Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We have nothing to fear ...

Much as I admire President Obama, I'd feel much more confident if he were saying stuff like this.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

All Dialogue Verbatim

This was an actual conversation between a father and his daughter that I overheard while having a beer at Rolf's. The images are of course from Luc Besson's film, Leon (The Professional in the U.S.), starring Jean Reno and a very young Natalie Portman, and were altered using plasq's Comic Life program.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as 'The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.'"
Nina Paley, "America's best-loved unknown cartoonist", spent five years creating this epic on her home computer. The entire film is now available online here.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

If they ever get organized, we are so screwed ...

From the Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2009:

Octopus floods Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

"It's not surprising that with eight arms and inquisitive nature, the two-spotted octopus is pretty handy around its tank at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
Still, those reporting for work Thursday at the popular beachfront attraction were caught by surprise when they were greeted by water lapping around the kelp forest display, the shark and ray tank and the rocky reef exhibit.
The guest of honor in the aquarium's Kids' Corner octopus tank had swum to the top of the enclosure and disassembled the recycling system's valve, flooding the place with some 200 gallons of seawater...."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009)

Farmer, who died this past Wednesday, is probably best known for his Riverworld series, although as a kid I especially enjoyed his books like The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, where he played mix-and-match with characters from the repertoires of Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs and other authors, anticipating the sort of exercises in genre deconstruction Alan Moore would later make famous in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls.

My personal favorite, however, would have to be his short story "The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod" (available in Ellen Datlow's Alien Sex anthology), which imagines Tarzan, as Lord Greystoke, giving his first address to the House of Lords as if it had been written by William S., rather than Edgar Rice, Burroughs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If the Traditional Definition of Chutzpah ...

... is killing one's parents and then throwing oneself on the mercy of the court because one is now, tragically, an orphan, then Louisiana governor, 2012 presidential hopeful, and amateur exorcist Bobby Jindal certainly showed some in his response to Barack Obama's address to Congress tonight. I mean, sure, it was, for the most part, pretty standard Republican boilerplate -- The Big Bad Government Only Makes Things Worse, yadda yadda yadda. They've been peddling the same line of blather since Reagan's Alzheimer's was just a twinkle in his forebrain, but you gotta give the guy props for claiming he knows first hand that the government can't be trusted to deal with disasters because back when Katrina hit ... um ... hey look, something shiny!

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Pyelem G Vudhaus"

That would be P.G. Wodehouse to you and me: the spelling above is transliterated from Russian, where there is, oddly enough, a booming market in Wodehouse fandom. The quintessential English humorist, whose works had been banned as "decadent" by Soviet authorities since 1929, was virtually unknown in that country before 1989, when former dissident and self-taught translator Natalya Trauberg began circulating a Russian version of Wodehouse's 1919 novel, A Damsel in Distress in samizdat form (not for fear of official punishment -- the ban was eventually lifted in 1990 -- but because Russian publishers, perhaps not unreasonably, didn't think his stories of dotty aristocrats, upper-class twits, and Jazz Age ne'er-do-wells would sell to contemporary readers). To everyone's surprise, it and subsequent translations became wildly popular (and became even more so after Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie's Jeeves & Wooster television series was dubbed into Russian).

Thus was born the Russian Wodehouse Society, founded by Mikhail Kuzmenko (who writes under the name Sir Watkyn Bassett), and which not only puts on regular banquets emulating the the likes of those thrown by Bertie Wooster's Drones Club, but also maintains a lively and informative website, with a bibliography and an excellent collection of links and articles (in English) as well as discussion boards (in Russian). I highly recommend checking it out.

And should you decide to go to one of their banquets, throw a bread roll for me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"The Way the Future Blogs"

Frederik Pohl is one of the grand old men of science fiction. He was a founding member of The Futurians, an early SF fan club whose members also included Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Donald A. Wollheim, and Damon Knight, and later served as editor for Galaxy and If magazines. He is the author of numerous novels and anthologies, although my personal favorites would have to be The Space Merchants and Gladiator-at-Law (both written in collaboration with C.M. Kornbluth).

So how cool is it that, at the age of eighty-nine, he decided to start a blog?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

If you're a fan of the Firesign Theatre -- and you should be -- you'll be thrilled to know that some of their best material is now available in podcast form.
"Ouch," he said.

Since just about any schmo can put up a blog these days, it's nice to see an author who can still find a new way to get her work before the public.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, what might have been ...

Some test footage for an alas never-realized adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars by famed Warner Brothers animator Bob Clampett, which, had it been made, would have been the first feature-length animated film.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Today in History: The Great Molasses Flood

On January 15, 1919, a storage tank belonging to the Purity Distilling Company burst, spilling an estimated 2,300,000 gallons of molasses into the streets of Boston's North End in a huge wave that killed 21 people and injured 150. Eric Postpischil has written a fascinating account of the disaster, originally published in Yankee magazine.

The estimable Dame Darcy, who draws the delightfully twisted comic, Meat Cake, has a song about it that you can listen to here.

Patrick McGoohan (1928-2008)

As a kid, I remember being thrilled by the adventures of McGoohan's two-fisted vicar, Dr. Syn, in the surprisingly-dark-for-Disney The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Later, like a lot of people, I was simultaneously fascinated with and baffled by The Prisoner. I've seen comparatively little of his work since then, although he brought exactly the right tone of understated menace to his role as Dr. Paul Ruth in David Cronenberg's Scanners.

I have vaguer memories of The Prisoner's immediate predecessor, Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US), but what had always stuck with me, oddly enough, was that show's art direction. The adventures of globe-trotting spy John Drake were shot on the cheap on the studio back lot, but rarely looked it because the show's producers managed to boil the essence of its far-flung locations down to a handful of shorthand visual cues: get a few pieces of rattan furniture, a potted palm or two, and a slowly-rotating ceiling fan, then throw some venetian blind shadows on the wall behind them and voilĂ  -- you were instantly in some Graham Greene-ish post-colonial backwater.

Because, let's face it, McGoohan's intensity as Drake was all the realism you needed anyway.