Monday, October 29, 2012

San Francisco Giants Sweetheart Pillows

I've got a World Series hangover, I don't want to get over (see Diana Ross, circa 1976). Part of it is regional—born and kind of raised, and mostly from San Francisco. And part of it is coming from a family of genuine Giants fanatics (they won't attend even one A's game due to the trouncing the Giants took from Oakland in 1989). Another Giants World Series win in three years is sweet victory for geographical identification and familial unity purposes.

But it's much more than that. It's the perfection of the Giants' defense, which is like 3-2-1 poetry in motion on nearly every play. It's the confidence that can only come from a dream-team of pitchers, their relievers and their closers, who march to the mound, looking like mere mortals, but pitch like Mt. Olympus Gods (if they had a pitching roster). It's the epic rise and come-back of Pablo Sandoval's hitting and Barry Zito's pitching, which is a story unto itself.

And, let's face it: Giants are hotties. So hot, in fact, that I'm currently designing prototype sweetheart pillows featuring your 2012 World Series Champions. All I need is the proper legal permissions and manufacturing contracts. Take a look and see if there's a place in your home decor for these hot, hot professional sports guys.

Barry Zito is so hot that even my brother has a little crush on him. But only after his incredible come-back games, of course. Before this season, he was an expensive cautionary tale in too much too soon. Now look at him: Hawt, and so confident on the mound. Barry's back, as this sweetheart pillow will attest.

Shortstops are stars and Brandon Crawford is no exception. He's close to perfection on so many plays, making one of the toughest positions look almost effortless. Plus he's hawt.

Pablo! Or Panda, as he is so often called. He's a hitter, not a quitter. MVP of the series—congratulations, sir.

Confession: Sergio Romo is my favorite Giant. He's small, unassuming, excitable, adorable. And then he steps up to the mound and like a surgeon, whips the ball past the American League's best hitters. In every game he played in. This man is an artist. A great artist of baseball.

Buster Posey is truly the sweetheart of the team. All the girls (and boys) like Buster. He's a catcher who never complains (rare), a great defense player who's also a fantastic hitter (even rarer). He was "on" just in time in game four. Huzzah.

Pitchers! We got pitchers! We got lots and lots of...that's right: pitchers. The Giants pitching is still going strong. Tim Lincecum struggled aplenty but re-found his footing as an excellent reliever. Matt Cain pitched a perfect game this season and remains one of the steadiest arms in pro ball. I'm putting Brian Wilson in there too as ultimate team cheerleader this season. Out with an injury for the year, Wilson was in the dugout every game anyway, cheering and jumping about with his fist aloft. Don't underestimate the power of positive thinking (and cheering). Just a suggestion: the beard—it's time for it to go. We're going for 100% hottie status and the beard is standing in the way.

Yeah—you get in there too, Hunter Pence. Blue-eyed soul.

There's so many more Giants who deserve sweetheart pillows, including super-slugger Marco Scutaro, Ryan (The Riot) Theriot, Gregor (The Catch) Blanco, and ace (and possibly genius) manager Bruce Bochy. That will be Sweetheart Pillow Series II. Congratulations, San Francisco Giants.

Obama Rainbow Sticker

My free Obama sticker finally came in the mail, just in time for the election. It's pretty.

Here is our modern-day incumbent, embracing LGBT civil rights and let me tell you, even five years ago, I never thought I would be typing this sentence. I became a voting adult during the Reagan administration, and that actor (some might say phony) wouldn't even acknowledge the AIDS pandemic, which was brutal, swift and devastating at the time.

So am I going to vote for Obama? Heck yeah. He can't do everything, but he includes everyone. And if his legacy is going to be inclusion, I say, good show.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Que Viva México! - Sergei Eisenstein, 1932

It's almost time for the Day of the Dead celebration so I thought I'd pre-celebrate by visiting Sergei Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico!, the ambitious, unfinished film that Hollywood paid for and short-changed. Ultimately, Paramount hiring the brilliant Russian inventor of the propagandist montage (see Battleship Potemkin) was not in keeping with the usual Hollywood studio-system way.

After Eisenstein returned from a two-month shoot in Mexico with his crew consisting of Eduard Tisse and Grigory Alexandrov, all of their film reels were warehoused and the production was scrapped. The DVD available of the film is a composite put together with narration and music by Eisenstein's producer, Alexandrov, using original storyboards and notes by Eisenstein. In keeping with his revolutionary fervor, there is a building thread of workers rising up against tyrants, although the Mexican Revolution sequence was never filmed once funding stopped.

What's left and what I find most interesting is Eisenstein's genuine attempt at trying to grasp the idea of Mexico—its cultural history as well as political. In the opening sequence, set in the Yucatan peninsula, he muses on how ancient ancestors, carved in stone, completely resemble the modern people of Mexico. This is true. If you travel around the country, as I did in the mid-80s for a few months, you will meet people who look very much like those carved in rock more than a thousand years ago. You will meet people wearing hand-embroidered garments that are patterned after centuries of tradition. You will find yourself in towns that were completely built in the colonial style of 15th-century Spain. There are cathedrals so baroque, full of lovingly-dressed icons and bloody-suffering Christ figures alongside religions who sacrifice chickens, making use of eggs and bottles of Coca Cola in their rituals, that you may find yourself rather overwhelmed by it all.

Even if you come from a Mexican-American background, as I do, you will be awash with the pageantry and sorrow of a conquered world where indigenous beliefs still thrive. Imagine how it was for Eisenstein. Eisenstein was lucky to be escorted around the country by the ultimate travel team of genius muralists Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jose Orozco. How I wish there was a guidebook based on this extended and amazing group outing. Still, it could take a lifetime to even begin to comprehend all the facets of Mexico—its blend of ancient, modern and everything in between—the tragic, the ecstatic, the artistic.

Frida Kahlo, second from left, with her husband Diego Rivera. Eisenstein is on the far right, about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

And now:

If you visit the ruins of Mexico, there's much to see. Eisenstein obviously thought so in these classically composed tableau.

A funeral and a wedding bracket idyllic romanticized views of indigenous life. The half-naked girls in hammocks were probably more wishful thinking than reality. I've left them out for modesty's sake (sorry, Internet).

Eisenstein jumps abruptly to a bullfight without explaining that Mexico is geographically huge and that bullfights are generally regional in nature. The Spanish invasion is given much symbolic weight as a precursor of death and cultural genocide, which it was. But the film doesn't take into account the blood sacrifice of civilizations that existed long before the Spanish came. Or how ancient spiritual beliefs have blended with Catholicism throughout the centuries.

A sequence of brutal events would have led to a cinematic revolutionary conflict if budget-cuts hadn't halted filming. These downtrodden peasants-versus-wicked landowner scenes are the most "Eisensteinian" of the film. I have no doubt that Eisenstein's artist guides were key in developing these ideas as well. The 30s were a rich time for artistic/political collaboration.

And then there's Dia de los Muertos—ancestor worship as celebration. It might look bizarre but it makes perfect sense to me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Mail Art - by the Great Dee See

My friend Dee See can draw and paint and put together ideas in ways that inspire me on a regular basis. Some of her artworks have landed in my mailbox over the past few months. Getting mail is fun again. Thanks, Dee See.

Here's the latest postcard. This one KILLS me: Dee See as a Bansky subject. Every time I look at it, I laugh and am amazed anew.

Please enlarge to see painted detail—it's worth it

A sardine "tin" full of light-bulb ideas

Back-side is lovely too

A postcard "carpet"

One of the first mail arts from Dee See—lovely circles

What is it?

Oh, Celebrity Matches!

And here they are—celebrity matches

So what have we here?

A fold-out dinette set with stylish chairs

You can send a lot of weird packages through the mail

Including a dinosaur/jet-fighter diorama

Or a rubber glove—a big hit at the P.O.

Latest edition—a hand-painted "iPod"—the closest I'll get to owning one!

Insde: old-timey ephemera found on San Francisco sidewalks

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fantasia - Night on Bald Mountain featuring Chernabog and Boobs

Yeah, that's right! Demons! Unspeakable evil! Boobs! I bet the word "Disney" popped into your mind as you read that. No? Well then you haven't seen the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Fantasia—the closest Disney Studios ever got to portraying a crack binge set to music.

Modest Moussorgsky's witches' sabbath theme song was the inspiration for Disney animator Vladimir Tytla's evocative Ukrainian demon, Chernabog. Chernabog rising from an Eastern European mountain to party with his minions was the result of several artists' creativity, and Tytla brings him to life in memorable fashion. Check this guy out.

Ooh! Don't mess with Chernabog!
Although he is the scariest-looking villain in a Disney film, Chernabog has no voice and actually doesn't get to do much other than to throw some lesser demons into a fiery pit. He's powerless when confronted with the ringing church bells of "Ave Maria"—the tacked-on hymn at the end of the sequence. I've always felt the religious tone of "Ave Maria" completely undermines the fantastic energy of "Bald Mountain." Even as a child, I felt let down by it. It's completely lacking in the vitality and I must say, spirit, that is rampant in the preceding bacchanal.

It's obvious that a room full of cooped-up animators went to town when they were given this assignment. Even after 70 years, I can hear them shouting at each other in story conference now:

I'm in charge of the topless harpies!

Well, I get to draw the fiery naked demon ladies!

Yeah? Well I'm going to draw some nude witches, riding broomsticks no less!

Hey, you guys, save some for me! How about, uh, close-ups of nipples, zooming out of the screen?!

Everyone agreed this all sounded good. What could be more evil than giant fluorescent nipples on the big screen?

And now: "Night on Bald Mountain" from Fantasia. But first a friendly note to Disney's crack legal team—these low-resolution images are for educational purposes only (heh) and are not meant for reproduction. All copyrights remain with the holders.

Look at Chernabog. He means business. And he's not wearing any pants either. Fantastic use of body language to imply menace and destruction. Until those church bells ring and spoil all the fun.

A bunch of ghosts and spirits rise up to ride through the night skies. That's what they do on the witches' sabbath, you know.

Naked witch at 8 o'clock!

Whoo! This is the high you can never quite reach again, no matter how many witches' sabbaths you attend.

Hey! There's naked ladies in there!

But then, the terrors set in.

Oh my GOD! *heart attack*

And BOOBS! Giant boobs in a Disney film! Disclaimer: in keeping with Google's adult-content policy for 2015, the following content offers a substantial public benefit, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

Whoever drew this, why the same model in both shots?

There's something going on with this harpy. Something...untoward. But that's how it goes on Bald Mountain. Until the coming of the dawn.