Amazing little animation

I’m not sure if I mentioned it on this blog yet, and perhaps I should devote some time to it, but I love animation. Most people I talk to tend to fall into one category or another, some are attracted to the cartoony elements that bring them back to their childhood, others frustratedly tell me about how animation should be used to tell serious stories. . . Me, I simply am drawn to it all. No pun intended.

Triplets of Belleville was robbed of an Oscar, by the way, as much as I loved Finding Nemo (and I did).

Often I’ll scour the internets for animated shorts, tonight I found this one.  For whatever reason, WordPress doesn’t like me to embed things from Vimeo, so do click on the link.  The clip is in HD so watch it FULL SCREEN.

Okay, now I rest.

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.


My pajamas have M&Ms on them

Well, the bottom part anyhow. The long sleeve shirt is drab, grey and boring. . . perfect for sleeping. What does this all add up to? Not a damn thing, I just felt like saying it.

It’s about 12:15 a.m., not generally a time that I should be completely exhausted, but for some reason I am. However there’s the burning desire to write yet nothing really to talk about. Well, I’m sure there is but I can’t think of it just now.

Well, to the drawing board I go. Fresh ideas will be had. Until the, boom goes the dynamite!

My “Golden Globes” picks: The short list

This is weird.  I feel like I’ve been to the movies a lot this year,  and saw some great things.  However as I read this list, I find myself either having either a) not seen it, or b) simply no desire. 

I will, however, comment on the ones I have actually seen.  It’s not my desire to reprint the entire list of nominations, so please do read along for yourself if you’re curious to know who I didn’t pick.

Best Actor: Musical or Comedy

My pick is James Franco for Pineapple Express.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his and this film seemed like such a departure from his usual.  Not only was he funny as hell, but if it’s true what he says that he doesn’t smoke pot, then this is a damn convincing performance.  He’s silly and ridiculous without falling into simple parody.

Best Supporting Actor

Now this one possibly could be out of not seeing any of the other noms but my pick is going to be Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.  If you forget about all they hype, both about Ledger’s death and his insane performance, this is a role that very much shocked me.  Like Franco, I’d not been a huge fan; I didn’t dislike him, I just felt highly indifferent.  His portrayal of the Joker REALLY changed the way I look at him and his body of work and I hope he gets recognized posthumously this awards season. 

Best Animated Feature

Seriously, they should just start calling it the Pixar award cause I’m pulling for Wall-E.  Pixar always gets a lot of credit for how good thier movies look as opposed to the cruder animation of, say, Dreamworks, but where their strength has always truly been is their strong storytelling and character work.  Clearly aimed more at the adult crowd (if you’re too young to have ever fallen in love, you probably won’t understand much of it,) Wall-E shows a side of Pixar that I haven’t seen before.

Best Original Song

This is a category I generally dislike.  Every time a movie is packaged with a single song (ie. My Heart Will Go On,) I can’t help but cringe  a bit.  Sometimes they’re good, but often they’re not.  I haven’t heard any of the other nominees so I suppose I’ll go with Wall-E – Down to Earth by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman.   I don’t have a lot to say, I liked it.  It was nice that the two artists worked together to combine Gabriel’s songwriting with elements of Newman’s score.  Kudos.

Best Television Show – Musical or Comedy


There are so many shows out there, I like a lot of them.  I only make time to follow one of them completely, and that honor goes to the good folks at Dunder Mifflin, Scranton.   The genius of this show is you can watch just about every episode on it’s own or follow the continuous storyline from the first episode onward.  By the way, how cool is Dwight this season?

Which brings me to-

Best Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical

Steve Carrell.  He’s great when he’s funny.  He’s great when he’s serious.  He’s REALLY great when his character is being serious but inadvertantly funny.  Go, Steve, go!

Anyhow, that’s all I got.  I’d like to see some more of these films so as to have more informed opinions.  Personally I’m much more fond of catching the smaller indie/foreign films when they hit theaters.  It’s not that I’m an art snob, it’s just more rare of an experience and without the screaming children! 

Though I did go to the movies last Tuesday.  Saw Repo!  The Genetic Opera.  More on that later.

Surface-effect art by Norman LeBret

Not every painting I create is a gem.  Not every rock is a gem.  Neither my paintings, nor a rock will have equal appeal to everyone.  I never know what the painting will look like until after I combine the oil, pigments and substrate.  -Norm LeBret
Not every painting I create is a gem. Not every rock is a gem. Neither my paintings, nor a rock will have equal appeal to everyone. I never know what the painting will look like until after I combine the oil, pigments and substrate. -Norm LeBret

Rather than explain what surface-effect art is, here’s the explanation given in his artist statment:

Surface-Effect art is a variation of abstract impressionism that was made famous by Jackson Pollock. The physical interaction between the artist and components of the visual art, is expressed as an incipient merging of the pigment, oil and surface. Surfaces have chemical and physical characteristics that influence how different substances interact. One example may be the static charge on the surface of glass rod, after being rubbed vigorously by a perturbed cat. Another is the weird behavior of lava lamps, where a homogeneous substance bounces and slides against little blobs of itself–the blobs are distinct from each other only by shape, size… and energy. The bulk material becomes disaggregated as it is heated from the light bulb below; rising throught the lamp, blobs separate as thermal distribution and density begin to vary within the bulk–then blobs bounce off the energy-barrier surfaces of each other. 
                                                                                                                                             Personally, I find myself fascinated with the intellectual approach to making art that has an abstract and natural beauty. I’ve had the specific process he uses explained to me a couple of times but, as an artist in my own right, I find it better to explain less. Besides, viewer interpretation is always far more interesting.  Find more of his work here.

Record shopping tips for the vinyl lover on your list.

And no, this is not my way of hinting at what I’d like for Christmas (though I never do turn down the gift of a record). This post is actually inspired for the many conversations I’ve had with people and the few gifts I’ve received.

Before we get to the what, let’s meditate briefly on the why:

The Experience

It starts with the album art. Records are pretty big, much more noticeable than cassette tapes or CDs, and as such have big cases. A person wouldn’t want to put shoddy art on a case that big so the result was decades of outstanding album art (go ahead, look at the cases for the lion’s share of new CDs and tell me how great the art is). It’s a gateway into the sonic world the artist wishes to create for us and, to me, this is a very important first step.

Second, without getting too much into the why, records actually do sound better. And no, I’m not saying it in the way a geriatric person might scoff at new technology. I love technology, dearly. And, as a composer, working in a digital medium has been a great big huge part of my life. However, because analog sound formats don’t consolidate the sound waves into ones and zeroes, records have a fuller warmer sound.

Third, and to me the most important, is the linear experience. Today people have the option to buy their music a song at a time. As such, you don’t see many of the unique structural elements such as bizarre instrumental tracks or experimental little things that made an album into a journey as opposed to 10-20 songs all lined up. It’s like watching a movie; You wouldn’t want to chop one of those up into little pieces and watch them out of order, would you?

Some Don’ts

Let me just start with Peter Frampton. There’s a joke in Wayne’s World 2 where Cassandra buys Wayne some records, one of which is Frampton Comes Alive, to which he jokes, “Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide,”. This is funny because it’s not. Everyone really does have this album, I got mine at Jive Time in Fremont for 99¢. Great album, whoever you’re shopping for already has it.

For that matter, be very careful when shopping for classic rock albums. Here’s a hint, if you’re at a used record store, and certain rock artists seem to be overly available on the shelf, chances are your vinyl lover has already taken advantage of this fact.

Avoid compilations. “Best of” albums are alright, but they rob a person of the linear experience. Especially be careful with classical music. Only buy classical albums if a specific work is noted (ie. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier,).

And whatever you do, don’t ever buy seasonal or novelty records. Just don’t. You might find something clever/charming/funny but it’ll likely end up collecting dust. Buy CDs if you must go this route.

Some Do’s

If the package is not sealed, do look at the record. Dusty pops are a fine part of listening to a record, it really does add to the warmth of an album, but if you see many deep scratches then chances are this record will skip. This is not an endearing quality of vinyl, it’s just a pain.

Here’s another tip, don’t be afraid do go weird. Most people collect old rock albums, but feel free to broaden some horizons. Your Pink Floyd fan might enjoy a little Philip Glass or Steve Reich. Your Yes fan might take to Bach’s fugues like a duck to water. Get creative!

Feeling lost? Try looking at the artwork. I’ll admit to having used this trick for purchasing things like wine and *gasp* books. True, it won’t work every time, but at least your vinyl lover will have something pretty to look at.

Try buying new. “What’s that,” you say? Yes, many current albums are released on vinyl and it’s amazing how many people don’t know that. A word of caution though, there are places like Fred Meyer that have a small selection of like 20 new records for amazingly high prices. Ebay is a great tool, and did you know Amazon has a vinyl store? It takes a small bit of digging to find but, hey, look who just linked to it?

If you don’t know where to get em used, here are some suggestions. Thrift stores, pawn shops, yard sales, Craig’s list, the occasional antique store, and certain larger music chains, but not the ones you’d find in shopping malls.

And most of all have fun. This is very much why I embraced this format with enough passion to write this ginormous entry (with the sweet sounds of Frampton Comes Alive serenading me in the background, and I’m not making that up). So from me to you and the vinyl lover on your list, have a very merry Christmas. May you both have sweet sweet sounds aplenty to bring you into the new year!


Passive aggressive email from the head honcho

The funny thing about this job, I’m happy with the pay I get let alone the fact that we get bonuses at the end of the year.  I’ve never had a job that offered such a thing, so you’d not hear me whining if one didn’t happen.  I’m not exactly sure what conversation led to this. . . but I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read between the lines in this email.

The Executive Committee decided on behalf of the partnership to pay the staff holiday bonuses this year as we have in the past, notwithstanding the current and projected economic difficulties of the country, and that this has not been a particularly good year for businesses, including the firm.  The bonuses should be paid by the end of next week.

 There are daily reports of job eliminations, closings and bankruptcies.  Our clients are not immune to that economic decline, and therefore neither are we.  The firm’s top priority for next year will of necessity be to partner with our clients to help them through this difficult period.  No one is projecting that 2009 will be appreciably better.  We appreciate the work you do for the firm each day, and are confident that you will do your utmost to help the firm succeed during the coming year.

It’s a bit like telling the wait staff at a restaurant, “We’ll tip you like we always do, but you should know that alot of jobs out there don’t include tips,” yes?

Ugh, that Nightmare 4 review is coming. . . but it’ll be a while. Here’s why.

I don’t know why, I used to think it was one of my favorites but I’m finding myself able to watch about 15 minutes at a time.  It’s not like it’s so bad I can’t watch, but I get bored and restless QUICK when it comes to this one for some reason.

I did make it all the way through The Strangers though.  It wasn’t bad.

Actually, if they did a little something about those two main characters I’d’ve thought it was pretty damn good.

I mean, here’s a horror movie that takes most of the mistakes that horror movies make (too quick of editing, reliance on jump scares, some sort of explanation to justify the horrific events taking place), and does the exact opposite.  Also it had a fantastic soundtrack, especially Joanna Newsom.  I’d never heard her music before but it’s the kind of sound that makes you feel warm inside while simultaneously sending a creeping sensation up your spine.  I mean that as a compliment, by the way.

I love the moment in the film when there’s a heavy pounding at the door accompanied by the lyric: should we go outside?  should we go out. . . side. . .

Okay, until next time.


A Nightmare on Elm Street in retrospect, part 3: The Dream Warriors

Okay, so how many weeks has it been since I reviewed one of these bad boys?  Amazing what doesn’t get accomplished when one is sapped of their energy.  Though mostly it’s been of the good kind, so yay for that!

Okay, on to the review:

So after the terrible sting that was Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Freddy’s back to reclaim his dignity.  The nightmares have started again.  A handful of Elm Street children are locked up in a mental hospital for dream related problems.  Returning to the story is Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp,) who helps the group of children band together to fight back against Freddy rather than play helpless victims.

Watching these films growing up, this one was always my favorite.  It was a rare horror film where you could root for the bad guy AND the good guys.  Now that I’m older, though, a lot of the dialogue given to the teen seems corny as hell, but I found it to be sort of endearing, like looking at dorky pictures in a family album.  Freddy is still pretty edgy, but this is the film where you can see the prankster side of his character.

I’m not a terribly huge fan of b plots (or side stories) in horror films, but this one had a nice bit about Nancy’s estrangement with her father who takes on his own mini-story in the film.  The fact that his story builds up to a fight with a Harryhausenesque skeleton doesn’t hurt either.

Oh, and the nightmares are very cool.   I’m not going to list them all, but simply mention that my favorite kill has to be the kid who makes puppets getting controlled via puppet strings (that are his tendons).   I love Freddy’s sense of irony.

This is certainly not as perfect a film as I remember it being, but I don’t feel compelled to make a list of nitpicks as for the first time there’s a film that leaves me feeling more or less satisfied.  The problems don’t stick (or if I did have any problems with the film, I certainly don’t remember them two weeks later).

So these will all be reviewed eventually, but they’ll likely be spaced out as a) finding time to watch these films seems to be exhausting, and b) there are certainly plenty of other things I want to be writing about.


Breaking through my spam filter earns you a plug

My favorite, the Hanging Bubble Chair, on clearance at $895 (marked down from $3,500).

My favorite, the Hanging Bubble Chair, on clearance at $895 (marked down from $3,500).

Imagine my delight this morning when I received an email asking me to comment on this gentleman’s website, Regency Shop, for reasons that I am clearly a connoisseur of modern design/home decor.  He knows me so well.

So if you’re into handsome furniture at affordable prices, give them a look see.  I’m sure you’ll find just the thing to fit your ultra-modern lifestyle.

On a different note I have not forgotten about the Nightmare reviews, I just simply didn’t anticipate that the 3rd film would not be available right away (after procrastinating for too long to begin with).   Apparently it should reach me today in which case do look for a review sometime very late tonight.

Now go buy some furniture.


POLL: Which “Nightmare on Elm Street” film is your fave?

So due to laziness (too lazy to watch television, go figure,) my original plans to have a review-a-day for the Nightmare series will not be happening. Sure, I’m going to do them all. . . but realistically I’ll be lucky to have gotten through the first 6 by Halloween. To keep y’all busy, here’s a poll:

Let me know what you think!