Friday, May 29, 2009

Infrared fun

Haven't inflicted any of my infrared photography on the masses in a while, so I figure we're due. Went into San Antonio on Monday to scout some locations for an upcoming photo shoot of The Wife's, and part of that time was spent in some of the old city cemeteries. We didn't stay long, because 1) it was blistering hot and 2) mosquitoes were swarming like locusts. But I did grab the opportunity to set up my camera and fire off a few infrared test shots, with Monkey Girl volunteering to serve as the model. She's taken a liking to the ghostly effect of infrared, and the cemetery was an appropriate backdrop.


After the cemeteries, we stopped by Mission San Jose for a quick shoot. Here the blistering heat turned it up to 11, so between the soaking sweat and irritable kids, I didn't shoot much in the way of IR before packing up my equipment and seeking shade. But I did again manage to fire off a few test shots. Not the best angle for the mission, but interesting nonetheless. I plan on going back eventually--later in the evening--to get a better assortment of shots.


Now Playing:

Friday Night Videos

Wow. I remember watching this video from Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen on Showtime's "Take 5" music video feature that ran in between movies waaaaay back when I was in junior high. Many moons ago, as they say. I clearly remember the flying cheeseburger and dancing french fries, and sure enough, there they are in the video just as clearly as I remember them. I consider this the second best burger song in history, behind only Jimmy Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise." But for sheer quantity of artery-clogging goodness, it's hard to beat "Two Triple Cheese."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Bangles.

Now Playing:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Green Lantern!

I'm a huge Green Lantern fan. At the same time, I've been frustrated by DC's handling of the concept for years. The Silver Age Green Lantern revamp was co-created by science fiction legend Alfred Bester and used E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series as a touchstone. Green Lantern is pure, intergalactic space adventure, yet DC and the writers given the assignment have time and again reverted to an Earthbound super-hero default. They've even destroyed the Green Lantern Corps on more than one occasion, which undermines a huge part of the character's identity and core concept. I've wished on more than one occasion that DC would assign the ongoing series to a veteran SF author. It doesn't even have to be me.

Which makes the fan trailer below all the more fun. This thing is amazing. The guy who did it relied mostly on creative editing of existing film clips, coupled with some creative use of CGI to create a non-existent movie I'm dying to see. Instead of making the Green Lantern universe smaller--which Hollywood adaptations invariably seem to do--he does a fantastic job of conveying the sprawling enormity of the Green Lantern milieu. We've got the blue Guardians of Oa, the Central Power Battery, Abin Sur, Kilowog, Tomar-Re and Sinestro... Wow! The list goes on and on! This person really, really knows his Green Lantern lore. Using Nathan Fillion for Hal Jordan is inspired, and shows just how perfect he'd be if cast as test pilot Hal Jordan (not that this will happen, as studios have already said they want someone younger for the role. Grr.). Watch and be amazed.

To put the awesomeness on this trailer in context, my daughters--Monkey Girl and Fairy Girl--both got excited when they saw it, and asked when the movie was coming out. Ten-year-old Monkey Girl was downright indignant when I told her it wasn't a real movie, and that Warner Brothers was making an entirely different GL film to come out in 2011. She pointed at the screen and said, "I don't want to see a different film. I want to see that film!" Even The Wife, who normally seizes every opportunity to mock my love of comics, was suitably impressed. "Hey, that's Captain Mal. He's make a good Green Lantern," she said. "Ha ha! There's a squirrel!" I informed her that the squirrel in question of Ch'p of H'lven, Green Lantern of sector 1014. "You're serious? They have a squirrel Green Lantern? They need to make this movie!"

Now Playing:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night Videos

I've been in a Bangles mood of late, so I'll share it with you. I always liked "In Your Room" because of the saucy, implied naughtiness of the lyrics that somehow managed to retain a degree of bouncy innocence. But I really get a kick out of the video, with its pseudo-retro 60s vibe. The ham-it-up psychedelia is--I'll wager--what prompted Mike Meyers to add Susanna Hoffs to his faux-60s band Ming Tea for the Austin Powers films. Be that as it may, it's still a fun video.

And since Star Trek is all the rage these days, I'll throw in a bonus old Bangles video featuring none other than Mr. Spock! "Going Down to Liverpool" is a great cover of a Katrina & the Waves original, but I'm sad to say the same can't be said for the video. Despite the presence of Nimoy, or maybe because of it, this is probably the most static video ever produced. I can imagine everyone being excited about signing Nimoy for the shoot, then realizing that his fee took up the entire budget, leaving them with no option but to shoot the video in a parked car. Hilarious. Nimoy does get in a good gag about a minute or so in...

Previously on Friday Night Videos... George Harrison.

Now Playing: Prince & the Revolution Around the World in a Day

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New MEMORY! Finally!

Ugh. This has been the longest break thus far. I suppose losing the external hard drive to a hideous, tipping-over death serves as some sort of excuse, but a break of more than a month is sooooo embarrassing. My apologies to all six of my loyal readers. In any event, Chapter 37 is now up at No Fear of the Future, and goes a long way towards clearing up that little issue of whether the moironteau kills Flavius again:
“Flavius!” Acaona screamed.

The foothead reared back suddenly. As it did so, a dark fissure snaked its way across the mottled skin. A great crescent slice of jaw fell away, streaming purple blood. Neatly bisected lip-to-lip, the foothead thrashed wildly, jagged teeth gnashing against others no longer there.

Flavius stood in the same spot, drenched in purple blood. The point of Memory had buried itself a good foot into the ground from the momentum of Flavius’ stroke. Flavius twisted his wrist to free the sword, holding it defiantly overhead.

“I am Flavius MacDuff, of Clan MacDuff,” he bellowed, his words echoing off the palace walls, “descended of Bellona's bridegroom, the great Thane of Fife who slaughtered the Norse and Cawdor, and toppled the tyrant MacBeth! I am the bane of both the Whistard Holdchau and the Phatrical of Koor! Death has claimed me a thousand times over, and I jam my thumb into his rheumy eyes and rise to live another day! Yer chase ends here, beastie. I am yer doom!”

Flavius is fun. I like him.

Now Playing: The Police Message In A Box

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rise of the Machines

The other day my neighbor was in his driveway, happily washing his truck. Only he never had a truck before. So I take a closer look.

"You've got a new toy!" I observe in my ever-so-witty grasp of the obvious.

"Yeah! Do you like it? Isn't it a beauty?" he answers. "We flew out to California to get it, and drove it back over the weekend."

It's a limited-edition, black Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Toyota Tundra. Only about 800 were made. It looks impressive. Even the taillights are black (one presumes they light up the normal red).

And here I thought I was the big geek on the block for staying up to catch the midnight showing of Terminator 2 at Manor East Mall back in '91.

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre Under One Sky

Friday, May 15, 2009

Don Quixote lives!

I swear, I got goosebumps and a little shiver ran through me when I read this on Ain't It Cool:

Director Terry Gilliam is set to bring his long-held dream of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the screen, producer Jeremy Thomas announced today.

Gilliam, former Monty Python star and maverick director of Brazil, Twelve Monkeys and The Fisher King, has teamed with Thomas to bring his iconoclastic vision of Don Quixote to life. Screenwriter Tony Grisoni (Red Riding Trilogy, In This World, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) has worked with Gilliam to re-imagine the legendary adventures of the idealistic Spanish knight. The new film will revolve around a filmmaker who is charmed into Don Quixote’s eternal quest for his ladylove, becoming an unwitting Sancho Panza.

This is the latest twist in one of the most remarkable stories in cinema history. The filming has been a saga as epic as Cervantes’ 17th-Century classic on which it is based. Nine years ago, the original shoot suffered a series of setbacks captured in the documentary Lost In La Mancha, which became a hit in its own right.

Terry Gilliam averred: “DON QUIXOTE RIDES AGAIN.”

Jeremy Thomas said: “I’m delighted to be working with friends again on this irresistible project.”

Tony Grisoni added: “There's no escaping some pacts. Nearly ten years on I find myself lending a hand to get that crazed, giggling bedlamite back in the saddle. I'm talking about Don Quixote. In spite of God and the Devil, he shall ride again!”

RPC’s CEO Peter Watson was in charge of the complicated task of reassembling the rights. “I’m thrilled we now have the ability to put this film into production.’

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been re-developed by Thomas’ Recorded Picture Company, and is scheduled for a Spring 2010 shoot.

Gilliam’s latest film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus premieres in Cannes on Friday 22nd.

Recorded Picture Company’s previous films include nine-time Academy Award winner The Last Emperor, Sexy Beast, Crash, Young Adam and The Dreamers. Recent films include the upcoming Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly-starrer Creation, written by John Collee and directed by Jon Amiel.

That's... oh, goodness. Lost In La Mancha is just about the most engrossing tragedy I've ever seen, the surreal absurdity reaching mind-boggling heights. Were it written as a dramatic script, the improbable sequence of ill-fortune that befalls Gilliam's production would be dismissed as unbelievable, even for so accomplished a fantasy filmmaker.

No, the irony of Gilliam continuing to tilt at this particular windmill being Quixotic in the extreme has not escaped me. After the struggles and setbacks Gilliam's endured this past decade, he's due for a run of success with both Dr. Parnassus and Quixote. I just hope that this time he doesn't decide to film on a desert flood plain near a NATO bombing range. That'd be a good start.

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Monday, May 11, 2009

About that new Star Trek...

For the first time in however long, I saw a movie on opening weekend. Mainly because I didn't want to be the only person I knew who hadn't seen the new Star Trek film. So I met my brother at the theater and we sat back to take in two hours' worth of rip-roaring space adventure.

So, my final verdict? It's a good film. It's not the end-all, be-all of cinematic bliss, however. The Wrath of Khan is still the tops in Trek films, however. I even tend to rank The Voyage Home (you know, the one with the whales) as a notch higher. Star Trek, to me, is on par with The Undiscovered Country. I kept finding myself reminded of that earlier film time and again throughout the new flick. Sure, Kirk's exile on an ice planet was an obvious parallel, but the overall feel and mood between the two had a distinct resonance for me. I hold Undiscovered in high regard, so that's no knock against the new film. And clearly, Star Trek boasts more action and adventure than any previous film in the series, with the budget and special effects far and away the most dazzling yet.

But Star Trek isn't flawless. Karl Urban's excellent McCoy is given the short shrift in the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate, which always works best as a three-way interaction. Wunderkind Chekov still seemed very out of place--the filmmaker's impulse to shoehorn every single character and reference into the first installment of the reboot is one reason why I generally despise prequel/flashback narratives (as a point of reference, I hated the "Young Indy" sequence to Last Crusade which everyone else seemed to go gonzo over, for this specific reason). I was actually startled they hadn't included Janice Rand in the mix, although I have to admit I was disappointed Captain Pike didn't have a female brunette "Number One" officer on the Enterprise. So I'm wishy-washy. Sue me.

Eric Bana's Romulan Nero was a disappointment. Bana made the most of a vastly underwritten part, and had the potential to be awesome, but the lack of any substance and real depth to his character undermined the movie a great deal.

My biggest problem with the film, however, came via the very conspicuous hand-waving the popped up at various key points throughout the film. This is a recurring problem I've had with other J.J. Abrams projects, and when Nimoy-Spock said "And then the unthinkable happened" I went WTF? How was that unthinkable? You forgot to change your watch to daylight savings time or something? There's a good bit of handwaving here, in addition to Scotty's on-the-fly invention of transporters that have no distance limitations. Am I being picky? Maybe, maybe not. I just hate it when writers write themselves into a corner and cheat to get out of said corner, hoping nobody will notice. And while I'm ragging on the writers, let me say I am sick to death of this nonsensical "Destroy the entire galaxy" riff writers pull out of their collective asses whenever they want to up the "Oh no!" factor, when their script and narrative clearly aren't threatening anything of the sort. Sheesh.

I won't rip them too hard for the alternate universe changes that clearly didn't stem from the destruction of the Kelvin early on in the film. Those were design decisions and dramatic license for emotional impact, and were effective as such. Diverging timelines and alternate reality is a bone thrown to the existing fan base to tie this film into existing continuity. Strictly speaking, that wasn't necessary, but it works well--probably better than the movie would've worked without it, so I'll cut 'em some slack here. But if Starbuck is suddenly rewritten as a girl in the next movie, all bets are off.

What's good about the film? Lots of things. The space battles between the Enterprise and Nero's heavily-armed Romulan mining vessel are dazzling, although not quite enough to be fully satisfying. The acting across the board is quite good, and even if Zachary Quinto's Spock and Chris Pine's Kirk don't make you forget the originals, they are solid in their own right and never grating. Kirk's eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru simulation was quite an interesting choice, deliberately echoing Shatner's more casual apple munching while discussing "No-win scenarios" whilst marooned in the Genesis cave within Regula 1. Captain Pike was excellent--SPOILER ALERT!--I honestly expected Pike to be killed off, and when he wasn't that was one of the biggest surprises of the film. I'd definitely love to see him as a returning supporting character in future films.

And speaking of Pike, it was wonderful to see the various captains and officers of Star Fleet acting in competent, professional manners. I can't count how many times I've seen writers take the shortcut of building up their protagonist by making everyone else blithering idiots. That the original captain of the Kelvin, George Kirk and later, Pike, suffer greatly and in some cases die because of their encounters with Nero ennobles them. They took the best course of action available to them for the greater good, as opposed to blundering into the situation through arrogance or stupidity, which is so often the case in films like this.

Finally, the Spock-to-Spock encounter at the end of the film was quite a nice touch. It dispense with the tedious "grandfather paradox" questions and established the "new" alternate reality as a solid, irreversible fact not to be undone by a reset button, as had happened so often in the various TV series (and was it just me, or did Leonard Nimoy seem to be having tremendous difficulty enunciating through his dentures? I've seen him on several talk shows and such doing promotional work for the film, and that clear baritone voice of his was uncharacteristically slurred and lispy). It'll be quite interesting to see which elements and events of the previous series' timelines are retained or jettisoned, because although this is something of a reboot, by pulling the classic crew back together so quickly in such a manner strongly implies the hand of "fate" at work, that the timeline of the universe is destined to unfold in a certain fashion. It's as if the divergent time stream of the alternate universe is working to redirect itself to that of classic Trek, the Next Generation and the like. If so, this raises the spectre of re-telling incidents from the original series, up to and including the Trek films with Khan, etc. Which wouldn't be a good idea, but that pressure will always be there.

But yeah, good film. Go see it.

Now Playing: The B-52s Time Capsule

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bud Shrake has died

Just posted this to the university website. Figured there'd be plenty of folks online interested in the sad news as well:
One of Texas’s most admired writers, Edwin A. “Bud” Shrake, Jr., passed away early the morning of May 8 at St. David’s Hospital in Austin.

Shrake was diagnosed with lung cancer last August, and given only 18-24 months to live, he kept busy with a variety of projects, including his stage play “The Friends of Carlos Monzon” scheduled to be performed in Austin in late May. He also committed himself to working on his latest book, what he called a “caper novel,” which will go unfinished. He was 77.

Shrake, journalist, sportswriter, novelist, biographer and screenwriter, was born in Fort Worth, and he began his career there, covering sports for the Fort Worth Press then the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News, before being hired to write for Sports Illustrated.

Now Playing: Ettore Strata Music from the Galaxies

Friday Night Videos

George Harrison's "When We Was Fab." Great song. Awesome video. George has got to be my favorite Beatle if, for no other reason, than he financed so much of Terry Gilliam's early work through his Handmade Films production company. For that he deserves canonization, IMHO.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... John Fogerty.

Now Playing: R.E.M. Monster

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Writing without a paper trail

SO I sat down to write last night, the first time I've attempted such a feat since the external harddrive went kersplat over the weekend, taking my entire body of work with it.

I honestly had no idea how hard it would be.

That everything I'd ever written--stories sold and unsold and unfinished, notes and novel chapters and interviews and raw transcripts--was suddenly and utterly gone was, by its very absence, a tremendous burden. How can a negative be such an intangible and imposing presence?

Rather than attempt to continue or rewrite existing short stories--they'll be recovered some day, after all--or start something new (of which I've done no research) I figured I'd keep it simple and turn my hand back to Memory. My production on that serial has been irregular at best, but since it was a "make it up as I go along" project, I should be able to simply pick up where I left off. Except that every few lines, I found myself wanting to refer to my notes, currently locked away inside the dead drive. "What color is moironteau blood? I know I wrote that down!" That sort of thing. Over and over. Most of it, I'm convinced, was unnecessary contrivance on my subconscious' part. It wanted to double-check simply because I couldn't. The fact that I'm the world champion at finding reasons not to write didn't help, either.

I hope it gets better with time. Surely it must. Because right now, this crap's tedious and slow going. Give me instant gratification any day of the week...

Now Playing: Henry Mancini Instrumental Favorites

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Not content with destroying biology, Religious Right attacks astronomy

From the Bad Astronomy blog, I've learned that the Biblical lunatics on the Texas State Board of Education (all appointed by Governor Rick "I'm a Bigger Panderer to Religious Nutcases The You" Perry) have decided that destroying biology standards in Texas classrooms is not enough. No, undermining the scientific fact of natural selection is simply unsatisfying when you have a cowardly governor up for re-election backing you up and encouraging any an all activities that will appeal to the wing-nut fringe during the upcoming primary.

So they're now assaulting astronomy. The universe isn't 14 billion years old, opines creationist Barbara Cargill. Scientific evidence to the contrary, it can only be 4-6,000 years old, because that's what a strict reading of the Bible says. I can only assume "Deluge Geology" is next on the docket. Ugh.

I never thought I'd do this, but I'm voting in the upcoming Republican primary for Kay Bailey Hutchison. I'm no fan of hers, but in the absence of any credible Democratic candidate, she's the only hope to save Texas from the machiavellian machinations of Gov. Perry. Honesty, how does this buffoon continue to be re-elected?

Oh, and I'm ordering the DVD of Inherit the Wind to watch with my kids immediately. As history, it's as inaccurate as any of these so-called "science standards" the creationists are shoehorning into science textbooks, but it contains more Truth than their narrow minded view of reality.

Now Playing: Counting Crows August and Everything After

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Shell Shock: Where we currently stand

I really want time to stop, because as long as it continues, we'll realize there are new things to be added to the list of items that only exist on my busted external harddrive. Which sucks immensely, I can assure you.

In between bouts of brain-lock, fugue and pitiful weeping, I called around yesterday, speaking with a number of professional data retrieval companies in the Austin area as well as some nationwide. The long and short of it is the harddrive is physically busted, and definitely needs a clean room lab in order to get at the stuffs we have trapped upon it. Cost for said operation ranges anywhere from $300 to $2,400, with $1,500 being the most likely figure. One fellow, as soon as I told him my drive was an Iomega 500GB model, said knowingly, "It was standing vertically, and got knocked over, right?" He then informed me the heads were most likely ruined and needed replacing. I got the uncomfortable feeling he'd dealt with this particular scenario more than once before.

Suffice to say, I didn't whip out the checkbook right then. We have to retrieve those files eventually, but $1,500 is a steep hill for us to climb with little forewarning. First order of business is getting a new external drive to replace the lost one. Second order of business is getting The Wife her own laptop dedicated to her photography business, so she's not held hostage by something like this happening again. Third... well, I suppose retrieving those files comes next. Squirrel away a little bit each month and it might be financially viable around, oh, September...

Now Playing: The Kinks The Kink Kontroversy

Monday, May 04, 2009

Shell shock

Ever have one of those moments where things suddenly start moving in slow motion? You can see a myriad of possible outcomes, but you know, you instinctively know with every fiber of your being that Worst Case Scenario is staring you right in the face.

My external harddrive got knocked over this weekend. It was standing vertically, got bumped and tipped over to its side. Not even a drop. A tiny, insignificant vertical-to-horizontal rearrangement in the grand scheme of things. Except that it immediately stopped working.

This is our backup disk. It has everything on it. Everything. Which normally wouldn't be such a bad thing, being the backup disk. Except that a couple of months ago the harddrive on my desktop crashed and had to be reformatted--the second time this had happened in a six month period--so I'd never actually bothered to copy the content from the backup drive back to the PC. Didn't actually seem worth it, since it was the PC that crashed while the external drive functioned perfectly. Yes, I'm painfully aware of the folly involved in this faulty decision making.

But when I said it contained everything, I mean everything: The Wife's photo studio portfolio. All of my photography. My writings. Yes, all my writings, going back 20 years, give or take. Much of the older works exist as hard copies in various poorly-maintained files, but more recent work--short fiction, in-progress novel chapters, extended verbatim interview transcripts--those only exist as files on said drive. My slate, she is wiped clean.

With a growing knot of foreboding anchored in my gut, I took the pitiful harddrive in to a computer shop near the university that's done good work for me before. They listened to my tale of woe, said it didn't sound too bad and that they'd have me up and running again by the end of the day. An hour later they called with bad news. Despite no apparent damage, their recovery systems couldn't even detect the drive, much less save any data or fix it. Then, apologetically, they began speaking of clean rooms. For the uninitiated, the difference in the cost of a clean room computer repair facility with your standard local shop is essentially the cost of buying a new computer system. Or, as Luke Skywalker put it, "We could almost buy our own ship for that!"

So, any of you tech-savvy folks out there in internet lands have any suggestions? I'm afraid I'll be entering a fugue for the next few days and not entirely capable of rational thought.

Now Playing: Queen Greatest Hits

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Night Videos

Sometimes you just need a little Fogerty. "Rock & Roll Girls" fits the bill.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Queen.

Now Playing: