Monday, October 17, 2016

Art Geek Monday

I've been busying myself lately with making art work.  There's an art show coming up at the end of the week, and if I'm going enter I need to get something officially together as the deadline is Friday.  I think it's doable.  It's just a matter of what I decide to enter.  You can enter three pieces, and then they get judged by a panel from the gallery. 

I'm a bit indifferent to it all, but most of the time I enjoy the experience.  The above art is by me (a photo).  The theme of the show is called, Glassy and Glossy.  Yes, it's vague theme as most are, but it allows one to brainstorm and fit some kind of art into that subject.  It went on to say something like be as creative as you like and try to meet both criteria.   That's a bit hard as in my mind they are so closely related (somewhat), but I think the above work applies.  I'm still putting a few things together. 

I was surprised with the last showing that I entered.  I entered three pieces of art, all photos, one which had been digitally altered.  They chose two of them for the show.  Well, I attended the opening and looked around to see what everyone else had entered.   Tyler is a fairly small-ish town, but don't undersell the artist here.  There are quite a few, and most are very good.   Anyway, when I went to go pick up my artwork on the day of closing, I was told one of my pieces had sold.  Surprised the heck outta me.   So that made my day.  I asked who had bought it, and I didn't know the buyer.  So that made me feel even better because the patron, being a stranger just found the art work pleasing in and of itself without having any other familiarity.   So yay me.

Speaking of art and nerdy stuff, I ran into this interview with SF artist Vincent Di Fate over at the Omni magazine site.  If you are into that sort of thing, you can read about it.  

While over at the Omni site, there is another interview with SF artist, Jim Burns.  I love how both artist can tell a story more or less without any words, just from looking at their subject matter.  You can find that interview here. 

While on the topic of geekdom.  There's a guy over at Youtube I enjoy listening too, Steve Donoghue.  He's an older gentleman that I found while perusing their book Vlog videos.  I'll admit I'm not a voracious reader, but I admire those who are.  Plus I'm always interested to know what someone is reading at the moment and what sort of things they are interested in whether it be books, comics, music, TV shows, movies or what have you.   Well Steve does just that in the below video.  Like a lot of us, his favorite TV shows, comics, TV series, and so forth are informed and inspired by his childhood and early years. Those things that energized and excited us when we were younger in life (and really still do to this day).  I guess that's normal.   Either way, check it out. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hey Kids Comics & Crime

Halloween is just around the corner, and I've been in full mode by enjoying some horror movies lately and such.  I picked up Ed Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser's comic, Kill or Be Killed the other day.  It deals with supernatural horror, or does it?  The jury is still out because when reading it one is left with the questions:  Is there something supernatural going on here, or is it all in the main character's head?  I guess we might or might not find out conclusively, but for now, the first issue is just out so it has only started. 

Brubaker wrote another comic series not long back called Fatale which also dealt with supernatural horror in a H P Lovecraft vein.  He mixes up the genres with noir crime, the mob, and monsters.  Overall it worked pretty well.  He's one of those writers that has the ability to pique my interest.  I don't know if it's the topics he writes about or the way he writes, but his projects generally interest me.

If you enjoy that sort of thing or if you're an Ed Brubaker fan, I ran across a great little article on him from the folks over at A. V. Club.  Brubaker also talks about the new Sci Fi series, Westworld.  I've not been able to see any of that series yet, as I don't subscribe to the network, but if it turns out well, I'm sure I'll watch it when time allows.  I certainly enjoyed the original movie, Westworld, and the follow up movie,  Futureworld.   Here's a link to the Brubaker  article.  

While on the topic of crime, I saw a good crime noir movie last night called The Lineup starring Eli Wallach, who played the part of a crazy pschopath, Robert Keith as his older accomplice, and Warner Anderson  as Lt. Ben Guthrie.  The story was basically about a criminals trying to smuggle heroin  into the US by way of using innocent victims in their ploy.   Evidently the film was taken from a TV series that came before it, but I had no knowledge about that series.  Evidently a later TV series, Dragnet, was also modeled off  The Lineup TV show.  I basically rented the film as it was an early effort directed by Don Siegel who has done other crime movies like the first Dirty Harry film, The Killers, Charley Varrick, and many other noteworthy films.

The movie itself was made in the late 50s, but don't let the date distract you from watching this classic film.   Also worth noting is that it's shot in the San Fransisco area, so you see many of the sites around that area many of which are gone now.  It's an area that Siegel would revisit again when he made his more famous film, Dirty Harry. 

So I watched The Lineup last night, and as I watched it, I recalled I'd seen bits of it before on the TCM channel.  I just didn't know what I was watching at the time as I had tuned into late before the opening credits ran.  If you rent the DVD don't overlook the bonus features.  I generally don't mess with bonus or special features, but in this case I checked them out and was surprised that Eddie Muller, a crime aficionado, and James Ellroy, a crime novelist did a commentary track on the bonus features.   If you happen to rent the movie, don't overlook those bonus features as it added a lot for the appreciation of the movie, the town of San Francisco, which is where Muller grew up, and there's a lot of humor and banter between the two gentlemen. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Star Wars: And Yet Another Sequel

Unless you live under a rock somewhere on Altair IV, you know there's a Star Wars movie slated for the end of the year.  I'm as big a Star Wars geek as the next Storm Trooper walking around Comic Con, so I know, unless it's a huge critical bomb, I'll be warming a slightly worn stadium seat with my trusty buttered popcorn in hand when it arrives.  I enjoyed Star Wars: A Force Awakens, and I think it helped reboot a franchise that I think even some of the diehard fans felt was needed. 

I read somewhere that it was these  blockbusters like the Marvel films, the endless Fast and Furious movies, the action films, or what-have-you, that keep the money flowing so that Hollywood can occasional make the smaller or less known films.  So I guess it's all good in the end, unless you're like me at times, and you sort of get fed up with them after a while--haters gotta hate syndrome.   But I know in the end, that's what they are, and two, I like some of those films as well.   I'm not a very sophisticated movie critic.  There are enough films out there that no matter what you love or hate to go around, and in the end enough to please most people. 

Here recently I've been watching some horror films.  'Tis the season.  Just this past weekend, I saw Beyond Re-Animator (a sequel to Re-Animator) based on a H. P. Lovecraft story.  For a sequel it wasn't too bad.  They closely followed the original film, had a love story as part of the plot,  Jeffery Combs reprises his role as Dr. Herbert West, and as the film goes along it goes right off the rails with the horror and violence as the first picture did.  Sometimes that's all that's need in a sequel.  That's one of the reasons Star Wars I, II, and III didn't vary a lot from IV: New Hope, V, and VI.   Fans I think want to revisit some of the original story, and experience or try to recapture some of that warm fuzzy a second time around.  For the most part it works, it works as far as a retelling device goes.  Of course now with the computers, forums, and the like, fans and people of all ilk can hash and argue over whether or not it worked.  For a SF fan or genre geek, it's their playground at the water cooler like sports might have been or still is at one time. 

I saw a shift in that at the office as a matter of fact.  When I hired out and was the new greenhorn learning the ropes, I worked around older gentlemen.  Then they talked about family, some sports, household fix it stuff, farming, or some such.  As the years went by, and a newer generation came in, you saw a slight shift.  They'd still talked about family to a degree, sports, but also throw in something about Star Wars, South Park, and so on.  Pop culture was getting more mainstream.

Anyway, I'm bloviating a bit here.   A friend sent me something comical covering the Star Wars franchise so I thought I'd shared it here in case you had not seen it.  I'd not seen or knew of Mr. Plinkett's views over at Youtube.  It is pretty funny.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Such is Life, and Middling Movies

This past week I got picked up for jury duty.  Thank goodness I wasn't picked, but I still had to show up at the courthouse at 8:30am.  It was packed.  I tried parking in the regular juror lot, but it was already filled, so I drove down to another lot that I knew was used for a juror parking and thankfully found a space.  I had to hoof it over to the court house, and once I got to the building noticed a guy at the rear of the building giving a fire and brimstone speech or sermon?  I'm not sure what it was exactly.  I assumed his intent was to perhaps help some lost souls find Jesus or God, but man, I thought what a crazy acting dude.  Quite honestly I didn't have time to stop and listen to him, not that I would have, but just sort of gave him space and hurried on as I was running a bit late.  I don't think it would have mattered to him much as he did not seem to slow down his delivery or insistence.   Whatever he was discussing in the morning air was set at a high-fevered pitch, and seemingly with great urgency and bluster, and I don't know, he seemed a bit crazy to me.  I had to wonder if that ever occurred to him, or if he just didn't care due to his mission.  This screwball town.

Once inside the court house it was still packed.  I found a seat, and they ended up picking I think 60 people to screen for one trial and 90 for the next one.  I thankfully was not picked.  I should have bought a lottery ticket once we were let go.  I chatted a bit with a guy though while going thru the initial screening process off and on.  He had bad breath, which made it difficult at times.  But I found that if I secretively regulated my breathing, sort of holding my breath as he spoke, and then breathing in, it wasn't too bad.  He'd grown up in the Austin area, and had traveled around Texas, and talked about towns like Houston and Crockett and traffic.  He was a friendly sort otherwise, and I read from some of a book I had brought along for the occasion.   At any rate, neither I nor the guy I was talking to was picked, so we scurried on our way.  Boy, was I ever glad.

Finally the super hot Texas weather has broken into something a bit more tolerable.  I guess the bugs have sensed this as well, as I've had more problems with them of late.  So I probably should spot poison around the house, as I have guest arriving to spend the night on Oct. 6.  A couple I know from Austin is driving through town on their way to some family get together.  My friend asked if they could stop over, and I said sure, I'd love to have some company.   My friend and I used to live together when we were going to college in Lubbock at Texas Tech University back in the Stone Ages.  I graduated, and he moved down to Austin to finish up his college, but we've always kept in touch.  We were both big music fans, which seems to be one of our common denominators, but we both share similar outlooks on the world, politics, movies, and such.  I think those touchstones and common denominators create friendships.  Anyway this week I'll be doing some house cleaning and such. 

Movie-wise, I've seen various things.  Nothing great or classic, but fun to watch nonetheless.
Crazy People starred Dudley Moore and Darrell Hanna, both pretty good actors.  I've enjoyed movies by them both, however, this movie didn't offer much.  It was lightweight and slightly funny, if a bit outrageous plot-wise and also drug in a few spots.  Dudley Moore's character is thought to be overworked and strained from his ad agency job, and his recent tendency of coming up with "totally honest" ads, make his mental health suspect to his boss.  Ads that sound like this:  "Smoking, sure it causes cancer, but man, the flavor."   At any rate, he gets blackmailed into getting some rest (and an evaluation) in  a mental hospital, where he meets Darrell Hanna's character, romance and attraction ensues.  He soon meets other people in the institution, and oddly enough the ads he had previously created work, so he recruits the residents of the hospital to help him create more ads.  It's a pretty fluffy movie, but semi-enjoyable. 
I caught Creature, also known as The Titan Find, off my Roku device one night.  It probably was the weekend, and I tend to watch more genre films then.  (Who am I kidding? That's my mainstay.)  This movie was a total ripoff of Alien.  You can tell that from the very beginning when the soundtrack starts, then the viewer gets whisked off to a mining-type, archeological dig off on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn.  Whoa, just whoa.  Two explorers are investigating some oddly sealed, alien-like containers, looks like some kinda creature in there.  I think you know already, like I did, where this one might go, particularly if you've already seen the Alien movies (and who hasn't?).  A creature gets out, things run amuck, people scream, get killed, more whoas, and credits end.  That aside though, it's watchable, particularly if you are a SF nerd like me.  One of the things that caught my attention was the older school use of special effects with the space ships, and for their modest budget staging alien landscapes and scenes, and that sort of thing.  If you don't care for any of that, I'd say, skip it.
Taeter City, I'm not making this up, honest.  That was the title of this movie.  That in combination of the crazy movie poster had me intrigued.  Why?  A sucker is born everyday, I guess.  But you know what?  For what it was, which is a very low budget SF horror movie, it wasn't a total waste of time.   As I've already said, I'm a SF geek and throw in some horror with it, and I'm game.  I knew nothing about this movie beforehand, and that might be the best way to watch it.  It's shot rather experimentally the way George Lucas did with THX-1138, and it has similar tropes.  It takes place in a post apocalypse, big brother society ruled over by a dictatorship or should it say, a dictaetership, sorry, couldn't help myself.   People who go against the system and act out, or dissidents, or people that go crazy are killed off by a Judge Dredd-like police force, and then they are ground up into tainted hamburger meat for the society to eat, which then causes more mental illness in the overcrowded population.  The cops use this odd Zeed electronic system similar to the way the film, Minority Report warned the cops about potential criminal activity that might occur. That causes more perps to get hunted down, and killed, which makes for more hamburgers.  Such is the life cycle in the future.  It's one of those oddball movies, where someone comes up with the plot, and just goes with it, and if it flies off the rails, so be it.  Again, this isn't going to be to everyone's taste.  I was in the mood for something different and it sure filled that bill.  What's odd, is I never could get my TV's audio quality to sound right when watching this movie.  It always sounded distorted a bit, a bit warbled and dirty. I think maybe it's made that way or with that intent--just giving an impression or this warped society.  They probably made it that way to cover some of the more obvious flaws and imperfections.   If you are in the mood for something that's probably brain damaging and different, well seek no further.
You might surmise from that Island of Terror poster that the critters in this British film prefers the crunchy recipe, and you'd be right in that they like eating our bones.  It's an older British SF horror film, and starred Peter Cushing who is always fun to watch on screen.  The film had the flavor of some of those Brit Hammer films, which is fun too.  Science runs amuck and created these sort of parasite type critters.  They have a hard shell like a turtle with tentacles.  They reproduce or divide like an amoeba rather rapidly, which makes it even more a threat.  There's some romance, and then the towns folks at the end get their act together and finally hunt down these beast.  It was a pleasant enough creature feature for me. 
Well, pardner, with them thar two stars, James Stewart and Audie Murphy, starring in a big timey Oater, it's just gotta be good, right?   Well, not exactly.  I was raised partly on westerns and partly on SF fare like the Twilight Zone.  The Night Passage isn't a total failure though as it was shot (at least it looked like) in Colorado, which is beautiful.  The thing is the movie is fairly pedestrian, or nothing special.  I think the flaw for me wasn't so much the two main stars, but it was the performance by the one main bad guy played by Dan Duryea as Whitey Harbin.  He played it too over the top for me.  It seemed all of his lines were spoken, LOUD, YEAH, CAUSE THAT'S THE WAY THE TOUGH GUYS SPOKE BACK THEN, CAUSE THEY WERE MEAN, AND ROWDY, AND THEY JUST MIGHT DRAW ON YA AND SHOOT YOU DEAD.  SO DON'T TRY ANYTHING, IFFIN YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YA.  It became a bit comical and cliched by the time the movie was drawing to the end.  It's not that it's a bad movie, in fact I enjoyed it for the most part, but I could name off some other westerns that are far better.  It also had a pretty good shoot out toward the ending, so there's that.  Otherwise, it was a bit of a middling western, but enjoyable.