Saturday, February 28, 2015

Frank (movie, 2014)

I Netflixed the movie Frank (Dir. Lenny Abrahamson 2014) on streaming video.

I was interested in it because I thought it was about Frank Sidebottom (who was played by Chris Sievey), a Northern English comedian who wore a large papier mache head on stage, and whose jokes and routines were based around gentle northern humor. I missed out on all that, and Sievey sadly passed away before any of his slight fame could wash up over here in these great USAs of America.

It isn't based on Frank Sidebottom, I learned, when I started watching and the guy with the gaint round papier mache head had an American, as opposed to Cheshire, accent.

I rapidly looked it up and apparently it's based on an idea about Frank Sidebottom, from Jon Ronson, who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats and is not the same person as Mark Ronson, who is a musician who makes all those records feat. Somebody Else. Despite not being Mark Ronson, Jon Ronson was once a musician in Frank Sidebottom's band, which is how he got the idea for a movie.

He explains himself in this Guardian write up; that he'd discussed the possibility of a film with Chris Sievey before he died, and had decided to write something about Outsider Artists in general rather than risk damaging the Frank Sidebottom, er, legend.

The movie begins, as in Ronson's real life, with "Ron" - played by someone who looks like one of the Weasley twins if the Weasley twins had been geeks - getting an impromptu gig with an unpronounceable band (the Soronprfbs) headed up ...heh heh... by a man in a giant cartoon papier mache head, which he never takes off. Not even in the shower.  Ron is shanghaied into spending a year in a remote house in Ireland "rehearsing" for an album - the rehearsals bearing a strong similarity to the cult-abuse sessions held by Captain Beefheart for Trout Mask Replica - and eventually touring. The band take an instant dislike to Ron and want to kill him. Ron, for his part, is a starry-eyed musician who wants to make it big with his own compositions. He is hampered by his complete lack of talent.

At first (once I'd worked out this wasn't Frank Sidebottom we were following) I thought the band, and especially Frank, were a kind of figment of Ron's imagination, or at least just mythic figures, helpers and obstacles on his classic hero's journey to fame and and fortune. After a while, it became clear that it was actually a study in mental illness, and Frank (along with at least three band members, some diagnosed, some not there yet) was mad. Ron is our hobbit, our everyman, representing regular people by asking questions and reacting to situations. I didn't manage to figure out what Ron Jonson[*] (the real one) was trying to say about it, though. Genius is akin to emotional instability? We all wear masks to face the world? It's about getting into someone's head/getting out of your head? It was mildly affecting, and (it's billed as a comedy) I think I cracked a wry smile a couple of times, but overall it didn't click.

Ambitious Ron goes on to put the band's videos on YouTube (which they've never heard of) and books them into the SXSW festival. They travel to the legendary land of make-or-break-the-rock-n-rollers, as is de rigueur in all movies about modern music, to play the festival. Frank's anxiety gets the best of him, and things unravel rapidly. Frank is, however, back in his native country (how he came out of it in the first place is not specified) and so Ron gets to meet his Mom and Dad, who don't add anything to his mystique or for that matter explain any of it away.

Spoiler alert:

Eventually, Frank gets his deeply peculiar mojo back, and it's Ron who melts away into the shadows.

It stars Michael Fassbender, Carla Azar, Maggie Gyllenhaal & Domhnall Gleeson - Carla, of course, being a real musician.

(This isn't very interesting either.)

[*] Edit to add: Oops. Well, you know who I mean.

Alison Mosshart with the Gang of Four and the Re-Licked Project

Alison Mosshart's been in the news again recently. Though she's recording - e x c r u c i a t i n g l y   s l o w l y - with the Dead Weather, she's recording quite prolifically with other bands.

She appeared on Carson Daly  playing Stooges songs with James Williamson's Re-Licked Project and on the Gang of Four's new album What Happens Next? (Which was well reviewed.)

Till The End Of The Night

Here is another song with the Re-Licked Project, recorded at the Bootleg Theater on 01/16/2015.

Wild Love

And with the Gang of Four, England's In My Bones:

England's In My Bones

Also with the Gang of Four, Broken Talk, starting at 4:00 minutes in:

Broken Talk

(This is actually the entire Gang of Four Album, so you can actually listen to all of it if you want to. I've let it continue after Broken Talk in the embed above.)

It's great to hear her voice and singing with such disparate bands challenges her and brings out the best in her voice, I think. But I'm still pining for some Kills - and some Dead Weather dates!

Friday, February 27, 2015

That dress yesterday. #blueandblack

That dadblasted white and gold or blue and black dress! I'm lucky I missed the llamas or I'd have gotten nothing done yesterday.

The picture was 'obviously' light blue and gold - to me. I assumed the people who saw black and blue were somehow processing the white balance in their heads, which is pretty damned clever. It's as though they weren't seeing what color the picture was, but estimating what color the real dress is and reading it back without realizing that's not what was on the monitor. The real dress is, equally obviously, blue and black.

So this morning I checked in Photoshop. (Yes, I'm still wasting time on it.)

The original picture, slightly ensmallened:

What the picture looks like in a Photoshop window (you can see Photoshop just says, 'open', i.e. it's done nothing to it):

Taking a sample of "white" or "blue" in the dress with the eyedropper:

The little circle in the color palette shows what color Photoshop thinks the blue or white area is. It's not white, is it? It's a light blue.

Taking a sample of "black" or "gold" with the eyedropper:

The little circle shows what color Photoshop thinks the area behind her right shoulder is. It's not black, is it? The original picture has gold (or orange or brown) on the lace strips, depending on where you sample.

White balancing the picture by hand (taking the color cast off using adjustments):

Once you adjust the picture for the overexposure, it's blue and black. I adjusted the color under curves  levels for all three channels, red, green and blue. Only the third channel is shown.

White balancing the picture under adjustments using the eyedropper to set white, black and mid-range in the areas outside the dress:

Instead of using my eye to take off the color cast, I used Photoshop's eyedropper tool on the areas outside the dress - white, by her right elbow, black by her left hip and grey at the far right past her elbow. It's actually quite a pretty-colored dress when it's color balanced!

(I think I've got some clipping going on there, but that's enough on the dress for me today.)

Edit to add: scrolling the small pictures up my monitor on the finished post shows all of them gradually changing from bluish-goldish to blue-black as they ascend. It's freaky.

Edit to add on 02/28 - they now all look blue and black to me, all the time.

Edit to add on 4/12/17 - Science has apparently come to the same conclusion as I did. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Smashing Time (movie, 1967) review

Smashing Time is a 1967/early 1968 movie about Swinging London starring Rita Tushingham (who kind of personifies Swinging London) and Lynn Redgrave.

I'd heard of it because it was said to feature the quintessential psychedelic band, Tomorrow, under the nom de film of The Snarks. Oddly, it sort of does and yet it doesn't. It's available in full on YouTube at the link below.

It's a Babes in the Woods movie, featuring literal babes (though they were chicks, of course, in those days) out of their natural element and abroad in London, having taken a train down from Unspecifiedsville in the North of England. Since the characters' names and some of the place names are taken from Alice in Wonderland, it's likely that they were intended to be down the rabbit hole more than lost in the metaphorical woods.  Brenda is a shy, clever girl and Yvonne is a big, brassy woman who treats her mousy sidekick like dirt. Their savings are stolen on the first day, and Brenda has to wash dishes to pay for their breakfast. The gig leads to a massive, prolonged ketchup, soap, liquid manure and various-pigments-in-restaurant-squirty-bottles fight, after which she's sacked. Yvonne gets a job as a club hostess, and is taken home by Ian Carmichael playing to type as a caddish drunk toff. Brenda, who was working at the club in a cat costume ("just a pussy" as she puts it) sabotages his "pad" so he's unable to complete the seduction, and the scene ends in ceiling-collapsing, out-of-control-bubble-bath and laxative-laced brandy slapstick, after which both are fired.

Yvonne gets a job dressing as an 18th century lady of loose morals and dispensing whipped cream in a hip cream pie shop. Unsurprisingly, this engagement ends in a massive cream pie fight and Yvonne loses the job. Brenda gets a job in a trendy boutique called Too Much (get it?), annoys the titled toff owner by actually charging for the items instead of just serving her Hooray Henry and Sloane Ranger friends whatever they want. ("If one insists one's pals buy something every time they visit, one's pals simply won't come any more.") She loses the job when her ladyship goes to Greece on a whim, having tired of the trendy London scene.

Yvonne has been caught on camera by a hotshot photographer (Michael York doing a great David Bailey parody) and publicized as a sort of anti-IT Girl who gets fashion wrong. But when he meets Brenda, the photographer falls for her, setting up discord between the two. Yvonne wins ten thousand pounds on the You Can't Help Laughing TV program and uses it to buy stardom from an A&R Man, played by Jeremy Lloyd as yet another toff on the fashion scene. She records a hit single and becomes so snobby even the worm Brenda turns and leaves her for the photographer, who assists her ascent to Supermodel status a la Twiggy.

Yvonne's stardom isn't enough for her so she plans the biggest party ever in the rotating restaurant atop the Post Office Tower. Everybody who is anybody comes to the party, but it falls apart in a relatively paint-splash-free slapstick scene following which Brenda and Yvonne rekindle their friendship, find their return ticket and head back Oop t'North where they belong.

This would be a relatively typical cash-in on Carnaby Street fashions for its time (but with added interminable slapstick) except for one thing. It's written by George Melly (for it is he*). Melly, a lifelong denizen of Swinging London, before, during and after the actual swinging took place, has a keen eye for hypocrisy and cynicism among the movers and shakers. And he did, after all, write Revolt Into Style, one of the must-have books on the 20th Century Youth Phenomenon.

I don't know how much of the incisive criticism of psychedelia and pop art fashion came from director Desmond Davis and how much from Melly, but I'd estimate the majority came from the latter. Some touches are so acerbic they don't belong in the same universe as a cream pie fight.

The TV program You Can't Help Laughing is based on Candid Camera (Punk'd for old folks). In this episode the host is demolishing people's houses while they are out, capturing their dismay on camera, inviting them to laugh at how they've been pranked, then offering them some money. Brenda is appalled; Yvonne can't help laughing, particularly when it's her digs that's knocked down and she gets a check. The film captures the cruelty in this type of reality television very well.

When Yvonne records her pop single, the studio filled with the type of session men John Paul Jones once referred to as "pipe and slippers", her voice is weak and weedy and the instruments (including sitar and woodwind) are badly arranged and all over the place in terms of loudness. It's a disaster. Jeremy Lloyd asks if she wants to hear it. She does; he pushes the rewind button, then play: and a perfectly mixed pop record comes out of the studio speakers, showcasing her voice, which now has the maturity and strength of a sixties belter. It's still a dire record - deliberately so, I'm sure - but it's polished. Sample lyric: "I'm a fool but I'm young. I can't do a thing but I'm young. I can't sing but I'm young." It becomes a hit.

There's a short but accurate skewering of ancient TV youth-pandering program Juke Box Jury called Hi Fi Court in which the empty-headed Yvonne, herself only famous as the singer of a dreadful vacuous pop hit, witters negatively about an entrant pop song for a good sixty seconds without saying anything of note.

Other great moments include Brenda's ads for Direct Action perfume, accompanied by documentary shots of riots, the gasometer-chic of her other model shots, the dandy trolling down Grudge Street** who gets cream pie stains on his bona togs and batts, and literally shoots himself, the advice to Yvonne that "You have to spend conspicuously or you don't score", and of course, the amazing skull-bearing death robots in the art gallery near the beginning that managed to satirize everything about fashion, art, sixties, gallery owners, toffs, and pretension with only a minimal amount of spray-paint slapstick.

OK, but what about the Tomorrow, hey? The psychedelic band that had a hit with My White Bicycle and then missed spectacularly by releasing its album six months too late to catch the wave, in 1968? The one with Steve Howe of Yes in it and famous being-in-bands-person John "Twink" Alder?

It's odd. They are in it - the members crop up in several places in the movie. It looks like they were intended to be Yvonne's backing band, but presumably that scene was cut. None of their music appears in the film. A compilation of their scenes appears below.

User Karl Hughes on IMDB described this movie as not so much dated as a time capsule of a prior era, and I think that's a fair description. If you can stand about 20 minutes of pie and ketchup fights, you'll imbibe as much social commentary as you do in Godard's One Plus One; and that is a film that has too few pie fights to be a contender, in my opinion.

*"Geo. Melly, for it is he," is a Private Eye joke phrase. For that matter, in Private Eye, Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret are known as Brenda and Yvonne.

**Presumably supposed to be long-term hip Goodge Street.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Predestination (Movie 2014) review

Predestination is a 2014 film by the Spierig Brothers.

I put this on the Netflix queue a while ago and forgot why I'd done it. A couple of minutes into it, STB, who was watching this with me, pointed to a piece of paper tacked up on the scenery in the movie with a quote on it: "If at last you do succeed, never try again." "That's a Heinlein quote," he said. I suddenly remembered why this was on my Netflix list and the whole plot unrolled in front of me, clicked into place, like tumblers in a lock. In a way I was able to see my future just by knowing that one fact.

For I remembered Predestination is based on Heinlein's 1960 short story '-All You Zombies-', a tiny piece that trots efficiently through every point needed to outline the ultimate time travel loop paradox.  I'm not going to summarize '-All You Zombies-', as it would spoil every minute of the movie except the introduced sub-plot about a Big Bad, the Fizzle Bomber, no doubt added for the Hollywood-style plot reason that there has to be an enemy, or at least a MacGuffin, or people will stop watching.

'-All You Zombies-' was tight enough that people are unlikely to stop watching the basic story, but the new chase plot doesn't interfere with the inevitable rolling-up of the time travel loops - a miracle, given there's hardly room to stick a fingernail between the workable paradox used and the sea of unworkable alternates around it.

The story and the movie both center around a figure - who presents as male - who tells his bartender a story. The man's pen name is the Unmarried Mother, because he writes True Confession Stories for the magazines at 4c a word, and he reveals to the bartender that he understands the Unmarried Mother angle better than most men, because he was one once. Things only get more convoluted from there on in.

It's a talky movie, but then the story is very talky as well. The Fizzle Bomber plot allows for some blowing-shit-up and choreographed fights that weren't in the story, but the majority is still dialogue/exposition. If you're in the mood for it, this should still be gripping, because you want to hear how all this came about and how it can all be resolved. Moreover, Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook inhabit their versions of the main character so well, I really felt for them. They know they are victims of a terrible past and you know that the future is not going to be bright for either of them.

Robert A Heinlein's later stories can feel creepy when he writes these dialed-in, claustrophobic stories of personal relationships, but this very early effort manages to stay on the non-icky side as well as being extraordinarily small and systematic, like a little pocket watch humming along with the speeding mechanism visible behind its face. You can read it in full here. (Beware the passage of time - some terms that were commonplace then are not used in polite company now.)

But if you're in a movie mood, Predestination is well worth a watch instead.

Bill, The Galactic Hero (Movie 2014) review

I read Harry Harrison's anti-war science fiction novel Bill, the Galactic Hero as a kid. I was probably 13 or 14 and it was the funniest book I ever read in my life. Every paragraph had a zinger that left me giggling. It was so funny that I read it multiple times and ended up knowing huge tracts of it by heart. When I wrote fanfiction, if a planet-wide city came up  - in Star Wars, that would be Coruscant - I would write Harrison's Helior, because he was so obviously correct about how a city that covered an entire planet in buildings would work, and also because it was all so funny.

Harrison, who had written the book to satirize how awful the American army's selection and induction process and their prosecution of wars were, might even have been non-plussed at how much I enjoyed it. It's supposed to be funny but bitter. Some of the humor was adult, and over the next few years, I'd learn something dirty, link it back to something in Bill, the Galactic Hero and start laughing all over again.

Recently, Alex Cox directed a student film made by the Film Studies and Theatre & Dance Departments of the University of Colorado at Boulder. It came out late last year and is available in full free on Vimeo at this address.

Spoilers. The film follows the book exactly. I'd say 98% of the dialogue is straight from the book, and the screenwriter (Alex Cox himself) resisted the temptation to write in some Big Bad antagonist or otherwise fuck with the neat storyline of the book.

Bill (who never realized that sex was the cause of it all - forgive me, I could write out the entire book here if I don't stop myself) is a farmboy who would have been at the other end of the furrow he was plowing if not distracted by an attractive girl. Unfortunately for him, he is at the road end of the farm when the military recruitment parade comes past. He stops to gawk, is offered a (drugged) foamy one to drink, is bamboozled into trying on a uniform, and a hypno-coil in his new boot heel activates, forcing him to sign a contract. His mother, with his baby brother in her arms, catches up with him and pleads for him to be released as she needs him to look after the farm - to no avail.

Bill goes through basic training at the hands of the sadistic Deathwish Drang, but he's protected from the very worst duties by his comrade Eager Beager, who volunteers for latrine duty and the ever-present boot-polishing chores. Eventually, he's shipped out (and so is Deathwish, much to her surprise) and given a menial job on a starship. The starship is crippled in its first battle with the alien enemy, and a dazed Bill wanders into the gun room, jiggles a gun controller with moderate curiosity and is surprised when it tells him he's locked onto a target and should fire. He fires the gun; the space-shell hits its target and demoralizes the enemy fleet. An injured officer who has been watching nominates him for a space medal.

Bill travels to capital planet Helior to meet the Emperor and get his medal. He does so, but loses his copy of the plan of the gigantic city. Losing his plan is punishable by death, even assuming he can ever find his way back through the city to his debarkation point. He wanders to the lowest level, where disillusioned garbage men pick through the trash and wonder what the hell to do with it. (There's nowhere for it to go, since the entire city is built up.) He's given a job working for the sanitation engineers. In the book, Bill hits on a clever solution, but in the movie he's still wondering what to do when he's unwillingly recruited by an anarchist revolutionary and a government secret agent counter-revolutionary more or less simultaneously. He barely extricates himself from that mess when he's recognized as an AWOL soldier and court-martialed.

On the prison planet, he's expected to fight the alien enemy, the Chingers, hand to hand. (It was an especially funny day when I discovered what this harmless word in English means to my Mexican neighbors - BtGH kept on giving the laughs twenty years after I first read it.) Here he meets Eager Beager again. It turns out he was an enemy spy.

It's well known to the prisoners that the only way off planet is in a coffin, but Bill eventually finds someone who admits that the army has a shortage of replacement feet. Bill shoots his own foot off, and is airlifted to the hospital. The book and movie end with him recruiting a farmboy to the military, after which his mother runs up to him and begs him not to take him. It's his own little brother. He tells his brother to fall in, and off the new soldiers go.

It's a nice, solid 90 minutes long - the perfect length for a film, I always find - and the cinematographer is to be congratulated for getting great shots (in black and white) in some very extreme situations, from deserts (as battleground planets ) to industrial interiors (as in hundreds of storeys below the metal sheeting that coats Helior). It recasts two male superior officers as women, which works very well in the modern day (BtGH was first published in 1966). Given how much Deathwish Drang scared me in the book, it's a tribute to the director and to actor Devon Wycoff that the befanged drill sergeant was so effectively scary in the movie.

The beginning and end, the scenes at the road near Bill's farm, are animated in a bright and funny fashion. It's a shame that the rest of the movie is live, as, although it's reasonably well shot, it doesn't quite live up to the perkiness and zaniness of the cartoon.

Although I liked the movie, there's a couple of downsides that I have to mention. First, it isn't very funny. Like my synopsis above, there's something about abstracting the plot bones that leaves the laughs behind. It may be that film-student-aged people can get the humor from the dry dialogue, but I couldn't, even though I was waiting for, and hearing, every punchline. The film's anti-war message remains intact, however.

The second problem is more fundamental. Someone made the decision to have all the characters in space suits, visors down. Whether they're on a space ship, on a desert planet or at the very base level of the city of Helior, they all have masks on. This means you can't read their lips and their voices are muffled by their visors and masks. Young actors, with their tendency to mumble and as yet without well-developed body language, are a poor choice for a masquerade.

On the plus side, the theme song is by Iggy Pop, here sounding exactly like Frank Zappa.

All in all, I think there's an argument that Verhoeven made the best possible Bill, the Galactic Hero, simply by filming Heinlein's Starship Troopers in full-on Sarcasto-vision. The Alex Cox true-to-the-book version comes a close second.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks (video)

I heard this while I was having a nice gyro salad at a local eatery. Or rather I didn't hear it, until the chorus came up. I became suddenly convinced that Marc Bolan was alive, writing and singing here in 2015.

I'm a bit late to the party. It's four years old and has a hundred fifty seven million views. Not sure how that happens as I'm quite convinced that's more people than have even looked at YouTube, never mind listened to this. But that's as maybe.

Foster the People's Pumped Up Kicks. Transmitting live from Marc Bolanville.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We're doomed (probably)

From Facebook's trending column, February 16th.

I realize Facebook tailors the column to what it thinks are your preferences, but here's one from a friend of a friend:

It's not surprising that we are unable to gauge the seriousness of threats and challenges, is it? Everything's equal. Jack White's guacamole (actually, it's Lalo's guacamole), execution of 21 poor souls and the attempted destruction of free speech in Denmark.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is Science Fiction Fandom Tearing Itself Apart?

I keep seeing this question in my Facebook feed: Is Science Fiction Fandom Tearing Itself Apart?

Betteridge's Law states that the answer to a question in a headline is always "no". In this case, though, the answer is "mu".

Haha, yes, of course Science Fiction Fandom is tearing itself apart. Science Fiction Fandom has been tearing itself apart since before 1939.  (I mean seriously. If you haven't read about some of the feuds in fandom over the last seventy years, it's worth exploring. (For example)) It doesn't seem much worse for it.

The latest boondoggle - as opposed to the Breendoggle, which was serious - has been going on for a couple of years, and is about some works being kept out of the Hugo Awards. John Scalzi had something to say about that yesterday, and I'll talk about that after I've put in my two cents.

I went out last week with four friends from my former workplace, and we decided that Gravity was the best SF film in the last couple of years. At least, four of us did. One voted for Her. Four of us were pretty happy and one was a bit miffed, but in the grand scheme of things, who cares? Does it cosmically-speaking matter?

Imagine how surprised we'd be, then, if this week Breitbart were to write a column about our drinking group, saying we weren't open to other points of view and it was all a politically-minded lock-out by a self-selected elite who had established themselves as the arbiter of social mores. It would bring a "Wha?" even from the person who liked Her and was up for a bit of revenge on the group.

A few more people go to the Science Fiction Worldcon than go to Wednesday night chats with me at the bar - about 7,000 people attend a Worldcon. But not very many more. If I'm reading Box Office Mojo correctly, 3,353,700 people in the US alone paid to see Gravity.

Looking at it another way, Worldcon people (and I am one, at least on occasion) are a very small percentage of the people who consume SF. Even of those who consider themselves not just consumers, but "fans" or even "fandom", Worldcon members constitute a minuscule portion. But, they are Worldcon members, and as such, they get a vote on the Worldcon's awards, the Hugo Awards.

It's weird, therefore, to see article after blogpost after Facebook post from people demanding their chance to "take back" the Hugo from the SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) who it's claimed have appropriated it.

No one has appropriated the Hugos. The award is exactly where it's been since 1953. Everyone who supports the Worldcon (i.e. buys a supporting membership) can nominate movies, books, stories, fan sites and so forth for a Hugo, and subsequently vote in the ballot. The people who are members, vote. The people who are not members, don't vote.

There's no point anyone getting their knickers in a knot. The Hugos aren't significantly more important than my Wednesday night session in the grand scheme of things, and unlike my drinking sessions, I don't get to veto your attendance. Anybody who hands over the membership fee gets to go. It's about as freewheeling as a ballot can get. Since a few of the most frothy people attempting to "take back" the Hugo claim they regularly write best-sellers, it's a wonder they care. I wouldn't expect Suzanne Collins to stride into the bar next Wednesday night and berate me for not nominating The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as best movie - she's too busy counting her money, I'm sure.

Yet something is getting under their skin. It's a popularity contest, they say, but the books and movies that win aren't very popular. Thing is, those books and movies are very popular - with people who go to the Worldcon. And it's their vote.  But it doesn't have anything to do with sales success, the true measure of popularity. Once again, those works are popular with people who go to the Worldcon. That's all it takes. And that's all it means.

Anyway, apparently John Scalzi feels much the same about it. In You Can't Take Back What You Already Have, he details how to join a con (pay some money) and how to nominate and vote (which he explains in his inimitable sarky fashion) and goes on to say:
But to repeat: None of this contitutes “taking back” anything — it merely means you are participating in a process that was always open to you. And, I don’t know. Do you want a participation medal or something? A pat on the head? It seems to me that most of the people nominating and voting for the Hugos are doing it with a minimum of fuss. If it makes you feel important by making a big deal out of doing a thing you’ve always been able to do — and that anyone with an interest and $50 has been able to do — then shine on, you crazy diamonds. But don’t be surprised if no one else is really that impressed. Seriously: join the club, we’ve been doing this for a while now. [1]
So why do people go to Worldcon, if not to secretly plan the take over of Science Fiction?

Various reasons. Meet old friends, talk about other cons they've been to, discuss books with like-minded people, see old movies and anime in the screening rooms.  Drink. Browse the dealers' tables for comics and posters and animation cels and out of print books.  Meet authors and badger them to sign your books. Sidle up to editors and pitch something. Sing filksongs, go to the masquerade as an entrant or attendee.  Go to panels and hear your favorite authors and fans discuss science-fictiony things, and ask them questions. Learn about things like stunt archery and re-enacting. Hang out with people who've been going to Worldcons for up to fifty years and listen to them talk about what real fan feuds were like. And, of course, go the the Hugo Award ceremony. That's a couple of hours of entertainment right there.

[1] The supporting membership period is over now, so it'll cost you $210 if you join up today. Edit: No, it won't. You can still buy supporting membership for $40. Sorry about that!

Comments off because no one needs the grief.

Jack White: That Black Bat Licorice (video)

Just released, an interactive video for Black Bat Licorice.

There are three views, and you  switch between them using the B (for Bens) and 3 (for Jack White III) keys.  Quite a mysterious video to go with the mysterious lyrics. If you know what "she's built for speed like a black castrum doloris" means, please let me know.

Unfortunately, they didn't make it embeddable on old persons' media like Blogger. You can embed it on Facebook, or send it via Twitter, or Tumblr, or email it. But the embed code doesn't work here on a blog.

Interested parties will just have to press this button. 

(Hot tip: If you have a Chrome browser, download this extension and use it to download the video. Then you can watch all three at once in split screen like it was 1967 all over again!)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Jimmy Page on Jimmy Page - two 2014 interviews

I was going to post this on Jimmy Page's birthday, but...

Here are two interviews with Jimmy Page from December.

The first one is an hour-and-a-half long video interview by the Guardian based on his book, called (dramatic chords!) Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page. This has the advantage of being ninety minutes of Jimmy Page talking, and the disadvantage of taking ninety minutes out of your life to get to the end of it. I'm a big fan of transcripts myself. (A new Google that made video as searchable and indexable as text might well save all these fascinating video clips from ending up as useless bits in the giant bit bucket of history.)

The second fascinating thing about this interview is that Jimmy's book is a photo book. It doesn't have many words in it. The interviewer has selected several photos to discuss in detail. Jimmy and the interviewer point to a screen showing the photo Jimmy is talking about but the screen is rarely shown, and even when it is it's too dim to make out. This would seem to be a disadvantage, as even if you own the book (which I do) it's difficult to flip through it to find which one he's talking about. However, I prefer to think of it as an exercise in creativity. Listen to Jimmy describe something from his past you can't see, and draw what you think the picture should look like. Or select a gif or meme that matches.

On the other hand, this is the only discussion of a photo book that you can put on while you're chopping vegetables or changing the oil filter.

Second up, a fascinating interview by Chuck Klosterman in GQ Magazine. (Jimmy is one of their men of the year for 2014. No idea why - the Led Zeppelin remasters? Important to some of us but hardly world-shattering.)

Grouses of the Holy by Chuck Klosterman

The exciting part of this interview is seeing how Klosterman consistently and knowingly needles Jimmy all the way through by asking questions he's made clear he's not going to answer for literally the past fifty (50) years.  Klosterman is all upset that he got snapped at by a rock god, like a little puppy who doesn't realize why he's in the naughty corner.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Raconteurs: Steady As She Goes 2015-01-28

As I mentioned earlier, Jack White reunited The Raconteurs on stage on January 28 this year. I posted a video of Salute Your Solution then. Here is the second song they played, Steady As She Goes, courtesy of uploader A Bal.

Outstanding. Jack's getting a little hoarse, though.

Here is A Bal's video of Salute Your Solution - it's different from the one I posted before.

Here's another view of SASG, by Randy Word:


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