Friday, October 31, 2008

"Klaatu barada nikto."

A youTube pal in Australia wrote to me: "Even in Australia, we are looking forward to you guys getting this Election over and done. In Australia we manage to do the whole thing in about 6-8 weeks, much less painful."

I'd settle for 6-8 months, even. But in the homestretch here, I did like this Halloween Obama ad with the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

It's not a perfect ad, however, as this robot, Gort, is actually telling the truth In the movie. (I guess the vidders are counting on viewers not having seen the movie.)
The robot warns Earth to give up our warlike ways or be destroyed for the good of the universe. Only the phrase, "Klaatu barada nikto" can stop Gort from destroying Earth if humans don't agree to put down their weapons.
Perhaps we should all start chanting this...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lobster Bites

"We've got a date with destiny,
...and it looks like she ordered the lobster!"

--William Macy (far left), in Mystery Men (USA, 1999) *

That's pretty much how I feel today.
See, turns out my '04 computer processor is not really up to running iMovie '06. Or not at full speed anyway.
This bites like a lobster. As it were.

I feel both anxious and depressed, while at the same time I'm elated that I'm unhappy due to something I really *want* to do causing me problems.
You know?
If you're unhappy doing something you love, then you're lucky. Right? After all, think of all the things we do not love that we could be unhappy doing.

Sort of like William Macy maybe felt? when he clocked himself in the forehead with his shovel while he practiced twirling it around for his role as The Shoveller. (I always watch the Special Features.)

Bink offered the comforting words today that I was "the most talented obscure person" she knows.
That's a direct quote.

As Paul Reubens' character says of some mumbo-jumbo another character spouts, it must be cosmic because it's so cool, it "borders on ...confusing."
* Now I know Ben Stiller is a Trekkie (not "Trekker," he says, and I agree), I have to watch all of his movies all over again--except the ones I didn't like, of course, like Reality Bites--starting with this very excellent one, about loser superheroes with nonexistent powers. Stiller's the one in the center, above, and that's Hank Azaria on the right.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If....; Fashion in Film

When I first watched If.... (UK, 1968, dir. Lindsay Anderson), in my twenties, it made no sense to me at all, lacking as I did, like most Americans, any historical context-- (Rhodesia? huh?)--much less any anthropological grasp of the British class system as cultivated in public schools (i.e. private, the name alone is enough to throw off most Americans--worse than cricket, these institutions are to understand).

I only decided to watch it again recently because I'd seen its star Malcolm McDowell speak at the Las Vegas '08 Star Trek con. He pulsed with intensity that made me want to watch him on screen.

And this time I got it. Oh! I thought, right, how interesting:
It's a lesson in the making of terrorists, or revolutionaries if you prefer. In a British boarding school.

The school mixes repression and rewards to instill the values of empire (the usual god & country, buggery & boiled beef, starched matron & sadism, etc.), though the empire is all but gone;
but some boys, led by McDowell's smoldering Mick Travis, plaster their walls with collages of worldwide revolutionaries--the familiar Che, Mao--and an African guerrilla Mick deems "fantastic... fantastic."

At the end, having suffered cruel humiliation, Mick and his friends end up heavily armed on the roof of the school, blasting away at the bishop, headmaster, visiting parents, and good people of the town.

I suppose you could see it as an advertisement for violent revolution, but I don't. Mick is not going to create anything alternative, any more than the school shooters of recent years in the USA have. He is simply registering his rage, going out in a blaze of glory, taking as many of his tormentors with him as he can.

I read the movie the way C.S. Lewis reads the violent psalms, the ones in which the psalmist prays to God to smash the skulls of his enemies' babies against rocks:
as warnings.
This is how people react to being humiliated, unjustly punished (like the savage beating the prefects dish out, left, to Mick), and made to feel powerless--if they get a chance.
So watch out, if you are the person, or the regime, that employ those tools of control.

I was telling someone about this movie the other day, and she said she had recently seen a men's swank fashion catalog that referenced If.....
I was shocked. It seemed so weird to me, like drawing on Battle of Algiers for a clothing line.

But then I thought, well, Lindsay Anderson certainly had an eye for male beauty--(he was no-hope in love with McDowell)--and there's a lyrical scene in which the pretty young blond boy watches an older boy perform a gymnastic routine. All that supressed desire...
So maybe he'd approve?
It's true that the clothes are scrumptious--if you don't think about what they must have actually smelled like.
The boys wear uniforms reminiscent of the Edwardian era (I did find out that much), and as far as they're able, they certainly preen themselves. The swagger-stick carrying prefects, called whips in the film, are peacock-like in their colorful silk waistcoats.

In the film's commentary, McDowell even comments on some of the clothes he wore--wishing he'd been able to keep the coat he first appears in (right), for instance. It was someone's father's WWII de-mob coat, he said. He also admires the worn-leather bomber jacket he wears on the roof at the end.

I didn't find anything online (yet) about If's costumes, but I did come across The 2nd Fashion in Film Festival: “If Looks Could Kill: Cinema’s Images of Fashion, Crime and Violence".

And looky there, from that festival: Ivor Novello (left) in The Lodger (UK, 1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) dresses just like Mick. Or the other way round.

Funny, I had just added that film to my Netflix queue, as a follow up to Peeping Tom.

The film festival was in London this past May.
The films are being shown at Bristol's Arnolfini Arts Centre the last weekend in November, not that that does me any good.

I am going to get some of the movies on DVD anyway.
I'd never heard of the Italian sci-fi, pop-mod film The Tenth Victim (1965), starring Marcello Mastrioanni and Ursula Andress (right). It's about a future world in which murder hunts are legalized games.

I have a weakness for costumes made of tin foil, and I must see more of this bikini.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update I need Apple iLife (iMovie) '06

Never mind. Bink said--"go to the Apple store and ask them to download the 06 software for free."

Right, uh-huh, like that would work.

Guess what?
It did.
The nice guy at the Apple store just gave me the old software I need to download my film so now I can start editing!

What I wrote this morning:

Before I launch myself on the hitherto uncharted-by-me seas of e-Bay, I thought I'd ask around:

Does anyone have their old DVD of iLife '06 to lend/sell/give me?
In exchange, to start, I would give you a rubber tree and "associate producer" credit on my film. *

See, turns out the software on my "old" (2004) iBook computer won't recognize my camera. But the computer is too old to load the new software iLife '08. So I need iLife '06. (I checked with the computer geniuses yesterday.)
Apple only sells the latest software, and used copies on Amazon start at $99 + $10 shipping, which is truly piracy, as the new iLife '08 is only $69.

* This is a joke from David Mamet's State and Main, in which someone informs the innocent scriptwriter that "associate producer" credit is handed out like candy.

FRI, NOV. 7, 2008: "Obama's Loss Traced to [your name here]"

Have you seen these political ads? Bink kindly (?) put me (my legal name, which I rarely use) in this funny, cleverly made video, blaming a single nonvoter--me!--for Obama's loss. co-sponsors these political ads. You can add names of whomever you like here.

The Love of Looking

This is Carl Boehm (left) as Martin Lewis, in Peeping Tom (live link to original, cheesy 1959 preview), directed by Michael Powell, half of The Archers.
It's "terrific" in all senses of the word--both awesome and terror-making (though visually mild by today's standards). One of the most interesting movies about movies I've ever seen.

Martin is a young cameraman whose father tormented him on film. In a somewhat simplistic Freudian turn (popular in the era? reminiscent, anyway, of Hitchcock's 1945 Spellbound), Martin developed a sexually psychotic form of scopophilia, the "love of looking," or voyeurism, that drives him to capture the fear of others on film.
He films women as he kills them with a blade hidden in a leg of his tripod.

"Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is?" he asks. "It's fear."
To amplify his victims' fear, he has mounted a mirror on his camera, so the women see their own terror reflected back at them.

The critical reception of the movie when it came out was so hostile, the distributor pulled the film from circulation. Powell later said the reaction contributed to the demise of his career.

Peeping Tom is no more graphic than Hitchcock's Psycho, which came out three months later; but it hits closer to home for film -critics/-makers/-viewers, as it's all about the fine line between looking and ... breaking and entering.
(Something Twisted Rib brought up recently: when is it OK to take and use pictures of people without their permission?)

Peeping Tom is not at all graphic--there's not even any blood when Martin stabs his victims in the neck--but it can still shock. Helen, the young woman Martin is sweetly and innocently falling in love with kisses him lightly on the mouth, probably the first time he's been kissed, you suspect. When the Helen leaves, Martin gently presses the lens of the camera to his lips.
It's weirdly startling and erotic.
As is the scene when he strokes his camera (pictured here) as Helen talks to him.

Part of the fascination of watching the film is that you're watching a movie about how watching movies can border on perversion, and it's made by filmmakers who are, presumably, also film watchers.
Definitely the sort of movie you could write a PhD dissertation on.

Further, Martin is presented so sympathetically, I found myself having to remind myself there was no way this film was going to have a happy ending.

This is a curious movie that raises the question about what our modern technology does to us, psychologically, in allowing us to extend our powers so very far beyond our own bodies.

To feed my own love of looking, I've added a bunch of Hitchcock's early British films (The Lodger, et al.) on my Netflix queue. Oh, and some of the early German films that influenced Powell, like M, which I haven't seen in years.

Monday, October 27, 2008


From the Shatner Hasselfhof '08 campaign, whose slogan is "From Yesterday's Tomorrow, for a Better Today!"

Who in the world is David Hasselhoff? He's the star of Knight Rider, if that tells you anything... It didn't me, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. The show (1982-1986) featured a modern-day knight who drove a car with artificial intelligence. Its creator said it was "Kind of a sci-fi thing, with the soul of a western."

Hmmm.... A car with AI sounds smarter than some of our politicians...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Fly Dreams of Dance

This is the Fly's sometimes-office, where s/he cuts pictures of Fred Astaire out of library books...

...and re-faces them.

Bink is actually working on a Fly-Astaire animation to be part of the movie, a la her recent knitting Daleks flip-book animation.

Preparing Hermes

Here Bink, in partial Fly attire, wraps Erica's hands in tin foil and duct tape.

I'm so used to working alone, it's a huge treat to let other people help. I have no budget or facility for costumes, for instance, so I'm relying on people to create their own. And they do!
Erica even went out and bought slinky silver pants for her character.

Bink is attaching Hermes' ankle wings.

I refer to this project as "my" movie, and it is, insofar as it was my idea and I'm the engine behind it;
but when I get my Oscar, I'm going to be one of those people who thank a HUGE list of people, because I have never created something so dependent on the talents and good will of others.

I'm like, Hey! This "asking for help" thing is a cool deal!
Of course, it's not free:
I feel I'd really better have something to show in exchange for asking Erica to stand in the icy freezing wind holding peacock feathers, dressed in tin foil.

Dog Wings

Joop models the Hermes (Mercury) head wings for Orestes and the Fly.

And at first is impervious to the foot wings...

Until Bink started walking around in them.

I'm a bit worried about today's (Sunday's) shoot. Not only is it 41 degrees outside, it's very windy. Bink said the forecast had even mentioned snow.
I've moved what I can inside, but Hermes (Erica) will have to bike outside in her wings, and I'm just hoping the wind won't blow them off....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ben Stiller and the Gorn

Place: Back row, the local $2.50 movie theater
Time: 7:40 p.m., last night
Present: Me, Maura, Bink
Movie: Tropic Thunder (2008)
Movie Setting: exterior, Vietnam, jungle, rainy night
Character: washed-up actor Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller)

Action: Speedman/Stiller, lost in the jungle, is looking at his cell phone.
Over his shoulder, we see he is watching Star Trek: the scene from the episode "Arena" where Capt. Kirk is fighting the Gorn captain.
(Yup, this very scene to the left, where the Gorn grabs Kirk's leg.)

Result: All three of us screamed at once. Several people in the crowded but otherwise silent theater turned around.

I always liked Ben Stiller. Now I know why:
"Ben Stiller on the Star Trek's 30th Anniversary Special, 1996"

I have often *almost* sprayed coffee on my computer. When Ben Stiller sings the Hippie Adam's song from "The Way to Eden" (right, Manfred's favorite I believe), well... that was the first time I actually had to wipe the screen down.

Following up links to stiller-puts-some-star-trek-into-tropic-thunder, I read that Stiller owns the original Gorn head.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Bink's 18-second animation: "Dr. Who Daleks ExtermiKnit!"
"Inspired by Extermiknit's wonderful knitted Daleks."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

100 - 92 Things About Me (The "me, me, me!" meme)

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of a huge parking lot in the middle of some suburb where the city bus don't shine, (waiting for a friend at the doctor's), and the women next to me are talking about their Pilates class.
This seems a good time to launch into a meme.

I love making (and reading) lists, so I tend to like memes. Recently I came across the "One Hundred Things About Me" meme ( made up the "me, me me meme" title, but that's about it, eh?), which seems like a weird and a bit difficult one... so it attracts me.
I'm just going to jump in and start here. I'll see how far I get before my friend comes to pick me up and go do errands.

1. Once out of childhood, so far I've never had a serious injury or illness.

2. Firmly Held Belief: Martinis consist of gin and vermouth. Vodka is an acceptable substitute. Anything else is a mixed drink, not a martini, no matter what glass you put it in.

3. I often push the automatic- door-opener buttons, designed for handicap access, though I have no handicap. They seem like a magic gift.

4. Houseplants like me.

5. Do you want a rubber tree? A friend gave me one little rubber tree clipping a few years ago, and now I have a rubber plantation and am always trying to give some trees away.

6. My apartment is about 800 square feet. Which is to say, a bit small for rubber trees.

7. So far as I know, I'm not allergic to anything.

8. A few years ago, it occurred to me I could throw out books, the way you throw out newspapers or other printed matter. Until then, I thought throwing out a book made you a Nazi.

Here comes my friend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Knitted Daleks, and Rocket Art

I followed a thread I picked up at Dark Roasted Blend: Weird and Wonderful Things, in a post called "Strange Knits and Yarn Monsters," which led me to instructions for knitting Daleks from Entropy House: "Extermaknit". Image from EH too.

(Almost cuter than my own winsome dalek, and definitely cuddlier.)

More geek knitting can be found at Kimberley Chapman, who posts instructions for crafts of all kinds, such as "How to Make an Orc Head Cake" and instructions for knitting Little Dudes, including Star Trek: TNG figures, but not, alas, Little Dudes from the Original Series.

Dark Roasted Blend also posted an Overview of Pulp Art, which led me to the Fantastic Art of Frank R. Paul, and his version of the Fly.

Rebecca'd been wondering what the difference between a rocket ship and a spaceship is, and I said, for me, rocket ships are from the great era of sci-fi pulp art.
This is the sort of stuff I mean.
I love it.

And, look: isn't that a proto-Dalek?

I found all this because last night I was idly browsing through bloggers who list Elling on their profiles' Favorite Movies--only 420 blogs, many of them not in English--which led me to the amusing Pratie Place, who featured DRB's pulp art.

And thus we while away our days, happily pulling on loose threads...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Libra!

We're heading out of Libra in a couple days, but today is Maura's birthday and she's a full-blown Libra: 
her passion for justice balances a childlike playfulness.

Libra's colors are pink, green, and lavender, and their flower is the rose, so here's a birthday bouquet along those lines. I photographed it at the Farmers Market this week.

The roses are actually decorative cabbages.
Isn't there something Libra-ish about a beautiful bouquet you can recycle as soup?
And Libra gets a bouquet of stars too:
this is the Globular Cluster NGC 5897, class XI, in the constellation of Libra, which otherwise "contains little more than a scattering of faint galaxies."

A scattering of faint galaxies.
I love how poetic science can be, when written in words.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Magic Beans

[Photo of the underside of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, the Chicago sculpture popularly known as The Bean, from Blue Jake (taken in 2004 before the lines on the sculpture were smoothed off--I kind of like them).]

I. Magic Beans

I've been sick the past few days.
Yesterday I tried to take a still photo of the Death of Clytemnestra, which I was filming with Maura and Bink, and my digital camera registered "BATTERY EMPTY."
Mine was too.

But in the way of garden-variety illnesses, I woke up feeling weak but well again this morning.
Sitting with my coffee, feeling that flood of gratitude for the return of health, I thought,
Life supplies us with a handful of magic beans when we're born.
What do we do with them?

Lately I've been climbing stalks to discover how to adjust my camcorder's manual settings for light and focus and such-like.

Along with being sick, that's one reason I haven't been blogging more. Learning videomaking takes time and it's not scintillating to write--or read--about. I can tell you, though, I'm ecstatic to have discovered the "Backlight" button, which automatically adjust for shooting into brightness.

Here're a few catch-up notes.

II. Beauty Tip

Hey! Here's a hitherto unknown feature on Astronave: a Beauty Tip.
Courtesy of the Fly's makeup artist, Cathy.
The lipstick Clytemnestra wears is Clinique's "black honey," which Cathy says looks great on many different complexions. It's "almost lipstick"--that is, it's semi-opaque. It's gorgeous: looks like you've smeared your lips with shiny blackberry juice.

III. Money Tip

And another one-time feature: a Money Tip, from a friend who's an honest-to-god financial analyst:
"Don't panic."

My friend told me that there is a "hysteria index" that measures people's panic about the stock market. It usually hovers around 10. After 9/11, it shot up to 50. A couple weeks ago, with the stock market in disarray, the index reached 80.

Well, fair enough; but making decisions when you're in a panic is not recommended, so maybe the advice should be DON'T MAKE DECISIONS IN A PANIC.

Or, as Pema Chodron says about every emotion that besieges us, pleasant and un-, "Hold your seat."

I felt the flickers of panic myself: When I picked up off the doormat that week's Economist, its cover reading "World on the Edge" (photo above right), I went upstairs and started cleaning out my junk drawer.
When I found myself washing my measuring tape, I asked myself what I was doing and realized I was responding to a sense of powerlessness (i.e. anxiety bordering on panic) by setting what I could to rights.

...Which extended as far as this drawer, but I did feel better afterward. (Turns out my measuring tape is white!)

Anyway, my friend told me he thought of me and how I love Star Trek because he imagined Spock marvelling at this display of how humans respond emotionally to crises, thus making them worse.

I used to find thinking of Spock comforting and calming during the irrationality of high school too.

IV. High-Tension Wires

Before I got sick, I biked down the Greenway and photographed a couple of my favorite sights.

The Martin Olav Sabo Bike Bridge

The Rocket Ship in a Playground

I didn't include the "Do Not Climb" sign.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Truth about Cats and Dogs

And here the cat and dog--Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly--dance together, all the way to heaven.
What a heaven!
Note, Kelly leads.
From the Ziegfeld Follies (1946, dir. Vincente Minnelli).

From Wikipedia:
"The Babbitt And The Bromide": Astaire and Kelly team up in a comedy song and dance challenge in three sections, to music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. All choreography was by Astaire (third section) and Kelly (sections one and two). In spite of efforts by Freed and Minnelli, the two would not partner again on film until That's Entertainment, Part II in 1976.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Season at Hand

Jenise painted her house trim minty green this summer. This fall the ivy has turned an unusual red.

In the nearby park.

Cats and Dogs

Define "dancing," the captain asks his computer in Wall-E, which I went to see for the 2nd time last night, with L & M. (It's now at the $3 theaters). I love that the filmmakers see dancing as one of the things that defines us as human.

I've been thinking about dance lately because my movie Fly wants to be a tap dancer.
Margo, a dance friend, told me Gene Kelley and his type are called "dog dancers," while Fred Astaire is a "cat dancer." I love them both.

And Cyd Charisse.
Cat or dog?

Cyd Charisse dances hot with Kelly, in Singin' in the Rain.

..and cool with Astaire, in The Band Wagon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Suffering for Art

I thought I'd thought of everything for every shoot (including Diet Coke and a Swiss army knife), ... but I overlooked a first-aid kit.
Luckily, it was I, not a friend, who proved the usefulness of such an item, by slicing my thumb on broken glass in the grungy alley where Bink and I were shooting the Fly yesterday.

(Yes, I have had a tetanus shot within the past ten years.)

Fly Wings

Ram Dass said that when the scales of illusion drop from your eyes, you walk around seeing how beautiful everybody is and you fall in love with absolutely everyone.

Filmmaking is doing that for me.
Everyone is being so open-hearted as they play with this silly film--
from Cathy making up Maura with tender skill [photos below] to Bink, here, putting on her Fly wings in the unrine-soaked alley--their authentic selves shine through.

How can I not fall in love with that?

Of course, I liked these people to start with. Would it work with... say, Mr. Putin?

The Maura Makeover

From my birthday list:
15. Ask for help. (This scares me.)
16. Offer help. (This scares me too.)

Making Orestes and the Fly forces me to do both, big time, and it's wonderful: it's like meeting my friends all over again as their most excellent, brave, and generous selves!

Cathy worked for years as a professional makeup artist, and she agreed to transform Maura into Queen Clytemnestra.

"I got rid of most of my makeup," she said, as she hauled out what looked to me like fishing-tackle boxes.

Maura commented that it helps pass the time if your makeup artist is amusing...

...and if you trust she will not poke out your eye!

Cathy's sure but gentle touch was amazing to watch.

But the actor gets to wield her own torture device. (Naw. It's just an eyelash curler.)

Ruby was sure the peacock feather spray was a new cat toy.

Watching the expert work reminded me of watching Bink paint, when she was working in egg tempera, which requires applying layers and layers of translucent color.

"Putting rouge on your earlobes makes your eyes sparkle more," Cathy told us.

The makeup took almost an hour to apply.

And at the end of the day, after the shoot,
the actress, exhausted from murder, but still gorgeous.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Glove Maker

I watched several episodes of Star Trek (free online) while I sewed one glove for Orestes and the Fly.

I cut up an old Christmas-party shirt of mine for the fabric. A black gardening glove served as the hand-dummy.

In my movie version of the cursed House of Atreus, each time one of them kills a family members, a red glove appears on their hand, which they can't ever take off.

Here is the finished glove.

Is there a word for a glove maker, like milliner for "hatmaker"?
Oh, OK: Webster's says "glover."

I am no glover.
I resorted to stapling the fabric a couple times, and I stabbed myself with the needle. This is what I meant when I said I'm sometimes a bit overwhelmed with everything making my film requires. I don't know how to do half of it.

My glove is very lumpy, but I'm pleased.

It reminds me of Edward Scissorhands, the queen of England, O. J. Simpson, Lady Macbeth, Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver (the one long nail on his little finger), Erich von Stroheim in Grand Illusion, with his white gloves...

Erotic, dangerous, elegant, powerful, tragic. Ridiculous.

A lot of what I'm doing in filmmaking feels like an old fashioned craft.

My Sicilian grandfather, Vincenzo, was a shoemaker, a cobbler, and my Sicilian grandmother, Rosaria, and her family were tailors, lacemakers, seamstresses.

My cousins are accountants and lawyers. One--this kills me--is a global sales manager for a major oil company.

For tomorrow's shoot:
Finish second glove.
Figure out how to attach peacock feather spray in Maura's (Clytemnestra's) hair.
Buy purple (red?) washcloth.
Finish storyboarding shots.

orange/gold fabric; thumb tacks and tape; daggers (real and theater prop); red velvet; gloves; washcloth; pillow and towels; peacock feathers; camera (with batteries, DV film cassettes, electrical cord; microphone); bottled water for actors; wet wipes; picture of Marat dead in the tub; movie notes and storyboards

In the morning:
go with Maura to watch Cathy apply her dramatic makeup.
Shoot "before and after" footage for Making Of.

I need a costumer and a prop manager and a continuity girl and...
And a glover. Except I really liked doing it myself, even if it did take five hours.