Saturday, September 22, 2012

Superman's Bad Day

this made me give a good nerd-snorty-chuckle

So, sometimes I work on this manuscript

Hey, it's the weekend, which means nobody is paying attention.  So I'm going to talk about something that has nothing to do with anything we usually cover.

When I was a college freshman I wrote a 140 page manuscript in WordPerfect, I believe.  It's since been lost to time, formats and a lack of what we in the digital libraries world refer to as "forward migration".  And, frankly, I'm totally okay with that.  I gave up looking for a copy of it as far back as 2006.

I don't even really remember what the manuscript was about except that when I finished it I didn't really feel like it had actually been about anything at all.  I was just coughing something up.  Sure, it was a sort of novel-like thing, and it featured characters and had a beginning, middle and end.   Characters grew and changed, had conflicts, and resolved them amicably or otherwise.  But even as I wrapped it up, the lead character started echoing my own thoughts about the pointlessness of the narrative itself and the whole thing sort of ate it's own tail, which I'd like to report was a brilliant twist or comment on adolescence in the suburbs - but it was not.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today Would Have Been the 100th Birthday of Chuck Jones

If you have to ask who Chuck Jones was, I pity you, for you were not born into a world in which Looney Tunes seemed to be on the air 24 hours per day.

I can't really state how much impact Bugs may have had on me and my occasionally completely inappropriate responses to thuggishness.

this is my manifesto

I contend that Warner Bros. and the cartoons made at the studio under the eyes of huge talents like Fritz Freleng (an extraordinary talent), Tex Avery (who would go on to do his own work) and Hanna & Barbera (also - left to do their own work), were a huge cultural touchstone for folks who grew up in multiple decades from the 60's - 80's, when one could pretty much count on the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to teach them important lessons about not taking things all that seriously, even when faced with dynamite or a falling anvil.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Signal Reads: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

I was born into the Cold War, and I often wonder if The Kids whose sense of awareness crested after 1992 really understand what it was like.  As far back as 2001, I was taking a martial arts class where the "adult" class meant high school and up.  After class we were putting on our shoes and chatting and somehow I managed to ask one of the kids if they even knew what The Cold War was.  Long story short, he knew it had something to do with Russia, but he didn't know why we may have been in conflict with The Russkies.

It's now been more than 20 years since I sat in class and watched video of Germans dancing on the wall, and I still don't really understand how one day we had An Evil Empire with whom we were locked in the world's worst staring contest, and the next, we had Eastern-block countries cut loose from Mother Russia and spiraling into fresh, new problems (see: Sarajevo) and Russia deciding that a government based on something that looks an awful lot like gangsterism should take the place of the death-mask Stalinist taskmasters.*

Happy B-Day to Sophia Loren

I haven't seen as many Sophia Loren movies as I'd like, but she's pretty terrific (in many, many ways).

Loren has had no small amount of cross-cultural success, appearing in a large number of American films as well as her prolific career in her native Italy.

Her image is also a major fixture at Italian-stereotype kitsch palace/ restaurant "Buca di Beppo".  So while you're gorging yourself on meatballs, you can look in wonder upon framed pics of Loren next to Italian flags and pictures of old Italian grocers and whatnot.

ah, Venice.
Happy 78th to Ms. Loren.

and this picture of Loren and Jayne Mansfield never fails to crack me up.

Amanda Palmer at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas

Wednesday evening I hit Stubb's BBQ here in sunny Austin, Texas with Jason's finance, Amy, to see Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra.

Much has been made of Palmer in recent months as she released yet another album not just independent of any label, but by asking her fanbase for about $100,000 via Kickstarter and came up with $1.2 million.  As Palmer mounted her tour, her usual routine of recruiting local talent to help out in what's always a pretty raucous stage show, was met with a sudden and vociferous bit of controversy.  Apparently a lot of musicians who were in no way involved got mad that Palmer was asking for volunteers, and, anyway...  it got ugly.

Keep in mind, Palmer is far from the only artist who has folks sit in, includes local marching bands, choirs, whatever...  But because these were horn and string musicians, somehow it became a big deal.  Anyhow, it all ends happily with Palmer shuffling her budget, not doing a music video or something, and coughing up cash so people would get the @#$% over it.

I tend to think of rock and roll as having far less whining associated than what folks were tossing Palmer's way, and as many people I personally know (this is Austin) who play for free all the time, I couldn't really wrap my head around it.  It's a rock and roll show, and, no, you're not going to convince me otherwise when it comes to Palmer somehow undermining the payment of musicians when she's inviting collaboration with locals.  You psycho.

By the way, while you're getting mad at Amanda Palmer, you can download the new album for whatever you can or feel like paying.  Here you go.

Fast forward to today, and Palmer's album, Theater is Evil, has debuted on the Billboard top 200 at position #10.  Not bad for a record by an artist that has no TV coverage, no label support and has never had it's featured artist on American Idol.

You'll have to forgive me re: the pictures.  I was using my iPhone.  I'm a lousy photographer to begin with, and the stage lighting and the limitations of the iPhone's digital zoom capability were wreaking a bit of havoc. For fun, though, let's pretend this was all intentional and I'm just a really un-self-aware but hilariously lousy artist.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. Adam West

Happy Birthday to Mr. Adam West, most famous for his role in the 1966 movie and TV series, Batman. he was born this day in 1928.

Mr. West as Batman inspired me to my first word: "Batman", and fueled me with a deep desire to both do what's right and say ridiculous things in a completely earnest tone. I continue to enjoy the TV show, lo' these many years later.

Afternoon with Norma Shearer

My last post was pretty bad and I'm going to a show tonight, so I don't think I'm up for another post til Thursday or so.  So, here's Norma Shearer dropping in to point out that she has astonishingly straight teeth.  Seriously, that's amazing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cap is a Write-In for President In a Comic Somewhere

As we head into election season, the online media looks for click-fodder, and Marvel and DC think up events that will get headlines rather than sell some damn comics...

Was I surprised to read on a mainstream news site that Captain America is going to become President of the United States in the "Ultimate" version of the Marvel Universe?  Well, yeah.  I mean, that's a pretty drastic idea.  Of course, I haven't followed the Ultimate universe in a while, and last I checked they'd also killed off Peter Parker, half the X-Men, and, I think, basically gone "dystopian" with their version of the world.  So, you know, whatever.

I mean, Cap over in the mainline Marvel U pondered a run circa 1980 (we got Reagan instead, who, while charming, couldn't have taken Batroc the Leaper).  And Superman was elected President in one of those "Imaginary Stories" back in the day, Lex won the election in 2000 as a third party candidate (with Superman's childhood pal, Pete Ross, as VP), and Morrison made a version of Superman President who appeared as recently as Action Comics #9 (Volume 2).  And, Superman has been the Prime Minister of Russia over in Red Son.  And that doesn't include the dozens of times Superman went crazy and declared himself either king of the gorillas, some locality or of all the Earth.

Back in the 1970's, Batgirl served in Congress for a number of years (it was insane).  And, of course, one must never forget DC oddball youth-culture-appeal character Prez Rickard.

and the President thought he'd really discovered something when he watched  his first Kubrick movie...
So, basically, comics are full of crazy-brained stunts and goofy ideas about our elected (and not-elected) leaders.  They always have been, and I guess they always will be.  I'm glad that superhero comics aren't above the sort of wacky story telling that leads to stuff like Batgirl running for office, but I'm an old reader and seeing Cap sworn in as President on a write-in vote doesn't exactly blow my mind.  I hope younger readers feel differently.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to the great Cassandra Peterson

Today is the birthday of this person, Cassandra Peterson.

Today she is 61.

You probably know her better as:

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Happy birthday, wherever you are, Ms. Peterson.

It's Jake's birthday

here's weird 1990's movie Cap played by the son of JD Salinger here to wish you a happy birthday, Jake.  I assume you're turning 87 or 13.  I'm not sure how old you are.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Opera Watch: The Ring Cycle Parts 1 & 2

Again - I know absolutely nothing about opera.  Nothing.  I'm also not particularly up on my Germanic/ Norse mythology, my Wagner, or basically anything to do with what I've committed upwards of 18 hours to watching.  And, you know...  it's nice to try something outside of my 21st Century comfort zone, especially when I can do it from the comfort of my living room using the power of DVR, HD TV and state-of-the-art, semi-avante-garde (by opera standards) production.

Musically, the show is familiar in part because it's been endlessly repurposed over the 20th century for cartoons, movies, commercials and television.  Most famous is the "Ride of the Valkyries" theme from the second opera in the cycle, which everyone knows at least in part because of the helicopter scene in Coppola's Apocalypse, Now.  Hell, this cycle of operas provides the reason behind the common imagery of the zaftig broad in the viking helmet with a spear belting out the high notes.

@#$% is gettin' real in Valkyrie town

The production shown on PBS last week was not the one recommended to me a few months back.  That was the 1992 production, also recorded at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  While the production made it to DVD and the sound quality is excellent, the video suffers from the limitations of the time and an insistence by the videographers to shoot the opera more or less from an audience member's distant vantage.  I can't comment on the vocal performances knowledgeably, but the actual acting performances in this version are noticeably stronger and assisted by the camera's ability to get in much closer.