Sunday, February 07, 2016

X-Files: Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster

The second episode of the re-launched X-Files was a bit iffy. It was a mytharc-style episode, and it seemed kinda odd to start a new mytharc when the old one was never really finished, in a six-episode season that may not be picked up next year for any further elaboration.  Called Founder's Mutation (a sort of X-Filian pun on the 'founder' of a charitable foundation that looks after mutant kids and the founder mutation, which is the mutation that precipitates a speciation event), it went everywhere from telekinesis through telepathy, mutant kids with cronenbergian bodies, Mulder and Scully's separate fears over what may have happened to their adopted-out child William, to ice-pick suicides and good old-fashioned male terror at the concept (sorry) of pregnancy.  

It was a decent X-Files episode but seven hundred years of Orphan Black (at least) have aired since X-Files went off the air, and in that we've seen so many foundations and founders and children in orphanages and mutations that the original source has been eclipsed by its...clones. (Sorry again.)

Scully mentions a paper on Founder Effects by Batini and Hallast - which says that 64% of the population of Europe can be traced to three male ancestors in the Bronze Age. This is a real paper. You can read it here. 

Now, the third episode, Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster was helmed by one of the best of the original writers, Darin Morgan, and is a perfect X-File. A monster-of-the-week episode, it trotted along nicely with all the eye candy of a good episode and all the clever-dickery of the very best episodes.  The poor editing and iffy acting of the pilot and second-aired-episode failed to make an appearance.

Almost all the lines were quotable and it was all I could do not to pause every couple of minutes to write them down and put them here. Scully's "Mulder, the internet isn't good for you," was one of the best delivered, and the scene where the game warden and Mulder stop in mid-screaming-and-running to find "settings" on Mulder's newfangled cellphone was another memorable moment. Oh, and I must mention Mulder saying, "I'm a middle-aged man - no, Scully, I am!" followed by a cut to Scully, who hadn't said a word in protest. 

 - spoilers everywhere below -
Not for the first time this was an episode where the peaks came from reversing the normal course of things. In the prologue, Mulder is going through old files and throwing them out, as they've been solved since he was last in the office. Student pranks, advertising gimmicks and in the case of mysteriously moving rocks on a 'racetrack', simple ice-formation, have now been shown to be the explanations of the 'mysteries'. He's no longer the believer. He's throwing pencil-darts not at the ceiling tiles, but at the I Want To Believe poster, which Scully, when she comes in, declares is actually hers

The monster, when today's mystery is finally solved, is a lizard who was bitten by a man and therefore becomes a man each full moon, much to his disgust. This reversal is used to great comedic effect as the were-man gets an opportunity to show how absurd much of human culture actually is. After his transformation he found himself compelled to...get a job. So he could qualify for a mortgage, whatever that is.  He was worried it was too late for him to write a novel. 

The bad guy (doing the murders and the biting) is the game warden. The babes in the woods who stumble across the murders are huffing paint fumes and the man who runs the motel with the creepy hidden corridor and peeping-tom holes into every room (which are full of animal skins and weird-ass stuffed heads, including a jackalope) drinks rubbing alcohol. Mulder sympathizes with him - that's what he expects in a motel-keeper.  The motel keeper tells him to go away, in quite a friendly fashion and adds, without malice, "Or I'll kill ya."

Although it sounds depressing, an entire hour of hearing that humanity is crap and everything anyone cares about is meaningless, completely-arbitrary hooey, the writing is light and funny.  The were-man (yes, I'm aware that 'were' means 'man' and so that means 'man-man' but what else would you call him?) is played by Rhys Darby, the New Zealand comedian. You may remember him from such films as What We Do In The Shadows, a vampire mockumentary in which he played a polite were-wolf. "I'm a were-wolf, not a swear-wolf!" He has exactly the right touch for a role in which he's called on to wave his arms and point out the ridiculousness of human existence, much of it expounded while standing around a gravestone named for Kim Manners

He's also wearing clothes in the style of Kolchak, the Night Stalker (having taken them from the corpse of one of the people murdered by the game warden) and there's a story behind that. The whole script is taken from an unfilmed episode of the latterday Kolchak and repurposed for the X-Files. The full story is here.

One thing I'm always interested in is how a story is put together, how the scenes are written to cover the story adequately. The following is just a set of notes to myself. 

I was particularly taken with this sequence: Mulder finds some pills in the were-man's motel room and of course pills have the prescriber's name on them. He goes to see the psychiatrist named and presumably asks about the patient. We don't hear about the patient. The scene opens with the psychiatrist telling the story of a man who was tormented by a lizard dragon and eventually finds a gypsy who tells him to stab it in the appendix with a shard of green glass.  He stabs the creature and as it dies he realizes he's looking in a mirror and it is himself.  The psychiatrist says the moral is it's easier to believe that there are monsters out there than to look inside yourself.  

This 'legend' turns out to be the actual story. Without any connecting 'real story logic' being offered, it seems the only way you can kill this creature is to stab him with a broken bottle. Or did the lizard-man just believe that because the trick cyclist told him the story? Why is the psychiatrist telling this story to people anyway? (Whenever a question about the were-man's life-cycle comes up, both the lizard-man and Mulder agree there's no logic to it, and yet, overall, it works in the story.)  

The psychiatrist also tells Mulder he told the lizard-man to go to a cemetery, because if nothing else, it'll bring home the fact that all one's troubles are temporary. Mulder questions this, but the doctor says, "It's what I do."  That gives Mulder enough information to find the lizard-man. He's going to be in a cemetery.  How-to-write columns always say that each scene should not solve the mystery, but should give sufficient information for the next step to take place but I've never seen two togeher that are so pure.  In the motel room the bottle. From the psychiatrist, the location. When Mulder finds the were-man by the gravestone, he explains that until a few days ago he had no idea he could die, so I guess the psychiatrist has his uses. 

For equally illogical, but strong story reasons, the were-man is due to hibernate for 10,000 years soon and hopes to wake up cured. As endings go, it's total bollocks, but it solves all the story problems. No one now alive will be around and so you don't have to think of a happy ending. It's out of our hands. Assume all live happily ever after. 

I've seen a couple of comments on the interwebs asking why a lizard-man in America who hibernates for 10,000 years at a time would have a New Zealand accent.  What accent should he have had? The mind boggles.
(Edited for clarity.)

Saturday, February 06, 2016

I hate the internet. Well, Jarrett Kobek does.

Did you know the 'literary' novel was invented by the CIA? I knew Modern Art was their baby but I hadn't realized that about books.

Picture from Lithub

I’m a recovered tech person and much of my life has revolved around this shit. For what seems like a thousand years. And I still like the early ethos of tech, back in the hobbyist days, when computers were not interchangeable and no one had realized that this thing the Internet could be used to trample the gullible with advertisements for car insurance. Or before an even more unsavory lot realized that they could make beaucoup bucks setting up unprofitable companies as money laundering events for war criminals and investment bankers. That’s why I did a prequel of I Hate the Internet for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, an old British microcomputer. It felt like there was some virtue counterbalancing all of that disgust with an acknowledgment of a time you using computers did not require you to participate in several overlapping systems of global evil.
More fascinating insights here by JARETT KOBEK(*), of whom I had not previously heard(**) on the meaning of modern life and its relationship to 'the novel', among other things. On the strength of this I'm buying his ahem novel, I Hate The Internet, and probably Sister Souljah's 'literary novel' The Coldest Winter Ever, as well.

(*) Doesn't he look like Kato Kaelin?
(**) I'm writing proper like.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Explaining Caucuses

Today is the day of the Iowa Caucuses. I know what a caucus is, but it's a fair bet you don't, so I got hold of the definition. It's from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, which is my favorite book. 

Scene: Alice has been crying. Her tears turned into a flood, which caught up a number of small animals including the Dodo, who are all now cold and bedraggled.

'What I was going to say,' said the Dodo in an offended tone, 'was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.'
'What is a Caucus-race?' said Alice; not that she wanted much to know, but the Dodo had paused as if it thought that somebody ought to speak, and no one else seemed inclined to say anything.
'Why,' said the Dodo, 'the best way to explain it is to do it.' (And, as you might like to try the thing yourself, some winter day, I will tell you how the Dodo managed it.)
First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, ('the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no 'One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out 'The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, 'But who has won?'
This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'
'But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked.
'Why, she, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, calling out in a confused way, 'Prizes! Prizes!'
Alice had no idea what to do, and in despair she put her hand in her pocket, and pulled out a box of comfits, (luckily the salt water had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes. There was exactly one a-piece all round.
'But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said the Mouse.
'Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely. 'What else have you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to Alice.
'Only a thimble,' said Alice sadly.
'Hand it over here,' said the Dodo.
Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying 'We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble'; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered.
Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble, looking as solemn as she could.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cyriak / Run The Jewels: Meowpurrdy (music video 2016)

New Cyriak video, this one for Meowpurrdy by Run The Jewels from their Meow The Jewels album.

It's quite restrained...for Cyriak.

X-Files: My Struggle (TV, web, 2016)

I suppose if anything was going to tempt me back to write in an 'old' form of media like my blog, it would be a reboot of an 'old' form of paranoia like the X-Files.

Watch here.

With My Struggle, the X-Files re-debuted on January 24th, 2016 after an hiatus since May 19th, 2002.  That's almost a whole generation. Times have changed, which the new program artfully reflects. Someone mentions Uber; someone gives a tiny cellphone their number from their own tiny cellphone without anyone having to write it on a phone booth hood, or memorize it; someone watches the cable news on their laptop at their workdesk.  Times have changed for paranoia as well. Before the X-Files, difficult as this may be for youngsters to believe, most American, broadly speaking, believed their government was committed to telling the truth to citizens. When I came here in 1989 it was difficult to understand how 300 million people could all be so non-cynical.

That all started to change during the X-Files' first run, and pretty much completely overturned on September 11th, 2001. After that, large numbers of people started questioning the government, along with all other forms of authority. Evolution? Pull the other one. Climate Change? Pfff obviously the work of...Big Trees or something. Maybe the X-Files did it, or maybe 9/11, or maybe the interwebs or all of those things. But it was a significant change.

Spoiler alert:
Chris Carter, the X-Files' creator, seems to have weathered the change with little difficulty. A certain amount of the program was given over to Generation Jones Fan Service and I felt I was being patted on the back simply for being the age I am and Knowing Stuff - for example when Tuskegee and Henrietta Lacks were tossed into the script like cranberries into a salad at one point - but the showrunner seems happy to shift the pacing of an episode up to Millennial/Generation Z standards. I think "The Truth" was overturned two or three times in just this one episode. We have two or three of Mulder's fast-gabbled infodumps about The Truth (how does Duchovny learn all these lines?) then we learn the Real Truth, then we learn the Really Real Truth. Then all, and I mean all, of the evidence for one of those layers of truth get blown away. Mulder and Scully are left without any evidence apart from a DNA gel from the lab and their own wits. Oh, except that Skinner is on the case, so the X-Files are being reopened.

Overall, a very satisfying new episode.
End spoiler.

Don't they look old? I mean, I'm older too, but I don't catch myself in reruns of Teliko in the middle of the night over the years and learn to assume I'm always going to be from the mid-nineties.
Loved the idea of having a (slight) telepath in the show so she could do as-you-know-Bob infodumps from the characters' brains, teaching us what's changed with them and what's the same without them having to express it clumsily in conversation.
Aren't screen bugs small compared with the old days? I suppose that's because you can't really see them on a cellphone screen so they've lost their usefulness and become vestigial.
Loved the character of O'Malley and the internet-ranting school of fame and conspiracy.
"My Struggle"? i.e. Mein Kampf? Why this title?
One quibble: The X-Files preferred method of depicting a conversation is to have an establishing shot of two people talking (like the picture above) and then to shoot one person talking over the other person's shoulder, then change to the other person speaking over the first person's shoulder. This is a creaky old way of doing it and given the length of some of Duchovny's lines, and the lack of care in matching expression to recent speech when we cut to the other person beginning to listen, it really doesn't work. Let's have a new convention.

Verdict: would watch again, except I don't have cable. I watched this one, as you can also, on the web at Fox.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Benevolent Stalker guilty of being not very benevolent

I see the "Benevolent Stalker" - a writer who bottled a woman who gave him a one-star review, has pleaded guilty.

I wrote about him in detail here. I didn't use the full names of the people concerned as it was all still a bit mysterious at the time. Now he's guilty, I guess it doesn't matter anymore.

Here is Metro's write up on the court appearance. Excerpt:
Brittain, who lives in Bedford, pled guilty to engaging in conduct which caused Ms Durant fear or alarm by repeatedly pursuing her, approaching her, following her and publishing a story about stalking her in September 2014.
He also admitted assaulting Ms Rolland with a bottle on October 3, 2014 at Asda, Fullerton Road, Glenrothes.
Glasgow Sheriff Court heard Brittain uploaded part of a published book of his [...] Miss Rolland read the excerpt and left comments.[...] ‘The feedback was negative. [...] ‘He went to the alcohol aisle and picked up a bottle of wine, he then went to the aisle where the complainer was working. [...]the accused approached without warning, any provocation or words and he struck the complainer on the back of the head with the bottle.
He traveled a couple of hundred miles just to hit a Wattpad critic over the head. And then people wonder why some people prefer to use pseudonyms on the net.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Short story: Nereid

I have a new story, Nereid, up for anyone to read at my Livejournal.

The story looks at some scenes in the life of a rich, famous rock star and the supernatural being who pursues him.  I'm putting it up for Halloween, but his Nereid is not very scary - unless you're afraid of being drowned, which he is. She's not truly evil, either, merely implacable and very, very focused on him.

When I first put this tale out readers said, "She's addiction, isn't she?" and I said yes, probably. Is she addiction to drugs, though, or to fame and fortune? Or - perhaps she really is just a beautiful mermaid who knows exactly where he lives and how to find him.

You can read Nereid here. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Psychedelic Britannia - BBC 4 2015 (review)

This BBC production says it is about psychedelia and the reinvention of pop in the mid to late sixties - in Britannia.

I'm in the middle of writing a novel about a top-flight English folk-rock band that went to get its head together in the countryside, and so any docos about the phenomenon are obviously going to be of interest.

Psychedelic Britannia is available here for a month. Hurry hurry hurry!

Featuring a large number of performance snippets and plentiful quotes from people who were there, it's a well-crafted, well-supported but not particularly deep look at psychedelia. Its thesis is that British pop, I guess in the form of the British Invasion (it doesn't state) was blues and R&B based and could not really be considered British, but in the mid sixties, psychedelia superseded it and was home-grown enough to be an original artform. This leap is signaled by a clip of The Yardbirds playing with Gregorian Chants on Still I'm Sad.

They cut to Ginger Baker talking about jazz and about forming The Cream...jazz? And after a fairly compelling bit about Pink Floyd, the Oxford countryside and the Wind In the Willows ambience that inspired Syd Barrett, they're off to talk with Soft Machine who idolized John Coltrane and played jazz.  Then off to the Incredible String Band who apparently took their inspiration from Morocco, but apart from that, y'know, all British.

Apart from the inability to avoid jazz, the programme makes a good fist of its thesis.  The Hippies (they avoid that word) idolized the dreamy riverbanks and trippy rabbit holes of children's books, it claims, because their childhood was fucked up by WWII. I can see that being true, and it's the first time a doco has ever made me remotely sympathetic to British hippies and their gnomes. [1] It's amusing that they cut from Alice In Wonderland to someone describing the descent down the dark steep stairs to the UFO club without anyone making the connection with a rabbit hole.

It covers the period where bands stopped singing baby baby and instead sang about Sunshine Superman and Strawberry Fields very well - the music stopped being transatlantic, as someone put it.  Lyrics became about British landscapes and actual stories from childhood - Arnold Layne, See Emily Play. There's obligatory coverage of the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, including a short scene of Cockney mods not enjoying themselves which I've never seen before.  The programme's take is that taking LSD is the central tenet of psychedelia but I don't think it really makes the case for it. Everybody did take LSD, but apart from a few lyrics about hearing the grass grow and so forth, I'm not sure it had that much impact.

Joe Boyd is interviewed and we hear similar takes to his White Bicycles (which I reviewed here). Steve Howe, Arthur Brown,  the irrepressible Twink,  Barry Miles, Gary Brooker and half a dozen others also feature. They speak of the flight to the natural, the countryside, the Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams view of life, updated. The wonders of nature, Vashti Bunyan hearing about Donovan's private islands near Skye, setting off in a vardo, hoping to bring about a community and yet hoping to keep traveling at the same time, a tension you can hear in rock lyrics again and again. She imagines a world without electricity, without running water, a simple way of life...which, without trying to be rude, is probably why we didn't hear from her for thirty five years after she set off.  I'm all for the simple life but it does need to have a wi fi connection.

The scene peaked in 1967 and was gone by 1970. Increased police harassment and a growing realization that thinking really hard about a peaceful, child-like world wasn't really going to bring it about were significant factors in its demise.  Unrest in Ulster, Grosvenor Square and the National Front are name-checked as contributory causes.  All in all, a flash in the pan. A very colorful one, but a misfire nevertheless.

[1] Well, apart from Tyrannosaurus Rex, not in this programme, who can sing about gnomes all they want.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dreams we gottem

For presidential hopefuls, simpler language resonates
Trump tops GOP field while talking to voters at fourth-grade level
I'm surprised by this, though: The article quotes Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, which apparently "analyzes trends and language" as saying, “Good communication is good communication. . . . ‘I’ve got a Dream,’ all those great speeches are nice, and direct. They use words people understand. They give a big message, but they’re not grandiose.”

When I first came to the US, 30 years ago, almost no-one said "I've got [a thing]." They said, "I have [a thing]." It was diagnostic of British English versus American English. I've noticed "I've got" becoming more popular among American speakers over the years and it's now unremarkable. But, of course, Dr. King didn't say, "I've got a dream," he said "I have a dream," like a normal American of the time period. 

In fact, with a thing like a dream, which you "have" by imagining it, rather than by possessing it, "have" makes more sense than "got".  You'd certainly say "I had a dream last night" rather than "I had gotten a dream last night."  (Or "I had got a dream last night", since British English speakers don't conjugate "got".)

It's really strange to see an expert in communication translate such a famous line into a modern idiom so unconsciously. Either that, or he wasn't talking about Martin Luther King but referring to the song from Tangled (2010) which uses the modern phrase!

Another chimera in the news: man 'fails' paternity test

A little bugbear of mine: Chimeras.

A man is in the news today as a chimeric human because he 'failed a paternity test'. On further investigation, it turned out that the genetic makeup of his sperm producing cells is different from the genetic makeup of his blood producing cells, so a genetic test on his blood does not match the genetics of his offspring.

The man is not actually a monster

So far so obvious - lots of people are chimeras, for example, all women who have ever been pregnant. Fetal cells circulate in the mother's blood, settle down and become part of the mother. (Because this rarely impacts criminal identification or personhood ethics, it's not seen as important, and is called microchimerism.) But lots of fathers (and other people) are chimeras, because two embryos fused in their mother's womb to become one person. What riles me - my bugbear - is that they refer to this man's "dead twin", and "unborn twin", that he "absorbed the genes of his twin, who died early in the pregnancy."

"It is thought cells from a miscarried sibling were absorbed by the man while he was in the womb"
The Independent (Italics my own)

This is all codified anti-choice propaganda. It's important to the media that it pushes the idea that each person has "unique genes" and that a single cell "becomes a person" the minute (or rather the several hours) that sperm and egg fuse and become a cell with a new genetic makeup.

It's nonsense. Lots of pregnancies start out as multiples, and in some cases two different embryos become one, as in this man's case. Lots of pregnancies start out as single embryos that split, making identical twins, or more rarely, identical triplets. No one says that identical twins have only one soul between them, or only make up one person between them. Why would you say that one person "died" if two embryos become one? Only for propaganda purposes.

Telling this man "your twin died" could devastate him. In fact, both sets of cells were born, and he's both of them. And it's perfectly normal.

Happy St. Crispin's Day!

Today is the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Kenneth Branagh and the legendary Brian Blessed rouse the ragged band of Englishmen to victory against the French.

Or Laurence Olivier, in a production that looks like it takes place in Disneyland, giving you little hope for the speech until Olivier, natch, pulls it off spectacularly.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Kabocha squash dismemberment

How irritating. These are the last two kabocha squash from my garden. They were outside on the tiles waiting to become dinner. The - presumed - raccoon has bitten a careful hole in both, scooped out all the seeds and eaten the inside of the seeds.

If he'd waited, I would have eaten the orange flesh and thrown the seeds on the compost heap. Then we'd both have had some.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch) 2013 (review)

I’m a bit late catching up with the 2013 Jim Jarmusch movie Only Lovers Left Alive, but now that I’ve found it, it’s replaced my perennial go-to romantic film Velvet Goldmine as the standard for films about eternal lovers.

Ex-rock star Adam – he’s 500, but looks 30 – and the older Eve – 3000, who looks somewhere between 40 and 2500 – are married but live separately. Eve lives in Tangier, surrounded by piles upon piles of books, where she can regularly meet her friend Kit Marlowe, who has settled in this historically literary Moroccan city to ‘scratch out’ more plays and live with his current protégé, Bilal.  Adam lives in a Detroit Victorian home, in a part of the city that has returned to nature. He lives in America’s musical heartland, but his only neighbors are coyotes and the occasional skunk. 

Adam and Eve. To his credit, the filmmaker seems to realize that's an old fiction chestnut and goes beyond.

He’s a musician, and a determinedly analog one.  The film opens with him relaxing with a lute and his home is a paradise of reel-to-reels, wave-generators, tube amplifiers and record players stacked up to the ceilings.  He puts on the 45 of Wanda Jackson’s Funnel of Love and we see that he and Eve have a psychic connection; from Tangier she can tell he is sinking into ennui. It’s happened before.  He despises zombies (humans) and their lack of imagination, their non-acceptance of their own brilliant scientists, their lack of ecological stewardship and the creeping, but unexplained ‘contamination’ that’s driven the vampires away from most supplies of human blood. (All three get their fixes from hospital supplies of nice, clean O negative. Adam disguises himself as a ‘doctor’ – called Dr Faust first, Dr Caligari the second time we see him - to infiltrate the hospital. Marlowe also obtains his and Eve's blood from a hospital. He doesn’t say how, but it’s hinted that all things are available, in Tangier.)

Wanda Jackson. At first I thought it must be the Cramps version, but no, it's the 45 played at 33.

Eve calls Adam on her iPhone – her Apple, get it? – and Adam answers on his old fashioned telephone handset with a cord, which he hooks up to a cathode ray tube TV in order to Skype with her.  She agrees to come see him, though travel, even at night, is debilitating for their kind.

Meanwhile, Ian, his eager but gormless roadie/hanger on, brings him some goodies he’s scored: a 1959 Supro (Adam sights along its neck to check for straightness like a pro), a “weird” Hagstrom, a Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 with double-cutaway and an early sixties Silvertone with the amp built into the guitar case.  We get our first joke:  As Adam respectfully looks over the Gretsch, he mentions he saw Eddie Cochran play one of those...but it had been modified - the front pickup was a Gibson P-90.  “You saw Eddie Cochran play?” Ian asks incredulously. Cochran died in 1960. “Yeah,” Adam replies, thinking quickly, “On YouTube.”  There’s no chance, of course, that Adam watches YouTube.  There are a lot of jokes, all delivered so deadpan that at first I didn’t realize how funny the movie is.

Eve comes over, and while he’s out picking up more blood, she discovers he has a revolver with a single wooden bullet.  Distraught, she tries to bring him out of his existential malaise and they go for a drive, at night, obviously, through deserted Detroit. The vacant lots, the faded glory, the stately procession of sights – the Michigan Theater, the Packard plant - all build the feeling of long lives flowing towards some sort of enforced change.

Hastening this, Eve’s “little sister” – (“Is she a blood relative?” “Well, blood was involved.”), an apparently Millennial (she can’t be much more than 85), vacuous, LA-dwelling bundle of energy, unsophistication and raw need blasts into their lives (without even waiting to be invited over the threshold!), wrecks everything and is ultimately unceremoniously thrown out. Adam and Eve flee to Tangier, where they find Marlowe is sick from contaminated blood, though he manages to summon the energy for one more dig at Shakespeare. Marlowe wrote all his plays, of course.

Eve, Adam, Little Sister Ava and gormless Ian. 

Drained from travel, without a supply of clean blood, they listen to a Lebanese singer in a local café and contemplate their options.  Adam finds time for another bon mot – no, he doesn’t wish fame on the singer; she’s too good for that.

Starving, they sit on a bench as the cock crows.  A pair of lovers walk by and embrace by a wall. Adam and Eve can drink the couple’s blood or die when the sun comes up. They make their choice, and the film fades to black.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are perfect for this film. He’s dark, snake-hipped, high-cheekboned and a perfect high-register RP English speaker. He handles humor, particularly where the younger sister is concerned, with understated physical action. Swinton is blonde to the point of translucency, with eyes the size of saucers, a mane of hair uncombed since about 360 BCE and a cut-glass upper class accent.  They flawlessly portray lovers who have been together so long they don’t need to be in close contact, and who have their undying love of art and science in common.

Other reviews seem to think of them as hipsters – effortlessly cool. I didn’t see it that way. True, they were into your favorite artist before he was popular, but that’s because they’re over 500 years old. They knew Shakespeare. Adam remembers Byron as a bit of an ass.  I saw their eclectic tastes as having brewed slowly. One trusted way to play electric guitar, lute and oud well is to practice. And if you practice for a few hundred years you’re going to be very good. If you’ve read everybody in every language, more than once, your taste in authors will be wide-ranging.  And yes, they name-drop Jack White, a hipster fave, but I got the impression that’s because Jack is one of them – they were excited to drive by his old house, but note neither of them suggests finding his current house for a visit, just as they keep away from ‘the others’.

Ultimately I see the movie as a meditation on love, on art, but also on the phenomenon of middle-aged people trying to come to terms with the changes in their city, the world, the newfangled fashions and technology, and above all the lack of artistic sophistication that (the film suggests) characterizes the Youth of Today.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cyanotype t-shirt printing - Dodge and Burn

Recently, I mentioned my envy at those who got to go to Nashville, and have Third Man Records make them a limited edition 'dodge and burn' t shirt using the cyanotype method.

Luckily, cyanotype is just about the easiest way to print a t-shirt, so I made my own!

I used the powdered cyanotype chemicals - looking at Third Man's video, I think they used the liquid version, which is probably easier (less weighing out cyanide in the kitchen involved). The liquid is part number 07-0091 from same dealers.

I used it exactly as in the instructions (PDF), but with both dichromate contrast enhancer and a hydrogen peroxide oxidizer/darkener bath. (I probably only needed the latter.) It only took a four minute exposure in full sun here in So Cal in early October, but probably much longer in winter in most places (so do a test on an old sheet before using an expensive blank t shirt). 

My test sheet was a drawing I had to do in my sketching class. Yes, it's a copy, but it's my drawing if you know what I mean. 

For the negative, I used the picture on the Best Buy CD box, enlarged, contrast enhanced and with the "W" removed in photoshop. I reversed the image and laser printed it on an overhead transparency sheet. (Special stock these days - Apollo CG 7060.) 

I'll order a bunch more t shirts and do some other negatives. (Before anyone asks, Third Man would no doubt frown on me making a lot of copies of their limited edition item, so I won't be doing any more.)

A screenshot from Third Man's video showing their process - the negative sheet is being pulled away from the exposed cloth (it's not blue at this point in the process):

A photo (ganked from Facebook) of an original, genuine t shirt from Third Man. (The image is slightly larger and much less saturated than mine.)

Friday, October 09, 2015

The Dead Weather - Lose the Right live performance and Alison's lyric-writing technique

The fourth and final - I almost wrote fourth and vinyl there - Dead Weather technique video and live performance is up today. They chose Billboard for the honor, and Billboard reciprocated by spelling Mosshart incorrectly in the URL and getting the bass player's name wrong. It's okay, we all know who you are, Jack Lawrence!

As in the previous three, the article isn't very informative but the video is.  In it, we hear that Alison writes lyrics while driving, as in actually writes on a piece of paper while driving, which sounds dangerous to me. She won't listen to her own voice on tape - odd for a famous singer - so she won't record the lyrics, so I politely suggest she buys a voice-to-text app. It will have all those funny errors robots make when they listen to the spoken word, but that'll just make the lyrics even more interesting.  (I think her spoken voice is lovely - she has a perfect accent and just enough grainy tenor to make it gritty.)

Nice car too. There's also an appearance by a Brake Hedgehog (the best kind) and several rather pushy mannequins. The featured song is Lose The Right.


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