Goodbye to All That

Aside from a couple of wonderful and unexpected instances of very touching generosity, January of 2006 has been a pretty lousy month. Yes, even though Corpse Bride is now on DVD, as of today, it picked the last day of the month as if knowing there was no way of salvaging this desiccated hulk but it still needed a Tuesday and didn’t want to fight with Curse of the Wererabbit.

During this first bit of 2006, I finished one short story, realized that a recording project was just sinking dismally into the swamp of Unrealized Ideas, and did no painting. At least, no painting that I won’t paint over as soon as the opportunity presents itself. It’s as if, in terms of creativity, this month didn’t exist.

Of course, yawn, I did finish up one major project at work which was hanging over my head like an Acme Anvil for nearly half a year. (I even have the little hand sign that says “Help!”) But so what? Geez, that’s work. That’s the thing I do to pay my bills and buy canvases. If I’m ever in Who’s Who I sure hope my entry isn’t going to be something like “did stuff at his job.” I’d much prefer “supervillain” but the applications are always missing at the Post Office. Of course, they claim there never were any. I’m not fooled.

I sure hope the rest of 2006 isn’t going to be like this. Otherwise, I’m going to plant my feet firmly in the doorway (where those lilacs last bloom’d) and, despite the entreaties of friends and relations, I am not going to go.

“Three Colors Cezanne”

2006 marks the centennial of the death of Paul Cezanne, and it also marks the year that I finally got a long-coveted documentary about the man and his work, “Three Colors Cezanne.”

This is a wonderful film, in equal parts survey of his work, discussion of particulars of some of his major canvases, and a biographical sketch. It’s only a sketch because, as the many artists and historians point out, not much is known about Cezanne beyond a few dates and some supposition. An intensely private man, he found the company of other people very uncomfortable and preferred to work in solitude.

There’s some Freudian speculation about his fear of women informing some of his early work, which is robust, dark and dramatic and frequently deals with colossal nudes and violent acts. He returned to some of these themes late in life, in fact using some of the sketches he had made of the Old Masters when he was a young man visiting the Louvre. Freudian speculation I can take; it’s one of those things you can listen to and either ignore or believe, but it rarely affects the perception of the work in question.

And the works in question are masterpieces of landscape and still-life. The various experts do a very good job of illuminating the themes and methods underlying these works, which amazingly does not diminish their power; instead, where I once saw vague hints of future art schools in his work, now they’re right there in the open, as obvious as the nose on, uh, my face. His still-life images always seemed to me like they were being upended on me as I looked at them, and it’s pointed out how he used different perspectives—the raison d’etre of cubism—within the same canvas. This film showed me things I had not seen before. What more can one ask of any movie?

Image and sound are excellent throughout, and there are lots of his canvases on display, as well as photographs and other archival material. One trick that was employed only a few times was the presentation of a landscape, with Cezanne’s canvas suddenly superimposed on it. I’d have liked to see more of that, but that’s a very minor quibble.

Cezanne can probably be safely considered the first “modern” artist, by which I mean the artist who wanted to put his own thoughts and feelings and impressions on the canvas, and chose paint to make his point without first developing the painterly skills of the Old Masters he admired. Saying, I think for the first time, the heck with making things people might like. This is what I want on this canvas. Because his ideas and vision outweighed his artistic “shortcomings” (which are debatable if they exist at all), his art transcends narcissism. Pity the same can’t be said about those who followed in his footsteps, who saw the “self expression” part as the most important aspect of being an artist, but that’s a rant for another time.

This past July while in New York, I visited the Museum of Modern Art, and saw a dual exhibition of Cezanne and his friend and contemporary, Camille Pissarro. These were canvases that the two did while traveling together. This film brings the memories of those works back vividly. Highly recommended.

This review brought to you in part by F.R. Angel, to whom it is dedicated.

It’s All True(Space)

The image Tuesday’s post (below) was created using trueSpace, an animation program from Caligari systems. Everything in it (other than the photographs) was created “natively,” ie, I didn’t have to import any outside graphics or textures (other than the photographs).

I’ve been using trueSpace for years and I like the program a lot. I haven’t done a lot of animation with it, but it’s great for creating still images too. Considering the price of most computer animation software, it’s relatively inexpensive. (Of course, you can get a “learner’s version” of Alias’ Maya for free.)

I currently use version 4.3 of trueSpace; they just released version 7. Will I upgrade? Maybe. One of the things I dislike about software upgrades is the fact that they give the User Interface guy free reign. I actually own trueSpace 5.2, but I never use it. Why? Because none of the damn buttons can be found where I’m used to finding them. When I upgraded from 3, it took me weeks to find everything again, and I honestly find that tiring. I can almost hear the UI guy: “A new version? Cool! I’ll move all the menu commands to different areas! It’ll be great and I can say I’ve earned my keep!” Honestly, what’s the point of changing the menus? Add new menus if you’re adding new features.

Cough, well, sorry about that folks! Anyway, you can download trial versions of Caligari’s stuff and see if you like it, too. And I’m not affiliated with them so I won’t see a penny!

UPDATE: One of the animations I did is here, if you’re interested. It’s a big file (over two and a half megs) so right-clicking and saving-to is recommended.

Not *Quite* Dead

No Cat

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? As the title cleverly makes clear for those of you who might have thought I had died in vain (or in milk), I’m not quite dead. I think I could pull through, in fact. Actually, I think I’m all right to come with you, sir. Really, I feel fine.

Ah. Well, I’ll just wait here for a bit, then.

Well, the bad news is, I didn’t find the Grail. The good news is, hang on a moment, “Inspected by Number 34.”

Damn. Wore the wrong pants again.

I’m hoping to have things to say shortly, but for the moment, I think I must have left them in my other pants as well.

That’s rather the problem with pants, isn’t it? Not that I’m suggesting the alternative.

Chu- Chu- Chu- Ha- Ha- Ha-

I don’t consider myself a terribly superstitious person, but that’s a subjective viewpoint and someone else might look at me and think very differently. Or they might look at me and think, I think that guy owes me money. (I don’t, though.)

One of the things that does seem to bother me, though, is the number thirteen. When swimming, I go faster between laps twelve and fourteen, and when doing miles on the treadmill, I always plan the day’s work so that I don’t end on thirteen.

And here it is, Friday the Thirteenth.

I think I read somewhere that thirteen was originally considered unlucky because there were thirteen people at the Last Supper, and we all know where that led.

Otherwise, I don’t have a clue. I could look it up on the internet, I suppose, and laugh at my primitive foolishness, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it wouldn’t be funny for the other people. Like the ones who think I owe them money.

They don’t seem to think anything’s funny, though.

“The 600 Series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy.”

Though I appear to scorn all appearance of vanity, I should confess that I’m not entirely immune. So, I have it set up here that when comments are left, they’re then emailed to me. It gives me a nice, reassuring feeling to know that I do, in fact, exist.

Consequently, I was a bit non-plussed to receive a comment thanking me for my writings on gold nuggets, informing me that the commentor had his own site dealing with gold nuggets, and finishing by saying that while I was not exactly helpful in his quest, he found my blog interesting enough to add it to his bookmarks before he had to move on in his endeavor.

Normally, that sounds like a spam-comment, doesn’t it? I have, however, turned Word Verification on, which leads me to two conclusions: the Word Verification thing has been cracked at last, or this was a genuine commentor.

Adding evidence to the former case was the fact that I couldn’t remember ever writing anything about gold nuggets. But I went though some entries until I found the one where the comment was left: my way overlong ruminations on Spirited Away’s No Face…who could produce gold nuggets from his hands.

A ha, so perhaps this was a legitimate comment after all. Using my computer at work (I’m not much of a fool), I looked at the chap’s profile, which led me to his blog. There was a single entry there, about a particular kind of gold which was rather interesting, I have to admit. Along with the same link to his website (which I was not going to go to). I also noted that he had comments on this entry.

Clicking to see if they were something along the lines of “Stop spamming my blog!” I instead discovered…two comments.

Both exact duplicates of the one I had received on my entry. Including the bit about how the info wasn’t here wasn’t helpful, so he was going to move on after bookmarking. Posted an hour apart from each other.


Mr. Gold Nugget, I certainly wish you well in your endeavors; I hope you don’t end up like Fred C. Dobbs (remember to ask about badges). But if you’re a genuine commentor, and not a malevolent robot, you really should learn to write a bit less mechanically, and perhaps make a couple of variants.

Yes, yes, I know the answer: “Just get off my back! Just stay off my back! Will you get off my back!”

Don’t you just hate people who have to make movie references all the time? I do.

…and back: 2005

Last year seemed to be a banner year for me, as I saw thirteen films in the theatre. Usually it’s about half that number. Did it help? Well, let’s go see! (Note: I’m not counting 2005 stuff I saw on DVD, like Hitch or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

Are We There Yet? Okay kid’s comedy, not really aimed at me. Funny at times, but remarkable for its predictability.
Batman Begins A lot of people loved this one. I admired it, but it was too cold for me to really get involved. Like the last Christopher Nolan movie I saw (Memento), it seemed more like a technical exercise than a story. Still, it was fun in spots and had the right tone. Not as good as the cartoons, though.
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Excellent. Really classic storytelling, where the film-makers aren’t ashamed to believe in the world they’ve crafted. Though long, it never feels that way. I’d love to see the next one.
Corpse Bride Do I need to say anything? My favorite movie of the year. Like last year’s Sky Captain, it seemed personally made just for me, and I responded as I rarely do at the movies. Yeah, I already have it on pre-order….
Fantastic Four A “shrug” movie. Didn’t do much for me, though I enjoyed it while I watched it. I wonder why the makers of live-action comic book films have such a compulsion to screw with the core elements (Doctor Doom, in this case). Animators, like those responsible for “Batman: The Animated Series,” are able to stick to the core elements and make terrific entertainment. Why can’t live-action movie-makers? I would suspect that the animators just want to tell the story, while the live-action guys feel that it’s not their project unless they can put their stamp on it (ie, screw it up).
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire All the Harry Potter movies are great, this one no exception. Like Narnia, not embarrassed to believe in the fantasy without a lot of self-satisfied in-jokes and poke-in-the-ribs film references. And an admirable job of compression. A lot of it was better than the book, though necessarily less rich with detail. (Thank God they didn’t have the damned elves.)
King Kong I kind of liked it, though it didn’t really fire my imagination. Better than a lot of summer fare, but too long. I really lost patience with it toward the end—I was tired of it and just wanted it to be over. It’s much harder to remake a classic film than it is to remake a failure—there are so many expectations brought to it, by both film-makers and audiences. Still, a good film, I guess.
Land of the Dead Another “shrug” movie, though very watchable. Probably the summer film I liked the most. Considering the competition, that’s not high praise.
Madagascar A kid’s comedy, again not really aimed at me. I found many parts of it funny, but the energy level was set at “feverous” and it started to become exhausting.
Serenity Yet another “shrug” movie, though better than the others. I liked it, I thought it was smart and fun, and it didn’t seem to hurt that I hadn’t seen the TV show it was spun off of. I did sort of feel like I was overhearing a private conversation, though. Dumbest title of the year.
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith Good grief, Charlie Brown, another “shrug” movie. This whole second trilogy really went downhill after Phantom Menace (there’s a slide). It began to seem like a series of Jeopardy questions (“He started out as a young slave child, and—“ DING “Who is Darth Vader?”) or, as I mentioned in my review at the time, the first fan-fic movie ever made by professionals.
Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Lots and lots of fun, clever, thoughtful, admirable, hilarious, appealing on many levels…probably my second favorite film of the year.
War of the Worlds I bought this on DVD when it came out, thinking it couldn’t have been as bad as I remembered, and I was right. It’s worse. I honestly don’t think Steven Spielberg has any idea of what makes a story work—to him, I would suspect, everything is The Shot. Either that, or he was bored out of his mind making this movie. Easily the worst 2005 movie I saw.

What’s coming up for 2006?

Films I’ll see: M. Night Shyalaman’s Lady in the Water, David Lynch’s Inland Empire. I’m a big fan of these guy’s work. Even at their worst, there’s an intelligence and a vision to their films that I rarely see elsewhere. Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration. Sure, his films are all the same thing, but they make be laugh like a fool.

Love That Title: Snakes on a Plane. I heard Samuel L. Jackson signed on just because of the title.

Damn: John Carter of Mars. In the hands of Robert Rodriguez or Kerry Conran, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Jon Favreau? Wait for the DVD, if then. The books are a lot of fun, and this should be too, but I dunno. I’d want to be sure before I stood in line.

Mmmmmaybe. The third X-Men movie (yawn), another Superman movie (not really interested), Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Movie (love the ATHF, but a whole movie of that?), the new Pirates of the Carribean movie (kind of liked the first one), Pixar’s Cars (they usually make good stuff, but the appeal varies). Everything else is either remakes, sequels or TV shows. Sometimes all at once.

I may save some money this year, looks like.

2006: Forward…

Resolutions: the usual–drink less, spend less, weigh less, write more, paint more, record more. I actually put down a rhythm machine track the other day for a project, and I finished my holiday robot story. So I’m on the way!

Next: I have two predictions about 2006.

The first is that spam will go into a new frontier: On-Line Games. You’ll save some guy from a monster, and he’ll say, “Whew, thanks! I can never repay you for saving my life! Well, actually, I can repay you—if you’re looking for a low-rate home mortgage! You know, times are very good for interest rates…” blah blah blah. You’ll be able to kill the guy, more than likely, but there will be more of them.

Spam has invaded just about every aspect of online culture, from e-mail, chat-rooms, boards, comment systems…I’ve heard it’s also invading instant messaging systems and cell phones. On-line games will be the next target. You read it here first.

In fact, how about a game, a first-person shooter like Doom, where you kill spam people? I’d buy one. I might even get good at it (I’m not good at games. My XBox laughs at me).

My second prediction is that Hollywood’s fortunes will continue to decline in the year 2006. Hollywood’s obsession with “message” films has finally reached melt-down, to the point where dreck like Star Wars is presented as being ALL about the war in Iraq. It can’t be JUST silly entertainment and special effects, no, Big George Lucas has a message for all us commoners.

Which would not be so bad if Hollywood understood that a message film has to be more than a harangue. Some message films can be profound and thoughtful, generating many insights. That’s not how Hollywood thinks it should be done, though. The tone of the “message films” I see playing seems to be, “You are too stupid to think the proper thoughts, here are some movies that will educate you so you’ll know which opinions we value. If you don’t think as we do, you’re worthless and weak.”

I’m not saying “message films” should be discarded, far from it. But play on a level field. Acknowledge that the people who disagree with you come by their opinions just as honestly as you do yours.

Yeah right. I can just see that. (That was sarcasm.) Ironically, for folks who pride themselves on intelligence (like Hollywood) they certainly seem just as shallow and thinly-motivated as the characters they put on screen. Just look at the magazines in the check out aisle if you doubt that.

The real pity is that a lot of smart-storytelling goes by the wayside in order to get the “greater point” out. Remember the first Terminator film? There was a wonderful feminist story that came by its themes honestly, by working them out in the context of the story. Something that was totally dumbed up in the sequel (which was more successful, so guess I can be ignored. I’m used to it).

Well, enough of that. Tomorrow: My 2005 at the movies, and whazzup for 2006.


I’d originally seen this suggestion on the Writer’s Digest site–a project to detail five New Years Resolutions by one of your characters. I thought of a few for Wilcox, from my November project, but since all art is autobiography, here goes.

1. During one month, learn four words of Jones’ language.

2. Cut down on the drinking, or, better, find something a bit more refined.

3. Use the stuff “borrowed” from the Project Leader to increase the radio’s range.

4. Try and thank Mira for her help with the “borrowing” mentioned in number 4, and hope her husband isn’t around…otherwise, think of an appropriate card to send. (Can’t help it, the guy gives me the willies, I’m sure he’s reading this too.)

5. Try to be a bit less of a smart-aleck. No one likes that. Especially the Captain. Which I guess leads me to number six.

6. The Captain is the smartest guy here. Always let him think that.