Friday, October 31, 2008

"Horror Castle" by Francis Kohler and Creativity Explored

My friend Francis teaches at Creativity Explored, an art center for adults with disabilities. This is their collaborative effort, made for the 2005 art exhibit, "Revenge of Monster."

A mad scientist kidnaps a young lady with the goal making her into a monster to join his collection of famous creatures, including Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, and others. Screenplay by Gordon Shepard (who also stars).

Have an excellent Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Galaxy Quest" 1999

What's my favorite all-time big-budget sci-fi spoof comedy? That's right, it's Galaxy Quest. Surprised? Don't be. Galaxy Quest is a rollicking good time with a stellar ensemble cast, awesome ILM effects, and good-natured, well-paced comic timing by television director Dean Parisot. But mainly it's a loving and knowledgeable tribute to the science-fiction/space opera genre and its fans.

This film is so sweet at heart that even though critics loved it and initial audiences enjoyed it, it might have left some comedy fans stunned and unsure how to handle its themes of kindness, camaraderie and honesty triumphing over all. Cynics might have been thinking as the house lights came up, "Whu-? I actually ended up LIKING Tim Allen as the egomaniacal Captain Kirk figure?" Yes, and let me tell you something, Tim Allen does a great job starring in this film. There, I wrote it. Well, he does. He makes a very credible arrogant, megalomaniac hero.

But don't disregard Galaxy Quest because of its family-friendliness and big hearted humanity. See it for the clever concept: a bunch of washed-up actors from the long-cancelled but beloved sci-fi television show, Galaxy Quest, are recruited by actual aliens who need their help, warding off evil crab-like intergalactic space thugs. The aliens (Thermians) have seen every episode of the series and mistaking it for a documentary, have modeled their entire society and technological know-how after the show. Hilarity really does ensue.

No? OK, see it for this man and this man only:
Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane—a frustrated, seething, bitter Shakespearean actor, forever forced to utter his half-alien character's ridiculous catch phrase ("By Grabthar's hammer...") while wearing a rubber reptilian cap on his head for the entire film. Perhaps the most perfectly cast character in all of drama since the dawn of time.

Still not convinced? Then see it for Sam Rockwell, a paranoid extra from the original TV series (Crew Member #6) who was killed off before the first commercial and is terrified of it happening for real once they get into space. Simply known as "Guy" to emphasize his expendable status.
OK, how about the Thermians, headed by Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar with his brilliant little sing-songy monotone voice? Fun game: see if you can find Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from "The Office" among the Thermians. He's pretty identifiable, which shows how alien-like Dwight is.
Tony Shalhoub as the most nonplussed character in film history, ship-engineer Fred Kwan. In one outtake, Rockwell demands, "Are you STONED?!" and he may very well be. He has the munchies during even the most dramatic moments.
Plus there's Sigourney Weaver playing a dumb-ish blonde whose only job on the original series was repeating back whatever the ship's computer said. She and adorable Thermian Missi Pyle are the only female characters of note. And except for Daryl Mitchell as the ship's pilot, there is nary a person of color in sight. I told you it was a knowledgeable tribute. You might recognize references to a certain 60s-era TV show, here, there, and everywhere.

And now, with plenty of visual spoilers (sorry about that), we present:


OK, one more Dwight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trees as Creatures from "Your Daily Tree"

Here's a sampling of some of the "trees as creatures" I've featured on my other blog, Your Daily Tree. These are all growing in my neighborhood, but I feature other trees from such exotic locations as Portland, Seattle, and Crescent City as well. Enjoy a little nature with your Internet experience at Your Daily Tree.

Monday, October 27, 2008

California: Support Civil Rights - Vote No on Prop. 8

I don't live in California any more but I'm really invested in the outcome of Proposition 8, which would amend the State Constitution to read: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.

There is no reason on Earth to add these discriminatory words to the State Constitution. There is no proof that gay marriage leads to anything other than equal rights for all State citizens. And with the divorce rate at 50% among straights, who are we to say what works in a marriage anyway? Churches and out-of-state religious groups have spent millions to convince California voters otherwise.

Here's 88-year-old Molly Pier's take on it. I'm with Molly.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

All-Around-The-World Girls Tour Portland

All over the world, musicians make a point of playing in the international arena of...Portland, OR. Because Portland cares about music. Check out all these cool young women, all happening this week. In PORTLAND. That's right. Portland.

U.S. (originally from East Hollywood) - Sam Phillips, Little Plastic Life - Doug Fir Lounge, Oct. 28. Sam Phillips has a nice write-up on her myspace page. She was the composer for "Gilmore Girls" during its run--a beloved TV show that combined screwball comedy with family melodrama. She has an album out now called "Don't Do Anything."

FRANCE - Yelle, A Cause Des Garcons - Berbati's Pan, Oct. 29.

SWEDEN - Lykke Li, Little Bit - Doug Fir Lounge, Oct. 30. Bringing the bun back to women's hair.
Little Bit

AUSTRALIA - Missy Higgins, Where I Stood - Crystal Ballroom, Nov. 5.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Get Your War On

Next to "Doonesbury," "Get Your War On" by David Rees is my favorite satirical comic. And now 23/6 presents it in animated form. Isn't this a beautiful world?

Devo - Beautiful World
Back in the 80s it seemed that all of the U.S. not only voted for Reagan, but also loved and revered the man. If you were not part of this contingent, you most likely felt very angry, isolated and ineffectual. This led to irony. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Love Opie

Keith's favorite read, Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog, featured this gem from Ron Howard (and friends) this week. Funny and true.

Here's Keith and I holding up our mail-in ballots. Two for Obama! The bags under our eyes represent the stress this campaign (and the Federal government of the past eight years) has put on our psyches. Won't you please vote for the positive, intelligent, thoughtful choice? And no, he's definitely NOT a socialist. Come on, McCarthyism is SO last century!

Video source: Funny or Die.
Poster source: Barack Obama site (this one's sold out, but there's others for your political art gallery).

Berkeley Big People Sculpture Proclaimed, "Great big FAIL"

Hey, a new figurative sculpture (i.e., "statue") was just dedicated in Berkeley and The Chronicle's art critic, Kenneth Baker, figuratively barfed all over it. He didn't really vomit on the statue. It's mounted too high in the air for that. But he had some choice words, which I mentally translated as: aesthetically hurling. See what you think. I'll give you Mr. Baker's take and my own translation. Bay Area art criticism is so in need of translation; I should hire myself out.

Here it is: "Berkeley Big People" by Scott Donahue, at the pedestrian bridge at the Berkeley Marina.Baker: Donahue's dominant figures...represent protesters agitating for various causes. Perhaps from a vehicle...the sculpture...communicates a flash of appreciation for Berkeley's long contrarian streak. But viewed on foot, up close, it reads as caricature, and thus, as mockery. It turns any thought of activist politics into dismissive thoughts of political correctness.

Translation: East Bay piece of shit. Did I get 'political correctness' in there? (checking). Yes. Good.

Here's the close-up. My first thought: Cripes, that is a piece of shit. But what do I know?
Baker: As sculpture, "Berkeley Big People" fails every test. Crucially, it ignores the fact that the best art of the past 50 years at monumental scale has systematically discredited the statuary conception of sculpture.

Translation: It's a fucking crap little statue! And a shitty one at that!
(So far Kenneth Baker and I are on the same page--CWW.)

Baker compares "Berkeley Big People" to two other recent art works that he likes better. Claes Oldenburg's and Coosje van Bruggen's "Cupid's Span" (below), and Richard Serra's "Ballast" (last shot).
Baker: "Cupid's Span" San Francisco looks like representational sculpture. But its immensity, its visual echoes of the Bay Bridge and other associations - something about having one's heart pinned here, a reminiscence of Old World colonizers' masted ships - take it far from the literal impression it makes at first. I do not think "Cupid's Span" wears as well as some of the team's projects in other cities, such as "Clothespin" in Philadelphia, but it does have built into it the possibility of visual surprise on future encounters.

Translation: Why couldn't SF get "Clothespin?" Why must we get the left-overs after artists drop their best work back East? Why do I toil away on the West Coast anyway, where no one takes me seriously? I could be reviewing "Clothespin" for New York Magazine, but no, I have to come up with some kind of bullshit about pinning my heart here with a giant bow and arrow with some kind of colonizer reference to show I "get it." Like I fucking care!
(Personally, I think this looks like something from the children's department at IKEA, but I withhold all judgment until seeing it in person--something I've learned about giant art over the years - CWW.)

Baker: Richard Serra's "Ballast" deconstructs the statuary conception of sculpture. At a distance from the site, the work's structure appears obvious: One plate slants slightly to the north, the other to the south. Their divergence is the hallmark of the piece from outside in. But stand between them and look first at one plate, then at the other, and both appear to tilt rightward, which makes them look identical.

This simple phenomenology of "Ballast" has much to show us about the condition of vision that no representational sculpture could reveal. It concerns the embodied nature of vision, which eludes representation - even in the hands of a master such as Cézanne - and which only a viewer's direct engagement can clarify.

Translation: Hmmm, wonder what's for lunch today? Maybe that new Asian fusion place on Bryant. I don't know...I just had Chilean Sea Bass last night. Maybe a brick-fired Mediterranean pizza with cornmeal crust. Mmmmm, yummy...

Baker goes on for a bit more but he lost me at "deconstruct." The word "deconstruct" should be shot and thrown into a ditch as far as I'm concerned. If you are using that in your writing about art, stop. Stop right now. Find another word, then go forth. Baker's word-fun also includes "remnant of vanquished hopes for a future of thrillingly progressive evolution in taste and thinking," and "artistic obsolescence." Whoo! Now go get that lunch, Mr. Baker; you've EARNED it.

Source: SFGate

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

La Danse des Squelettes

I don't know French, but I know good dancing when I see it.

La dance des Squelletes

Les Squelettes from "Téléfrancais!"

Silly Symphony - "The Skeleton Dance," 1929

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Mama Voted for Obama!" - Literature for the Littlest Democrats

Jeremy Zilber, author of children's books, "Why Mommy is a Democrat," and "Why Daddy is a Democrat," has written a new book, "Mama Voted for Obama!" And I noticed that it's illustrated by Greg Bonnell, who used to live in San Francisco long ago and entertained us with his musical duo, The Dave. I didn't know Greg was an accomplished illustrator as well. It's a small Obama world after all. The books are available at Jeremy's site You can see by these sample pages that we're in the realm of the super charming.

Mama Voted For Obama!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Curse of the Comic-Strip Mom Hair

So much to be anxious about lately; the economy; the endless presidential campaign; the endless baseball season; the environment; ACORN; the rising joblessness rate... You know what's been really getting to me? Terrible mom hair in today's syndicated comic strips. Why must it look so lumpy, unflattering and unreal? I realize it's not easy cranking out thousands of strips over the course of a career, but surely, hair cannot be THAT hard to replicate, panel after panel. Why must the moms suffer the most?

Note for example: Sally Forth. What gives, Sally Forth? What's with the flippy thing at the ends, PLUS the lumps on top? And why must you smirk throughout every trial and tribulation? What will it take for you to finally get a makeover and to change facial expressions every once in a while? Cancer? Homelessness? A swift kick in the slacks?

I won't hold my breath. Sally's tween-age daughter Hillary only recently took the bows out of her strangely placed pony-tails. No wonder she only has one friend in middle school.

Wanda McPherson of "Baby Blues" isn't doing much better. It's like her head is a Rorschach test. I see...Jello shots on a JC Penney bathmat. Or possibly Crow mating season...?

To be fair, all the McPhersons have bad hair, in keeping with the Simpsons comedy stylings of looking bad, being funny.

Luann's mom, Nancy DeGroot, another lumpy brunette, had a makeover several years ago. You can see the improvement. From round bumps to that layered roof-shingle look. What does she do all day besides make caustic remarks about the nature of raising teenagers, while holding a dish towel? Another mom comic-strip mystery of the ages.

Then there's Elly Patterson in "For Better or for Worse." Twenty-nine years in a comic strip and her hair never improved. At least there were strands. Individual strands. Thank you Lynn Johnston for taking the time to draw actual hair on your character's heads. Appreciated.

Diane Wilkins, mom to "Curtis," also had a makeover at some point. From mullet to pageboy.

But just when you thought things were improving for mom hair, there's Rose from "Rose is a Rose." WHAT is going on HERE? Is that a birth defect? I'm just trying to understand.

Madeline Otterloop of "Cul de Sac" isn't helping matters any. But again, to be fair, her entire family AND their friends all have weird hair. I like this strip. It's kind of like if David Lynch wrote about preschool experiences. Really. Therefore, the hair should be strange and it is.

I think I'll stop here. Thank you and good night.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Levi Stubbs (1936 - 2008)

Several days ago out of nowhere, The Four Tops', Reach Out I'll Be There popped into my head, particularly the intro. I wasn't even conscious of it being a Four Tops song or part of Levi Stubbs' repertoire. I was simply listening to the singing in my head and marveling at the passionate delivery of that first verse. Wow, I thought, he was really shouting that out, in perfect pitch. I wondered how he managed that in the recording studio. Recording studios are kind of dry, boring-looking places--built for sound, not atmospheric aesthetics. This guy sang that into a mic in an airless room and it he sounds all kinds of amazing.

A couple days later, Keith looked up from the computer and said, "Oh man, Levi Stubbs died."

"Who's that?" I asked (stupidly).

"Levi Stubbs--The Four Tops--I'll Be There...?" Keith is my go-to guy for all the facts, all the time.

"Oh my gosh," I said. I just thought of that song in the parking lot of Trader Joe's a couple of days ago. It just started playing in my head and I was admiring his singing, which I've never fully appreciated before."

So who knows how music connects us, sometimes in mysterious ways? Thanks for wonderful music, Four Tops.

I'll Turn to Stone - They're having a blast. Great clip.

I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

Reach Out I'll Be There

Billy Bragg - Levi Stubbs' Tears

Friday, October 17, 2008


Well, my attempted political, animated comic-strip link is experiencing some technical difficulties. But be assured, its pointed satire is right on target! Until it's fixed, enjoy these adorable kitties.

Sweet Tired Cat - 7 million+ hits can't be wrong.

Kitten and His Box - With alternative rock soundtrack (Sister Jack by Spoon).

Let me eat some corn! - The original, in case you're concerned about that sort of thing.

Chirping Winston - Rich's cat is a superstar. See why here.

I'm allergic to cats but it's difficult to escape their furry allure. Except for the scratchies, bities and vet bills, they're the perfect companions for Winter shut-ins like us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It Came From Economically Depressed Outer Space

Low-budget sci-fi is inspiring because it always gives me a "hey, I can make that" feeling. I've worked on some low-budget sci-fi and it's fun as hell. You got people walking around the set with giant bubble-heads made of foam latex, and six arms, and locations like Mono Lake after a freak snowstorm. If you're lucky, a producer will be able to book William Sanderson for a walk-on part, and you'll get to feed him his complex and nonsensical scientific-jargon lines. I'm telling you, low-budget sci-fi is some of the best times I've ever had.

With that in mind, here's some classic sci-fi trailers. Study the aliens, monsters and spacemen closely. There's nothing here that you couldn't create with a few odds and ends from the back of your closet, Wal-Mart, and that collection of cardboard in the garage. Stock up on some duct tape and bathing caps and you'll be set for any costume party, trick-or-treat scenario, or film shoot. Have a blast. We only get one go-around in life. Spend some of your time on Earth as a Mysterian.

This Island Earth - 2 1/2 Years In The Making!

The Mysterians - Love-hungry spacemen come to seize our woman, that their dying race may live!

KRONOS - A Metallic Vampire, Stalking The Earth!

Journey to the Seventh Planet - Starring John Agar and Greta Thyssen. And some poor guy yelling (I think), "Augh! AAAAAUUUUGHHHHH!!!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rose Royce - "Car Wash" 1977

Today was Keith's birthday. Whoo! I made him some special blueberry birthday muffins and then a devil's food cake with chocolate fudge frosting and sprinkles. SUGARRRR! Since I also made pumpkin bread yesterday for Jackson, I'm kind of all baked out now. Keith hates getting presents but I got him his favorite kind of trail mix (living large) and a 70s funk dance-party CD from Target, featuring:

We had a little dance party in the living room and Jackson dug it. What child wouldn't like a dance song about a car wash? I ask you.

- The original 1976 trailer for "Car Wash." (The excellent B-movie.)
- A funny remixed trailer from TCM.

Dead Meadow - A Retroactive Appreciation

I wish somebody had told me about Dead Meadow earlier than yesterday when I stumbled across them while watching "Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People" on YouTube. I find I can have YouTube going on one side of the screen while I look for jobs on the other. I call it multi-tasking.

A DC trio for over ten years, now relocated to L.A., Dead Meadow is a psychedelic, trippy, way-out, jamming aural event. Shades of early Pink Floyd (just after Syd left the building), sludgy Black Sabbath-like rhythms, and Zeppelin-inspired riffs. And don't forget Brian Jonestown Massacre--they're in there too. Their live shows will supposedly make your mind go KABLOOEY. What's not to like? Plus guitarist and singer Jason Simon is the son of David Simon, creator of "The Wire." That's a pretty robust talent gene running in the family.

Wyncko has set Dead Meadow songs to some awesomely bad movies. What better way to showcase retro-psychedelia?

I'm Gone - "Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People"

Seven Seers - "Atragon"

Greensky Greenlake with paintings by Jacques de Beaufort

Straight to video:
At Her Open Door

Everything's Going On - live at Little Radio Warehouse, 2007

- Official site.
- On the Matador site.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bargain Halloween at Dollar Tree

Not a paid endorsement. I shop at Dollar Tree (Pear's Soap--one dollar!). Since the economy's in the toilet and Keith and I are unemployed, it just makes sense. Today I was looking for fireman costume props for Jackson's costume and Dollar Tree was there for me: a plastic axe, a crow-bar, a whistle and a Fire Chief badge--all together for the low, low price dollar.

I almost gave in and bought a costume for him at a (very crowded) party store. I thought for $19.99 (clearance), an all vinyl firefighter costume might do. And I wouldn't have to make anything this year. But in the end, I could not bring myself to do it. If I knew he'd play with it a lot, I would, but he's not much of a fantasy role-playing kind of guy. OK, that's not true. He still pretends to be a garbage truck, but he's never pretended to be an actual other person. And there's lots of good firefighter ideas at, which is where I learned how to make his last two garbage truck costumes. Now I am a pro at making a small boy look like a garbage truck. So why can't I find a decent-paying job!? That is another post all together.

Here's some Dollar Tree Halloween cheapness for the bargain shopper. Don't let the financial times get you down. There's always going to be plenty of crap available for, yes, a dollar.

Plump & Ripe! Any child would love to receive some Zit Poppers in their treat bag. Good practice for adolescence.

Bat Organs With Bat Brains! Do bat brains look like this? I've never dissected a bat. These kind of look like wee bitty people brains. I'll take their word for it.
Lovely snow globes will lend an atmosphere of Gothic beauty to your desktop or fireplace mantel.
Speaking of Gothic...this collection is a screaming good deal. Our neighbors hung a bunch of these from the trees in their front yard. Festive!
FOUR funny-teeth for a dollar! Count 'em, FOUR!
Hey, hold up, why am I showing you a bunch of cuddly stuffed animals? Because after you raid the Goodwill and a bunch of garage sales for your "stuffed animal guy" costume, you can fill in any open spaces with these dollar-deals. My friend Gabrielle ran into "stuffed animal man" in the Castro one year. He was a guy covered from head to toe with, that's right, stuffed animals. Naturally, Gabrielle ran to him and gave him a big hug, whereupon he growled, "DON'T TOUCH ME!"

Hey, stuffed animal man, if you don't want to be snuggled, then next time go as "barbed-wire man."