Category Archives: opinion

Octopodes’ Pie

The non-repro blue pencils & inked lettering of a panel of an octopus as it navigates landmarks while swimming through its underwater neighbourhood.

The Navigating Octopus, from ‘The Post-Vegetarian Omnivore,’ by Wm Brian MacLean

It is a Herculean Heraclean effort not to correct grammar…

…or at least not do it too much.  I’m a stickler for some words & phrases. ‘Regardless’ (not irregardless), ‘cut the muster’ (not mustard) & ‘couldn’t care less’ (not could) come to mind. An acquaintance called me elitist for my now-antiquated insistence on ‘an historic.’ Le sigh.

I drew this octopus with nine tentacles, so one needed to go. #5 has been outlined by an artist's knife, & a layer of Bristol board is about to be peeled away.

Tentacle Strangulation, pre-edit

I have a new one, which is in scant common usage. Sure, it has faded into obscurity…

…but that didn’t stop me from recently correcting someone before I could stop myself. (Sometimes when I try, I fail.)

I like ‘octopodes.’ B/c it’s right, dammit! And ‘octopi’ is really, really wrong.

The suckers of an attacking octopus, drawn in non-repro blue pencil.

Perfectly round octopus suckers are for suckers.

So, if you can suffer an Anglophone to say ‘octopi’ when they really mean ‘octopuses’ (or better yet ‘octopodes’), you can suffer this cartoonist a few tentacle suckers that aren’t perfectly circular. Also, I’m glad I don’t remember my dreams any more; they’d certainly be filled with snapping cephalopod beaks & blood.

Did I mention I was working on a horror story? (It was accepted! YAY!)

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A Quartet of Body Snatchers

Jack Finney Invasion of the Body SnatchersInvasion of the Body Snatchers… is it an institution at this point, destined to be remade, its context & allegory respun, till the end of time? I just finished a private Body Snatcher’s film festival–my living room is a great place to serve drinks to myself.

I may have some perhaps unoriginal thoughts about them, but no one I know thinks Sutherland & Nimoy were in an LGBT film.

1956

mccarthy 1956

The brilliant…

The original version, seen in my early 20s, was one of the films to help me appreciate black & white. Ah, nostalgia. Despite creator resistance to the idea (Siegel et al merely sought to entertain), its reputation is as an anti-communist piece, & I agree. Lo-fi sci-fi at its best.

1978

cartwright 1978

…the exceedingly brilliant…

A lot of people love this remake. I tried to watch it on TV many times (remember regular cable?), but it’s deliberate pace is unwatchable with commercial breaks. On DVD, I agree with those who consider it a classic.

That said, I can’t help but view Veronica Cartwright’s anti-pollution/processed food rant as shoehorned in. I don’t know whether it’s the dialogue or the melodrama, but it doesn’t fit the rest of the film. Was it a heavy-handed effort to live up to the 1956 version’s reputation by giving it a ‘message’? If so, it’s the wrong one.

This remake is a gay film. Cartwright’s character:

I’ve been wandering among them for hours. They can be fooled… Hide your feelings.

In other words: hide in plain sight. Conform; never give a hint of your true self, or risk being outed. And that’s exactly the fate Cartwright’s character suffers when she trusts blindly.

1993

whitaker 1993

…the lame…

Not terrible, which is about the worst thing you can say about a film; Wayne Campbell would give Body Snatchers two stars (I’m sorry I can’t find a clip of Myers explaining the starred movie review system).

Shot with an aspect ratio that made someone so unhappy that they ordered the top & bottom of the picture removed (its wide panoramas sport chronically lopped-off heads, & a sense of claustrophobia that doesn’t serve the experience), it’s almost redeemed by a wonderfully creepy turn by Meg Tilly. But then there’s the desperation of stunt-casting Tilly’s sister Jennifer as her body double (the movie needs all the help it can get), & the ‘rightful’ murder–by the hero–of a 5-yo boy.

As with the 1978 version, this movie is mischaracterised – this is not an anti-military or anti-conformity film. I mean, it tries to be that, but it isn’t. It’s actually about the dissolution of the family unit; the first pod-turnee was the step-mom, & our teen hero was eventually betrayed by every member of her family (in addition to being rebellious, carousing & misunderstood).

Its tragic flaw is the ending. As in the 1956 version, we nipped the pods’ spread in the bud (no pun intended, & this time with huge explosions). “Whew,” right? Nope. They gave the pod people what-for, the narration & visuals imply having done so with fear-inspired righteous fury, yet the film concludes with Meg Tilly’s pitch-shifted voice warning that there was nowhere to hide, that no humans were left. Make up your mind much?

Ugh. It could have been so much better.

2007

kidman 2007

…and the tragic.

Post-modernism is in full force here, leveraging the fear of vaccines (sigh), America-centric government cover-ups (grr), & the use of a psychiatrist as the lead (Nicole Kidman), rather than a tool for exposition. The Invasion is the first ‘snatchers’ remake to use person-versus-themself as the major conflict.

It’s an exciting & engaging watch, but flawed. The initial spread of the alien spores was given too little attention in its rush to follow the psychiatrist’s personal story. Her estranged husband’s infection–when he clearly knew better–was idiotic, as was the idea that a little boy, from an awkward angle, could give an adrenaline shot to the heart.

I know, I know – it’s fiction. But that’s no excuse for the ridiculousness of developing a cure for an indestructible alien infection–inside a year, no less–when native ailments like AIDS have kicked our collective ass for decades.

Film aside, there was a time when Kidman was great. When will actors learn that a lack of facial mobility hinders their art? Besides, you’ve earned the lines on your face. They become you. Let them work for you.

I think it’s time to hit the library & read Jack Finney’s book.

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Mashup Culture

This is a concept described in Jonah Leher’s (now-shamed) Imagine, that creativity is essentially a function of the brain when it takes two or more previously encountered ideas & recombines them into something unique.

Nowhere is that more obvious than when money’s on the line, in the commercial arts. Familiar recombinations saturate popular music. I have an example from television (which certainly are not the first examples of these traits).

First, here’s the opening credits to The Sopranos. Notice specifically the second verse after 1:03 where Tony’s driving through residential Jersey (itself a recent iteration of a classic).

Then notice the washed out effects, ‘gritty’ font, & overlapping & jittery visuals (starting roughly at the 1st chorus) of True Blood’s opening credits.

They’re combine into the visual style of Justified’s intro (sorry, this is the only clip YouTube has; it has the correct images, but a replaced soundtrack… with a bit of cussing, so be warned).

To quote Elton John (quoting perhaps TS Elliot or Pablo Picasso) when complimenting(?) Prince:

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

I read that in People back in the 90s, so it’s _gotta_ be true.

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The Practical Joke that Wasn’t

Practical Joke by naolito on deviantArt

Practical Joke by naolito on deviantArt

Practical ‘jokes.’

I’ve often wondered when a practical joker would pick the wrong victim & get killed. The worst I’ve seen thus far is an unintentional punch in the face (youtube).

I should qualify that as ‘deaths that were framed as practical jokes.’ There are plenty of people in the world without a strong sense of self, or with oversensitive egos, who react badly to being shamed or otherwise played for a fool.

As practical jokers retaliate for pranks played on them, do revenge shootings, or revenge infidelities with a lover’s BF, parent or sibling, qualify as extreme forms of the practical joke?

Those who champion the Darwin Awards as a serious idea (I’ve met some) should enjoy this result or be considered hypocrites. Every action has a reaction equal to that which preceded it. For most, the reaction is a steeling of the mind & adjusting one’s worldview against another, similar incursion.

Not so for Jacintha Saldanha, whose suicide is not entirely unexpected to anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the worst results of psychological abuse. She was not a teen, but age is neither an indicator of wisdom, nor grace, nor emotional fortitude.

Trusting people have a weakness in a devious world (PDF); to bully or otherwise take advantage of the weak is an ethical crime.

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The Only Sex Crime

 

This sex crime is that paid sex is a crime.

I’ve paid for sex: see this gray hair? That’s my receipt for paying time & heartache. In that way, we all pay.

Do you have too much self-respect to ever have a partner who wouldn’t spent his or her hard-earned money on you?

Ever held out your hand to your Significant Other & said “I need X dollars to pay Y bill”?

Ever sat up after a post-coital cuddle, collect a stack of $20s from the bedside table, thank him or her & ask for a call the next time they’re in town?

What’s the difference? Answer: semantics.

(For the record, anything in the realm of ‘forced sex’ isn’t a ‘sex’ crime; there’s nothing ‘sex’ about it. That’s a crime of violence &/or personal impotence expressed as profane intimacy, a heresy against an individual’s rights & freedom.)

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The Innocence of Religious Riot Victims

Redacted

Redacted

“We don’t think that depictions of the prophets are freedom of expression; we think it is an offense against our rights.” ~ Ismail Mohamed, a religious scholar in Egypt, as per NYT

Bullshit – your religious rights end where begins my right to live without a second thought to your religion.

But the linked NYT article has insight into the Middle East’s riotous reaction to ‘that video‘ (The Innocence of Muslims). Apparently, it’s widely believed in the Muslim world that Holocaust denial is illegal in America. In that light, their outrage is understandable (though not the level of violence). They are genuinely confused & angered that an insult to Mohammed stands while the questioning of an historical event does not.

Sound familiar? They’re as ignorant of us as we are of them. In this case, they’re confusing America with Germany.

They’re also confusing their contrived legends with rational human behaviour (although many of us do the same).

An acquaintance holds the opinion that, despite freedom of expression, “there is no wisdom in mindlessly offending people.” That, & “no one is going to be enlightened by this film.” There’s wisdom in both statements, but that doesn’t mean they always apply, or even that they’re always true.

Duty

I think that, when there are uptight people who are so insecure in their thoughts & opinions that they must take the heads of anyone who disagrees with them, I would say that there is duty to offend. People need to face their fear of nonconformity & get over their sinfully selfish desires.

Mindlessness

I also wouldn’t call the film mindless offence, but mindful offence; the deception of the actors was too deliberate & elaborate to be anything but. Salman Rushdie has his opinion – “outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting” – but that also describes Hostel, which was all of those things, but also fine, emotive storytelling.

Art as a Tool for Enlightenment

Whether art or empty entertainment, there is plenty of work in the world that shocks rather than enlightens. Remember, Uwe Boll has a career.

All I can really say is that some people want to eat baby cows that have never seen the light of day, some want to penetrate willing sphincters, & some want to mock deities & their flocks (*ahem* speaking of ‘mindless’). This is all allowed in a free society.

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A Place for the Gaudy in Design

My Kind of Compliment Sandwich

My Kind of Compliment Sandwich

Self-aware preamble: As a backhanded compliment to a respected peer & ‘good acquaintance’ (less than ‘movies & beers’–my definition of ‘friend’–but better than just ‘I know the guy’), I might not be using the compliment sandwich. End preamble.

The tour is coming up, & we’re preparing the signage. Honestly, it’s garish, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. When he first asked my opinion, Mike reminded me of me & my insecurities. It was surreal & unexpected, as his eye is well-refined & I dig his taste. I eventually said

Is it enough to say it’s not ugly?

And we laughed.

Then a client of his arrived; I went for a coffee & reflected on it. I had no opinion that didn’t include the recommendation: start over (it went unvocalized). The design is extremely divergent from what I think looks good, from colour to font (also, I don’t envy the challenge of the atypical banner shape). But as I stood & looked out his studio’s front window onto the main street & sipped on a cream-deficient coffee, I realized Mike’s sign was perfect.

SGAA Brochure

SGAA Brochure (PDF)

My sense of taste worked for the brochure (PDF); organic, colourful, unified, balanced – but that sensibility would be unremarkable & ill-advised as street signage for a one-weekend affair. There aren’t 20 views for the public to get used to its presence. And I’m not brave enough to make something that jars the eye to this extent.

Example: the bright, sky-emulating cyan that caps the vertical banner doesn’t appear on Elmvale’s main drag. Remember the bright blue women were wearing in the early aughts? That blue. As fashion, it’s over. I never would have considered it. Yet it stands out & I expect it will be effective, & I said as much before leaving.

The Original Compliment Sandwich

The Original Compliment Sandwich

It’s brilliant in a way, & completely counter to what I feel is Mike’s natural, intuitive sense.

Whether tasteful design or airs toward sophistication, it depends on context. What do you do to stand out?

*sigh* All advertising is noise. Some places have laws limiting it, & some noise is more valuable than others (literal case in point). I remember Barrie had a problem for a short time with single, small, bright, pulsating-every-two-seconds purple/near ultraviolet lights perched atop portable signs (counter to By-law number 2005-093, Section 11.1.1.0.0 – PDF). They were impossibly intense even in the daytime, &, as a driver, I was relieved at their discontinuation.

When the landscape, urban or otherwise, lacks uniformity, the tasteful is easily lost. Conversely, when everything is cacophonous, minimalism stands out. Take the way our brains filter information: is it law of nature, or LOL of nature?

Elmvale business signage has covered a range of design – utilitarian B+W block letters w/red detail, minimalist Helveticaesque text, script fonts that attempt classiness, as well as some very well-designed logos & genre-specific, easily identifiable store frontage (such as the smart branding of the local bar as an Irish pub – but, oh, those poor greens on the website).

One more point that I can’t resist about the banner: the floor of earthy-ish orange-brown that isn’t Pantone 448C, but reminds me of it, is as appropriate–& therefore perfect–as anything else.

I’d say it’s a great piece of advert.

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