Sunday, May 30, 2010

PHOTOSHOP PRACTICE

Boy, Photoshop really is a fun program. There's a lot you can do with it, even at the primitive level that I'm working at.  I keep making mistakes though, like the one above, which seems to read "Theory Corned."















I wanted a logo I could use for a short science fiction story I was thinking of writing for the blog. I only have a title so far: "Feel My Fangs on Your Space Helmet."

I'm torn between using letters that are pure color, with no outline (above)...














...and outlined lettering (above), which is easier to read, but more conventional.

Without borders the words appear to be floating in the air, as if they were shrieks of horror uttered by some alien creature that just found itself bitten in half.  With borders the letters appear to be simple conventions of the publishing industry.



BTW: It's Memorial Day and I'll take this opportunity to say thanks to American soldiers past and present who made it possible for people like me to express ourselves freely in blogs like this one. Your sacrifices are much appreciated! 


























Friday, May 28, 2010

REVIEW OF "BRIGHT STAR"


That's a musical number above, from the film "Bright Star" which was well reviewed when it came out in 2009, but which was afterward completely forgotten. I'll have more to say about the music in a minute.

The film's about my favorite poet of the Romantic Era, John Keats, and his never consummated love for Fanny Brawne. Reviewers liked the film, though some thought it was weak on story and was only saved by the performances. Some lamented that it never touched very seriously on Keats' poetry. They're right on both counts...well, half right...but if you liked films like "Shakespeare in Love," then you have to see it nevertheless.

I like a good love story, not only because I believe in the philosophy that underpins romantic love (discussed in previous posts), but because when these stories are done right they stimulate your thinking about everything else. To be in love is to live in a state of hyper awareness, when even the cracks in the sidewalk seem to have deep meaning. It's nice to be reminded of a time when we were fully alive, no matter how torturous it might have been in some respects.



To get back to the film's music: The top video is from the film and is a vocal adaption of Mozart's Serenade in B Flat, K361.  For comparison, here's (immediately above) an original, instrumental version of the same music. The vocal version stands up pretty well, I think.




In the film Fanny tells Keats that she doesn't like poetry because she can never understand what poems mean. Keats gives a great answer, one which applies to visual art (examples by Van Gogh above) as well as poetry: 

"The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake...to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not 'work the lake out.' It is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery."


Woooow! Well said! I think of what Keats said when I look at drawings by Van Gogh. No doubt they're about the beauty of the natural world, but they're also about the power of lines and the awesome human mind that can manipulate them so expressively. To borrow from Keats: you luxuriate in the lines...in the sensation of the flow of them, and of the dynamic spaces between them. 




Thursday, May 27, 2010

OLD & NEW MOVIE THEATERS: A COMPARISON

Boy, I love to see movies on a big screen in a packed theater!
























It must have been great to see them in Technicolor, and in ornate vaudeville-style theaters that were like palaces inside. That's a Lego theater above. Every once in a while Lego knocks themselves out to make a toy that nobody can afford, but is very near a work of art.









































How different the Lego building is from minimalist modern theaters (above), which often look like banks or Walmart stores.  Some are amazingly featureless and stealthy. You could be standing next to them and  and never know it. In the case of the theater above, the designer thoughtfully wrote "Box Office" on the ticket vender's window just to let us know what it was.

















I wish I could figure out why modern movie houses disposed of the marquee. It was sheltering and fun to look at, and it announced the theater's presence to the world. You could see it from the road and no doubt it seduced lots of drivers and walkers-by into seeing the films. Notice too, the film posters are out on the street where people can see them, and not concealed inside or in a side alley, like the ones in my neighborhood.

When I told this to my kid he rolled his eyes up and said that marquees were unnecessary since people get all the info they need online.  He said nobody goes to a theater on an impulse anymore. Maybe, I thought, but it couldn't hurt to scoop up the few that do.

Actually, some modern theaters do have marquees...sort of. Here's (above) an ugly one on a theater that looks like it was built in the 80s. It's mind-numbing and bland, and looks like a bank, but at least it puts its posters out front where people can see them. 























Here's one current marquee style.  This example looks like it's outside, but a lot of marquees of this type are inside, over interior ticket windows. You have to go inside to see it. 





















Like I said, a lot of modern theater owners have dispensed with marquees entirely.  In this theater (above) the titles of the films that are playing are written on bumper stickers  high on the wall behind the ticket sellers.  If you crouch down low enough,  and use your hand to screen out the reflections on the tinted glass, you might discover what's playing and when.



























Don't expect to see mirrors in the restroom. If you're lucky the management might provide slightly reflective sheets of steel.  If not, then the walls will be bare.









































No more movie palaces. Just bare bones walls and seats.





I wish theaters would bring back usherettes.  They look good and besides, you can use usherettes to sell the outrageously priced candy to people in their seats.


Monday, May 24, 2010

CONTEMPORARY COSTUME DESIGN

Boy, I love old-time theatrical costume sketches (above), the best of them I mean.  I had the impression that nothing good was being done in that medium any more, but I'm glad I took the trouble to check, because there's some interesting stuff out there that deserves to be seen.












Lots of sketch styles are acceptable now.  Amazingly, one of them (above) is caricature.















Another is collage. This artist (above) is pretty good at it.  I like how the dog is walking backwards.


Very nice (above), and it's practical, too. I have no trouble envisioning the real-life costume.














This guy (above) looks like a character out of an Otto Dix painting. 












This picture (above) is pretty abstract but it conveys the important information.  I assume the play is a comedy where the superhero has to look broad and lumpy in his suit. The sagging diaphragm is a nice touch.




This picture (above) is skimpy on the details but the overall concept is solid. Sometimes the designer is limited to suggestion, and the costume maker figures out the details.
















Wow! What a prolific artist (above)! Better click to enlarge!














Interesting (above)! A Steinberg-type style combined with 3D collage! It's a very girly treatment but, as with everything here, you can use your imagination to see something more masculine.


















Sometimes swatches of fabric are added to the sketch. Designers keep enormous scrapbooks full of samples of the stuff that are pinned or stapled onto the page.



According to an article on the net, the designer usually starts with cut-outs of pre-existing pictures from magazines (above) just to see if her and the director are in sync.










Here's (above) Ann Roth showing off her designs for old Hollywood movies, and here's a link to an interesting interview that she gave. Part 2, the best part, is only a couple of minutes long, and it contains advice that all artists in all trades can use.



http://makingof.com/insiders/media/ann/roth/ann-roth-on-costume-design-pt-2/61/172















Saturday, May 22, 2010

W-I-D-E-S-C-R-E-E-N


I don't have time to put up a well-thought out post, but I think I can manage a long post.....I mean a really, really LOOOOOOOOONG post! I imagine the girl's feet (above) are interfering with my sidebar graphics, but I don't think any of my male readers will complain. 


















Boy, this new beta Blogger format is liberating! You can stretch across the page with it. I expect to do a lot of articles about impossibly long snakes, trains, sleeping Watusis and Diplodicus-type dinosaurs. 





















Above, one of my favorite widescreen movie posters.  Now I get to display it in a format that supports it.
 
















Ah, these are heady days! Thank-you Blogger! I can't believe that all this is free!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SIDEBAR FUNNIES


Just scroll down. You'll see it!

Sorry if downloads have been slow lately. I didn't know I had a problem with that til John told me about it a few days ago.  The blog downloads quickly enough on my computer, but maybe being the host gives me an advantage. Can I ask you guys: is everybody here experiencing slow downloads?  Maybe John's the only one. Maybe a moth crawled into his machine and bit a transistor. Aaargh! I'll have to check the file sizes on the sidebar pictures.

A question for Photoshoppers: when I resize and resample a picture down on Photoshop, and save it at a low kb (including "for web devices"), how come the same picture appears on Blogger at a much higher kb? Am I doing something wrong?




Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AT MIKE PATAKI'S MEMORIAL SEVICE



Mike Pataki, as most people reading this will know, was the voice for John K's George Liquor, and was famous for playing Klingons (above) on the original Star Trek series.  Mike recently passed away and last Saturday I went to Mike's  memorial service at Valhalla Park in North Hollywood.  Valhalla is sort of "The Other Forest Lawn," A lot of early film actors are buried there,  including Oliver Hardy.  Lots of gangsters, too.


 A number of show business friends of Mike spoke, including his buddy Ed Asner, who called him "Wacky Pataki." The speeches were so funny that the service sometimes felt more like a roast.



















I was a little disappointed to see that few of the speakers talked much about Mike's voice work for George Liquor (above).  It really is one of the all-time great cartoon voices.  George even looks a little like Mike Pataki. He's tightly packed just like Mike, a size five body in a size three skin.


Somewhere after middle age Mike's voice became gravelly. It probably hurt his ability to get work.  Amazingly Mike turned a liability into an asset by developing an absolutely unique delivery style to fit his new voice.  John K picked up on it, worked with Mike to refine it,  and the rest is history...or would have been had TV executives had the sense to give George his own animated show.

I guess I'm surprised to see that his peers failed to realize the magnitude of what Mike accomplished with George Liquor. It's a layered voice full of nuance and music and Mike's own experience of life.  Lots of actors can do Irish policemen, snooty upper-class Englishmen and all that. George-s voice was  unique...one of a kind.  


















But I don't want to dump on actors.  One of the delights of being at the memorial was being surrounded by show people. They really are a breed apart.  No matter what the occasion, they're always on, always looking for ways to entertain.


A couple of them of struck me as being a little crazy,  maybe a consequence of devoting themselves so singlemindedly to hope, and to things intuitive.  They're like the salesmen famously described by Willie Lohman's wife at the end of "Death of a Salesman." I'm beginning to wonder if that play was really about actors.





Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

ORANGE TREE FORESTS (PART 1)


Here's (above) part of the cover of a recent kids book, "Where is the Cake?" by T. T. Khing. Cartoonists who read this are going to think I'm nuts for posting about it because the color and cartooning in the book are pretty weak. Believe me, I'm aware of that, but I'm going to ask you to ignore that and concentrate instead on what the artist does well, which is imaginative topography.

Take a look at that forest.  Look at how small and densely-packed the trees are.  Notice how it's simultaneously attractive and frightening. There really are forests like this; in fact, I live near an orange grove that's like that. This whole book is a celebration of the concept of miniature forests.

BTW, note the size of the house, which is perfectly in sync with the size of the forest. It's hardly bigger than a tool shed. The artist rightly perceives that this is the correct size for houses in tiny forests. Extra rooms should be underground where they don't get in the way. The outdoor table and chair are great additions.




Here's another view of the tiny forest.  The trees are made to snake along the ground in undulating ribbons separated by grass and narrow pathways. The artist had a great landscaping idea here, and someone should make it happen for real, right away. 



It looks like the artist means to depict hedges here, but I prefer to imagine that the plants are more of the same small trees that we saw in the pictures above.  It's fun to think of irregular rows of orange trees punctuated by quiet little meadows.  The foreground boulders are a nice contrast, and so are the tall cucumber-like trees.  So is the little creek.


Creeks are naturally much more common than we suppose. Almost every big city used to be criss-crossed with them, but nowadays they're paved over, diverted, and pumped out. Maybe we should bring some of them back. 

AN ORANGE TREE FOREST (PART 2)


Let me digress from the book to talk about real Southern California orange trees.  Those are European olive trees above, but I chose them because they're similar in appearance to the unusual type of orange tree that I used to see on a college campus near where I live.  I liked to imagine that the trees were planted by David Fairchild, a locally famous botanist who is reputed to have been the man who introduced the Eucalyptus tree to this city.


Anyway, this campus grove was an incredibly magical and quiet place. You could easily imagine trolls and witches living there. That's amazing when you consider that there was always a hurly burly of students about fifty yards away.  The grove was accessible, and much loved, but few people wondered into it because the ground was soft and inconvenient to sandals and tennis shoes. I never saw orange throwers in there, never graffiti, and I never saw any homeless people. Most importantly, the trees were small enough that you could pack a whole magical forest into a small space. 


That last point is why I'm writing this. A tiny forest is the perfect solution for urban parks and backyards, and yet you never hear orange groves spoken about in that context. What it amounts to is that an important landscaping tool has been overlooked. That's why I was so glad to see this kids book. It's all about the fun you can have in a miniature forest.  


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

AN ORANGE TREE FOREST (PART 3)



Above, the momentum of the hedgerows (trees) suddenly stops at the base of the steep little hills. Nothing to do but climb over them, something kids would be only too happy to do. Of course the hills would have to appear more natural than they do here. 




Here (above) we see monkeys running across the treetops like they were paved roads.  Hmmmm, that's interesting. I guess if you had planks up there, you really could run along the tops of this kind of tree. At least if you were a kid you could.

BTW, check out the shapes and spaces in this picture. Small, densely-packed trees stand like grazing cattle on closely mowed grass.  Narrow little paths wind around the scene, giving scale to everything, and the ground is only an inch higher than the creek. I've never seen flat look so appealing.

Notice the two trees at the top that form an entrance way to the scene, and another appearance of those steep little hills in the background. Could a real landscape be made to look like this?



I hear you saying, "'Not a very handsome page," and you're right...but wait, what's that in the top of the tree?  Monkeys...and they're sitting on the top of the palm tree!  It never occurred to me til now that you could fasten a chair to the top of a palm tree and sit in it, just watching life go by on the ground.  Of course you'd have to share the space with rats and spiders. I'll bet the spiders get as big as crabs up there.



Saturday, May 08, 2010

AN EXPERIMENT

'Just an experiment to see if I could "glue" two halves of a picture together in a single post. 








This is my favorite Mad cover ever.  Buyers must have felt that they got their money's worth just for the cover, and everything inside was free.  


I can't wait to see how this will interfere with the right sidebar. Don't blame Blogger. It's my fault...I want to watch the collision.