the dealer's there as  comics and fandom in general had become popular.  I picked up a couple of Epic Illustrated magazines as the artwork pretty much blew me away.  Epic Illustrated was sort of Marvel's answer to Heavy Metal magazine, or mimicked them, creating an anthology-type magazine with an assortment of stories, but mostly SF and fantasy. I also picked up some Badger comics, which was written by Mike Baron about an ex-Vietnam vet, who had gone crazy.  It was over-the-top crazy and turned the superhero genre on its ear.

At any rate, that was the mid-80's, and a magazine shop even opened in our area that started handling a lot of these titles.  It was a great time to be a collector and reader.  The comic market sort of bloomed and boomed and then sort of busted.  Now comics, from what I understand, have always gone through such cycles.  But around the 90's there was a glut of bad books being produced.  A lot of the mainstream writers had moved over to other publishers like Dark Horse.  Marvel went overboard producing their X-Men titles and characters and the same is true for Batman as the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton film had come out and generated a lot of hype. They had too many Batman and X-Men titles--I can't even recall them all, but X-Men, New Mutants, New X-Men, Classic X-Men, etc.  Plus they started catering to the "collector mentality" rather than producing "good" stories, and started making all these different covers to collect (which they tried to infer, would go up in price), and they'd make these holographic-type covers and put them sealed up in bags, and so forth.
Then there was also a bunch of new creators that came onto the scene.  I still don't understand what the publishers (or fans really) saw in them quite frankly.  They were young guys like Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd MacFarlane, Erik Larsen, and some others.  Some were pretty good, while others, like Liefeld, I didn't care anything for, in fact, I thought they were hacks.  A lot of their art was more or less sort of static, didn't convey much action, and more or less look like pin-up art set inside a story.  Some of the body proportions were either very stylized or close to a freak sideshow gone terribly wrong.   I didn't buy into it after all the wonderful art that had come before.  There were a lot of specialty publications as well that were catered to the comic enthusiast too, like Comic Values Month, Wizard, Mile High's comic catalog, among others that graded comics, were a price guide with tips, and what the hot books were, and what prices were going up and down, and zigzagging sideways--although I've yet to understand who you were going to sell your books to so you could make all this profit, and retire in the Bahamas.  All this is not to say, that some good books weren't still around or that I didn't enjoy some books being published during this era.  I'm just saying that there was a lot of hype, a glut of too many titles, etc.

Two of the better books to come out of the 90's era was Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and Marvels by Kurt Busiek and art by Alex Ross.  Alex Ross was a newcomer at the time, but boy his art drew me right in, plus the stories were good too and provided a lot of nostalgia.  I won't go into the stories here, as the web has a bunch of that, plus if you haven't read them and want to do that, why spoil it for you?  But if you have read Kingdom Come and want to hear a podcast about it, I ran across one of those today.  At any rate, if interested in the podcast, go here, and scroll down to get to it. 
Staying with comics for a bit.  I also ran across this interview with the seminal gekiga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi.  Gekiga just means dramatic pictures.  I think the artist wanted to separate himself from the typical, manga influence, which a large part of it has dealt with giant robots, SF, and that sort of thing.  Whereas Tatsumi's storytelling is more slice of life or realistic, expanding the storytelling to portray the lives of everyday people.  A large portion of his work has remained unavailable outside Japan, but I have found some of his work in bookstores.  Drawn & Quarterly has been produced many volumes of it, along with his epic, A Drifting Life.  which is his autobiographical work. It's around 800 pages and is a complex story that encompasses family dynamics, Japanese culture and history, first loves, the intricacies of the manga industry, and what it means to be an artist.  Here's the interview with him, if interested.

Over on the El Rey network which I still watch ever so often they have been showing some spaghetti westerns.  Many of them are pretty good or entertaining escapism.  I like westerns for the most part anyway, but there's an odd, raw nature to them.  At any rate, I ran across this list of Quentin Tarantino's favorite spaghetti western.  I'm not a huge Tarantino fan, I enjoy some of his work, some more than others, and he's a pretty interesting guy that has gained his status as a famous director.  But damn sometimes that guy comes off like an immature, teenage lout sometimes.  Perhaps a part of that stems from his fame, who knows, but I'll give him his due.  At any rate, below are those 20 spaghetti western titles:

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  2. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
  3. Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  4. The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  6. A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
  7. Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
  8. Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
  9. Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci,1966)
  10. The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessar, 1965)
  11. The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
  12. A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
  13. The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
  14. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
  15. The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
  16. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
  17. Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
  18. The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
  19. Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
  20. Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)

Speaking of westerns, I saw a good one last night starring Hillary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones.  It was an unconventional western and had an odd story, but I liked it for that reason.  It didn't have the typical cliches in it about shoot outs in the street or barroom brawls, although had a few action scenes here and there.  The main focus of the story was about a woman played by Swank who was chosen to drive three other women across Nebraska to Iowa to a facility that would then take care of them (the story didn't delve to much into what would happen to them once they delivered them to Iowa).  As you might imagine many things happen to them on the trip.  There was a scene, which I won't go into as not to spoil things, that happens at the very end of the film that had me puzzled wondering what the director was trying to say or convey.  I think perhaps he might be saying that life doesn't always work out the way you expect it will or that life is always fraught with problems--or something to that effect.  I'm going to have to do a little Google searching to see what I turn up.  But at any rate, I enjoy the film overall.
Another great little film I watched lately was St. Vincent starring Bill Murray.  He plays a rather hard guy to like that lives in Brooklyn.  He has been shaped by his life, and has a rather cynical, surly nature about him--thus setting up the humor.  Both his character and the character played by Tommy Lee Jones in the western film above had some similarities.  Both men were rather brusque and self-indulgent.  St. Vincent, however, is a comedy. I'm not a huge fan of comedy these days, but this one was great.  A young boy moves in next door to Vincent and it changes his life somewhat.  If you enjoy comedies it was great, but if you have kids bear in mind it's not meant for them as it's more adult in nature.







Thursday, April 02, 2015

Gerry Anderson Special

Jerry Anderson was a UK Television producer and writer, animator, along with his wife, Sylvia Anderson.  They'll mostly be remembered probably for their 1960's children's puppet adventure shows that occasionally dealt with SF themes.  He started out with two series, The Adventures of Twizzle (1958) and Torchy the Battery Boy (1959), that were more conventional puppet shows whose gimmicks included extensible arms and electrical powers, but were scientific.  His "SuperMarionation" however were the ones that got him noticed starting with Supercar in 1961.

Thunderbirds didn't come until later on in  his career, concerning the Tracey family that aided people in trouble.  It spun off two feature films, Thunderbirds Are Go, and Thunderbirds Six, along with a later live action film.  I enjoy some of the marionation, but I prefer his UFO and Space: 1999 series best.  He later on in the 90's created Space Precinct, which was a cross between SF and a cops procedural.  I also like his SF film, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.  Below is a Thunderbirds special that I found on Youtube.