Saturday, April 30, 2005

Lassie Doppelganger

Lassie Doppelganger

Lassie Doppelganger (2000)

From the Museum of Broadcast Communications:

Lassie was a popular long-running U.S. television series about a collie dog and her various owners. Over her more than fifty years history, Lassie stories have moved across books, film, television, comic books, and other forms of popular culture. The American Dog Museum credits her with increasing the popularity of Collies.

British writer Eric Knight created Lassie for a Saturday Evening Post short story in 1938, a story released in book form as Lassie Come Home in 1940. Knight set the story in his native Yorkshire and focuses it around the concerns of a family struggling to survive as a unit during the depression. Lassie's original owner Joe Carraclough is forced to sell his dog so that his family can cope with its desperate economic situation, and the story became a lesson about the importance of interdependence during hard times.

[...]

In 1954, Lassie made her television debut in a series which removed her from Britain and placed her on the American family farm, where once again, she was asked to help hold a struggling family together. For the next decade, the Lassie series became primarily the story of a boy and his dog, helping to shape our understanding of American boyhood during that period. The series' rural setting offered a nostalgic conception of national culture at a time when most Americans had left the farm for the city or suburbia. Lassie's ownership shifted from the original Jeff Miller to the orphaned Timmy Martin, but the central themes of the intense relationship between boys and their pets continued. Lassie became a staple of Sunday night television, associated with "wholesome family values," though, periodically, she was also the subject of controversy with parents groups monitoring television content. Lassie's characteristic dependence on cliff-hanger plots in which children were placed in jeopardy was seen as too intense for many smaller children; at the same time, Timmy's actions were said to encourage children to disobey their parents and to wander off on their own.

And from MSNBC News:

But for those who don’t know, a disclosure seems appropriate: Lassie and her eight descendants have been, well, female impersonators. That’s right — Lassie has always been a he, not a she, and his name wasn’t Lassie.

[...]

So, how did they keep Lassie’s maleness from showing on camera?

An editor was assigned to study the action carefully, and if evidence of the dog’s true gender was exposed, he would yell “Cut!” and the scene would be reset.

[...]

“Of the 150-250 commands that Lassie knew, the one he hated was ’nurse,”’ said [Ace] Collins, referring to those occasional scenes when Lassie nursed a new litter. “They would put honey on the dog’s coat. The last thing Lassie wanted was puppies chewing on his coat.”

I bet hearing the director shout out Cut made "Lassie" all the more determined to hide his gentalia.

There's something close to rubbernecking, or to what Poe called "the imp of the perverse," that spurs us to want to glimpse the shadow side of champions of allegedly wholesome entertainment. How else do you explain phenomena like Krusty the Clown and Growing Up Brady?

Tomorrow, another icon of children's programming succumbs to the Dark Side of the Force...

Friday, April 29, 2005

At the Arboretum

At the Arboretum

At the Arboretum (2002)

The History of Arbor Day from Treehelp.com:

The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. It was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902), a Nebraska journalist and politician originally from Michigan. Throughout his long and productive career, Morton worked to improve agricultural techniques in his adopted state and throughout the United States when he served as President Grover Cleveland's Secretary of Agriculture. But his most important legacy is Arbor Day.

Morton felt that Nebraska's landscape and economy would benefit from the wide-scale planting of trees. He set an example himself planting orchards, shade trees and wind breaks on his own farm and he urged his neighbors to follow suit. Morton's real opportunity, though, arrived when he became a member of Nebraska's state board of agriculture. He proposed that a special day be set aside dedicated to tree planting and increasing awareness of the importance of trees. Nebraska's first Arbor Day was an amazing success. More than one million trees were planted. A second Arbor Day took place in 1884 and the young state made it an annual legal holiday in 1885, using April 22nd to coincide with Morton's birthday.

In the years following that first Arbor Day, Morton's idea spread beyond Nebraska with Kansas, Tennessee, Minnesota and Ohio all proclaiming their own Arbor Days. Today all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day although the dates may vary in keeping with the local climate. At the federal level, in 1970, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. Arbor Day is also now celebrated in other countries including Australia. Variations are celebrated as 'Greening Week' of Japan, 'The New Year's Days of Trees' in Israel, 'The Tree-loving Week' of Korea, 'The Reforestation Week' of Yugoslavia, 'The Students' Afforestation Day' of Iceland and 'The National Festival of Tree Planting' in India. Julius Sterling Morton would be proud. Sometimes one good idea can make a real difference.

From Epic on the "Healthy Forests Initiative":

The next few years will be a critical time in federal forest policy. Taken together, the law and the laundry list of unlegislated changes swept up in the "Healthy Forests Initiative" will make citizen advocacy on National Forest issues no easier and even more necessary. As environmental groups like EPIC document, debunk, and put on public display the Forest Service's actual plans for public lands, the Bush Administration and the timber industry may yet be held accountable in the court of public opinion.

The natural threats to the health of forest ecosystems are real, but our National Forests now face further threats from the timber industry and the Forest Service, acting under the Bush Administration's Healthy Forests Initiative. The legislation just passed is as disheartening as the deception used to pass it. Now it is more important than ever to monitor, and challenge when necessary, the Forest Service's management of our public lands. The timber industry and its allies have a great deal to lose, and they know they're on the wrong side of public opinion, science, and Mother Nature. It's up to us to make sure they're on the wrong side of history as well.

And from Amy Mall, National Resources Defense Council Policy Specialist:

Protecting homes and communities should be the first priority of any national forest fire plan. Unfortunately, the plan unveiled today by President Bush is a smokescreen that misses the target in reducing this threat. Instead, the president's so-called "Healthy Forests" initiative exploits the fear of fires in order to gut environmental protections and boost commercial logging.

Instead of focusing on fire-proofing communities, the Bush plan would emphasize logging large and medium trees in remote areas of national forests which does little to protect human life and property. In fact, removing the most fire-resistant trees and building roads in the backcountry may actually increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

The administration is asking Congress to torch our most basic environmental protections in the guise of fire prevention. Rolling back rules for the timber industry and eliminating public participation represent yet another cynical attempt by perhaps the most anti-environmental administration in U.S. history to line the pockets of its corporate friends at the expense of public safety and our natural heritage.

Another Bush Administration euphemism takes seed today. Just as "Clear Skies" actually means the haze of pollution, "Healthy Forests" is clear cutting masked as ecology. There's more Lewis Carroll on display, too. Wasn't it the Queen of Hearts who wryly observed that: "When I use a word it means what I say it means."

And let's not forget this revealing exchange from a recent interview with Frank Luntz, Bush's Prince of Doublespeak, from The Daily Show. Samantha Bee is grilling Luntz for advice on how to set up an effective "fake town meeting." Luntz agrees that language is a vital component, and that words must be cast carefully:

BEE (to Luntz): I'm going to read you some words. Help me warm these up a bit.

LUNTZ: O.K.

BEE: Drilling for oil.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Responsible Exploration for Energy."

BEE: Logging.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Healthy Forests."

BEE: Manipulation.

LUNTZ: "Explanation and education."

BEE: Orwellian.

LUNTZ: ...

Well, that last one momentarily chainsawed Luntz. But you can bet our political leaders in the current Ministry of Love are working overtime this Arbor Day to make sure The Lorax has a nervous breakdown. And, remember, you can't tell the thoughtcrimes without a scorecard:

Tree...

I would say: "vigorous stump."

Today's Arbor Day image places the trees inside. It seems they aren't safe outside.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter (2000)

From the Complementary Medical Association site:

What is the 'mad hatter syndrome'?

The term "mad as a hatter" has been inextricably linked to the madcap milliner in Lewis Carroll's classic children's book of 1865 Alice in Wonderland.

It actually relates to a disease peculiar to the hat-making industry of the nineteenth century. A mercury solution was commonly used during the process of turning fur into felt, causing the hatters to breathe in the fumes of this highly toxic metal, a situation exacerbated by the poor ventilation of most of the workshops. This led in turn to an accumulation of mercury in the workers bodies, resulting in symptoms such as trembling, loss of co-ordination, slurred speech, loosening of teeth, memory loss, depression, irritability and anxiety - the "mad hatter syndrome"! The phrase is still used today to describe the effects of mercury poisoning, albeit from other sources.

From The Urban Legends Reference Pages:

In the 18th century, mercury salts were used to make felt for fancy hats. The process required copious amounts of the element, a substance then not known to be as dangerous as we now know it to be.

Hat makers who day after day handled mercury-soaked fabric risked mercury poisoning, a condition that affects the nervous systems. Those so exposed would in time develop uncontrollable twitches and trembles, making them appear demented to the casual observer.

Even though there exists a strong tie between mercury poisoning and strange behavior in those long-ago hatters, it's still more than likely the term we now toss about so casually did not spring from this combination. Phrases such as mad as a March hare, mad as a buck, mad as Maybutter, and mad as a wet hen are older than mad as a hatter, leaving open the conclusion that hatter is but a variation of an existing term. (Interestingly, these other phrases pull in different directions, with mad as a March hare signifying odd or eccentric behavior, while mad as a wet hen characterizes anger.)

Whatever the definitive origin of mad as a hatter, we know the term wasn't coined by Lewis Carroll in his 1865 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The saying turns up in Thackeray's 1849 Pendennis and Thomas Chandler Haliburton's 1837 The Clockmaker.

Carroll's "hatter" might well have been modeled on Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer who characteristically sported a top hat. Moreover, there exists a possibility Carroll was unaware either of the mercury connection to the existing saying or was entirely unaware of the saying itself and believed he had coined it himself.

Carroll's Alice is replete with word play. He loved to twist words this way and that, and encoding double and triple meanings into his work was for him part of the fun. His Mad Hatter could therefore be a caricature of Theophilus Carter, a real person of his acquaintance, while his mad as a hatter could have been a twist on the pre-existing saying, mad as a March hare. Those familiar with Alice will recall that the March Hare was the constant companion of the Mad Hatter.

And from the Straight Dope Staff Report:

The Hatter and the Hare reappear in Alice Through the Looking Glass as the King's messengers, Hatta and Haigha:

"In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter: and in that direction," waving the other paw, "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be, said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

This image is highly post-processed and certainly takes liberties twisting the original fractal forms. Hopefully, it conveys a sense of the frenzy and chaos of the Mad Hatter's tea party.

Carroll's satire hasn't lost its bite. On any given day, watching the Republican-led U.S. Congress on C-SPAN is to "go among mad people." Moreover, the Bush Administration's policy allowing "enemy combatants" to be held indefinitely without being charged mirrors the Queen of Hearts' proclamation of "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards."

No, Alice. It's not "stuff and nonsense." It's just business as usual for those politicians holding the correct "moral values" -- like condemning Russia and China for torture while simultaneously claiming the Geneva Convention is "quaint" -- thus justifying torture masked under creepy euphemisms like "extraordinary rendition" and "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Wheeee. More tea? We're all mad here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Hulk as Hamlet

The Hulk as Hamlet

The Hulk as Hamlet (2004)

I smell something rotten. Could it be a motif?

From a review of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in the Arizona Daily Wildcat:

Branagh chose a clumsy but effective way of defusing this sexual tension by turning Hamlet into a brute who tosses his mother around like a rag doll and screams accusations in her face.

From a summary of Hamlet by Michael Delahoyde at Washington State University:

How does one reconcile the notion of Hamlet as poet with Hamlet as revenge-frenzied brute?

From "On Hamlet" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Man is distinguished from the brute animals in proportion as thought prevails over sense: but in the healthy processes of the mind, a balance is constantly maintained between the impressions from outward objects and the inward operations of the intellect.

John Keats on Hamlet -- from an 1819 essay:

I am sickened at the brute world which you are smiling with.

From an analysis of the most famous soliloquy found here:

The "brute fact" of our existence can become a problem for us, an issue, something worth considering and looking at.

From a review in Boulder Weekly of a Denver Civic Theatre production of Hamlet:

Hamlet's "Get thee to a nunn'ry" harangue -- spoken for the eavesdropping Claudius and Polonious -- is coupled with slapping, hair dragging and a brute shove, more suitable to a trailer park than the confines of a Danish castle.

From BookRags.com book notes on Hamlet:

Ophelia laments that her dear Prince Hamlet has transformed into a crazed brute.

Finally, Hamlet himself says to Claudius in Act 3, Scene 2:

It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.

To smash or not to smash? This be no question. Hamlet smash!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Io

Io

Io (2000)

From SolarViews:

Jupiter's moon Io [EYE-oh or EE-oh] is one of the most exotic places in the solar system. It is the most volcanic body known, with lava flows, lava lakes, and giant calderas covering its sulfurous landscape. It has billowing volcanic geysers spewing sulfurous plumes to over 500 kilometers high. Its mountains are much taller than those on Earth, reaching heights of 16 kilometers (52,000 feet).

Io orbits closer to Jupiter's cloud tops than the moon does to Earth. This places Io within an intense radiation belt that bathes the satellite with energetic electrons, protons, and heavier ions. As the Jovian magnetosphere rotates, it sweeps past Io and strips away about 1,000 kilograms (1 ton) per second of volcanic gases and other materials. This produces a neutral cloud of atoms orbiting with Io as well as a huge, doughnut shaped torus of ions that glow in the ultraviolet. The torus's heavy ions migrate outward, and their pressure inflates the Jovian magnetosphere to more than twice its expected size. Some of the more energetic sulfur and oxygen ions fall along the magnetic field into the planet's atmosphere, resulting in auroras. Io acts as an electrical generator as it moves through Jupiter's magnetic field, developing 400,000 volts across its diameter and generating an electric current of 3 million amperes that flows along the magnetic field to the planet's ionosphere.

And from the Washington Post on the proposed end of the Voyager mission:

In a cost-cutting move prompted by President Bush's moon-Mars initiative, NASA could summarily put an end to Voyager, the legendary 28-year mission that has sent a spacecraft farther from Earth than any object ever made by humans.

The probable October shutdown of a program that currently costs $4.2 million a year has caused consternation among scientists who have shepherded the twin Voyager probes on flybys of four planets and an epic journey to the frontier of interstellar space.

"There are no other plans to reach the edge of the solar system," said Stamatios Krimigis, a lead investigator for the project since before its launch in 1977. "Now we're getting all this new information, and here comes NASA saying, 'We want to pull the plug.'"

[...]

Some members of Congress have also criticized the aeronautics cuts, and last year several joined the public outcry over NASA's decision to cancel a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, a move apparently unconnected -- at least initially -- to the moon-Mars proposal.

"Voyager is the same [as Hubble] -- one of the classic American contributions to space," said research physicist Louis J. Lanzerotti, who last year led a Hubble study for the National Academies of Science. "Voyager's photographs are all over astronomy textbooks."

[...]

The two probes have discovered 22 moons at four planets. Voyager 1 has traveled farther than any other spacecraft, and took the first portrait of the solar system from the outside looking in.

The probes found exploding volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io, huge fault canyons on Uranus's moon Miranda, geysers on Neptune's moon Triton, and flew by Saturn's methane-enshrouded moon Titan almost 14 years before the European Space Agency's Huygens probe landed there this January.

The Voyager photographs blew my mind when I first viewed them; they completely changed how I saw the solar system. The planets were no longer blurred, glowing dots but vibrant worlds bursting with color and energy and light. A section of my poem "Conquest of Space" was about Voyager's inevitable fate and seems topical now:

On the dark side
of the quasar the Voyager spacecraft,
a low watt dot on star charts,
drifts above our cosmic plane,
approaches and crosses the heliosphere,
adjusts trajectory for Alpha Ophiuchus.
Inside autonomous computers and sensors
mosaics are forming, charts are still
imaging. Magnetic fields and charged
particles are monitored and recorded
for no human eye to see. With nothing
to orbit the blip is silent as solar
wind. It's dreaming of and praying to
machinery.

I had a Voyager calendar hanging near my desk for many years after its practical use had gone out of date. One of the calendar's most striking photographs was of a live, erupting volcano on Io that was the inspiration for today's image -- made almost completely in XenoDream.

I'm strangely sad about the "death" of Voyager. Hamlet (who will sort of appear on the blog tomorrow) talked about traveling to "the undiscovered country." Apparently, because of Bush's grandstanding but empty sound bite of Mars madness, we will not receive the long awaited first field report from our only scout to ever reach this distant, unfamiliar realm.

Monday, April 25, 2005

What's Waiting at the Meat Market

What's Waiting at the Meat Market

What's Waiting at the Meat Market (2000)

I suppose there are two ways to look at this image. Here's the first -- from CapitalCentury.com -- from an essay on novelist Upton Sinclair by Jon Blackwell:

Upton Sinclair was a desperately poor, young socialist hoping to remake the world when he settled down in a tarpaper shack in Princeton Township and penned his Great American Novel.

He called it The Jungle, filled it with page after page of nauseating detail he had researched about the meat-packing industry, and dropped it on an astonished nation in 1906.

An instant best-seller, Sinclair's book reeked with the stink of the Chicago stockyards. He told how dead rats were shoveled into sausage-grinding machines; how bribed inspectors looked the other way when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and how filth and guts were swept off the floor and packaged as "potted ham."

[...]

For two months in 1904, Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards – a place he would write of as "Packingtown." He mingled with the foreign-born "wage slaves" in their tenements and heard how they'd been mistreated and ripped off. He saw for himself the sloppy practices in the packing houses and the mind-numbing, 12-hour-a-day schedule.

[...]

Roosevelt sent his own agents to Chicago to investigate whether meat packing was as bad as Sinclair described. The conditions were actually a hundred times worse, the agents reported back.

The president invited Sinclair to the White House and solicited his advice on how to make inspections safer. By June 30, Congress had passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, cracking down on unsafe food and patent medicines, and the Meat Inspection Act. To this day, our hamburgers, chicken patties and other meats are safeguarded by the same law.

Roosevelt was so taken with Sinclair that he coined the term “muckrakers” to describe him and other reformist crusaders, even though the president’s phrase was not meant to be wholly complimentary.

Yet Sinclair considered his triumph empty. He complained that the tragedy of industrial life and his socialist preaching were being lost in the meat controversy.

"I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach," he said.

And here's take two -- from Bodger and Grift's "Medieval Pick-Up Lines":

I have the key to your chastity belt and you have the key to my heart.

Can I hose down your doublet?

Your eyes are as dark as a castle moat by midnight. Lower your drawbridge and let me cross.

You should be glad I'm not a Viking. You would have been ravaged and plundered by now.

What's a nice maiden like you doing in a dungeon like this?

Come up and see my scrolls.

You can scale my battlements any day, madam.

You scratch my boils and I'll scratch yours.

They don't call me Lance-A-Lot for nothing, you know.

My that's a fine set of chalices you have there.

Ssh, I don't want everyone to know I'm on a secret holy quest.

When the Inquisition put me on the rack, my limbs weren't the only thing they stretched.

It's hard to tell which "meat market" is worse. The one where meat is treated for you? Or the one where you are treated like meat?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Pianist

The Pianist

The Pianist (2000)

From the Wladyslaw Szpilman Official Hompage:

"I looked like a wild man," he recalls. "I was dirty, unshaven, my hair was long. The German found me when I was in the ruins of someone's kitchen, looking for food. I found out later -- this isn't in the book -- that he was looking for toothpaste, but no matter. When he saw me, he asked me what on earth was I doing there ... What could I say? I couldn't say that I was Jewish, that I was hiding, that I had been in these ruins for months. I told him that this was my old flat, that I had come back to see what was left ..."

So begins Szpilman's account of how, in the final weeks of the Second World War, having escaped the Warsaw Getto and survived months of hiding, he was rescued by a German: CaptainWilm Hosenfeld discovered him, ascertained that he was a pianist -- to convince him, Szpilman played Chopin's Nocturne in C sharp minor on abattered, out-of-tune piano -- and without much further ado found him a better hiding place. "He noticed something I had not seen: that just beneath the roof there was a tiny attic ..." Together, they made sure Szpilman could climb into it, and pull up the ladder afterwards.

Over the subsequent weeks, the German officer regularly brought bread to the Jewish musician, and news from the Front. Finally, in December 1944, he left him with the words: "The war will be over by spring at the latest." As Szpilman tells it now, the story sounds like a coincidence, a once-in-a-life-time piece of luck. In fact, it is merely one episode in an extraordinary story of survival, recently published in English as The Pianist. Wladyslaw Szpilman, already a famous musician and composer when the war broke out -- Poles of a certain generation still know the words to his popular songs -- was rescued not only by a German but by a Jewish policeman, who pulled him out of a queue of people boarding trains for Treblinka; by his talent, which kept him alive in the starving Warsaw Ghetto; and by, in his own estimate, no less than 20 Poles who smuggled him out of the Ghetto and then hid him in their flats, knowing that they and their families could be sentenced to death for helping a Jew.

In the end he survived for several months alone, perhaps the only person alive in the burned out ruins of Warsaw, drinking water frozen in the bathtubs of empty flats and eating whatever he could find hidden in destroyed kitchens. Written in flat, almost emotionless prose, The Pianist evokes the strange mix of horror and elation Szpilman must have felt at that time. His whole family was dead, his city was in ruins, and yet, against all possible odds, he remained alive. Both the book, and the man himself, are also devoid of any desire for vengeance.

And from ArtForum -- Damon Krukowski on Nam June Paik:

Nam June Paik is often pictured with an instrument: banging his head on a piano; dragging a violin along the ground; stretching a string across his back, to be bowed by cellist Charlotte Moorman. What these images share with many of Paik's multimedia works is the sense of a dreamed art -- they represent a music that isn't heard, necessarily, but whose effect might be even greater than music that is.

[...]

In Duett: Paik/Takis (1979), Paik's Romantic bent is given freer play, as is his impish good humor. According to the title of one of his multimedia works, I Am the World's Most Famous Bad Pianist, 1987, Paik is not unaware of -- or embarrassed by -- his mediocre technique. In Duett, he plays bits of Romantic piano pieces, and even a kind of boulevard boogie-woogie, all badly but with great feeling. Accompanied by Takis's incongruous clanging on metal sculptures and by what sounds like Paik's own humming of lushly harmonious tunes, the effect can be hilarious but also sincerely moving. The pleasure that Paik takes in the piano (and, at one point, a harpsichord -- played even worse!) is infectious; and his humming is like a sketch of much grander music than that being plunked down. It is as if, again, Paik is dreaming of a music rather than playing it -- and perhaps that's the music we hear.

The Pianist was meant to "accompany" The Guitarist. There might be some kind of a Jerry Lee Lewis frenzy around the edges of this particular performance. The keyboard appears to be rolling and fluid -- so fluid that the notes flow from the piano as if pouring over a steep waterfall.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Guitarist

The Guitarist

The Guitarist (2000)

From Guitarsite.com on the influence of Jimi Hendrix:

In his brief four-year reign as a superstar, Jimi Hendrix expanded the vocabulary of the electric rock guitar more than anyone before or since. Hendrix was a master at coaxing all manner of unforeseen sonics from his instrument, often with innovative amplification experiments that produced astral-quality feedback and roaring distortion. His frequent hurricane blasts of noise, and dazzling showmanship -- he could and would play behind his back and with his teeth, and set his guitar on fire -- has sometimes obscured his considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer, and master of a gamut of blues, R&B, and rock styles.

[...]

Widely recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix pioneered the explosive popularity of the electric guitar. Hendrix's innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback and controlled distortion created a new musical form. Because he was unable to read or write music, it is nothing short of remarkable that Jimi Hendrix's meteoric rise in the music took place in just four short years. His unique musical language continues to influence a whole host of modern musicians, from George Clinton to Miles Davis, and Steve Vai to Jonny Lang.

Meanwhile, Michael Sandlin at Pitchfork Media tackles "The 50 Worst Guitar Solos of the Millennium":

What would possess us to compile the worst guitar solos in history? I mean, come on, it's no great feat to list the best guitar solos ever. Just put Hendrix, Page, Clapton, and Gilmour in the Top 10 and everyone's happy. It's obscuring reality somewhat, but it's convenient.

The worst guitar solos, on the other hand, don't get talked about much. I know I left out plenty of deserving guitar dudes on this list (there's a lot of hammered shit out there, y'know). I took care to exclude bozos like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, and John McLaughlin because, frankly, their styles seem to have less to do with pure rock-n-roll than that of say, Eddie Van Halen. Anyway, it's a good bet that some of you will consider some or all of these solos the best of all time.

And the winner is:

1. "Let It Rain" by Derek and the Dominos
Soloist: Eric Clapton
Album: Derek and the Dominos In Concert
Year: 1973

This meandering monster clocks in at an unbelievable 17+ minutes. Derek and the Dominos was Clapton's vehicle for self- indulgence at the time -- as he "anonymously" fronted this band of musical misfits who gave him plenty of room to show off. Here, "Clapt-out" wails for at least 10 minutes. He struggles with sluggish high-end bends to stay above the din of the clamorous rhythm section. Amazingly enough, the drummer follows Clapton with a seven-minute bashfest of his own! "Let It Rain" makes Bonham's playing on Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick" seem like a rimshot. This unconscionable crap is truly lackluster compared to Clapton's early live Cream performances, his sessions with Howlin' Wolf, and even his lead work on 1990's Journeyman.

I plan to use weekends on the blog to put up images that are thematically related, are parts of a series, are clear opposites, or are connected in some instinctive way. Tomorrow: The Pianist.

The Guitarist is an abstract that tries to suggest the power of a live electric performance. The blue notes explode in an arc of lift-off before falling into the audience as their orbit decays. The base of the electric guitar can be seen below the notes. The guitarist himself, shades and all, seems to be living out a song by The Fall: "The Man Whose Head Expanded."

I have zero musical talent myself, but I like music very much, and I find it inspiring for art and poetry. I enjoy taxing my speakers while working, and I once wrote a 40-page chapbook while playing Dinosaur Jr. repeatedly over a summer. I am currently blasting out Swervedriver's "Kill the Superheroes" as I type today.

And I'd like to send this entry out to my friend, guitarist extraordinaire Chris Runyan.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Renaissance Fair

Renaissance Fair

Renaissance Fair (2004)

From the Renaissance Faire Homepage:

Renaissance Faire (Ren Faire or just Faire) is an amalgam of many things. Its partly a craft fair, its partly historical reenactment, its partly performance art. Everyone working at Faire dresses in costumes (or garb) typical of the late Elizabethan period. There are many booths selling both crafts and food. Parades wind their way through the crowds. Jugglers, musicians, magicians, and other entertainers perform through the day. You wander about, examining goods for sale, sampling foods, watching plays and performers, and of course drinking fyne English Ale.

And from Movie Poop Shoot, where Michael Sampson discusses why he dislikes Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings:

First off, I always mention that I respect other people's love for the movie. That kind of move disarms the violent and eager to harm. Then I go on to explain exactly how I manage to exist being practically the only person alive who can't enjoy Lord of the Rings.

I suppose it all boils down to my not really being "into" the fantasy genre. I don't really dig elves doing elvish shit and people talking pseudo-Shakespearean exposition and all that comes with it. All I can think about is Jim Carrey at Medieval Times -- "Dost thou have a mug of ale for me and my mate? He hath been pitched in battle for a fortnight and has a king's thirst for a frosty brew dost thou might have for thus." It just all seems so silly like some bad Renaissance Fair on acid.

The image tries to convey the pomp, pageantry, kitsch, and mass confusion of these quasi-Elizabethan festivals.

"Hey, forsooth, jester dude, put down my aluminum foil mace before I brain thee with a turkey leg!"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Moccus

Moccus

Moccus (2004)

From Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia:

Moccus, AKA Mercury Moccus, M. the Boar: Continental god; his name means "boar" or "pig." The pig was a divine animal in Celtic myth, said to have come from the Otherworld, usually as a gift of the Lord of the Otherworld to a particularly good king. The boar hunt is as much a part of Celtic myth as the cattle raid; Arthur and Fionn in particular have early myths associated with this sport. In other places, such as the Mabinogion, there is no mention of Druids, yet "swineherds" are held up as advisors to the kings--again, this could be indicative of the divine place of the pig in Celtic myth.

A god Moccus, "swine," was also identified with Mercury, and the swine was a frequent representative of the corn-spirit or of vegetation divinities in Europe. The flesh of the animal was often mixed with the seed corn or buried in the fields to promote fertility. The swine had been a sacred animal among the Celts, but had apparently become an anthropomorphic god of fertility, Moccus, assimilated to Mercury, perhaps because the Greek Hermes caused fertility in flocks and herds. Such a god was one of a class whose importance was great among the Celts as an agricultural people.

[...]

A cult of a swine-god Moccus has been referred to. The boar was a divine symbol on standards, coins, and altars, and many bronze images of the animal have been found. These were temple treasures, and in one case the boar is three-horned. But it was becoming the symbol of a goddess, as is seen by the altars on which it accompanies a goddess, perhaps of fertility, and by a bronze image of a goddess seated on a boar. The altars occur in Britain, of which the animal may be the emblem--the "Caledonian monster" of Claudian's poem. The Galatian Celts abstained from eating the swine, and there has always been a prejudice against its flesh in the Highlands. This has a totemic appearance. But the swine is esteemed in Ireland, and in the texts monstrous swine are the staple article of famous feasts. These may have been legendary forms of old swine-gods, the feasts recalling sacrificial feasts on their flesh. Magic swine were also the immortal food of the gods. But the boar was tabu to certain persons, e.g. Diarmaid, though whether this is the attenuated memory of a clan totem restriction is uncertain. In Welsh story the swine comes from Elysium--a myth explaining the origin of its domestication, while domestication certainly implies an earlier cult of the animal. When animals come to be domesticated, the old cult restrictions, e.g. against eating them, usually pass away. For this reason, perhaps,the Gauls, who worshipped an anthropomorphic swine-god, trafficked in the animal and may have eaten it. Welsh story also tells of the magic boar, the Twrch Trwyth, hunted by Arthur, possibly a folk-tale reminiscence of a boar divinity. Place-names also point to a cult of the swine, and a recollection of its divinity may underlie the numerous Irish tales of magical swine. The magic swine which issued from the cave of Cruachan and destroyed the young crops are suggestive of the theriomorphic corn-spirit in its occasional destructive aspect. Bones of the swine, sometimes cremated, have been found in Celtic graves in Britain and at Hallstadt, and in one case the animal was buried alone in a tumulus at Hallstadt, just as sacred animals were buried in Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere. When the animal was buried with the dead, it may have been as a sacrifice to the ghost or to the god of the underworld.

The image is deliberately filled with earth tones and was meant as a collage of the various physical and spiritual manifestations of Moccus: the fury of the hunt, the emblematic fertility symbol, the crop fertilizer, the afterlife preservative, the ghost guide.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Mother of All Divas

The Mother of All Divas

The Mother of All Divas (2002)

From "The Diva in Decline" by Daniel Harris (from Harper's):

Despite appearances to the contrary, diva worship is in every respect as unfeminine as football. It is a bone-crushing spectator sport in which one watches the triumph of feminine wiles over masculine wills, of a voluptuous woman single-handedly mowing down a line of hulking quarterbacks who fall dead at her feet, as in Double Indemnity, where Barbara Stanwyck plays a scheming femme fatale who brutally murders her husband and then dumps his lifeless body from a moving train in order to collect his insurance, or in Dead Ringer, where Bette Davis watches calmly as her dog lunges for the throat of her gigolo boyfriend.

On the Diva in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element (from The American Beach Observer):

The Diva appears on stage before a silenced crowd, appearing almost nervous or shy. Her features stand revealed: very tall, with light blue skin that glistens in the light. Her skull extends far back, into a kind of horn albeit with a rounded tip. Projecting from her head and back are long tentacles that lend a strange beauty to her. Her throat, wrists and along the top of her skull are decorated with what appear to be leather or vinyl items that also shine in the light. Encircling her slender waist is a belt made of an undiscernible material. Her gown seems to be made of vinyl or some other plastic, and opens out at her feet. Her fingernails are decorated with a darker shade of blue, as are her lips. As the music begins, she gracefully steps forward and begins to...sing, or something more than singing. Her teeth are startlingly white, contrasting beautifully with her body and garment. Her voice communicates a tragic story, echoing to every corner of the ship.

Now, imagine if Aretha Franklin had starred in The Fifth Element....

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Grieving

Grieving

Grieving (2002)

From CNN:

With flowers, teddy bears and poignant memories, people touched by the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history gathered Tuesday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial for the 10th anniversary of the deadly act. A moment of silence was planned for each of the 168 victims of the bombing that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

[...]

Juanita Espinosa, wiped away tears as she stood in front of the chair of her cousin, 2-year-old Zackary Chavez. "They found his head one week, and his body another week," she said. "It's still too much to think about."

[...]

Jon Hansen, an assistant fire chief at the time of the blast, was preparing for a meeting at a fire station five blocks west when the bomb went off. "It shook our building," he said. "We looked to the east and saw an enormous mushroom cloud. "We drove toward the building and I'll never forget how when we topped the hill with the sun low in the east, the street and sidewalks just glistened with broken glass."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Reef Court

Reef Court

Reef Court (2001)

The United States Navy has been stopped from testing a powerful sonar system in most of the world's oceans after a federal judge ruled that the booming sounds used to detect enemy submarines could "irreparably harm" whales, dolphins and fish.

[...]

Scientists discovered that bursts of intensive sound can tear the delicate air-filled tissues around mammals' brains and ears, resulting in hemorrhaging and death.

The navy said its newest system, which uses low-frequency waves, has never been implicated in mass strandings, in which injured whales beach themselves.

The navy wants to comb 75 per cent of the world's oceans with the low-frequency active sonar, which is designed to "light up" enemy submarines with acoustics, much the way a floodlight can illuminate an intruder in a dark backyard.

[...]

Neither the navy nor the National Marine Fisheries Service has said whether it will appeal against the judge's decision.

Should the appeal go to a "higher court"?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Roid Rage

Roid Rage

Roid Rage (2004)

From "'Roid Rage" by Andrew Tabor (from Salon):

Steroids can also flick switches in the user's mind, altering personalities and inciting overly aggressive behavior, commonly called "'roid rage." Diane Williams says she was sexually voracious during her steroid cycles; professor Todd says that steroids can act as a triggering mechanism for violent behavior. Last year, a Sports Illustrated article reported on the unusual number of bodybuilders behind bars for homicide: Bertil Fox, a former Mr. Universe, is incarcerated for the murders of his girlfriend and his girlfriend's mother. California bodybuilder John Riccardi awaits execution for a double homicide. Another California muscleman, Gordon Kimbrough, is serving 27 years to life for the murder of his fiancée. A female strength prodigy, Sally McNeil, is serving a life sentence for the murder of her bodybuilder husband. The list continues; while Todd cautions against classifying all bodybuilders as pathologically prone, no other sport comes close to paralleling bodybuilding's criminal record.

It's a safe bet that this guy's just a little too pumped.

Ripley

Ripley

Ripley (2003)

From the Montreal Mirror:

It was Ridley Scott who, with his second feature film, Alien (1979), brought us one of the greatest gender-busters in cinematic history, Ripley. In Dan O'Bannon's original screenplay, every character in the film was named, but not gendered. Thus it was up to Scott to pick and choose which characters would be male or female. The result was some of the most subversive casting imaginable, running counter to every gender stereotype possible. Ripley, the strongest, most resilient character, went to Sigourney Weaver. And the character who is impregnated with the alien was played by a man, John Hurt.

Surprisingly, Scott claims his casting of Weaver in the title role held little significance for him at the time. "Once we got into it, I got so used to Sigourney in the part that I never really separated it from her performance, other than her being the survivor. It was kind of a neat idea, to make what could have been a male character into a female one. It was just kind of curious."

And from AwwwGeez:

Ripley, second officer of the freighter Nostromo and portrayed by actress Sigourney Weaver, is presented to the viewer as the strong female character in Alien, a tough, no-bullshit type, especially when compared to the other female characters in the film. Lambert, the navigator for the Nostromo, is high-strung, panicky and hysterical---in other words, she embodies the typical movie-female response to fear. Ripley, on the other hand, doesn’t buckle or freeze under pressure as Lambert does when faced with the Alien: instead, her fight-or-flight instinct is highly honed, and she reacts as calmly as possible under the circumstances. The presence of a typically out-of-control woman character serves to point up this difference: compared to Lambert, Ripley is a rock. As a result of this portrayal, and its novelty, the viewer (typically male and typically 18-35) is already thinking in terms of Ripley being “different” in some way, and difference then becomes one thing she has in common with her enemy, the Alien itself (Torry 352). In this way, the apparent feminist agenda of the film is already being undermined.

Here is the heroine of the Alien film series being threatened by one of the creatures. Note that Ripley carries another smaller alien within her -- soon to become a chest burster.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Welcome

Welcome to my gallery blog. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I guess I'll test that theory.

My blog is visual. There won't be many words here, but there will be regular online "hangings" of my original digital art, fractal art, and illustrated poetry.

Blog with a View is an extension of my web site, Rooms with a View. If you like what you see here, and would like to view more of my art, please feel free to surf over.

I will leave the comments on, and please don't be afraid to speak up. This is one gallery where you won't disturb others by talking back to the art.

Thanks for taking a look at my work and enjoy your visit.

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