B-Fest 2010: The Motion Picture

B-Fest, Day 1 —

Well, it’s about 2:30 or so, and I’m sitting in the airport awaiting my 4:40 flight to Chicago, home of B-Fest (among other things). After years of reading about B-Fest, yes, I’m actually going, which means that buying the ticket and airfare actually meant something. This weekend will probably be the highlight of the year. (Yes, it’s only January. Same old me.)

The weather in Western North Carolina was gorgeous–probably 50s or so. I drove to the airport in short sleeves but brought along a heavy coat I knew I’d need.

The flight was decent. A couple of hours on a small plane goes down smooth thanks to Kindle. The view through the clouds, at times, made me wish I could have brought a canvas and paints—white cottony clouds hovering over snow-covered squares of farm. How come I’m always inspired when I can’t do anything about it? Descending into Chicago around 5, the city was a grid of orange lights that stretched on endlessly, punctuated with the odd dark expanse of trees, carefully squared.

At the airport, I was met at the airport by Jeff W, who took me to Ken B’s place. Ken’s place is like a treasure trove of DVDs ‘n’ stuff. Also with Ken were Andrew B (of Badmovies.org) and Joe B (of the sadly dormant Opposable Thumbs Films). While everyone I met was a terrific person, I have to admit it was a treat meeting Andrew, as I’ve been reading his site as long as I have Jabootu’s.

We all drove out then, first so that Jeff could buy a knife. Okay, I thought, I had no idea weapons would be needed–and I didn’t bring any! What would I do? Perhaps I would use my rapier-like wit! (Though I’m sure a rapier-like rapier would be better.) In the parking lot, there was a KAZANGO twixt a van and a two-door which the security guy ignored as long as he could. Drama!

After witnessing this tableau commenting silently on something pretentious, we wended our way to Jameson’s Charhouse for dinner and conversation, as well as meeting up with Tim and Julie, and Paul and Holly. A large social gathering? How did I survive? I don’t remember the answer to that, but I must have because I’m still here.

Paul and Holly were putting me up for the duration and a nicer couple you couldn’t meet. Spent the evening in conversation (raccoons, statistics, etc—you know the sort of thing). Slept fairly well, though the time change threw me off a bit and I had a couple of weird dreams, which I felt compelled to confirm were just dreams the next day (“I didn’t? Oh good…”).

B-Fest, Day 2 –

The day began with Ken, Andrew, Jeff, Joe, Holly and myself breakfasting (not break dancing) at the L& L diner, a B-Fest tradition. Excellent food, outstanding service. Ken warned us that we should clean our plates (of food) or there would be trouble. No one wanted trouble, so plates were cleaned!

More shopping ensued, as some sandwiches and groceries were required. Many of us waited in the van. In fact, we waited so long that the shoppers returned to find a trio of moldering skeletons! Actually, I’m just kidding about that.

Shopping completed, we returned to Ken’s World of More DVDs Than I Have (But Just Barely) and started packing up the snacks in preparation for the long B-Fest ahead. I tried to make myself useful, but perhaps was most useful in illustrating V.I. Lenin’s phrase, “useful idiots.” I happened to note a video of the wonderful Giant Claw and Ken, gentleman and scholar, said, “Take it,” Holy moley! I was now the proud owner of The Giant Claw! It was like being given a brain by the wizard!

Next, we went to another B-Fest tradition, Superdawg. Very good hotdogs, and then everyone gathered in a semi-circle with Ken in the center and talked movies. More folks were introduced but I fear my inadequate brain capacity has lost their identities. Sorry!

Then we drove to the theatre and started unpacking the plethora of snacks. We mapped out the Jabootu seats and claimed them against the world entire, I picked up my ticket (and learned where the bathrooms were) and we sat down to wait until 6 PM, when everything would commence. More folks were introduced, including The Well-Known Liz and her husband Charles, friend Ian, and friend Sally. And there was much visiting. Due to some odd defect in my hearing, whenever a lot of people are talking simultaneously, the sound tends to turn to a kind of dull roar; hence I didn’t participate as much as I coulda.

THE FILMS

Crippled Masters (1979)
Technical difficulties prevented the start of this for a while. For the most part, the action and plot made this a typical dubbed kung fu movie—but with the distinction that its two stars are actual cripples, armless and legless respectively. Lots of fights (with “Kill that paper bag!” sound effects) and training stuff, and a story that didn’t really matter–evil guy does evil, etc. For some reason, the bad guy’s hunchback gives a loud CLANK whenever punched or kicked, which is never explained–perhaps left for a sequel. Kind a kung fu X-Men (or ecch men, given the circs), complete with bald mentor.

Heartbeeps. (1981)
The announcement of this sent Andrew B into a murderous rage–justifiably, as it turned out. A largely static robot love story, it was also largely dull and predictable. The germ of a good idea was there, but it was quickly stepped on and crushed in a landslide of bad ideas badly executed. The sound level was set very low, but the dialogue was easily guessable if one were so inclined. Liz pointed out the various cute animals, and it did have Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov and Nigel Tufnel, but since they were all wasted there were no bonus points to be had. It’s hard to imagine this going through all the stages of getting made–except through inertia past the “oh crap, we’ve spent too much already” stage, or someone losing a bet.

Gymkata (1985)
This was a pretty well made variant on the martial arts “Survive the game” thing, the twist being that the kung fu here is gymnastics-based. The major failing here is the acting, bland and wooden (star Kurt Thomas, looking disconcertingly like a very young Mark Hamill) or rather broad and hammy (whoever played the king). Also, we’re never told anything about the other contestants, so we can’t care much when they’re killed. Oops, guess that’s a spoiler. One of them is a real meany, though, so we’re glad when he’s killed. Damn, another spoiler. Sorry. Also, how come a walled city full of crazy people with weapons haven’t killed each other off?

Next was the raffle, where a bunch of DVDs were won by various. There was also a laserdisk which I almost won by default. (Laserdisks are like cats: I love them, but don’t need another one. Also, they fight.) I didn’t buy a raffle ticket so, while admiring the bizarre prizes, I spent the time catching up on these notes.

One Froggy Evening (1955)
Classic cartoon from Chuck Jones. The man really could tell a (Michael Maltese) story very effectively with pretty much nothing but pictures.

Wizard of Speed and Time. (1979)
The first of the B-Fest perennials, accompanied by lots of feet waving in the air. Shown backwards and upside down—let’s see those DVDs try that! Ha ha ha, DVD losers. Speaking of losers, there was some lost car keys excitement! “Someone won a car!” was yelled out, and that was amusing.

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959)
Another B-Fest perennial and the first film of the evening (not counting the shorts) that I’ve seen before. Very funny stage presentation, “What is Solarmanite?” which would be cool to have as a PDF. The story is too well known to comment on, other than this: the saucers survive an army attack because they have force shields. Couldn’t they shield us from the universe to prevent ragnorak? Also, since Eros’ ship was destroyed by stupid, stupid, stupid humans, shouldn’t we have been destroyed by the rest of the aliens afterwards? There are still two more ships after all, and, budget cuts or not, the fate of the universe is involved…

Ego Trap (?)
Another short cartoon told entirely through facial expression. I got a laugh when I yelled out “Too soon!” at the end. A fun cartoon though kind of too pink. Reminded me of the DePatie-Freling cartoons but a lack of credits precluded my triumphal, um, being-right-ness. Also, IMDB seems to know nothing about this film. It might have been “Ego Trip” but I’m pretty sure not. Oh well.

The Room (2003)
Another one I’ve never seen. With good reason, as it turns out; thank goodness I was spared this terribleness ‘til now. A vanity project by one Tommy Wiseau, who serves as writer, director, producer, executive producer and star, this is a long, pointless, endless movie about unlikable idiots. Some good audience participation (at least, better than what was on screen), but otherwise such a disjointed mess–scenes seem to appear in non-chronological order, but, surely NO footage could be discarded–that it gets my vote as “Dr. Least Fun” of B-Fest 2010. Johnny, you were such a saint, and everyone betrayed you! Also, despite the title, many rooms (and a rooftop) were involved.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
Really, you can’t argue with breasts. Decent late night cable-type soft-core entry with good-looking women (who didn’t hesitate to get naked), great explosions and some blood. Not the sort of thing I’d seek out (or see twice) but fun, lively and it didn’t drag. The “let’s stop the story for nudity” bit made plot advancements seem little less compelling to the characters than I figured they ought to, but this film wasn’t made for the plot. I did appreciate that they took pains to explain why the characters couldn’t go to the police for help. I took my first bathroom break here, when a sports interviewer was quizzing Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson (not his real name). Got back to the theatre as the scene was ending, which I figured was worth a point or two in my favor. Oh, a huge plastic snake occasionally figured in the action (of the film). Enjoyable and the best entry so far.

Black Shampoo (1976)
I’ve never been a fan of blaxploitation, though I respect the opinions of those who are. This one has a twist in that the hero is not a gangster, pimp or vigilante but a hairdresser. All his (female) clients are more interested in sex than styling, so that element remains. A fair bit of nudity and a funky score overcome the predictability of the story and the unhurried pace (courtesty the 70’s and director Greydon Clark). Interestingly, race never really plays a part and the hero’s fellow salon members (flamboyantly gay) are the most fun characters.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)
I’d seen this one, once, a few years back and while I could appreciate it, it didn’t really rock me. I liked it quite a bit more the second time because I was aware of its stuffed nature. I still think the film is oversaturated with plot elements, and the fact that reels one and two were switched and no one noticed story holes is pretty telling. Still, it’s fun and impossible to mock.

Troll 2 (1990)
I’d seen this one just recently and it still holds up as bad, but “The Room” kind of kills any standard of bad-movie-judgment. Deborah Reed chews so much scenery that, were she teamed with John “Jaffar” Steiner, the two might tear a hole in reality itself. Great how the ghost guy pretty much does everything, because the kid star’s only real talent seemed to be super-whining and looking like someone had just kicked his Sleeping Beauty bobble-heads.

Live It Up! (1963)
Another one I’ve not seen, and the oldest non-perennial film thus far. A rags-to-riches rock & roll story with the usual problems (OMG I lost the tape) and many musical numbers. I’m probably exhausted but I found a lot of the British slang impenetrable, though the clichés made the story easy enough to follow. Still, an okay entry that didn’t overstay its welcome.

Fiend without a Face (1958)
The oldest film so far, and for my money, the best thing seen at B-Fest 2010. Invisible creatures suck brains from unsuspecting victims–and no, it’s not a political allegory. The film itself is taut and well-made, but the stop-motion knocks this one out of the park. B-Fest 2010’s Reigning Champ.

Sextette (1978)
Another vanity project, though not as awful as The Room. Had this been made in the 1930’s it would probably be high in Mae West’s filmography, without a single change in dialogue or plot machinations. Sadly, time marches on and Mae West, over 80 at the time, was just not as daring as she was forty years earlier. This was the second film that sent Andrew raving, howling for death with such power and fervor that I was tempted. But really, I just found it more sad than bad. Everyone has a sad, unsupportable delusion or two (“I am a hot mama”), but few have theirs open in theatres throughout the world.

War of the Robots (1978)
Desiring another bathroom break (the caffeine was catching up), I was glad to see this title because I was pretty sure I’d seen the film. However, panic set in during the first few minutes as nothing looked familiar. Was this something I had not seen, or had my previous viewing been really veiled by alcohol? The air of the familiar still hung over the production, and I did start to recognize some characters, so I decided not to cap my first B-Fest with a visit to the hospital for a burst bladder. This film went on for so long that I had to take another break, and did so during the climactic and dull space battle, figuring the film would be over when I got back. But no, there was at least another ten or fifteen minutes of repetition to go. This film won 2nd most bad from me, and most of the audience adjudged it Worst Film 2010.

The Giant Claw (1957)
If not for the ludicrous appearance of the title menace, this would probably be remembered as a formulaic but decent entry in the giant monster genre. But really, even if the model had been frightening in a good way, what can you do with a giant bird? The monster is seen as terrifying the entire country, but it’s just one bird. (I know Larry Cohen’s Q does the same, but he wisely confines the creature to one city.) The design of the bird notwithstanding, the team that built it obviously took time to make some nice touches, like the flaring nostrils. (Yeah, I know, bird nostrils don’t work like that, but this is a bird from space.) A good film with which to conclude B-Fest 2010.

And with B-Fest concluded, Liz and I took pride that neither one of us had fallen asleep through the entire length of the festival. The snacks and drinks were duly packed up, trash gathered, cars loaded, and souls taken to Paul and Holly’s house for the post B-Fest party.

At this point, I was pretty much running on fumes, but the conversations were wonderful. Ken, Ian, Liz and myself got a long discussion running on animal actors, the Alien films, James Cameron, which somehow mutated into philosophic, religious and political themes, and the place of the individual in the society in which he finds himself. I can’t recall any of my contributions but I suspect they consisted largely of pauses or interruptions.

Day 3 –

After a handful of hours of sleep (I apologize again to Sally for my snoring), the gang reassembled and Andrew made an incredible breakfast of omelets and pancakes. Should he ever leave the Marine Corps, he should open a restaurant. I was packed up and bundled off to the airport for my 1:40 flight home. Upon landing, I was greeted by the mounds of snow that had mercifully missed Chicago and headed southward instead.

I carefully removed my car’s new exoskeleton and headed home over the (fortunately) clear streets. I greeted my complaining cat and thought a quick nap would be nice…awakening some four hours later, I figured I should tidy up these notes and get them ready for posting. And here they are. A fine B-Fest concluded, I hope that I will attend again next year.

UPDATE: I knew I’d gotten some names wrong, thanks to Ken for the corrections.

The Wizard Dredmor!


Yes, I do tend to tease Cullen about his webcomic, “On The One Nord to Noin.”  Only because I do see some nice potential in the material, if he could manage to, well, create some new episodes.  You know, for variety.

I do like Dredmor, though.  I think he’s got a lot of potential, though.  And to be honest, he’s more interesting than the other guy.  (I’ve already forgotten the other guy’s name.  Kelvar?)

As a side note, this may be my last entry under the WordPress aegis.  It lost almost all of the information in my Fanelian entry below, which has made me too angry to think clearly.  I am getting very sick and tired of the limitations and retardations offered by the service.  Other outlets are so much easier in every way.  So, no news yet, but there may be some changes in the future.  Stay tuned.  And I’ll be sure to drag you all over to whatever new place I find (if only in the form of links). 

Stupid Graphics Tricks vs. WordPress, also HELLO!

Each time I try to post a, well, post that has graphics in it, I end up with an entry that has a massive amount of blank space above it.  I’ve got to pull code from older entries and adapt that to get something that makes me look less retarded than I am (and actually shows the graphics).  What the heck am I doing wrong?  Time to visit the forums, sigh.

In the meantime, welcome to our visitors from BridgeBunnies!  That has to be one of the greatest domain names ever, and we here are honored to be added to your blogroll.  The drawing of Lyar Von Ertiana your master refers to is here, and we must confess, we didn’t draw most of Lyar (or Sugar, either).  But we’re working on that!

UPDATE: The graphics thing seems to be related to the size of the graphic (in pixels) as it is displayed.  If I reduce the size, it doesn’t create a giant blanket of white. 

this time.

Adventures in Anime

(Warning: This post is far too long to read, so thanks for stopping by!) 

Just because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I thought I’d detail my introduction to the world of anime. 

When you see a new realm of artistic endeavor, one that’s existed for many years and has built up a considerable body of work, it’s always intimidating wondering where to put that first step.  It’s an ocean of choice—what if the water is cold, or too rough, or full of biting creatures?  If I stick my foot in there and it’s uncomfortable and I say “Ow,” everyone will know I’m a newbie, and they’ll all laugh at me.  It’s much easier to forego the experience and move on to more familiar territory.  This tends to be the case no matter what the field; someone who has listened to nothing but rock and roll, but decides on a whim to investigate country/western, or classical, or jazz, where does that person start?

One avenue is to find some guidebook or other compendium of expert opinion.   This can lead one to the classics, after all.  The problem with these is that they tend to focus on works that have achieved a high level of general critical consensus; there’s no real room for personal taste, personal idiosyncrasies, “hey I like this,” which is where art lives anyway.  So in the case of jazz, you’ll probably be told to buy “Kind of Blue” and “A Love Supreme” and a few other works that are listed on everyone’s top ten.  But what if “Kind of Blue” or “A Love Supreme” don’t “work” for you?  Does that mean you’ll never be a jazz fan?

Possibly, but more than likely it just means you haven’t yet found the kind of jazz that appeals to you.  In many cases, it depends on what direction you’re approaching jazz from—your starting point, as it were.   If you’re coming from rock, the Mahavishnu Orchestra may be more your style.  If you’re coming from folk, try Oregon.  From there, you can branch out, slowly, into more general jazz works like “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady,” by Charles Mingus, which I think is a pretty good starting point anyway. 

Well, we seem to have gotten off-topic.  Yeah, like that’s unusual here….

In my case, anime looked weird and incomprehensible.  There were these giant robots everywhere, and people who appeared to be extremely constipated screaming at each other while they hurled energy bolts in battle.  The other side of the coin seemed to be girls with huge eyes and weird hair colors making hearts at boys with rat’s nest hair…sometimes with giant robots around, too.  While I was intrigued, I was pretty sure I’d never understand it, and had no idea where to start, so “Anime” became just an aisle in Best Buy that I could pass over on my way to the “Horror/Science Fiction” section.  Had I bought a guidebook, I probably would have been told to start with an acknowledged classic like Neon Genesis Evangelion, and if I’d done that, that would have been the end of my anime experiment.  (It’s not that Evangelion is bad, necessarily; I would describe it as “off-putting,” though.)

What I really needed was a starting point that was tailored for me.  The best kind of starting point before putting the first toe into a new sea of art is to find a person who mirrors your taste in other areas.  Or, someone who’s taste and thinking you respect and can consider in context.  If you’re a big Stephen King fan, and you know someone else who’s a big Stephen King fan, and that person likes anime, and that person happens to say, “You know, Divergence Eve is a pretty good series…”   A lot of “ands,” I know, but you’ve got a starting point that will be more useful to you.

In my own case, the person most responsible for my wet feet was Steven Den Beste.  He ran a website called USS Clueless (and currently runs Chizumatic) and his writing on a great many subjects was intelligent, considered and highly readable.  So when he started investigating anime, I took notice and basically started walking where I saw his footsteps.

If memory serves (and it generally doesn’t), the first anime title he wrote about was Spirited Away.  So I bought that.  It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, in any genre, and I never hesitate to recommend it.  In fact, it’s about the only movie I can think of which I recommend with absolutely no reservations whatsoever. 

The first series I remember him writing about was Noir, so I went and bought that too.  And it remains the single greatest anime series I’ve ever seen.  (Note well:  the number of “anime series I’ve seen” barely extends into the double digits.)

The final entry of the Original Trilogy was Ghost in the Shell.  Well, Ghost is intelligent, thought-provoking and visually stunning, but it’s also superficial and in love with its own gee-wizardry.   I’m glad I saw it but that’s about the extent of my engagement.

So, two home runs and one bunt to first base; not a bad average.  So I followed Steven’s reviews pretty religiously and made buying decisions based on them, and I’ve yet to be steered wrong.  Of course, I haven’t exactly watched everything I’ve bought, so who knows?

Well anyway, once I got my feet wet, I started to branch out into unknown areas on my own.  I’d start to buy things based on whether they sounded interesting or not, or whether they had people working on them whose past works I’d admired.  I started to like things that Steven didn’t (he hated Gravion; I thought it was hilarious).  While I still read his page daily, I became my own animal, and started to make some choices that weren’t even mentioned on Chizumatic.  Some of these choices were very good (PreTear), some not so good (Neo Ranga, though to be fair the jury’s still out).

So now that I’ve become my own anime fan, what do I like?

Before I answer that, I’d like to point something out:  I’m probably not an anime fan.

Yes, shocking, isn’t it?  The reason I say this is because I don’t do a lot of the things anime fans do. 

1. Firstly, I don’t watch them in Japanese, I always watch the English dub versions.  Not to disrespect the Japanese or their language, far from it, but I have absolutely no facility with foreign languages.  (My abilities in English are bad enough.)  Yes, one can read subtitles, and that’s how I always watch live-action foreign films.  An actor’s voice is just as much a part of his performance as his face and the way he chooses to move. 

However, when watching Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson argue about who gets to commit suicide first, I can see them in a familiar environment—I don’t have to wonder what the fantastical device is that they’re sitting on, I know it’s called a “couch.”  Even in futuristic live-action films, I can still key in on what the environment represents to the characters and I don’t have to watch it continuously to figure out its nature.

In animation, however, everything is brand new.  It’s all been designed deliberately from the blank page up—everything has a choice behind it.  It’s also frequently imaginative and beautiful.  I don’t like taking my eyes away from it in order to read subtitles—I’d much rather hear the dialogue so I can keep watching.

2. Secondly, I don’t use any of the terms typically associated with anime fandom.  I don’t say OP, ED, kawaii, seiyuu, meganekko, eyecatch, mecha or any of the others.  (See above, about my abilities with language.)  The one exception is “fan service” because that’s an animal that’s fairly unique to anime.

3. Thirdly, I don’t treat any of this stuff with the kind of reverence one typically sees out there.  I don’t shoot dirty looks at people who talk during the closing credits, I don’t get into fights about which season of Wedding Peach was the better one, I don’t wear a kimono and light a candle when I take a new disk out of its case.  To me, it’s all about entertainment.  I watch them to have fun, maybe learn something, and perhaps see an interesting perspective.

So if those disqualify me from anime fandom, so be it.  I don’t consider myself a fan of a particular style of presentation anyway; what I am a fan of is good stories, told with interesting characters and creative ideas.  The fact that I’m finding a lot of stories with those qualities in anime doesn’t mean that I always will or that they’re absent elsewhere.  If I find stories I like in Zanzibar shadow puppet theatre, I’ll start watching those too.

So, given all that, what have I liked in anime?  Here’s a list of the series that have made a strong impact on me.  If there’s a review at Chizumatic, clicking the title will take you there; links in the descriptions are for my own writings.  (I’m only including series I’ve watched all the way through.)

Noir – the greatest anime series I’ve seen.  It’s harrowing and intense, but at its heart it’s a wonderful love story (no, not that kind).  Warning:  when I say intense I’m not kidding.  I recently re-watched the series and, at times, it was an effort to put the next disc in.

Haibane Renmei – the second greatest series I’ve seen.  Like a broken heart, you want to tell everyone about this, but also like a broken heart, it’s almost too personal to write about. 

Divergence Eve / Misaki Chronicles.- excellent horror/science fiction hybrid with great, likeable characters and some imaginative ideas.  It’ll never gain an audience above “minor cult” because of the incredibly stupid and distracting fan service. My favorite anime character is in this one.  Note:  Though they’re marketed as different titles, Divergence Eve and Misaki Chronicles are two halves of one story.  Get ‘em both!

Martian Successor Nadesico – comedy/science fiction/giant robots, set onboard a spaceship with a ditzy captain and the world’s most reluctant chick magnet.  To give an example of how bizarre this series can get, many of the Nadesico’s crew are fans of an anime series called “Gekkigengar 3.”  One episode of MSN was actually an episode of “Gekkigengar 3” in which those characters reveal that their favorite show is…Martian Successor Nadesico.  Because of its successful mixture of action, comedy, drama, science fiction and romance, this would be an ideal show to start with, aside from one little problem:  it’s apparently long out of print.

Sugar, A Little Snow Fairy – I’ve already written a lot about this one recently.  It’s a kid’s show, but wonderful nonetheless.  It would be a shame to pass it over just because it’s aimed at children; it’s certainly not dumbed down for anyone.  Everyone can enjoy this.

PreTear – I’ve already written recently about this one as wel.  Magical fighting girl, looming evil, comedy, lots and lots of fun.  Himeno’s determination is remarkable to behold and part of the reason this one’s so appealing to me.

Happy Lesson – another comedy that I really enjoyed a great deal.  I’ve written at length about this one too.

There are others I’ve enjoyed as well, but these were the ones that really came alive off the screen.

Well, I have blathered on for rather a bit, haven’t I?   Why, I hardly ever do that!  But guess what:  some of the series listed above have long essays in the works!  Remember what I said, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, and no one, no one can stop me!

I’d do the evil laugh thing, but that always makes me cough.  Thanks for visiting, as always.

 

UPDATE, Sept 6 2007.  Regrettably, I’ve had to close comments for this entry.  It’s become a graveyard of spam.  I want to thank everyone who provided legit comments, and to the spammers, go peddle your papers elsewhere.

Slumbrous Despondency (Cheese Extra)

Filthy Rotten Angel recently posted that she was going to give up blogging, or at least give up blogging in the Known Universe. She has, I guess, reconsidered in the days since her first announcement and has posted a beautiful tribute to a friend who committed suicide. I always enjoy reading her work, it’s heartfelt in a way I can never be. I’m hoping I’m not out of line, linking to her here. Her blog is pretty autobiographical, and mine never is, so my certainty is uncertain.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

During the days following her announcement, I thought about what it is that I do, here, and why I do it, and why I feel less and less like doing it.

What is the purpose and nature of this thing? Why do I do this?

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

I first signed up for Blogger in November of 2004. As I recall, it was a whim and one of those “everyone else is doing it, might as well get one myself” things. And now that I had it, I had no idea what to do with it. I’d scrawl brief little things and post and go back to work, or whatever.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

The first purposeful posting I did was probably the PaintBlogs. These were really a method of cataloguing my creativity, trying to fathom why I made the choices that I did when constructing an artwork. And it was like a time-machine, I could see a work in its historical stages as well as the finished product. If I’d stopped at that stage (of the painting) and made different choices, what artwork would I have? And thoughts like that. The main thing is, it was all for myself. After all, I’d read somewhere that someone starts a blog every forty seconds or so. How was anyone going to come across my tiny corner?

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

Then something weird happened. Something I never expected to happen. I started getting comments. People were reading this crap. How did they get here? I suspect it’s the same way I found new blogs—the “Next Blog” button at the top of the Blogger Title Bar. I’d done that a number of times myself, usually enjoying the various realms I’d come across. Random chance can be fun, just ask Marcel Duchamp. In this case, it happened to me and whoever stopped by actually read what I was writing.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

Of course, this changes everything. I wasn’t just leaving notes to myself, I was (cough) writing for the public. It’s one thing to write in a diary, but quite another to write in a diary knowing you’re going to have to read it in front of the class. In your underwear, too.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

This changes the whole process. While I still wrote for myself, without a lot of thought whether or not my writing would be “useful” to anyone else, it does change your perspective when you think someone might read this. One is more careful with one’s phrasing, one double-checks the spelling and grammar, one reads over the prose to make sure that one thought flows smoothly into its fellow.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

I’d start to think, too, that I should update more regularly, and that I should have something worthwhile to say. Worthwhile to whom? Well, why…oh. I need to write things that are interesting.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

The natural question is, Well, what did you expect? Blogger is a publicly availably web service, and it’s available to this public at all times. If you want to hide, write things on your laptop and keep them there. If you want to be a public figure, blow the trumpet louder. Putting things on the internet is like showing up at the school dance. While few potential partners look at you twice, there is the possibility that someone would ask you to dance with them. Unlikely, sure, given the amount of people here. But it could happen.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

Maybe that’s the attraction. There’s that slight possibility. That’s why you’re there, to show that you’re placing yourself in public eye, and ready to risk.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

After all, one of the attractive aspects of other blogs is the ability to leave comments. I don’t always do so, but the fact that I can—that I can interact with another person’s thoughts—is a nice feeling. It makes me feel that I do exist, and that even though I may not be asked to dance, there’s always the possibility, however slight, that it might happen.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

And when it does, telling the person you don’t know how to dance is really lame. If there’s no possibility that you’re going to dance, then you’re just going so you can be seen by everyone, and that sounds pretty lame too.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

Where do I go from here? I have no idea.

I created this painting while thinking about Filthy Rotten Angel’s decision, wondering about where these events were leading. While I find this image pretty disturbing, even for my work, nonetheless I’m dedicating it to her. And hoping she won’t be a stranger.

Dancing Partner, Oil on Canvas.

Off to my dancing lesson.

Those who Chronicle the Darkness

Lots of folks say that blogging is a waste of time, that it’s just a bunch of maladjusted loners shouting incoherence into the aether.

Well…I’m certainly not going to argue with someone who can turn a phrase like that. But many blogs have a real person behind them, someone generating those shouts, and it was my privilege to discover that Filthy Rotten Angel is just as funny, insightful and personable in “real life” (ie, over a crappy cell phone) as she is in her online realm.

If you’re a big fan of horror fiction, you owe it to yourself to read one of her other blogs, Killing in the Name Of… which is absolutely wonderful writing. It’s chilling and disturbing and so well put together that I never catch myself reading along technical lines, ie, “That’s a great phrase, ooo, cool use of metaphor there.” I find myself right in the middle of these dark entries (whether I want to be or not) and the tone of the teller is always so right. So right, in fact, that it’s sometimes scary to finish an entry, and wonder….

I feel certain she’s going to be a major voice in fiction, and you should read her stuff now, while you can, for free. I think in a very, very short while, you’re going to have to pay $24.95 to do so (prices slightly higher in Canada).

And what’s really cool is that the soul behind these macabre works is simply a wonderful person. I can’t tell you how cool it was to hear her describe how she shapes these visions. Well, I could, but I’d have to use a bunch of adverbs and my latest shipment was lost at Federal Express (long story).

Creativity and vision are wonderful things, things that really elevate our species above the rest of the mammals. (I limit my remarks to mammals because insects make interesting music and their mosaic art is first-rate.) Cats, on the other hand, do their best to make life difficult. Argh on cats.

Plus, she thought my Dr. Claw imitation was scary. Which it is. Always good for points in my book.

It’s all fiction…as far as you know.