30 June 2005

It'd be better if it were a martini, though...

I saw this (QT, sound) over at MeFi, and it's actually really well done. I never thought I'd see an advertisement that was a parody of Luis Bunuel.

And what a parody it is; they didn't just go for a simple look-and-feel; there's a lot of explicit references. I don't think this is complete, but this is what I caught on my second viewing, shot by shot (perhaps some spoilers if you haven't seen these films):
1. Establishing shot -- sort of reminds me of Diary of a Chambermaid or the outside of the mansion in L'Age D'Or (particularly the scene where the groundskeeper shoots his son).
2. The three men sitting around the barrel look kind of like the hermits in L'Age D'Or.
3. The man who turns into a violin with his clothes on the back of the chair is a double threat: The man disappearing and having his clothing left is a reference to a scene in L'Age D'or where people, well, disappear leaving only their clothing. The violin shows up in pretty much every Bunuel film -- he hated Violins, stemming from his childhood when he was forced to learn how to play the instrument against his will. They typically show up in indignity; in L'Age D'Or a man walks down the street kicking a violin and stomping it to bits; in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of the characters insists on sitting away from the string quartet as she cannot stand to look at them -- that's two, just off the top of my head.
4. The man behind the bush is a reference to the Conductor looking for the Woman in L'Age D'Or; it's also similar to the outdoor scene in Un Chien andalou near the end.
5. I'm pretty sure the egg is a reference to something, but I'm completely blanking. However, the ants crawling from it is a reference to the famous Ants In The Palms scene of Un Chien andalou (One of many visual puns in Bunuel's work that I can't help myself from explaining: In French, the phrase "Ants In The Palms" means approximately the same as "Itchy Trigger Finger" in English -- basically, that you want to kill someone; in "Ants in the Palms", it's an itch that can be only scratched by grasping the hilt of a dagger and stabbing someone with it; similarly, an itchy trigger finger can only be sated by pulling the trigger on a gun (though there are some differences too; often times, "itchy trigger finger" implies someone who is merely careless or overly excitable with a gun; someone who'd fire 10 shots when 1 would do -- though, having an itchy trigger finger can also be used as a threat (viz. tons of bad action movies)). Hence, the scene in Un Chien andalou is showing that the Man wants to murder, which gibes with what Bunuel and Dali always said about the film, that it was a "call to murder". By the way, I'm not kidding about loving to explain this -- I've even made a short film on the same concept of explaining that one shot.) Also, since Bunuel had an incredible interest in insects (he flirted with being an entomologist), they showed up all over the place in his films -- the piano-torture scene in Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie for example.
6. The cloud going across the moon is a direct reference to the infamous prologue of Un Chien andalou, where it is meant to trick the viewer into thinking it's merely symbolizing the imminent eye-slitting... which, of course, takes place immediately after the shot. It's a nice place of subverting cinematic expectations -- you're expecting (well, not anymore; the scene is so famous you're expecting it) that the film-maker is not going to actually show the gore, and merely show a stand-in. By showing the moon, Bunuel lulls you into thinking that you've just seen the stand-in and are "safe", then he shows you the gore anyway; this also has the neat side-effect of showing the viewer that there isn't any particular symbolism in the film -- he and Dali threw out a bunch of stuff from the treatment, anything that could be seen as having a point or making sense or being a symbol. (A few still snuck in, though, like the ants.)
7. I'm pretty sure the shot with the woman is a reference to L'Age D'Or, near the beginning when the woman is shown with the bandaged hand (another visual pun, "bandee", in French, means both "bandage" and is a euphemism for female masturbation; combined with the scene before which, ahem, more strongly suggested female masturbation pretty much confirms "yeah, that's what I'm gettin' at".). At least this is what the scene reminds me of; I'm just going off the top of my head here, and not looking things up -- forgive me any errors!
8. I believe the empty chairs falling over is a reference to L'Age D'Or as well, though I'm blanking on what exactly.
9. The ostrich is a reference to The Phantom of Liberty as well as Bunuel's love of Animals in Human Social Situations, like the bull in L'Age D'Or, the bear in The Exterminating Angel, the dead donkeys in Un Chien andalou, and quite a few others.
10. The beer rolling across the ground is very similar to the dream sequence in The Exterminiating Angel with the disembodied hand sliding around, being just sort of generally malevolent looking.
11. I think the beer turning into an apple is a reference to the Sea Urchin scene in Un Chien andalou, though it might be something else. I'm trying to think of other examples of apples in Bunuel films, but I'm drawing a blank. It could just be a general surrealist reference, though, perhaps a shout-out to Rene Magritte who most definitely was an Apple Fan.
12. I don't think it's a reference to anything Bunuel-wise, but it's pretty cool that the soundtrack is by Clara Rockmore, virtuosa of the theremin.

Anyway, though -- I think I hit at least most of the Bunuel references; as I said I was going just off the top of my head, so I hope I didn't get anything too awfully wrong. There were apparently some F.W. Murnau references in there, too, but unfortunately, I'm not nearly as familiar with his work as I am Bunuel's, so I wasn't able to really call those out, either. Also, from the MeFi thread, apparently Archive.org has Un Chien andalou available in their archives, so if you haven't seen it, definitely check it out.

Current Mood: Impressed

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29 June 2005

Circuit Bending

Man, this just gets into all of my obsessions and whatnot; it's electronics, noise, strange musical instruments, home-engineering, science, toys, buttons and dials.

Circuit Bending is something I've always wanted to try; it sounds so fun. A friend of mine got one of these (the one by Toshi Asai, first one, second row) for his birthday last month, and I got to play with it. I actually got to show people how it worked, even though I'd never used one before; I guess it's just my inborn love of that sorta thing that lets me figure that kind of stuff out quickly.

I haven't tried my own hand at it yet, though; I only have one Speak & Spell, and I've got kind of a sentimental attachment to the thing. I got it when I was maybe 5, and I adored the thing; mainly because it made noise; I didn't need the help reading or spelling, really, but, hey, anything that made noise, I was all over. I loved that it was this device that could talk; they had Speak & Maths, too, but I wasn't as into those; they couldn't do words. So, I hesitate to mangle mine (even though they typically have a "non-bent" setting, too, I'd just be so afraid of ruining my Beloved Childhood Noisemaker forever), but perhaps if I find another similar electronic toy, I'll go to it.

The first Circuit Bent thing I'd heard about was someone who built "guitars" out of Speak & Spells for their noise band. And, of course, as soon as I'd read that, I wanted to do it. At the time, I was even willing to go at my own childhood friend, but at the time I didn't know where it was and thought it'd been given away, so I just filed it in the back of my mind. (Luckily, I found it later.)

Circuit-Bending has been relatively wide spread, the originator of the term has his own website on it, and there are communities for it, and there's a yearly festival.

The thing that made me want to do a post about this, though is that there's an upcoming documentary on circuit bending, with loads of interviews, including one with Mark Mothersbaugh (which is understandable, since his brother (and original DEVO drummer) Jim built/invented their drum machine (and later went to work at Roland doing R&D and tech support for bands). To raise money to finish the documentary, it looks like they're selling a best-of of last year's Bent festival. I haven't seen that DVD, so I don't know how it is, but it looks pretty interesting, and, well, this stuff is pretty neat, and you can get some really cool sounds out. And, well, I'm a huge fan of cool sounds.

And, hey, while we're on the topic of Speak & Spells, the "English I've Got Berzerk" mix of Shonen Knife's "It's A New Find" (from that Japan-Only EP) is really cleverly built out of the start-up sound from a Speak & Spell; by the end of the song, the melody has just been replaced by that sound looped with a drum track over it. It's a little obscure, but could presumably be found if someone is resourceful enough.)

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Cinematic déjà vu

OK, it's no secret that "Hollywood has run out of ideas," as they like to say on Fark. (I'm not linking to Fark because it's a crummy website and should usually be avoided.) But THIS cracked me up:

"Batman Begins" took in $26.8 million to remain the top movie for the second straight weekend, but it could not keep Hollywood from sinking to its longest modern box-office slump.

Overall business tumbled despite a rush of familiar new titles — "Bewitched," a "Love Bug" update and the latest zombie tale from director George Romero.
DESPITE a rush of familiar new titles? How about BECAUSE the words "familiar" and "new" are, in fact, opposites?

Remake-mania has been going on for at least a decade, but it seems to have hit a really high point (er, low point?) this summer. Look at the top ten this week (from the same article):

1. "Batman Begins," $26.8 million.
2. "Bewitched," $20.2 million.
3. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," $16.75 million.
4. "Herbie: Fully Loaded," $12.75 million.
5. "George Romero's Land of the Dead," $10.2 million.
6. "Madagascar," $7.3 million.
7. "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith," $6.25 million.
8. "The Longest Yard," $5.5 million.
9. "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D," $3.4 million.
10. "Cinderella Man," $3.3 million.
Four remakes. Three sequels. And a crappy Pixar knockoff. When "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" looks like the most original idea out there, Hollywood isn't just out of ideas, it has died and is rotting away in its bed while the neighbors wonder what that funny smell is.

Sadly, the only two movies I've looked forward to this year are, yes a remake and a sequel. They'll probably both be good, but come on, people... is there no end to this in sight?

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Two Things: Google & Unesco, and some magic

First, magic. Funny. And I normally hate magic shows. These guys were clever, putting some nice twists on things.

Second, this guy has used Google Maps/Satellite imagery to find all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which honestly, I think is COOL. Many interesting landmarks. And a LOT of work to create them-- there are 768 UNESCO landmarks!

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28 June 2005

Comment Notification

Hey, if folks want to get notified whenever a comment is posted, there's a link on the sidebar to join a Yahoo group set up for just that purpose, OR, just click here. (Also, for those who are so inclined, you can get a RSS feed of the comments from the Yahoo Group as well.)

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Flickr and Blogs


IMG_0808.JPG
Originally uploaded by uberllama.
Flickr can post a picture-- just about any picture, it seems-- to your blog, automatically. This "cross posting" capability is REALLY awesome and could be useful to all of us in getting pictures up on the blog here from places where we won't have to worry about the hosting disappearing.

At first, I was worried that this picture might come through far too large, but check it out... it's perfect. I think we all should get Flickr accounts... I'm already running into some cool people on there.

This is from some of the flooding pictures that are starting to-- er, trickle-- onto Flickr.

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Come On Feel The Illinoise

Sufjan Stevens' Come On Feel The Illinoise album is out this week, and I have to say, it's pretty darn awesome.



Dusted Magazine has a cool new interview with Sufjan on the topic of the album, and what he might do next with his "50 States" project. The track listing can be found on a blog entry from last month, and in case anyone missed it, there's still an MP3 of Stevens' song "Chicago" available online.

I haven't seen many reviews of the album yet, but I'm sure this is going to be showing up on some "best of" lists at the end of the year.

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27 June 2005

Against the World, Against Life

HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, is a book by French author Michel Houellebecq, who is better-known in this country for his two novels, Platform and The Elementary Particles. HP Lovecraft was written before these other books, but has only now been translated into English.

I'm a big fan of Lovecraft, but I haven't read many books ABOUT him, because they all tend to say the same things; his writing style was overblown but you get used it, he was a misanthrope and a racist, no he wasn't gay, etc etc etc. After reading this excerpt and this review of Houellebecq's book, though, I really want to read THIS book about Lovecraft. From the excerpt:

Few beings have ever been so impregnated, pierced to the core, by the conviction of the absolute futility of human aspiration. The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles. A figure in transition toward chaos. That is what will finally prevail. The human race will disappear. Other races in turn will appear and disappear. The skies will be glacial and empty, traversed by the feeble light of half-dead stars. These too will disappear. Everything will disappear. And human actions are as free and as stripped of meaning as the unfettered movement of the elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, sentiments? Pure "Victorian fictions". All that exists is egotism. Cold, intact and radiant.


This is EXACTLY how I've always read Lovecraft's work. The idea that we as humans just don't matter all that much, except to ourselves, is terrifying to some people, and a bit of a relief to others (Houellebecq, Lovecraft fans over the last 80+ years, and to a certain extent, me). Michel Houellebecq comes across, in interviews and articles about him, as a bit of a crank, but maybe that's what makes him so well-suited to analyse Lovecraft's dark, squishy stories. (Speaking of which, two HLP stories, "The Call Of Cthulu" and "The Whisperer In Darkness," are also reprinted in this book.)

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John Fiedler, 80, Stage Actor and Film Voice of Pooh's Piglet, Dies

From the NYT

John Fiedler, who played character roles in celebrated dramas on Broadway and in Hollywood but gained lasting fame among young audiences as the voice of Piglet in Walt Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh films, died on Saturday. He was 80.

That's 2. Who's the third?

Cheers
CW

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26 June 2005

And, because I said I would:

I finally got my photographs from my California trip up! Along with commentary! Since folks can leave comments, I'm hoping my girlfriend comments on them, too, since she was there and took a bunch of the photographs, too. But yes, marvel at my amazing photography skills! You will go "WHOA, how did he get that shot?!" and I will be all "I don't know, I'm just, like, talented."

(also, feel free to leave comments too. They get all emailed to me and stuff, at least, in theory, so I will know and be able to reply and such if need be.)

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Paul Winchell, RIP

More sad news from the world of voice acting -- Paul Winchell died Friday. He had a really wide-ranging set of talents; he was a a famous ventriloquist, voice actor (best known for Dick Dastardly or Tigger), and an honorary medical doctor.

How'd he get to be an honorary doctor? By inventing the artificial heart. He also invented a bunch of other stuff, too, but I think that's the most notable. The man was brilliant.

(Also, his daughter April has a Weblog that has a sad post about her father's death -- I'm not sure if there's a direct link to the post, but it's the June 25th post.)

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25 June 2005

And, Also In My Bookmark File

I have this habit of bookmarking articles with the intent of turning them into posts here. Of course, what ends up happening is that I bookmark then, then promptly forget about them. So, I figure I might as well empty out my folder with a few articles that are pretty cool:

An Imaginary Scandal A really cool article about a literary hoax; a reknowned and critically acclaimed book by an Indian woman living in London turned out to be written by a Children's book author. Who also turned out to be a white English vicar.

Through The Looking Glass Another literary article, this one about a 10 year old girl who wrote a novella back in the 1970s, and then disappeared. A really interesting exploration of early talent and what can happen, and also the whole thing about what can happen as people reach adulthood.

An Interview with Judy Blume Growing up, I loved Judy Blume's books -- I think between 3rd and 5th grade, I pretty much read all of them, at least of the Young Adult ones. (Though, I don't think I quite got all of the references, heh...) But this is a pretty interesting one, looking at her battles with censorship and all of that kind of stuff; this was written for the 30th anniversary of Forever, one of her more controversial books.

DIVIDE BY ZERO Just a bunch of cool, free, true-type fonts.

The Fred Phelps Expose Book and The Capital-Journal's Indepth Stuff on Westboro Baptist Church. A lot of stuff, perhaps seen before, on everyone's favorite loathesome kook. On a similar note, Smell The Brimstone is Westboro Baptist's foray into Web Animation (inexplicably in RealVideo/Windows Media, when it looks to me like it was done in Flash...). Like basically anything these swine do, Not Safe For Work, but it is kind of funny, but not in the way they THINK it's funny. But it's kind of amusing, I suppose, at least in that "Laughing at the horror of it all to keep from crying" type sense.

Anyway, I think with the first couple links, I was going to compile them into a big post that explored Fakeness Versus Realness (since I really enjoy that kind of stuff), which'd include the Codex Seraphinanus and this dry abstract about how Acupuncture has no evidence of working with migraines, and maybe some other stuff like various Internet Hoaxes like Kaycee Nicole, but, well, I never got around to it or really figured out a good way to make it work. At some point, I might get around to doing it, but I haven't quite figured it out yet, so... And, I think the other stuff was just more of "Hey, this stuff is neat! You should check it out!" I think I had a few other ideas for combination posts, too, with, like, linking the three articles about writing together somehow, but... well, it's cooler to just share those links, anyway, because they are awesome. So, yes! Hooray! Anyway, I'm off to see The Ditty Bops here in a little bit, so that should be fun!

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24 June 2005

Webcomics Part II

Eh, this isn't really a Part II per se, I just found a couple while poking through my bookmark file that I kind of forgot about:

No Idea On The Title Of This I don't know much about it, but it seems to be a bunch of Japanese Comic Strips Literally Translated Into English. They're pretty absurd and don't make a whole lot of sense, but they're kind of amusing. As far as I know, there's only the 33 of them, but hey, that's probably enough, right? The first one, about a Facequake is one I've always liked.

Burton & Jefferson A cut-and-paste photo strip that's sometimes political, sometimes not. Lots of famous people, but it's got a really pretty neat visual style, really -- it's not just "here are some cutouts of famous people!" It's more like "here's cutouts of famous people run through photoshop so they match the rest of the look of the strip!" And, hey, how can you go wrong with Jimmy Stewart watching the "November Rain" video in 1989?

The Comics Curmudgeon Not really a comic, but a guy who comments on various Newspaper Comics, usually two or three a day. I like his writing style, and well, Newspaper Comics are an easy target, but he's FUNNY, so, it's OK. (Speaking of which, as a good companion, and something I think I've linked here before, Drink At Work, the blog by Francesco Marcuiliano, the writer for Sally Forth. There's a bit of cross-reference between the two blogs, as they seem to be friends, and, well, both are really pretty funny. I've actually gotten a little bit more of an appreciation for Sally Forth from reading his blog.)

So, yeah, I kinda forgot about these when I was writing that post. Mainly because I forgot I actually had them in my bookmark file until just now. Wiggy!

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The Onion, 1756-2056

Apparently, I missed about 1,326 issues of The Onion. Did I oversleep or something?

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More Timelapses

Two new timelapses were added tonight-- one of an unexpectedly spectacular sunset tonight and, for contrast, an old but spectacular sunrise from the cold snap this past winter (when it was -30C). Enjoy.

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23 June 2005

Update: Calgary Area Flooding!

An update from my previous post about all the rain... Please pardon the delay, but it's taken me forever to get all the panorama pictures stitched! Also, most of the links below are pix, so click on them all! I'm hoping to give you an accurate view of what's happened...

OK. Calgary is now on track to break June's all-time record for rainfall, with serious rain again in the forecast for this weekend, and with only 6mm out of the 225mm needed to break the record. Although the state of emergency has been lifted (link info), the situation at the water treatement plants is still dire. My tap water smells heavily of chlorine, and the city car washes have been shut down and although it doesn't seem logical, people are being told NOT to water their lawns. It would tax the overburdened water treatment system right now. Also (as usual, I post this), there are some interesting pictures over a Flickr.

This past weekend (050619), right after the flooding crested at record levels, my friend Brad and I got on our scooters and explored Calgary, taking pictures of as much of the flooding as we could get. Here's a little photo gallery of some of the better pictures we took over this past week, plus a timelapse gallery I made, as well. Brad also made a gallery, too.

Calgary, in case you don't know, has two rivers going through it, the Bow and it's little cousin, the Elbow. Both rivers join just east of downtown, near the old Fort Calgary. Cute river names, right? Lee, you'd think the Sims built Calgary! Check out the names of some of the places... "Earl Grey" Golf Course??

Anyway. Here's a Google map of calgary, along with a satellite companion. Basically, the interesting flooding pictures happened at the Glenmore Reservoir (the reservoir is at the bottom of each map, with the dam being at the top edge of the reservoir, and the protected wilderness pictures taken down at the lower left on this map). Zoom around a bit. To the left, upstream up the Bow river, lies Prince's Island Park (See that brown-coloured bridge on the right? And the rocks on the riverbank? The rocks were TOTALLY SUBMERGED in the flooding!) and the further west you go, you run into more and more Calgary that way, too. I love just north of the 10th st. bridge, on 14th st... see that island? It's gone, now...

To the east (the Bow River flows into Hudson's Bay) the river crosses the weir, a small lock (what it does, I'm not sure) that is extremely dangerous to boaters (underwater vorteces). I'm told the weir was pretty much a speedbump during the flooding.

In the map, you'll see the Elbow river twirling north from the dam (through some of the most expensive and picturesque (and most heavily damaged) real estate in Calgary). Check out this picture of the Saddledome (I didn't take these ones). See the bike trail? Partially covered in water. See the bridge, to the left? Water was spilling OVER TOP of it.

The Glenmore Dam and water treatment plant, by the way, was finished in 1932, and this is only the THIRD time that water has ever flowed over the top. As you can see, normally, water NEVER comes over that barrier (which is usually grey and dusty and flecked with orange pieces of moss). When the dam was built it created one of the largest drinking water reservoirs in Canada, and it also created one of the most diverse wildlife areas (the Weaselhead Natural Area). Check out how low the water is to the left in that picture, then compare it to the ones in the photo gallery.

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Quick: Robotic arms

Cool. This guy has bionic arms that actually do what he THINKS. Neat.

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Update: Moon Illusion

A quick update on Rev's Moon Illusion post... today's APOD has a REALLY cool picture of the moon doing its summer solstice thing. Lovely. And Flickr has some good shots from other prople, too, that makes fun browsing.

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Sims have good taste in music!

One of the many things I love about The Sims 2 is the INCREDIBLE attention to detail in the game.

After playing the game SEVERAL nights a week ever since it came out (I know, I know), I only just noticed something this evening: if you zoom in on the CD rack under the little stereos some of the Sims own, you can identify the CD covers- and they're all CD's I have right here in my house! :D




This is the best resolution I could get out of the game, blown up to double size, so you'll have to squint a bit. Click the image above for the larger size image. (inside the game, I have the advantage of being able to zoom in and out, and rotate around in all three dimensions, so I was able to check them out thoroughly.) What we have here are four CDs repeated in nine slots in the CD rack. Starting in the top left slot, they are (mockups of):

Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk


Aphex Twin, Come To Daddy EP


Beck, Midnite Vultures


...and finally, Radiohead, The Bends


The CDs repeat once as you go left-to-right thru the rows, and then the last one (bottom right) is Beck again, I suspect to keep from having a tic-tac-toe style diagonal row of Tigermilks.

I realize this may be the geekiest post I've ever done. ;) But I have to admit, it made my night. Heh heh!!!

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22 June 2005

White Dog



I just got through watching White Dog after wanting to see it for many, many years. Holy crap- what a disturbing, DISTURBING movie.

Short synopsis- Kristy McNichol hits a white German Shepherd with her car, takes it to the vet, and takes it home. She grows to really like the dog, and then one night the dog saves her by fighting off a would-be rapist who breaks into her house. Now she is DEVOTED to this dog.

It turns out, however, that the dog is a "white dog," trained to attack anyone with black skin. Burl Ives and Paul Winfield play the owners/managers of a company that rents wild animals to movies and TV productions; Winfield's character is determined to de-program the dog, feeling that since hate and fear are learned, they can also be UN-learned.

This is my first exposure to director Sam Fuller, and I have to say, I think I'm a fan already. His whole depiction of idealism in a savage, brutal world reminded me a little bit of David Lynch or Larry Cohen, but with ZERO humor to cut the tension. The acting was a little hammy at points, but in a B-movie that's not usually a bad thing. Some of the visuals were absolutely inspired... the last shot of the movie gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes at the same time. (As well as tricks like a war movie playing too loud on the TV during the attempted-rape scene... unnerving and brilliant.)

How this movie was found to be unreleasable in the U.S. is absolutely beyond me. This movie is completely ANTI-racism, and manages to be so in a gritty, non-preachy, at times depressing way, one that asks as many questions as it answers. Highly, highly recommended.
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BTW, y'all may remember this is one of the DVDs I got from Five Minutes To Live; it was probably the best quality we're going to get unless this movie ever sees a proper U.S. release. It appeared to be taken from VHS, and had Dutch subtitles, so the pic quality wasn't the best (maybe a B- ) but the audio was good (A-) and didn't have any major flaws, so overall, I'm thrilled to have it.

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21 June 2005

The Art of Esao Andrews

The art of Esao Andrews

Very cool Flash interface and some really wonderful, cool, spooky art.

Found via BoingBoing

Cheers!
CW

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20 June 2005

Summer Moon!

Just a heads up, gleaned from MeFi, but tonight and the next couple days will have The Summer Moon Illusion. Tonight, in Seattle, it's going to be at 8.22. (There's a chart for various cities and a way to look up stuff if you're not on there.)

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19 June 2005

The Kingdom of Loathing



Somehow I have gotten sucked into this online game called The Kingdom Of Loathing. It's basically a spoof of Dungeons & Dragons, which I was somewhat addicted to as a teenager in the 80s.

My character is a Pastamancer (pictured above), although I was sorely tempted to be a Disco Bandit, just because I loved the name. :D His familiar is a 4-pound mosquito named Buzz, who helps him during battles by sucking blood out of his enemy. His favorite weapon so far is a pair of dirty hobo gloves, and he goes into battle wearing studded leather boxer shorts. He's also usually fairly drunk, since his favorite drink is "Mad Train wine." (His favorite food so far is asparagus, which he often hunts in the Haunted Pantry.)



You get 60 turns per day, which lets you roam around and go on quests, fight monsters (beware the horrible Undead Elbow Macaroni!) and get your character very drunk. The artwork is all hand-drawn, and there's a lot of absurd, obnoxious humor in the game. I haven't gotten far enough to meet any of the other players yet, but I gather there's a bit of a community aspect to it, too, with various chat channels and whatnot. (For example, if you battle your way through the Haiku Dungeon, you get access to the Haiku chat, where people are ONLY allowed to post in haiku. :D )

I look forward to battling Knob Goblins and Possesed Cans of Tomato Sauce on company time. Heh!

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Webcomics I Am Enjoying

I'm a pretty big fan o' comics and stuff like that in general. When I did the Shinpad post, Lee mentioned that it's sometimes hard to find good webcomics, because there's so much crap out there to sift through; it seems that for every Achewood, there's about a million Film Funnies. So, anyway, here's a (truncated -- there's a couple of comics I check all the time in spite of myself) list of the webcomics I tend to check every day, with commentary, just because, well, "Oh, here's a list of stuff!" doesn't really tell anyone anything.

(Before I start -- anyone heard the Fastbacks' cover of "Midnight Confessions"? Doesn't it just rock?! The original's pretty cool, too, though -- I've always really liked it, and I don't care who knows it! It's just one of those perfect pop songs, like "I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight" by Boyce & Hart.)


Lore Brand Comics This is by Lore Sjoberg (half of the Brunching Shuttlecocks. He's got his own blog, too, at Slumbering Lungfish, but this is his weekly comic strip. It's not the best thing he's done, but it's sometimes really amusing. Pretty much a standard copy/paste type strip, where the three panels are exactly the same, but the dialogue changes. There's some lame ones, but usually they're pretty witty.

K. Thor Jensen Not technically a web-comic, but he's got some of his older comics available in the old archive; his stuff ranges from the personal and sad to the goofy and dirty (Uh, that one's NSFW; actually, probably assume that most of these aren't.)

Clone Manga A comic collection site; there's one longform serious one I haven't got in to (though I did discover the site near the end of same -- but they've got a new long-form-serious one coming, so I'll be definitely giving that a shot). I've been enjoying Nana's Everyday Life, based on an anime (Elfenlied), which I've never seen, nor was able to make a whole lot of sense out of from reading about. Also amusing is April and May about a couple of college students, and Tomoyo42's Room, which seems to be a riff on Card Captor Sakura, I guess, but it's not necessarily really clear, aside from the occasional character from that showing up. All of these are SO not work-safe; lots of sexuality and violence -- some stuff that even creeps me out. They're not the best comics in the world, but they're amusing enough, and a decent way to kill time.

Sabrina Online One of the only Furry strips I read (that entire subculture just passed me right by, despite knowing a couple furries in real life; more power to them, though), it's pretty much the Big One of the Genre. About a Skunk who loves Amigas and works at a porn studio as the webmistress. (Relatively work-safe, actually. It might not be something you'd prefer to be caught browsing there, but it probably wouldn't necessarily get you fired or anything.)

Pokey The Penguin One of the best comic strips EVER. It takes a few to get into the swing of it, but once you see where they're at, it worms itself into your brain and becomes the best thing ever. They used to update a whole lot more -- pretty much daily -- but now it tends to update in flurries. Every so often, there'll be a new one a day for a week or two, and then silence. This is sad, but they're all of such high quality, it's totally cool. I love the one that's currently up where Pokey needs to go to the hospital because he ate something he shouldn't have. His rationale is excellent.

Better Days Pretty much the only one that stayed on this list that I read for semi-Ironic value, and I think the only other Furry strip. I just discovered this one not too long ago -- via this article from the High Weirdness Project. That site explains the drama aspect better than I could (though I think the parties are reversed on who is willing to let things lie), but it doesn't hit on the weirder aspects of "Better Days": 1. The creator is a pretty hardcore right-winger, and there's the occasional story-arc railing against "Liberal" Strawmen, and 2. As a result of the Drama in that article (about how the two characters were created by different people who used to be friends and now aren't), there was a story arc in which the two characters had a sexual relationship -- oh yeah, the two characters are brother and sister. I intended to just read a couple strips to get the gist of it after reading the Wiki Article, but ended up spending a couple hours reading the entire archives and check it twice a week, when it updates; it's like watching a very well-drawn train wreck. (A recent strip looks like there'll be another Strawman arc soon, as it just pictured a Stereotypical Intellectual Girl in a Che shirt, so I'm thinking that should be exciting! (For the record, I'm not exactly what you'd call a fan of Che, so I have to admit the frustration with folks who seem to really dig him, but on the other hand, as a person who self-identifies as a Liberal, this should still be pretty soon, because given the past strip, I'm figuring she's going to be another stand in for most of us.) HOWEVER: To be fair -- as I said, I only read this strip Partially Ironically; when there isn't the weird Political Stuff or Incest Stuff, there are some arcs featuring real emotion and good storytelling. So, I feel a bit bad about using this paragraph to mainly just bag on the strip. But it's actually a pretty good strip when he's not mounting hobbyhorses or going on strange vendettas.

Bee Comix Jason Little is finally back after the first Bee adventure, Shutterbug Follies -- which was originally released in its entirity at that site, and then taken offline because it was sold in a beautiful hardback book from Doubleday. (Shutterbug Follies is also really highly recommended!) This new one, Motel Art-Improvement Service has just started, but it's looking like it's going to be the same style of "Bubblegum Noir", to use Little's own genre-label, as the other one. The Bee stuff is really fun and very well done. It took him about 2 or 3 years to finally get Motel Art Improvement Service online after teasing it immediately after Shutterbug Follies ended, but I'm devouring every page as he puts it up. It's a little slow going (it'll probably take about 2 years or so to wrap up), but it's so, so good, and there's the book to keep you sated in the meantime. (Not too long ago, I just re-read the existing pages of Motel; I love Jason Little's stuff.)

Bob the Angry Flower A comic strip that runs in a Canadian Free Weekly; it's another one that's typically based on what the creator wants to write about at the time -- there's very little continuity between strips, but the basic idea is that Bob, the titular Flower, lives with a smart/sarcastic tree stump, and a naive floating fetus named Freddie. That is, when the strips are about Bob at home, in the present day. Bob does tend to travel through time/the world when it suits the strip (he's not really a time-traveller or anything, Bob just pops up where he's needed, which is mainly when Stephen Notley has an idea for a joke). I've got the four books, too. I dig this one, and, well, I find it hard to hate someone who has the same frustration I do when it comes to misuse of the apo'strophe.

Sam and Fuzzy This is on the short list of strips that I absolutely love, and a relatively recent addition to same. I love the artwork on it -- it reminds me a bit of Jhonen Vasquez, but it's not a ripoff or anything. About a guy who works (now) in a bookstore and lives with a psychotic, basically amoral, weird bear thing. Great artwork and writing.

Shinpad ...Eh, it's alright.

Achewood This is quite possibly at the top of that shortlist I mentioned, though. The writing here is exquisite. Achewood is just mindblowingly good; it takes a few strips to get the rhythm, though; the first 10 or so I read, I didn't quite get why everyone was gushing over it, and then, with the 11th, I got it and I couldn't stop reading. The early ones aren't quite as good as what the strip evolved into, but taken as a whole, this is just pure art. I love Achewood. And it's imperative to check out the Character Blogs as well!

Fat Jesus/OWLIE!!!/Eagle-DNA These are the comic strips by some combination of Mike Leffel and Bob Scott; unfortunately, they're rarely updated, but there's always the archives. And I typically check every day just in case they've been updated. I love these strips. I've actually advertised in a comic book they self-released. Fat Jesus and Owlie! are drawn by Leffel, and are pretty straight-forward comic strips, with an absurd sense of humor, and Eagle-DNA is a cut-and-paste comic by Bob Scott (with the occasional sprite by Leffel) which is squarely in the non-sequitur realm of things. I love these strips. Leffel is my favorite palindrome.

Hound's Home Another strip I really love; it's evolved over time; it's sporadically updated now, but there's a really long archive. The Jay Leno Arc was the beginning of the end when it came to consistent updates, just because it was a really intensive and drawn out arc, and it was hard to recover to normal updates -- and, well, when you combine that with every day life, like, getting your masters in psych and all that, it's not too much of a wonder why Hound's Home ended up taking a bit of a backseat, unfortunately. Still, though, it's still being updated, though not really on a schedule.

Penny Arcade One of the big webcomics, but one of the few really big ones that I really, really like; the artwork is great, but the writing is my favorite thing about the strip. Some folks have complained about the newspost being the main thing on the site and that you won't get the strip if you don't read the post -- I don't really get that, though, since I'll typically read the strip before the post, and I pretty much always get it, and, well, Tycho's newsposts are more often than not, a joy to read anyway, so... yeah. They're actually in Seattle, I've met them once at the first PA convention thingy, and they're really cool, nice guys.

WIGU/OverCompensating Maybe number 2 on that shortlist? Wigu changes a bit, but it's typically about a family named the Tinkles and their little boy, Wigu. He's a really smart, imaginative little kid who tends to get in trouble way too often, usually goaded by his quasi-imaginary friends/guardian angels, Topato and Sherriff Pony, from his favorite TV Show Magical Adventures In Space. They're not very good friends/guardian angels, as while Sherriff Pony is a good voice of reason, he's usually shouted down by the egotistical Topato, who is exclusively interested in his own self-interests and doesn't care about the costs to others; as such, Wigu typically finds himself in a pickle. Of course, his parents are loving but not terribly responsible, but that's OK. This is another with really great writing, sometimes to the point of being profoundly beautiful. Overcompensating is the diary comic of Jeffrey Rowland, although he takes, um, great liberties with the form, if you understand what I am meaning here.

You Damn Kid There are sometimes a few comics here to read, but You Damn Kid is probably the best, and currently the only easily-accessible one (I kind of enjoy The Adventures of Norman P. Function as well, but it's kind of similar to Red Meat, which does that kind of thing better, honestly). There's a couple different versions; there's a handful of You Darn Kid strips which, well, weren't very good, quite frankly -- way too "Newspaper Comic"-y, however the classic style of You Damn Kid is really pretty good, and gets that sort of bittersweet nostalgia of growing up in the 1960s. Sometimes it can get a little mean-spirited (I didn't like the conclusion to the recent storyline about the impending wedding of one of the characters to a circus midget), but usually it strikes the proper tone.

Superosity I love Superosity; the art is enough to turn people off, since it really is a very ugly strip, but I think it's intentionally so (sorta like Duckman), but the writing is so spot on. There's lots of playing with humor in it -- lots of stuff where the "punchline" comes in panel 2 or 3, and the remaining panels build on it and take it to another level. Chris Crosby might not be the best artist in the world, but he knows exactly what he's doing. I read this strip every day -- and most of all, he's been doing it for seven years and never missed a strip. No vacations, no guest strips, no nothing. Chris Crosby also has the "political" strip Sore Thumbs drawn by Owen Gieni (so it's much prettier). It's officially a political strip, but it's actually more of a parody of various webcomic tropes -- not-terribly-well-thought-out-political-stances, caricatures, loads of videogame and TV references (though, part of the TV references comes from the fact that, like me, Chris is a hardcore TV addict, and makes references to shows that I'm pretty sure he and I were the only two people to actually remember), a faux-manga style, and a heroine with cartoonishly large breasts (wrestled with this one a few times, though -- does it still count as exploitation when you're advertising your strip based on the impossible boob-size of your main character, even though her impossible boob-size is a drawn-out parody of strips who give all their female characters impossible boob-sizes out of a sense of "fan-service" or whatever? Is it eating your cake and having it too, or is it just a necessary part of the parody?). I admit that I'm not as into Sore Thumbs as I am Superosity, but I still do read Sore Thumbs whenever it's posted.

Bobzilla If you like Eagle-DNA, check out this one -- it's another sporadically updated comic strip in basically the same style; it's the UK Eagle-DNA, but just as good. A bit more non-sequitury/absurdist than Eagle-DNA is, actually, which is something you wouldn't necessarily think was possible. Also, the second comic on this list (first is Overcompensating) to feature Andrew W. K. as a character.

Return to Sender A beautiful, but unfortunately, rarely-updated longform comic. I love the art on this so much, and I love the characterization; it's still a little too early to tell story-wise what the plot will shape up to be (seems to be some Supernatural Goings On, though). Another one I keep checking just on the off chance. When she's out of school, though, it updates every Sunday. But I think the last time was in February.

Sparkling Generation Valykrie Yuuki I think we've hit the "Sporadically At Best Updated" section of the list. A faux-manga style project about a man who loves Shoujo anime, particularly Magical Girl series, and rents a DVD, which turns out to be magic and turns him into a Magical Girl (to both the surprise of him and the Animal Sidekick Type Thing Behind The Magic, as he was surprised a man would rent this). It's pretty amusing, though I preferred her earlier series The Jar (which I don't think is available online anymore, sadly, though she says she'll put it back up soon). And, as to be expected, there's some interesting gender stuff in this one.

Chopping Block Pretty but tends to update in flurries; the visual style is the main reason I read this one. It's a one-panel type strip, sort of like a much more macabre Far Side (which was pretty macabre itself!) about a serial killer. It's pretty cute and amusing, but the art just blows me away. He even put up a process section to show how he does it.

Krazy Larry A straightforward comic strip that's gone on hiatus a couple times, but is back in a different form; I haven't gotten as into the new ones yet, but I'm going to give it a chance; however, the archives are great. It's about a cat who has escaped from a mental institution, and lives at a home with a few other people, including his conscience. It's pretty dark, but really rather funny.

American Elf/Sketchbook Diaries James Kochalka is a god. He, along with Dan Clowes, is one of my favorite cartoonists ever, and for the past five years, he's been keeping a daily diary in comic strip form; he's been putting them out in magazine compilations, but a couple years ago, he started putting them online as well. This is a subscription site, but the most recent is always free. And, besides, it's so incredibly worth the two bucks a month for something this profound about what it is to be human. James Kochalka is amazing. (Also check out his books Kissers and Fantastic Butterflies, as well as the recently released massive collection of the Diary Strips, American Elf. And, hey, check out his music, too -- he just put out a best-of on Rykodisc that comes with a free DVD. His music is just really, really fun.)

Sexy Losers A dirty, dirty comic strip about the foibles of sexuality. This is so incredibly not work safe (not that any of these really are, but this is one of the more Non-Work-Safe of them. Most of these other strips will lead you astray if you check too much in the archives at work, but this one, pretty much every strip is like a collection of pink slips). Really great artwork; it's by a Canadian ex-pat living in Japan. Amusing parodies, but I prefer the original character strips; there's most kinks you can find -- necrophilia is a main recurring theme, there's a thread that just ended on incest, the occasional beastiality strip. But unlike a lot of things like this -- while there's definitely a shock-value element to the strip, they're actually funny.

Slow Wave Jesse Reklaw takes your dreams and makes comic strips out of them. They're frequently strange and funny, but dreams are always interesting, despite what other people say. Of course, I'm speaking as a hardcore Bunuel fan here, so I probably would say that. I actually own a little bit of art from this strip -- to be accurate, the roughs of this one.)

Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles Another weekly comic strip; this one's also pretty dark and occasionally disturbing, but I really dig the visual style of it. Again, there's that sense of shock-value, but also again, it's usually funny. There's the occasional misfire, but 9 times out of 10, they're really pretty good. I dig this one.

Girly The new (well, not so much anymore) strip by Josh Lesnick, known mostly for Wendy, it's a spin-off of CuteWendy (using the same characters as Wendy, but a completely different strip), and there's lots of absurd one-off type jokes as well as the standard story strips. I think he's got a rough outline of what's going to happen in the story, but you get the impression that he's making up each strip on the fly, which would explain the occasional one-off type strip out of nowhere, and how sometimes those one-off type things can spin out into mini-arcs. It's pretty good, but I love the Marshmellow Kitty.

Mjau Mjau Occasionally updated, but when it is updated, it's really good. This is the strip by Norwegian cartoonist Jason, who's known for his extremely wonderful comics Hey, Wait... and Shhhh.... Typically pantomime stuff, though there's a couple with word balloons. In the style of humor, there's a little bit of a Sergio Aragones vibe, but that could just be that Sergio typically doesn't use words, either. The art is interestingly blocky and stiff, but intentionally so -- somewhere in the archives, there's a couple sketchbook pages, which show him doing things in other styles, and he can be as fluid as he wants to be.

Holy Consumption This is a collective of four cartoonists; my favorite is Jeffrey Brown, who's done the beautiful books Clumsy, Unlikely and my favorite, AEIOU (Any Easy Intimacy). Every week a different cartoonist posts something, sometimes a strip, sometimes a teaser of what they're working on, sometimes just some sketchbook pages. And sometimes, they don't do it every week, but they'll typically catch back up if they haven't posted for a while, so the archives are most definitely your friend in this case.

Condensed Comics A friend of mine does these, and I've actually contributed a guest strip! Basically, she'll take really awful movies and condense them down into 3 panels, as to save you the trouble of wasting 90 minutes of your life on goddawful crap. She typically updates when she finds the time; she just moved to Texas, so there haven't been any updates recently, but she says she's got three coming up, so, hey!

Bitter Films Not technically a comic site; but the site of Awesome Animator Don Hertzfeldt does have the complete archives of Temporary Anesthetics, his comic strip, and loads of hidden strips around the site. (Have fun!)

Rodney Anonymous Tells You How To Live Again, not a comic site, but rather the blog of Rodney Anonymous, singer of the Dead Milkmen, but he does have a comic strip of his own, Life With The Poor, which is basically a collection of old Appalachian-Hillbilly stereotypes, but they typically sort of fall into the "So Utterly Stupid It's Kind Of Funny" thing. I really do recommend the rest of his site, much, much more than Life With The Poor, though. For example, What To Rent or his blog on the main site.

Stuff I Used To Check, But Then Stopped Because They Never Updated Ever And I Lost Interest, Unlike Some In The Top Part Where I Keep Checking, Usually In Vain:
Zero One of the "Hey, here's a strip about a bunch of my friends living in a house" type strips, but it's pretty amusing. Loaded with Hiatuses and up-and-down existence-of-archives, and I eventually stopped checking. I think it might be up again, but I don't know.

Animal Jokers A kind of goofy strip; I'm not sure if this is actually the case or if it's a big prank, but the conceit is that it's a strip by a guy in Russia who doesn't really know English very well. It's got sort of a Zen quality to it. Unfortunately, he hasn't updated in like a year and a half.

Childhood Miseries A story about an abused kid with something like, maybe all of 5 strips. The writing isn't the greatest, but it's got a great art design. If anything, go and look at the pretty pictures, since I think this strip is DOA.

Two Eighty/Avalon I really liked Avalon when it ran, but unfortunately, the cartoonist ended up abandoning it; it was a soap-opera type strip that was supposed to run for exactly 5 years. Unfortunately, this stretched out to about 6 or 7 through a lack of updating, and he finally realized he wasn't going to update it, so he just wrote up a synopsis of what was going to happen and posted that as a text file. 280 was the strip immediately after Avalon, but, unfortunately, he wasn't ready to go back to cartooning, and it died, again, after some really really small number of strips. Avalon is by far the better of the two -- and I think the reason why he lost interest with creating it is that the pacing is suited for a Graphic Novel, not a daily strip. So, when it was still updating, it could be maddening to read, but if you just went through the archives, it worked really, really well. here's the first week's worth of comics (the art gets much, much better as the series progresses).

Grimbles Sort of a Gorey-esque feel to this one. This one used to update every day or two, but then went months between updates; apparently one update was posted last month; we're probably due for another pretty soon. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of a long drawn-out story (most of the strips were just one-off bits depicting a different member of the Grimble Family Tree, which wouldn't be nearly as hindered by the ultra-sporadic updating), and I've completely forgotten where we were and lost interest. The archives are pretty good, though!

? A strip that's run its course; a daily one-panel gag strip. I typically got a kick out of it; I actally wrote a song "about" this strip. ("Professor Ashfield" from Dog On Fire -- the lyrics were "Professor Ashfield/What's your name/Professor Ashfield/Dog on fire" (x A Billion), hence the quotes around "about"....) It's kinda fun, really. Although strange, as some of the non-animated strips are in Flash as well; apparently he wanted to make sure the colors stayed the same between computers. It's so difficult to get Black and White line drawings to render the same across OSes! 8)

Exploitation Now ANother finished strip; it started out as a vaguely dirty gag strip, but evolved into a serious Sci-Fi epic. The gag strips were funny, but the story strips were really well done. Sometimes his layout wasn't the best, but the strip was typically good enough to make up for it. He's got a new one, Errant Story, which is still updating, but I haven't been keeping up with; it's got a similar tone as Exploitation Now, but there's that block in my brain that keeps me from really getting into 99.9% of Fantasy Type Stuff. If you don't have that block, I recommend checking Errant Story out!

Lizard/Dave Kelly Central Lizard is a spinoff of Living In Greytown, a strip that, like Exploitation Now went from being a goofy comedy strip to a serious, dramatic strip; Lizard continued in the dramatic vein after Living in Greytown ended. Then it ended too. Dave Kelly's got a ton of comics out, although, right now, all of them seem to be over, but he'll probably be doing much, much more soon. Anyway, he's got a load of archives to pore over, so, just go check that stuff out at the Dave Kelly Central site. Not all of them are good (I don't really like BWBL very much), but some of them really are really pretty good (like Lizard, or in the comedy side, I really am fond of Purple Pussy).


Anyway though, that's the ones that I tend to check out, which is probably way more than anyone asked for, but, hey, I'm a comics junkie. I love the Sequential Arts and all. So, yeah -- any cool ones that I missed? I'm always on the lookout for new strips, just because I love comics, and I like those Diamonds in the Rough, just the really little, weird strips that no one but you reads that are still really good. Those ones are the best.

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18 June 2005

It's Raining, It's Pouring...


My friend Robbie's balcony


My friend Sarah's balcony


My friend Sarah's balcony, night

Literally. Pouring. Now, I wouldn't normally post on this blog that it's raining here-- unless it was an exceptional amount of rain, literally, the most rain we've had in the past 103 years. The last time we had this much rain was in 1902, when we had 224mm. The average rainfall for June is 79.8 mm, but Calgary has already had 165 mm this month alone. So far, we are on track to receive as much rain this June as we normally get ALL YEAR. Even the mountains are closing (well, it's recommended you stay out of the back country, they say). Several highways, including the Trans-Canada west of Calgary, have been closed because of flooding.

I just drove home (on my Vespa) from breakfast in the rain, and as I sit here, it's blowing and beating on my office window so loudly, it feels as though I'm sitting in a car in a car wash.

Up there are some recent pix (within the last day or so) of the rain-- click on them for bigger photos! On a hunch, I checked out Flikr for some recent photos of the rain.

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Eno interview (audio)



OK, y'all bitch at me if you're sick of Eno by now, and I'll quit... :D But our pal Jeremy sent me this link to a 20-minute interview with Eno about the making of Another Day On Earth. Which, BTW, is a really, really gorgeous album. The first time I heard it, I thought, "This is nice." But with every repeated listen, I get more and more into it (as I suspected I would). Wow.

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The Art of Rob Gonsalves

This guy makes me want to just give up.

How could I ever do something this cool??

Arrgh. He's freakin' awesome.

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16 June 2005

The 50 Coolest Song Parts (Yeah, it's really old, but still cool.)

Yep, I got this from the WFMU blog (which I really recommend keeping up with, for nothing else but the awesome mp3s they occasionally post -- check for the early version of Eno's "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch", or Chris Morris' dead-on Pixies parody "Motherbanger"!), and I'm pretty sure Plastic covered it last year, but I'm digging going back through the 50 World's Finest Song Moments Of All Time, if nothing else, for the tidbit about the bass solo in "You Can Call Me Al" and the link to this review of "Come Together". And, I have to admit finding myself kind of agreeing with the first couple sentences of Baba O'Riley. (Though it looks kinda like they weren't able to control themselves when it came to bits of Queen songs -- they're on there three times... but I'm fine with that, because Queen were indeed pretty awesome.)

I was going to paste in/edit the Plastic comment I made a year ago, but it's really long, so I'll just link it instead. Actually, man, I'm all over that thread. Man. (Other ones from there that weren't in that big monster comment: The "Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" changeup; the ending of "Doreen" by Frank Zappa when the band just jams and solos and Ike Willis is doing the singing over the end; Johnny "Guitar" Watson's Flambe Vocals on "San Berdino" (ZURICH! In the OcTOBER!); the bit at the end of the Residents' "Third Reich and Roll", where they have the guitar solo that's "Sunshine Of Your Love", "Sympathy For the Devil" and "Hey Jude" all jammed through each other; "Swirling Black/Lilies To/Tally Ripe" background vocals in "Pagan Poetry" by Bjork; the noise on "How Many Cans" by Soul Coughing.)

(And as a sad side note, w/r/t the original site's mention of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" (MAN, what is with my Ridgway kick lately? Not that it's a bad thing...), I heard a really, really awful cover of it recently -- think the band was Authority Zero -- and they left out the best part! Morons!)

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15 June 2005

Shinpad RIP

A while ago, I was thinking about doing a post about one of my favorite webcomics, Shinpad, but then I saw that it was gearing up to end, and I figured I'd hold off until it ended. And, well, now it has. So, I figure I might as well.

Anyway -- it's several types of strip in one; there's the story strips, short gag strips, the occasional one-panel strip, character-based humor, surreal gags, one-offs, etc. And I really dig the artwork, mostly done in MS Paint (though there are a few that were drawn traditionally and then scanned in), and are pixelly. The writing also basically seems to be more-or-less exactly my sense of humor. (For example, this one, which is made by the letters at the bottom...)

One of my favorite things about the strip, at least from a political-philosophical-type-standpoint, is that one of the characters, Katrina, is a heavier woman who's both sexual but not a punchline. I'm pretty drawn to Size Issues and whatnot, having been fat for almost my whole life, and, well, I've always hated it when "Ha ha! The fat person thinks they're attractive!" is a punchline; in Shinpad, she actually is attractive, and no one thinks anything OF it. Which is really, really cool and needs to happen way more often, if you ask me.

Anyway, though, there aren't a whole lot of strips, unfortunately (only 136 proper strips, plus a bunch of bonus type ones, over 4 years), but start at the beginning and page through; it's a pretty quick read, and it's really funny.

(And if you get hooked like me, a while ago, Alex Camelio mentioned that he might be moving into print comics, although I don't know if that's still the plan; with any luck, though, he'll keep doing comics, because I really dig his stuff.)

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Ringtones: Crazy Frog

Good God.

Here's the story as I understand it: Apparently, some kid (Daniel Malmedahl ) recorded his voice as an imitation of a two-stroke moped engine. Some other guy named picked it up and put it on a Flash file as a joke. Then another guy used his soundtrack to provide a basis for animation and lip-synching proactice for his animations for The Annoying Thing, this Crazy Frog movie... It then got picked up by JAMSTER (EU Ringtone company) and then it sold over $14MM in ringtones. Ministry of Sound then commisioned a German DJ crew to create a dance mix .. (the Axel F overlay) and then they re-commissioed the guy who did the origional animation to do the fulllength music video. The CD is now #1 in the UK music charts. You can buy the CD on-line .. or get the tune in itunes!

All because some 17 yo did some silly sh*t on the internet.

Wait. It's here on Wiki with a better explanation than I just provided. READ THIS.

Lyrics
Beh-ding ding ding ding dididing ding bing bing pscht,
Dorhrm bom bom bedom bem bom bedom bom bum ba ba bom bom,
Bouuuuum bom bom bedahm, Bom be barbedarm bedabedabedabeda
Bbrrrrrimm bbrrrrramm bbbrrrrrrrrraammmmm ddddddraammm,
Bah bah baah baah ba wheeeeeee-eeeee-eeeee!

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13 June 2005

Errata...

I love these contests-- check out the MC Escher photoshop contest. Sort of like the contests the folks over at B3ta do. They get some pretty good entries. They also run similar "question" contests in their forums. They also do a challenge where they have a few which can't be missed (don't miss the "Texas Jigsaw Massacre").

The truth of this made me laugh and cry.

The Batman Begins movie is getting fresh tomatoes.

Our recent graphics discussion triggered my posting this link.

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12 June 2005

The Suicide Bridge

Here's a news story I found from the DEVO mailing list on the woman who lives beneath Akron's All-America Bridge. It's a bit of disturbing reading -- a really sad article. The All-America Bridge is a frequent suicide spot for depressed leapers, and unfortunately they land in her yard, leaving her to call the police and ambulances for clean-up, witnessing the aftermath of the broken bodies. Not exactly what you'd call pleasant.

...er, so this post isn't entirely depressing, Stuff On My Cat is back up!

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The Work Of Jeff Altman: A Promise Or A Threat Fulfilled

Update on this post: David Lynch's Weather Report is back and alive!

Jeff Altman's one of those folks who tends to just pop up all around but you never seem to notice him. I'm not really what you'd all an Altman fan (his use of soft-focus and his sound design drives me nuts, but the former's just because I've got really poor eyesight anyway... wait, wrong Altman!), but he's interesting to look about in just the way he pops up everywhere.

I mean, I am a huge TV fan; I always have been and always pretty much will be. When I was a young spud, I used to watch Dukes of Hazzard reruns all the time -- though I don't really like the show anymore. But I just recently realized that Altman was in that -- he was Boss Hogg's scheming nephew. I found that by flipping through the channels and halting on CMT when I thought I saw Jeff Altman... so I watched, and sure enough, it was him, and sure enough, he was dressing up in various disguises throughout the episode.

Another retrospect discovery -- when looking up on IMDB to see if he was a guest star on that episode or actually in the cast, I saw that he had a guest shot on one of my favorite sitcoms of all time -- Night Court. He was in the episode "The New Judge" -- the one where a substitute judge buddies up to Dan for Nefarious Purposes (I won't spoil the episode if folks haven't seen it). Also from IMDB -- he apparently had another shot on another one of the best sitcoms ever, WKRP, in "Johnny Come Home".

And just yesterday, I saw this on Metafilter, featuring Jeff as the Weather Wizard! And he's done a few cartoon voices in Tiny Toon Adventures, Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters and Garfield and Friends. He's shown up in the companion video for The Benzedrine Monks of Santo Domonica (a side-project of Big Daddy, also known for their Sgt. Pepper's album -- a cover of the Beatles' album in various 1950s doo-wop styles; though, no Altman involvement in that, as far as I know), and the utterly forgettable sitcom Nurses -- so forgettable, that despite having seen every episode on its original airing, and sometimes even on Lifetime Network reruns a long time ago -- I can only remember the vaguest of things about it -- mainly the occasional appearance by Empty Nest characters. I don't even remember Jeff in this -- and the blurb about his character didn't jog any memories at all. It's strange for me to forget a show so completely.

Of course, the main thing Jeff Altman is known for is Pink Lady and Jeff. What can be said about Pink Lady and Jeff (or, officially, Pink Lady -- the "and Jeff" was part of the semi-official title, which actually was a bit of a sticking point for poor Jeff).

What can be said?

It's... remarkable.

It's... jaw-dropping.

It's... just so mindboggingly bad that it's really hard to think what anyone involved was thinking. The Rhino DVD set is actually surprisingly good. Rhino found some of the promotional materials, included a biography on Pink Lady, and got Jeff to do a 20 minute interview and show introductions, where he is incredibly bitter about:

a) Not Having His Name Technically In The Title, and
b) The Utter And Complete Failure Of This Show, Which Even He Realizes Is Completely Terribly Awful. Which is kind of funny, since it seems that "Man, I was on this really horrible show that people just kept trying to ruin! And my name wasn't even in the title of it!"

It's a very, very strange show. The main thrust of it seems to be "Hey, these girls? They sure are Asian!" and there's lots of recurring bits that aren't funny and don't work at all. But they just keep coming back, because that's what the recurring bits do. An example of both of these in one blow: The horrifying segments with comedy legend Sid Caesar as their father (since all Asian people look alike, it's totally buyable that Mie and Kei are sisters... despite, you know, not really looking anything alike), dressing in samurai drag, speaking in broken, clipped English (with the occasional L/R swapping joke), making things difficult for Mie and Kei's suitors (played in these bits by Jeff Altman and Jim Varney... yes, that Jim Varney). It's pretty embarrassing and unpleasant. (Sure, John Belushi's Samurai bits on SNL were playing off stereotypes as well, but, well, at least they were funny.)

As the series progressed, it did get better – the realization that it wasn't going to be renewed, and was most likely going to end up being cancelled set in, so they got a little looser with the show; one of the best jokes is in the last episode where Mie and Kei speak Polish to Bobby Vinton; Jeff asks "Wait, you girls know Polish?" and Mie says "Well, we sure don't know English!". (Another amusing bit involved a Prison Radio Station for Death Row -- lots of morbid jokes in that one that you wouldn't really expect to see on a network variety show.) Unfortunately, the last few episodes never aired and they while being better, they weren't nearly enough to make anyone particularly miss the show or argue that it shouldn't have been canned.

The problem with Pink Lady isn't all on the shoulders of the actors and writers (which included the really talented Mark Evanier, who also wrote for many, much better TV shows, and the comic book Groo The Wanderer); NBC and the producers seemed to have actively worked on ruining the show. For example, in Japan, Pink Lady was mainly known for doing everything totally in sync. NBC, however, wanted them to have individual personalities. So they weren't allowed to do the Unison Movements. As such, the dancing ends up being really awkward and they keep sort of catching themselves, so instead of being Slick and Synchronized, or Wholly Unsynchronized, it ends up just looking like they're really, really bad at being in sync. (They're not; in the first episode, they actually showed a Japanese TV clip where they were doing the standard routine, and they were perfectly timed.)

NBC didn't allow them to sing in Japanese for the most part, so they memorized all of their English dialogue/songs phonetically, since they don't know the language at all. So Pink Lady tend to have this distinct deer-in-headlights look, just because, well, you do a TV show on a national major network in a language you don't know! Again, there's glimpses of the actual talent Pink Lady do indeed have, as they got to do two or three songs in Japanese – which were, of course, by far the best musical numbers; the songs were actually good, and Pink Lady were relaxed and in their element (and not having to speak in a language they had no idea how to speak). Unfortunately, the rest of the songs were typically disco covers (though, in 1980, the Disco fad was beginning to die, and "Boogie Wonderland" and its ilk were beginning to sound dated) or other pop standards (like "Yesterday"), which Pink Lady tried their best on, but couldn't really make work.

The strangest thing about the show, though, is the Utterly Formulaic Structure. It goes:

a) Jeff's Monologue
b) Pink Lady come out in kimonos, doing the first line or two of an American song in Japanese, rip off the kimonos to reveal Sexy Dresses(tm), and do a song they don't know the lyrics to (i.e. "Boogie Wonderland" or "Stop! In The Name Of Love")
c) Jeff comes out and they do a short bit which ends in the Sumo Wrestler Guy coming out and maybe chasing Jeff around or otherwise intimidating him
d) The Radio Sketch which includes typically the Annoying Faith Healer and maybe Art Nuvo, one of Jeff's "characters" where he sells art items (it's not clear if the joke is that he's selling prints/reproductions or the originals for cheap prices; the joke would make sense if it were the latter, but he keeps talking about having multiple copies of, say, Rodin's Thinker, so…)
e) Art Nuvo tosses to another TV-Based Sketch
f) First musical guest
g) More unfunny comedy just cut in
h) Pink Lady & Musical Guest
i) More g)
j) Spliced in Blondie/Alice Cooper Video
h) Mie Writes A Letter Home ("Dear Mom, I am totally sorry I killed that guy; I didn't think they make me do this as my punishment…") and they do a routine about a random city
i) The Hot Tub
f) The biggest laugh when the "Produced by Sid And Marty Krofft" credit comes up first (The perfect surreal topper to a bizarre show that feels as if it shouldn't exist; it's completely different than everything you think of when you think of "Krofft".)

And, yes – i) does indeed read "The Hot Tub". That's not a typo or code for anything. See, NBC said that they needed some way to Americanize Pink Lady's appeal. And, apparently this was the beginning of the Hot Tub Craze, so they decided that Pink Lady should go hot-tubbing every episode. And the joke, in every episode, is that they go behind a screen and strip, Jeff rants about how he doesn't want to go into the hot tub, they come out in robes, take off the robes and show their bikinis. Jeff then makes some sort of "Hey, naked hot chicks!" comment w/r/t the bikinis, and they force him into the hot tub in his tuxedo. Then he says "Sayonara" and they say "Good night!" and he says "See you next week!" and the credits come up. It's... strange because it's the type of joke that would only work once maximum, and not even then really, but they do it EVERY EPISODE. EVERY EPISODE Jeff doesn't see the Hot-Tubbing Coming, and EVERY EPISODE Jeff has to be convinced/forced into the hot tub, where Pink Lady usually end up taking off his jacket and hang off him for a while.

The sad thing, though, is that Pink Lady are obviously actually really talented, and they're being wasted on this. As for Jeff, well, as I said before, I'm not really an Altman fan per se, but you do feel a little bad for him, because he's obviously trying to make the best out of a bad situation; he's not the funniest guy in the world -- far from it -- but he's occasionally amusing; on one hand, he deserves better, but on the other hand, he did get his own TV show, no matter how misguided or short-lived, which is more you can say for most people. And, he seems to be doing OK for himself. He's got a decent career from small TV roles, he's got a live comedy CD, he's been on David Letterman 36 times, and he's officially "Somewhat" famous! (Although, there are other, some might say overly harsh, opinions on Jeff's contributions to the show and society in general...)

The DVD set, despite what you might think from the rest of this post, is so worth getting. I'm glad I got it. It's amazing to see this sort of thing, just because it's sort of like What Happens When TV Goes Wrong. It's the last-ditch attempt at a flailing network to try and get viewers by showing something different and instead killing an entire genre (Pink Lady & Jeff is pretty much considered the last of the variety shows. There's been a few others, like Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular and the one the Smothers Brothers had back in 1988 or thereabouts, though I don't think either of those count since the former was a not-terribly-well-rated cable show that ended after a couple years, and the latter was a series of one-off specials, sort of like a one-off mini-series that wasn't ever really intended to become a series. And it's not like either of them really brought back a Variety Show Renaissance (i.e. stuff like Bobcat's Big-Ass Show had already appeared in the interim, and the occasional later contender never really stuck around either). Understandably, since, well, the Variety Show Genre is, um, pretty awful, really, what with the whole Unevenness built in. I think the Penn & Teller one was about the best I'd seen, and even that was best videotaped for fast-forwarding skills.). So, yeah. People interested in Pop Culture should view Pink Lady & Jeff just because the failures are just as interesting as the successes. Well, sometimes, mainly when they fail so spectacularly. This isn't your every day failed program – this is a complete train wreck from day one. Right out of the gate, it's unsalvageable. And it's remarkable that it aired for five episodes instead of, say, two, one or zero.

So, yeah, check it out. It's one of the strangest and worst things ever put on television. And it's so utterly compelling. It is The Perfect Failure.

And, apparently, NBC's ratings are doing terribly again -- so perhaps we'll get a chance to see the next Pink Lady and Jeff? After all -- it's similar circumstances that lead to this beautiful wreck...

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11 June 2005

Candyman.... Candyman.... Candyman...

OK, sorry to post two CD reviews in a row, but this is blowing me away.



I just got Philip Glass' The Music Of "Candyman" today, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I loved this soundtrack back when I saw this flick in a theater in 1992 (it is one of my favorite horror movies to this day- it was only recently released on DVD), and I remember looking for the soundtrack back in the day, only to find it had not been released. According to the liner notes of this CD, Glass hesitated to release it because A) it was only about half an hour of music, not enough to fill an album in his opinion, and B) the film was gorier than he expected. According to the liner notes, he seems to think someone other than Bernard Rose finished the film, but I've watched the DVD with the director commentary on and got no indication of that.

The original Candyman film is based on a Clive Barker novella, but there was also a Hollywood sequel... Glass didn't want to make any new music for the sequel, but he allowed his original score to be taken and re-worked, re-mixed, and re-used. The last six tracks of The Music Of "Candyman" are taken from the sequel, and they are really, really artfully done. They also served to convince Glass that he had enough music to fill a proper album.

Glass has apparently started his own label, Orange Mountain Music, and The Music Of "Candyman" was their first release. Since his fans had been clamoring for this music for over a decade, that was a pretty safe bet on his part, I think. :)

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