Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bob Ross - Natural Child Sedative

Five-year-old Jackson caught a few moments of "The Joy of Painting" yesterday with oil-paint guru Bob Ross and he could not be deterred from the show until every "happy little tree" was highlighted with Ross' ubiquitous titanium white. Like a gentle, spiritual magician, Ross hypnotized us with his fan brushes and palette knives, painting happy little clouds, a reflective lake, and snow-covered mountains.

"That looks like Mt. Hood!" noted Jackson, and Bob Ross instantly gained another convert. The man who nursed injured squirrels, inspired the art-impaired worldwide, and claimed that painters are "the happiest people on Earth" is a fine role model. Especially intriguing was his method of "beating the devil" out of his big paint brush by slapping it against his easel a few dozen times repeatedly so it made a whappa whappa whappa sound. Jackson loves that and so does Bob Ross because he always smiles euphorically whenever the brush needs cleaning.

I told Jackson that Bob Ross practiced for years to be able to finish a painting in 26 minutes. I hope that sunk in. I can draw and paint somewhat and there's NO WAY I could ever complete a landscape in that amount of time. Maybe a landscape of some sand dunes, minus color. Plus, I like to paint from real life, or at least a decent photograph. It perturbs me that Ross pulled his paintings out of his head--that's a little bit fantastical (and creepy?). That's not to say I don't enjoy his special talent at speed painting. It's almost like stop-motion animation, watching him accomplish so much with just a few oil paints and three brushes.

He reminds me of the matte painters I worked with many years ago in the film industry. They knew their lights and darks and they knew how to fool the eye into seeing reality; when it was really a lot of tricky brush strokes that made that Gotham City in Batman Returns. But even they used reference photos. Bob Ross was kind of magical. He died in 1995 from lymphoma but his show lives on and as he might say, "That's a happy little accident."

video source: Ron Barba

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sad Tasmanian Devil News

The Tasmanian Devil is my favorite carnivorous marsupial. It only lives in Tasmania, making it one of those almost mythical beasts that you read about, rather than encounter. (Yes, it's a character in Bugs Bunny cartoons as well.) I read today that the stumpy-legged, barky creatures are rapidly being wiped out by mysterious facial tumors that keep them from eating. They starve to death and what makes it impossible to treat is that the cancers appear to be transmitted from devil to devil through bites. But the disease is not viral in nature--it's a mystery. Now scientists are reporting that the devils have very high concentrations of carcinogenic flame retardent chemicals in their fatty tissues. These are the same chemcials (PBDEs) that are causing a world-wide freak-out because they reside in us as well and they're in practically everything we deal with throughout the day: furniture, rugs, computers, walls, etc. If creatures who only live in Tasmania are saturated with this stuff, what does that mean for our health and the health of our children? In other words, what price flame retardation?

photo source: Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park
More information: Where Light Meets Dark

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Express Yourself

It's an election year, so get out and buy a T-shirt from Cafe Press.

Vampire Weekend - A-Punk

Vampire Weekendproves that you don't need a lot of money to make a decent video. You do need a lot of money to promote it though.

As seen on the YouTube's Featured Videos.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Morningwood - Nth Degree

Morningwoodpays tribute to musical styles throughout the decades. Repetitive but entertaining. Remember when pop music was entertaining?

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Night of Cultural Riches

I started taking this belly dance class at our local rec center (the Taj Mahal of rec centers). My teacher's name is Ruby and she's a lovely elderly, yet ageless, lady who encourages us to "shake it, ladies," with a big smile on her face. She is the definition of "lovable." Ruby hosts some belly dance nights around the area, so I drove into Portland last night to partake.

This happened at Pasha Restaurant downtown--live music featuring an amazing two-man band, who played all manner of Persian, Arab, Turkish and Afghanistan music, with merely some handdrums and a few synthesizers that sounded like Arab flutes. The dancers were really good. First up was a scientist who had been studying dance for years. She resembled an intelligent, graceful Paris Hilton, if your mind can go there. And her sparkly brown costume mesmerized. Next was a Liza Minelli look-alike who opted for more traditional style undulations. She was more modestly attired in brilliant pinks, sea-foams and burgandies. Belly dance is never subtle. My favorite was a Dawn-doll apparition named Rena who spun so rapidly for so long that it looked physically impossible, all the while with a little-girl smile pasted on her face. Instead of falling over, she did rapid-fire hip drops to an insanely pulsing drumbeat, then twirled a giant green scarf in all sorts of configurations. She was like a mid-western belly dancing cheer leader--very athletic. After each performance, the girls would dance through the audience for tips. It felt very strange to stuff a folded-up dollar in a girl's sequined hip strap. And since I was alone--it was slightly lecherous in tone. But belly dance is not seedy--not at all--it's way classier than many artforms I've partaken in. I just didn't want to spend too much money before I headed to...

Powell's City of Books which is so aptly named. You need a really big color-coded map to work this store, and it's still overwhelming. It's book heaven. Keith needed me to pick up a gift for his friend, Fast Company, a memoir of riding motorcycles in Italy with gay motorcycle-marketing overtones. Keith says it's well-written. I also picked up Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee. Another memoir; this one's about how Anne got over a terrible break-up with yet another bad boyfriend through belly dance. She's a very funny writer and this book is an enjoyable exploration of her half-Lebanese roots, her struggle with sobriety, several botched attempts at dating middle-eastern men, and the intense, yet nurturing world of belly dance. Her first book is Nerd Girl Rocks Paradise City--about her attempt to make it as a hair-metal journalist on the cusp of the grunge rock cultural take-over. Hapless hopeless hilarity: worth the read.

While stumbling around Powell's, I came upon the gallery where Autumn de Wilde's Elliot Smith photographs were on display. Best were the quotes alongside the photos of Elliott looking pensive and unassuming within an urban landscape. Fellow musicians and friends tell of his love of all sorts of music, from pop to country-&-western. He had all sorts of interests during the indie 90s when it was totally uncool to admit to liking certain aspects of Chicago, or Rush, or George Jones. But Elliott liked little bits and pieces of musical ephemera, often tuning out his friends to listen more closely to a car radio's top-40 selection. He was before his time

On the way out, I picked up a flier for Super Trash, the 72-hour fest at the Bagdad Theater--a very cool old movie house that's now a brew-pub/retro-theater. February 1st through 3rd will feature such greats as Return of the Dragon, Night of the Living Dead, Psych Out and (heh) Road House, starring the indominatble Patrick Swayze. There's oh-so-much more, of course. Also on the bill is Tease-O-Rama, a talk-show format which will feature Sky Saxon, singer-songwriter of The Seeds (and featured in Psych Out). I have a slight connection with Sky. Dubious, but a connection nonetheless.

I finished up the my cultural whirlwind today by watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (once more for the Harry juggernaut: great effects alongside a barely comprehensible adaptation of a good book). Then I took Jackson to his school's movie night, where we saw Peter Pan, which I haven't seen since I was about his age (5 or 6, something like that). Despite an unfortunately very un-p.c. native American scenario; awesome Disney film. I loved the flying scenes (loved how Wendy had to flap her arms to get around and could never quite catch up with Peter--very dream-like). Loved the action--so many funny physical movements and slapstick (emphasis on "slap"). Anything featuring the crocodile was automatically funny, as was Mr. Smee. In fact, the crocodile might be the best animated animal ever (I haven't seen Ratatouille yet, so I'll withold judgment). And Tinker Bell, that jealous wench, darts around like a pixie on another kind of dust. Jackson squeeeed with laughter, causing many sedate little girls to look at him increduously. Worth noting was the fact that all the kids in the school library were either wearing their pajamas, or dressed like characters from the film, so we were surrounded by pirates, fairies, pillows and blankets--perhaps the best way to see a film. Jackson knows how to have a good time. And now, thanks to my ridiculous drive for cultural enrichment, so do I.

photo reference: Fremont Bridge by PhotoInference

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

My childhood was a time of TV theme-song nirvana. These three are STILL going through my head at various times of the day or night (not every day or night--have mercy). All three shows are (in my opinion) not as good as their theme songs, being heavily formulaic with stiff dialogue and really disturbing violence. And one show was just downright ridiculous. That show was:

Three petty criminals rounded up by "the man" and trained for undercover work to avoid jail time. Way to subvert the counterculture, television executives. Even as a child I didn't get the basic concept of Mod Squad. Maybe because I grew up in California, surrounded by aging beatniks and hirsute hippies. I knew none of them would ever join the police force, nor would they be any good at police work. They would just serve their time and write poetry about it.

Great theme song though. And the leads were so good looking. I love how Peggy Lipton must be "supported" by the guys as they run through the tunnel. Very 60s, when women could not be counted on to run athletically without falling down every three to four feet en route. Actresses back then always swung their arms back and forth across their bodies when they ran, as if their hips impeded their progress. I wonder if that girly style of running will ever come back. I hope not. Maybe steroid-use in track and field has made it completely obsolete. Now women run their asses off, arms pumping like pistons.

I watched ten minutes (which was ten minutes too long) of the Claire Danes remake on the TV recently. Ms. Danes, you are no Peggy Lipton.

Next up: Mission Impossible. This is a video a guy made by editing a bunch of MI plot themes together and he extended the song unecessarily. I couldn't find a non-bastardized version on YouTube and I've yet to figure out how to post MP3s here (yes, I am lame). But here it is. Still effective:

My parents loved this show. I thought it was completely boring but I always sat through the opening theme even if I was too young to follow the intricate plotlines. Maybe they were fascinating. I kind of doubt it though. I loved the smoking tape player at the top of the show every week with the explanatory: This message will now self-destruct. Did it melt? Did it crumble? Did it destroy a new tape player each time? They never showed that--just the smoking tape. Very mysterious and cool. No, I haven't seen the Tom Cruise re-makes. If I didn't like the show then, why would I like it now? With Tom Cruise? He is one crazy mo-fo and I don't support that.

Moving on: best for last. I think this is the all-time greatest TV theme song ever. True, an innocent shop keeper, hairdresser or bystander was brutally murdered in the opening moments of each show, but America didn't care. We just wanted to hear this:

An overly violent or ridiculous teleplay did not detract from Hawaii 5-O's 12 seasons of popularity. I remember seeing an episode where two bumbling kidnappers dragged a little girl all over the big island while being pursued by the law. I guess no one on the writer's staff wanted to write dialogue for the little girl because she slept through her entire kidnapping, over the course of a day and night. Even one of the kidnapper's noted it when, after they had basically rolled her down an eroding embankment and into a bush to hide out, he looked at his partner and yelled, She's still asleep!

My mom regularly played The Ventures' cover of Hawaii 5-O, causing our teenaged neighbors to sneer at us, but I knew (even as I blushed and hid myself away): that we were secretly cool.

Here's a cover of Mission Impossible by Vanilla Mood:

Maila Nurmi ("Vampira") 1921-2008

Beatnik, TV horror-show hostess, star of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and former girlfriend of James Dean, R.I.P. Maila Nurmi.

Interview with Maila about her famous creation.

Vampira in action.

The Misfits pay tribute.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sleeve Faces

I meant to post this a while ago. People taking photos of themselves with record sleeve faces. Good obsessive fun. Hey, you gotta do something.
Go to ONTD for a whole bunch of these. Some are quite clever. There's a British vibe to this practice--am I right?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Eames Stamps in 2008

Are you a Charles and Ray Eames furniture freak? This year you can buy stylish (and affordable) postage stamps with all the cool Eames decor you wish you could sit on and admire. You'll want to start writing letters again. Paying bills will still suck. Here they are:

Source: eamesd

Hail, thunder, lightning, tornadoes, oh my

Yesterday, I dropped Jackson off at school and we noticed his classroom was locked and empty, so we went into the main building, thinking everyone had gone to music class early. But as we entered the inner sanctum, the office staff told us we had to go into the library at the center of the school because there was a tornado warning at the moment. I said, "Wha-?" and we skedaddled down the hall where the entire school was gathered in mass, just hanging out with teachers and staff.

Only a few kids from Jackson's class were there because a busload of children was parked alongside a road somewhere, waiting for further instructions. I was informed that bus drivers are not allowed to drive during a tornado watch. That's a good thing but several little girls did require hugs when they finally showed up to school, which I gladly doled out.

I asked another mom if tornadoes were a common occurence in the Northwest and she replied that it rarely happens--the last one in 1940. That reassured us but it turns out she's dead WRONG. Tornadoes are rather common around here, apparently. It's just that they tend to occur where there's no humanity or structures to destroy, only trees. One newspaper report states that "like the gentle earthquakes that happen here frequently but go un-reported, tornadoes..." And I was like, Frequent Earthquakes! Oh, great. What next? (I have yet to write about the active VOLCANOES that are near by.)

Turns out the last bad tornado in Vancouver was in 1972 when six people were killed and hundreds injured. It took out a bowling alley, a shopping center and an entire elementary school (hence our drill yesterday). Our tornado took out a boat house, hundreds of boats and damaged a lot of rooftops, some walls, vehicles, and many, many trees. No one, miraculously, was injured. Just scared. Here's yesterday's tornado in all its category 1 glory (not too deadly).
Source: The Columbian

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Inland Empire - Totally Audacious!

Last Sunday I was thrilled to view David Lynch's latest cinematic freakout: Inland Empire. Having seen nearly all of Lynch's output since Erasurehead (except for that TV show that all the critics hated, no, not Twin Peaks, silly; the other one; and most of Dune since I can't take Sting for more than three minutes at a time), I was willing to go into it with an open, accepting attitude. Blow me away Mr. Lynch! I inwardly demanded, happy to plunk down $7 to see mid-range digital imagery blown up to what is usually pristine 35mm film footage. As many critics have noted: much of it looks "bad," dark and grainy where it would normally (on film) look rich and velvety. You find yourself peering into the gloom, squinting to make out who (or what) is running around in there, much like Laura Dern's actress character(s), Nikki/Susan/Southern-accented woman.

Dern plays a woman who's personality seems to fragment the more she works on a gypsy-cursed re-make of a film where the original lead characters were brutally murdered. Yes, it's a little confusing. OK, it's the most weirdly edited thing I've ever seen. And it revisits so many of the themes Lynch has covered before: love triangles, ominous demon figures, personal fragmentation, deadpan non-expository dialogue, mind-altering use of sound and music, uh, etc. Since it took over two years to film and had no script, other than what Lynch typed up the day of shooting, it really is quite the collage of disorienting images.

For all the frustration I felt at the lack of narrative thread, I was intrigued beyond measure by the way this guy can make the most mundane objects seem threatening; such as old screwdrivers, hammers and a lamp with a red lightbulb. Some of the images of Dern are the most frightening things I've ever seen and they only last a few seconds. He really is a creepy fellow. Here are some images and my take on it all. It makes about as much sense as the film, which is non-sense. Uh, spoilers ahead...?
Grace Zabriskie shows up in Laura Dern's (Nikki's) mansion and tells her she's going to get this killer role in an upcoming movie. Nikki's all, "Well, I haven't got the part yet." And Grace is all (in a heavy eastern European accent), "Yesss, I think you villl." And she says it's about murder and Nikki is all, "Wha-? Nuh-uh," but whatever, you get the drift. Nikki has a possessive wealthy husband who's always snooping around the stairs, looking down on her.
So, yeah, Nikki gets the role. A lead where she plays a woman about to have an affair with a married man. She's married too. It's all happening narratively at this point. As an audience-member, things haven't got too tricky. Yet.
But I noticed that things got a little "fractured" around the time Harry Dean Stanton shows up as the director's assistant to forever-suave Jeremy Irons. Like Dern, who is too rubbery-faced and let's face it, by Hollywood standards, too old to play a lead in anything BUT a horror film (I didn't say it, Hollywood did), Stanton does not come across as a proper director's assistant. For one thing, he's seedy and always cadging loans from the rest of the cast and crew. Around this time, there's someone running around on the dark, unfinished film set and no one can figure out who it was or where he or she got to. Hmmm.Meanwhile Nikki and her co-star, Devon (Justin Theroux), are getting pretty close. Her husband threatens him to stay away from her, but it looks like things between them will start happening anyway. That's right: sex. In Lynch's world, that can't be good.
So Laura Dern looks like this a lot in this film.
She keeps shuttling back and forth between her mansion-based Nikki character, and her white-trash film character, Susan. Then all these ladies of the night show up and start gabbing and doing the Loco-motion.
I found them kind of a relief because they're young and dewy, despite the heavy make-up. In my film upbringing, they're what I'm used to seeing on the big screen, young dewy girls, with good figures, filling up the screen with their luciousness. Hey, I can't help the way I was cinematically brought up. After looking at Laura Dern's facial contortions for over an hour, the hookers were a treat for sore eyes.
Critics love when they do the Loco-motion. I think it's just because they can't say they find the sexy ladies a blessed relief after all the grainy confusion beforehand.
Then there's these life-sized rabbits, hanging out in their home while a sitcom laugh-track plays every time they talk. Don't ask. Don't tell.
Aieeeeeee! One of those REALLY scary moments. This photo doesn't do it justice. You just have to see it for youself.
CHRIST on the CROSS! Even weirder and scarier. I saw a great exhibit on the east coast a few years ago (can't remember where or who did it--sorry), with a room full of white dummies and balloons and kitchen appliances, all with projected video faces on them, talking and doing whatever faces do. Very effective. This was similar. But Jesum, what the f...? I forgot to mention all the Polish carnies and the doomed filmmakers of the past, and the radio play. Can't...make...the...connections...
Yes, I appreciate his crazy ways. But man, he's starting to fragment like one of his films. Don't make me work too hard, Mr. Lynch. Life's hard enough. Give me a narrative thread to hang onto. That said, I enjoyed the afternoon very much. Note: Make sure you drink nothing before the film starts. It's three hours long. It's not like you'll miss any of the story if you get up to use the restroom, but you might miss that seventeenth ominous screwdriver scene, or William H. Macy's cameo, or yet another puzzled expression from Laura Dern.

Something funny always happens to me after I see a Lynch film. The Northwest Film Center Theater is in the bowels of the Portland Art Museum, a very confusing building to navigate. Lots of staircases, hallways and little rooms leading seemingly nowhere. After leaving the theater, I decided to head upstairs to the recent acquisitions gallery to see their latest score, Van Gogh's "The Ox-Cart," probably one of the gloomiest paintings ever to be shown in a major museum. As I headed up, I noticed that no one else was in the gallery, not even a guard. That's funny, I thought, since the rooms were full of impressionist art from floor to ceiling. I made my way to the painting and thought, that is SO depressing and dark. And just as I thought that, the lights overhead dimmed down to blackness and I realized the museum was closing. It literally was dark. I scuttled back down the stairs, through the lobby and up some other stairs before finally finding a bathroom (back down the stairs). It being Portland, nobody yelled at me. In fact, they smiled and wished me well as I went off into the rainy night.
Top this, Lynch.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Captive WW Decor - Old Phones

Do you find yourself facing the new year thinking, I HATE new telephones! All this light-up crap and programming and multiple lines, speed dial, re-dial--I can't face another decade of this! Then go to OldPhoneWorks and charge up your credit card to the max.

I read a lot of design blogs in 2007. Can you tell? Design blogs are the new celebrity blogs. One thing's for sure: they're all about buying stuff, with a bit of do-it-yourself information attached, to make you feel better about wanting to buy all the new/vintage stuff they push. I'm hopelessly addicted. At least decorating doesn't lead to extreme mental illness and paparazzi insanity. Unless you end up succumbing to compulsive hoarding syndrome. If so, maybe you can curtail your retail anxiety long enough to get on Oprah, like this woman, who managed to fill her house with 75 tons of consumer garbage. That's entertainment!

Oh yeah, telephones. Check out the "orange collection"--snazzy! I bet they make that nice ring-a-ling sound. Sigh.

Source: Daily Dose