Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dark Shadows...again?

How the hell did I enter the realm of "out of the loopdom" on this? Tim Burton is doing a film remake of "Dark Shadows"? Starring Johnny Depp? What the...!

The Gothic series "Dark Shadows" originally aired from 1966 to 1971. I think I would be safe in saying that it is truly the only Gothic horror of soap opera format to air to this day. Brilliant it was. I looked forward to seeing it after school. Now, mind you (I'm about to date myself) I was 2 when it first hit television screens. I got into it later in it's run (when I was old enough), and I did catch it when it re-ran. I'm not sure how many times it has been re-run, but to fans of the show I would say it's probably not enough. As a fan myself, I found it as one of the streaming TV shows on Netflix. I've watched the first few, and plan to watch the rest. (Insomnia is something I suffer from on a pretty regular basis, so the exploits of Barnabas will be my sleepless viewing for awhile.)

(Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins)

When I first learned about this new Burton production, casting was the first thing I wanted to check out. Since I had heard Depp would be starring, I knew he would have to be playing Barnabas. Depp is a great actor. He is very versatile, and is willing to stretch himself with a role which I really appreciate. But the man is very good looking. Pretty even. Jonathan Frid and Ben Cross. The two other actors to have slid the ring on their finger. Both fine actors, but both rather odd looking. Frid especially. There is that old saying that "looks aren't everything", but the fact that Frid was not a looker made Barnabas a stronger character. How can I properly articulate what I mean made the vampire in him more...vampy. It made his vampire 'powers' more apparent. This is just my opinion, but if Frid had walked into Collinwood as a regular guy and not a vampire, I seriously doubt the young lovelies living there would have given him a second look. After all, vampires don't have to be glittery...their vampire senses and powers of 'persuasion' can get them close to whomever they want. Back to Depp...he's uber-talented (one of my favorite actors, actually) so I know he will give a great performance. But will it 'feel right'? He was fantastic in "Sweeney Todd" but his good looks even pierced through that make-up job. I'll only be able to give a final analysis when I see it.

One actor I'm looking forward to seeing in the film is the adorable, quirky, and edgy Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman. I know being the significant other of the director can help one get role's, but Carter is one actress who delivers. I can't think of one disappointing performance.

The rest of the cast is...interesting. I must admit that it's going to be difficult to give any of these actors a break as I am programmed to the original cast. I know who about half of the actors are, but the rest are unknown to me. Here is the list as it has been released (via IMDB):
  • Johnny Depp................BARNABAS COLLINS
  • Helena Bonham
  • Carter...........................DR. JULIA HOFFMAN
  • Cloe Moretz..................CAROLYN STODDARD
  • Eva Green.....................ANGELIQUE BOUCHARD
  • Michelle Pfeiffer...........ELIZABETH COLLINS STODDARD
  • Jackie Earle Haley.......WILLIE LOOMIS
  • Jonny Lee Miller..........ROGER COLLINS
  • Thomas McDonnell.....YOUNG BARNABAS
  • Bella Heathcote.............VICTORIA WINTERS
  • Gulliver McGrath.........DAVID COLLINS

(Left: Helena Bonham Carter; Right: Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman)

For the most part, I think remakes are a bad idea. Especially when the original piece was successful and has a huge fan base, in this case "Dark Shadows". Rarely do they go over well. Don't remake something successful...remake something that stinks and make it better.

I am a Tim Burton fan. I think he is a very talented director and I appreciate his artistic sensibilities. He is quite creative. But...Tim said he was going to remake "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" and make it the book justice. The version with Gene Wilder, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", is a classic (I seem to remember that it was changed from 'Charlie' because 'Charlie' has the slang meaning of 'cocaine' in England). It should not have been touched in terms of someone trying to improve on it. Burton's film was really bad. Depp gave a decent albeit disturbing performance as Wonka, but it was not what Burton promised. Big disappointment. I am hoping that he doesn't do the same thing to "Dark Shadows". The man is going to have a huge contingent of hardcore DS fans critiquing his work here. They will not be easy to impress. The remake in TV form that starred Ben Cross as Barnabas didn't make it. Things are not looking good. I do hope I'm wrong.

The scheduled release of the "Dark Shadows" film is May 11, 2012. They are currently shooting it in England.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy 53rd, Paul Weller...

I have been a fan of Paul Weller's since The Jam happened. He has been at the top of my list of favorites all these years...The Jam, Style Council, his solo work...dig it all. Thought I'd share some tunes from different periods of his career.

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Harry Potter...

(Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry)

In 2001 "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone" hit theaters. I saw the ads on TV, and even though I knew there to be a lot of noise about it, I didn't really make seeing it a priority. It just looked like another "precious" kids film with adorable young actors and cheesy special effects. Don't get me wrong, there is room in my movie viewing schedule for a good cheesy children's film ("cheese" is something I appreciate...when it's so bad that it's good). "Sorcerer's Stone" was filed away in my 'when it's on television and there's nothing else to watch' file. Then I talked to some friends at work...

At the time I worked for an Entertainment company in Los Angeles. In other words, I worked in an adult environment. When the first Harry Potter movie had been out for a bit, I heard a couple of co-workers' chatting in the kitchen when I went in to grab a hot cup o' joe. The topic of conversation? The Harry Potter books. Their discussion was very animated. I couldn't help but listen in. They had just finished "Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban", and couldn't wait to get their hands on "Goblet of Fire". Really? They thought they were that good? the time I just thought "to each his own", and went on with my day.

In 2003 the corporation I worked for closed the doors of the division I worked for (I had worked there 14 years). I went into a decompression period. While perusing the shelves of my local Blockbuster, I came across the DVD of "Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets". The titles I had wanted to rent were new releases and all copies were checked out, so I decided 'what the hey'...I grabbed a copy of "Chamber". It was entertaining.

Several days later I was in Target and was looking over their book section. Needless to say, they had piles of the Harry Potter releases at that point that were featured prominently. I said 'what the hey' again, and grabbed trade papers of "Stone" and "Chamber". Three days later I was back at Target picking up "Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Goblet of Fire". It was while standing in the check-out line filled with excitement of what would happen to Harry and his pals next that I had an epiphany...I had officially become a Harry Potter geek...

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe); Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint); Hermione Granger (Emma Watson)

'Pottermania' was alive and well at the small West Hollywood apartment I was calling home at that time. I ravenously scarfed up the first four books within days. The world of Harry Potter was one I jumped into with both feet. Potterite, Potter head, Potty-head, Pot-head...there are a number of names for HP fans out there (I would say that the last two I mentioned are the derogatory ones). I prefer to call us Potter fans 'Harry Potter Geeks'. (Since I refer to myself as an HP Geek, of course I mean it in the most affectionate way possible.)

Let me say that when I started my journey with "Sorcerer's Stone", I found it to be a little slow on the uptake. But then a lot of books that are the launch to a series have a tendency to be a tad slow in the beginning as they are setting up some key elements for things to come in future volumes. At what point was I grabbed and sucked into the thick of things? Probably whenHagrid and Harry arrived at Diagon Alley. (Screw Walmart...that's where I wanna shop!) From that point on I spent just about every waking moment absorbing every word off of every page (which was the bulk of my day due to copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes...I have since quit smoking, but still have a coffee addiction...pardon me while I heat up the cup I'm drinking now). J.K. Rowling crafted a wonderful world and wonderful characters. I could tell with every line that she knows her "world" inside and out.

As I mentioned earlier, when I got 'hooked' there were the first five of the books available, or written for that matter. As any self respecting 'Geek' would do, I reread "Goblet" and "Phoenix" in anticipation of the release of "Half Blood Prince". I reread the preceding book to each remaining new release. I wanted to have the storyline as fresh and ready in my current memory of the time so I could hit the new book running. Buying an advance copy of each release at Target was something I did with those last books. It always proved to be unnecessary...on each release date the books would be in great supply. Better to be safe than sorry...

One thing that I appreciate about Rowling's story telling, is that she isn't afraid to get a bit dark. Yes, I realize that the Harry Potter books are technically children's fare, but she didn't veer away from injecting some unpopular events into the story. Things didn't always go Harry's way, but there was always a bigger picture. A 'silver lining' did appear here and there, but it wasn't flavored with saccharin and didn't come with a wink. The friendship and fun moments are interwoven quite well with the heart-wrenching and scary events. The darkness fell (with somewhat of a "bang") with book number three, "The Prisoner of Azkaban". This is where I was completely, 100%, no turning back, hooked on the books. The mystery...I couldn't wait to see what happened next. Rowling also was not afraid to kill off some of the characters we had grown to care for. (I've seen interviews with Jo where she talked about how hard and gut-wrenching it was for her.) I have to say that in terms of the story and how invested I was as a reader, the death of those characters effected me deeply.

Now that I have established that I am a big fan of the books, I will say that there are aspects of the movies that left me unsatisfied. Big shocker there. Rowling's books are very fleshy, very involved. Of course a film isn't going to be able to cover every event or nuance covered in the books. Since a book has to be distilled to a certain degree to put it on the big screen, I think it was very smart for them to have Steve Kloves write all but one of the screenplays. Not sure why they had another writer adapt "Order of the Phoenix" (Michael Goldenberg), but I am assuming that it's because of the rapid pace they were making the films at. Kloves was up to his eyeballs with "Goblet of Fire" (a doorstop of a volume...there was talk of making it into two films because of it's scope), and they needed to get "Phoenix" moving. Another thing that is crucial to a books introduction to film is casting. When I jumped on the Hogwarts Express, there were only the first two films out. Both of which left me wanting in some areas. "Sorcerer's Stone" skirted the 'precious kids film' genre a little close for comfort. "Chamber of Secrets" was a bit better, but those first two films just didn't capture the books enough for me. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was specifically bugging me. The kids were cast well. The teachers were cast very well (Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Brannagh...brilliant). So what was bugging me?

Richard Harris was a great actor, may he rest in peace. "A Man Called Horse"; "The Field"; "Camelot". That being said, it wasn't until I saw Michael Gambon step into the robes ofDumbledore that I realized that Harris was not on the money with his portrayal. I realize that there are some mega-fans out there that think of themselves as purists, and since Harris originated the role they think of him as Dumbledore. Not me. There is something quirky about Albus that Gambon grasped from the get-go. The actors in the films are just as I envisioned the characters when reading the books, and Michael Gambon filled a void for me with his first appearance. As for the others...Gary Oldman (meOW), Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs (meOW), David Thewliss, Emma Thompson, and so on. It's as if the producers took my list of favorite actors/actresses and cast them all.

The first movie that finally clicked in and took on the vibe of the books was "Prisoner ofAzkaban". The darkness is there. The fear is there. The story hit it's stride. Chris Columbus is a good director, but I don't think the vibe he injected was the right one. Alfonso Cuaron changed that. The films took a shift with new directing blood, and it's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. It saved the franchise.

**I'm going to throw in a SPOILER ALERT here. If you haven't read the books and DO NOT want to know about any fatalities in "Deathly Hallows", you might not want to read on as I will be talking about it.**

Before I turn this blog post into a massive ramble, I'll start to wrap it up. I felt the need to write a bit on Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the magic world I've felt a part of for many years now. It has been a great journey, one I've completed in book form. The film version of the journey's end will be hitting theaters on July 15th. In so many ways I have gone through the happiness and the heartbreak with Harry and all of the other denizens of Rowlings world. A number of characters we all have cared about die. Harry's faithful companion, Hedwig, and Auror Mad Eye Moody die fending off Death Eaters when the Order of the Phoenix are helping take Harry to their headquarters. Here's a real toughie...I was so devastated when Sirius died at the hands...or should I say "wand"...of Bellatrix LeStrange. It was even harder watching it happen in the form of Gary Oldman. (Not only is Oldman one of my top three favorite actors, Sirius is my favorite character.) I kept telling myself that Black would come back. That he wasn't really dead. No such luck (although we do see him again in "spirit" form). The last book, "Deathly Hallows", where Harry meets Voldemort for their "duel", is a real shocker. The death of Dumbledore. Ya know, I don't know if I really classify him as being "dead". I know the students and teachers saw his wrecked body on the ground. I think it's when he talks to Harry before the big showdown. It doesn't feel like he's out of the picture for good. The death of Dobby the house elf. Yeah, it was sad, but I have to say that I found that little bugger to be a bit annoying. Snape. Severus was a real jerk, but judging by his background growing up, wouldn't you be? Tonks, Lupin, Fred Weasley...all shocking deaths. I knew that there would be some notable ones, but it really got to me. It was as if I had learned that some dear friends had passed. Very emotional. Of course, there's the big one...Voldemort. But then I always knew Tom was going to bite the dust. Killing off Harry would have been too much, and not appropriate in my view.

"Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II" is a movie I will definitely be seeing on the big screen. It will bring the complete journey to it's end. We readers always knew that these books would have an end, and for me it was a satisfying one. Rowling wove it well, and tied it off without any real loose ends. I was happy with the ending of the book, so of course I know I will be happy with the end of this last film. I expect to get choked up yet again.

I have heard rumors that Jo Rowling has said that she might write another Potter book. Whether it's a continuation of the ones already published, or an off-shoot with other existing characters or even new ones...that I haven't heard. If she does write another Harry Potter book will I jump back on the train? Count on it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Basho & Osho...

In search of some 'online' relaxation, I visited YouTube for some soothing Osho music. Then the thought struck me to look up some of Basho's haiku work. I decided to spread some around...enjoy.

(To listen to the videos in this post, 
you can pause the music player at the bottom of the page.)

Lady butterfly
perfumes her wings by floating
Over the orchid

~ Matsuo Basho

"Two White Butterflies"
Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Will we meet again
here at your flowering grave...
Two white butterflies?

~ Matsuo Basho

"Seishi" (Stillness)
Artist: Soniei

April's air stirs in
a butterfly
Floats and balances.

~ Matsuo Basho

Sick & The Sunrise...

I haven't been well the last couple of days. Nothing specific, just an annoying malaise that I'm more than ready to see leave. I try to get outside for even the shortest of walks every day. Cabin fever sets in if I don't. I was having another one of my sleepless nights (exacerbated by the 'feeling crappy' deal), and was feeling the need to step outside for a few minutes to get some air. True, I could go out on the screened in porch for air, but it's not the same as getting out and roaming a bit. A short foray into the cool morning was a must.

I looked up what time sunrise was for today. 6:24 am. I had about 45 minutes to prepare which I sadly needed. My energy level was (is) quite low, so I was moving a bit slow. I put my 'sneaks' on, and waited. Around 6:19, I headed down to the marsh.

I snapped a number of pictures of the cloud covered horizon line, the variant shades of orange creating a mock oil painting in the sky. The textures and sweeping layers mimicked the deft strokes of a brush. Really spectacular.

I was able to snap several pictures before I reached the point of in Savannah we have swarms of sand gnats and mosquitoes that thrive this time of year. For the first couple of minutes by the marsh, I went unnoticed. Once the little buggers learned of my warm blooded presence, they homed in on me. I endured it as long as I could, waiting for the orange sun to pop up over the clouds. It got to be a bit much, plus I was fading fast. What little energy I had when I went out was pretty much exhausted. The sun would just have to be missed.

Even as I write this post, I feel the onset of deeper illness. I tend to have my "off" days on a regular basis due to my thyroid disease and RA, but this is different. I'm hoping against the flu, but one never knows. It's been a while since I've been seriously sick...I'm hoping my number isn't about to be called...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Rapture? Really...

"The Rapture of Psyche"
Artist: Bouguereau

So many people are buzzing about the end of the world. 2012 and the Aztec calendar has been a major focus for many over the last year or so, but the current trend is to lament the second coming, and the occurrence of "The Rapture". Who will be saved? Who will be left behind for the last days before "Doomsday"? Okay, now, who (besides me) thinks this is just something to needlessly cause mass hysteria and expects to be here going about their daily life for years to come?

The source of this predicted date of the second-coming is an 89 year old radio broadcaster in California named Harold Camping. He predicted the coming of "The Rapture" in 1994, but alas the man's math was off. (Feel free to detect a modicum of sarcasm there...)

What exactly is supposed to happen? Well, two-days from now (May 21st) has been designated as Judgement Day. All of those who are saved (Camping has been quoted as saying it will be 200 million) will rise up and go to heaven. At 6:00 pm (I wasn't able to find out if that's eastern or pacific standard time) the arrival of Christ will be signaled by a "Global Earthquake" that will cause mass destruction. The saved folks will be plucked up, and the rest of us heathens will stay here on the planet "ruled" over by Christ. For 5 months we will endure famine, floods, quakes...a lot of disastrous events that will spread chaos far and wide. Things will be so devastated that we will have to revert back to more primal means to survive. Then right before Doomsday, which is said to happen on October 21st, Jesus and Satan will throw-down ~ Jesus coming out the winner. Doomsday will happen on October 21st, the planet will be destroyed and the remaining will all die. Yes, this is a very general albeit watered down description of what the various sources said, but you can get the picture...

Do I believe this is all going to go down? No, I don't. I am a spiritual being, not a religious one. Let me say here that if you are religious and believe in "The Rapture"...if that gets you through the day...more power to you. We as individuals do not have to believe in the same thing. For me, spirituality is an all encompassing umbrella that includes all beliefs. Think of spirituality as a multi-faceted gem. 'Organized Religion' is just one facet.

Artist: Gustav Dore

There is quite a lot on the Internet about Campings' prediction. I read information on several sites, and it raised a the people who seemingly support Campings' claims actually consider themselves "believers"? One particular site went on and on about Camping, and were quite detailed in breaking down the prediction. They have paragraph upon paragraph of information; bulleted lists; statements urging people to embrace Christianity so they can be saved. At the bottom of the page? Ordering info for a t-shirt that says "I Survived Judgement Day, 2011".

I think that kind of says it all...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A High Tide Before The Really High Tide...

It was approximately 7:30pm, and I was waiting for the season finale of 'Survivor' to come on. The Scorpio Full Moon is now just a couple of days away, so the tides have been a bit higher due to the magnetic pull on the planet (the usual tidal cycle). I hadn't been outside today as I haven't been feeling a 100% lately. The occasional glance out of a window led me to expect that it was a lovely day out...clear and breezy. I decided to go for a quick stroll down to the marsh to see the higher water levels. I'm so glad I did.

As I rounded the corner of the first building, I saw this really beautiful view. The waters were filling the marsh (I have seen them higher, but these were pretty high), and although the evening sky was quite light, the moon was big and full. Just lovely. Photos never fully capture the moment, but I'm pretty happy with this selection of images.


There are times when I enjoy strolling around the Internet, reading about new things, or looking up pictures of artistic themes and styles that I admire. Steampunk is a design aesthetic that sits within my top 3 favorite artistic means of expression. Interestingly enough, I never ventured into that world like I now wish I had. The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) was a realm I stepped into, dressing and acting the part of period/medieval society (the Italian Renaissance was my period of choice). In retrospect, Steampunk is more my cup of tea...

Coming into play in the 1980's, Steampunk depicts a world where steam is still widely terms of style, a combo of the Victorian era and the 19th century. A blend of fantasy and Sci-Fi, it combines a Victorian ethic with technology (think Verne's' 'Nautilus', or Wells' 'Time Machine').

There is such imagination and beauty at work in some of the imaginative creations Steampunk artisans create. I find the over all aesthetic really spectacular.

I have wanted to design and produce jewelry with a Steampunk 'flavor' for a long time. Looking up related images has sparked the desire again. Maybe the time is ripe...who knows...

I'm adding the "Jasper Morello" short onto the end of this post, as it's a great short piece. Dark and rather disturbing as it progresses, it is a fantastic example of Steampunk animation. Well worth the watch.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tide's In...

Felt the need to make a quick morning post...

Check out our hydrangea bushes...after the lackluster turnout last season (only a couple of blooms) they are absolutely exploding with color this go round.

It seems that all of my photos of the tidal creek have been at low tide, so I thought I would post a couple of pics to illustrate that we do actually get the tidal waters twice a day. The level is pretty high right now as we are getting a full moon in a few days (May 17th).

The dismembered remains of our fallen tree. Still not sure what the management is going to do about the rest of it.

A Bit Of This, And A Spot Of That...

Evenings in Savannah are singular. There is a thread that runs through them all...a consistent energy that evokes a particular mood. The photos in this post are ones I took over a couple of days worth of evening walks.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. The energy present at that time of year is very special to me. Ever since I was young, I have always liked the sense of mystery and mysticism brought on by that span of months. Savannah has that energy in a perpetual hold. The vibe of this place sits continually in an off kilter space that is so incredibly pleasing. Engaging. Evenings are when that energy is at its most intense. It calms and sparks the synapses at the same time.

As I mentioned, the following photos are ones that I took during a couple of my evening walks. There is no specific theme other than that.

The previous owner of this condo unit was partial to a few flowering plants that I am not. One of them is the Easter Lily. There are several of the plants to the front of the building just outside our door. I have never been a fake flower person and I have always thought lilies to look like they are formed of plastic. So un-natural looking. I look forward to the departure of these blooms. A part of me would love to rip them from the ground, but I can't bring myself to do it. As much as I dislike them, they are not weeds.

The marsh grasses and reeds have taken on a lovely oat color. In some ways it looks like Autumn is here. The cat tails have gone to seed, as well. Most of them were being munched on by small fiddler crabs, but unfortunately they are a bit camera-shy...every time I tried to get their picture, they would zip to the back of the 'tail', out of sight.

The pond I visit here from time to time was alive with the sound of what I initially thought to be frogs. I was later informed that we are in year 17 of the cicada hatching, so we should have a lot of them this year. These '17 year' cicadas live underground for most of their lives, and emerge as adults to shed their skin and live out the remainder of their lives. Their song is quite distinctive, and I think that what I thought to be frog song was actually cicada song. Below is a short video of what I heard...

The photo below is one I took last year of a cicada. I was standing in the cul de sac by my building looking at the moon when I heard a loud buzzing sound and sensed something kind of large drop to the asphalt behind me. It was easy to locate the bug because of its' size...big. When I was able to study the photo later, it looked like some sort of 'Steam Punk' creation...not a real insect at all. I find the markings and frailties of it quite stunning.

A major element in the 'mood' I spoke of earlier are the veils of "moss" that hang plentifully from all of the trees.

I encounter a lot of felines on my walks. I'm not sure of the feral to human friendly ratio, but I imagine it's about half and half. One particular home along the bike path I walk down always has a number of cats hanging about. I know it's due to the configuration of the cats inner-eye, but every time I take a cat's photo around here, they have these bright lights where their eyes should be. I call them the "android cats"...they are waiting for their orders to take over the city...
Night before last I was walking past the 'android cats' above on my way back from the corner (during these warmer months I've become addicted to the frozen cokes they sell at the store there). As I was snapping some pictures of a small field of dandelions, I heard the noise of approaching people. I looked back just in time to see a woman on a bicycle whizzing past, followed by her husband, and a young girl of four or five being pulled along in a red wagon. The girl had a helmet on and was singing LA-LA-LA-LALALALA-LA rather loudly. When she saw me she reacted...LA-LA-LALALA-LA-HELLO!! LA-LA-LA-LALALALA-LA...and they were off down the path. I snapped off a couple of pictures as they disappeared in the distance. I kind of like the one above. It looks like an exercise in pointillism.

Above is the tidal creek behind our condo and down the bank a bit...the tide was out...obviously...

Yesterday evening I took a drive in the Audi my mom left me. I have a temporary tag at the moment that's going to expire tomorrow. After that, the car will sit for a month or so until I can get the tag situation finalized. I was out for a spin around the road that runs around the edge of the island. I took the opportunity to visit my favorite park. There is usually no one there, and the trees are incredible. I got there just in time to catch the sunset piercing the canopy of branches.
On the way back from the park, I decided to swing by a small dock. I was able to catch another shot of the sunset before the sun dipped down out of sight.

So there you go. Just sharing a little Savannah to cap a mellow couple of days...