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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

You may recall a post from back in 2012 where I totally lusted over an amazing product I saw displayed behind glass at Comic-Con — a working replica of a Mystic Seer fortune telling machine made famous in a 1960 episode of the Twilight Zone starring William Shatner. The price of the Mystic Seer was exorbitant, so I sadly left the convention center  vowing to someday own a Mystic Seer of my very own.

The memory of the Mystic Seer haunted me with no end. Questions loomed! Thoughts of mysteries revealed swirled in my mind! How could I possibly continue to live KNOWING that a Mystic Seer could be guiding my every decision? Finally, I broke down, scouring the internet for the Mystic Seer I had spotted at the Con. Amazon, of course, had an outrageously priced after-market version, but not actually having a Mystic Seer to which I could pose the question “is this a good deal?” I had no choice but to pass. Then, I spotted the Mystic Seer at Entertainment Earth for the same price that had tempted me at Comic-Con. I placed my order in July and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Each month, it seemed, I would receive an email from Entertainment Earth updating me on the stays of my order: estimated release date is September 2013… estimated release date is October 2013… estimated release date is November 2013…. Without fail, release was always perpetually just one month away, until one day I received an email that said “your item has shipped.”

How exciting! And, yes, the happy day has finally come! I have a Mystic Seer of my very own!

Ask me a YES or NO question

Ask me a YES or NO question

Now that I have a Mystic Seer (which, by the way, only takes pennies, but what a bargain!) I feel as though I have the weight of the entire universe pressing upon my shoulders, as the prophetic powers of the Mystic Seer cannot be taken lightly! Oh, sure, I could be asking the Mystic Seer some of the trite questions posed on the instructions to the right:

  • Does she love me? (doubtful)
  • Will I become rich? (well, I can afford a Mystic Seer)
  • Is my future bright? (of course!)

But I believe it is my sworn duty to be asking the Mystic Seer questions that will reveal futures that will benefit all of humankind. My pledge to you, the regular readers of my blog, is to regularly ask the Mystic Seer important questions to guide our collective pop culture lives and actions. Who knows, the Mystic Seer may eventually have his own prognostication web site!

The first question posed to the Mystic Seer (which actually took place yesterday morning): Who will win the Super Bowl? 

There you have it! The Mystic Seer CORRECTLY picked the winner of the 2014 Super Bowl!! If this is not proof positive to the Mystic Seer’s window into the future of the unknown, I don’t know what is!!

The Mystic Seer!

The Mystic Seer!

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Yes, there was far too much art during my quick trip to LA to squeeze into a single blog post. So here we are at Part Two, with lots of pics and commentary to cover a single completely and totally incredible collection of work.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me at CoproGallery

What happens when you mix two of my very favorite things? You get a really great art exhibit about the best TV show in history! Okay, technically, the exhibit on display at Santa Monica’s CoproGallery pays homage to the 20th anniversary of the 1992 filmFire Walk With Me, released following the cancellation of Twin Peaks after its weird and wonderful two year run. The TV show was honored with a very successful exhibit of its own at Clifton’s Brookdale in 2011, and it seemed only right that the movie would get a similarly artistic treatment.

Fire Walk With Me — Martin Wittfooth

I was very much looking forward to seeing this exhibit, as Twin Peaks was most certainly one of my two favorite television shows (the other being the original Japanese version of Iron Chef), and the roster of artists submitting work included many of my favorite contemporary artists. The show is very impressive with a miniature version of the “red room” with clips of the film playing on a television, and music from the soundtrack piped into the gallery as you soak in various interpretations of the film’s characters, themes, and notable scenes.

There were tons of impressive pieces in the show, but I’ll try to touch on my favorites, one of which is Martin Wittfooth’s impressive title piece on the right, which perfectly captures a scene from the film’s title credits of a bird perched in peaceful contemplation between two distant mountain peaks. The subject matter was a perfect match for Martin’s style, and a great way to welcome visitors to the gallery.

Something In The Room — Glenn Barr

The exhibit is spread throughout the gallery space, from the entrance foyer to Copro’s two main exhibit halls. My favorite pieces were in the larger of the spaces, with new work from Chris Mars, Glenn Barr, Shag, Chris Berens, and much more. My very favorite piece was a large, ornately framed painting of Laura Palmer from Glenn Barr. I’ve always really, really liked Glenn’s work and would rate this piece amongst his very best. He does a superb job capturing the tormented spirt of the character at the center the film.

Another favorite was An Old Woman and Her Grandson by Shag, which sets two scenes from the movie in a forest of chopped trees. On the right are two of the more enigmatic characters from the film, an old woman who appears along with her grandson who wears a papier-mâché mask. On the left is classic imagery from the mysterious and otherworldly red room with Laura Palmer seated between Agent Dale Cooper and a Grecian statue. Shag has done a thoughtful job in choosing to pair these two scenes in a single painting, as there’s always been much Phd-level speculation in fan circles about the significance of these two scenes in relationship to one another.

An Old Woman and Her Grandson — Shag

One nice treat of seeing the exhibit in person is to finally get the opportunity to see the work of  Chris Berens in person. I’ve followed Berens’ for many years after first being exposed to his work via online previews of his many exhibits at Seattle’s Roq la Rue Gallery, but I’d never had the opportunity to experience his ethereal layering of paint and cut paper strips up close. The technique is very impressive and brings an edgy sense of immediacy to the work that is pretty much impossible to replicate with a JPEG. I liked it lots!

Pale Moon Over Black Lake — Chris Berens

Other favorites included Chris Mars’s engaging portrait of David Lynch as Agent Gordon Cole (complete with requisite headset and cigarette), Esao Andrews’ White Horse, Nicoletta Ceccoli’s tiny acrylic demon, Lori Earley’s excellent venture into digital art, Annie Owens’ portrait of Audrey Horne, Dan Quitana’s Red Room, and Chris Buzelli’s faceless creep-out on heroin addiction, Laura.

This was one of the better group shows I’ve seen in ages, with work that has remained in my mind long after leaving Bergamot Station and heading back to San Diego. The show continues through May 12th, so if you’re anywhere at all in southern California you should head out to Santa Monica and see the show. And, of course, while you’re there, stop by the Bergamot Cafe and enjoy a steaming cup of coffee. And maybe a slice of pie.

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Just in case you missed me on TV this past Friday (and why did you?!?!), KPBS has posted a video of the segment to their arts and culture blog, and the piece came out GREAT!! In addition to all the live footage captured in my home and out back in the studio, the producers mixed in tons of clips from my video animations as well as a few well placed stills from finished photographs. You also get to see a sneak peek of work on a brand new photo that takes on vice, virtue, sex… and brains.

But wait! That’s not all…

See me rip the head off a kewpie doll!
See me fondle hula girls!
See me squint through a view finder!

All that, and more, is in the 4 minute segment that ran during the October 14th airing of Evening Edition.

Thanks and accolades to KPBS, cinema junkie Beth Accomando, and videographer Katie Euphrat for the tremendous job they did editing all that footage into a fun and exciting whirlwind of plastic fun!

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Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader (detail)

Here’s your chance to take a peek behind the curtains at Wind-up Dreams Central! A couple of weeks back I played host to a film crew that visited my home and studio to tape a segment for an upcoming airing on Evening Edition, the nightly news program that broadcasts on KPBS television here in San Diego. The crew was here for several hours—their lights, their cameras, and me supplying the action as I worked through the construction of a brand new photo in my backyard studio. It was tons of fun, and the segment is scheduled to hit the local airwaves this Friday, October 14th, during the 6:30 broadcast of Evening Edition.

In addition to the studio footage, I had the opportunity to sit down in my library with film, arts and culture guru extraordinaire, Beth Accomando, for a lengthy interview where we talked about art, toys, religion, and the crazy titles I give to my photos. We also discussed my recently published digital coffee table book for the iPad, Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption, as well as the special packaging planned for the Deluxe Edition of the book scheduled to be released later this month.

With all the footage that was captured, and only a few precious minutes for the segment to run when the piece airs this Friday, it is going to be exciting to see how all this material is squeeeeezed into a concise little segment of photographic delight. Assuming the camera was digital and not film, there will be lots of pixels left on the cutting room floor (more likely than not, all my incoherent art-speak rambling)!

The details…

What:  Evening Edition — featuring a segment on my photography!
Where:  KPBS Television — check your local listings for channel
When:  Friday, October 14, 6:30 PM

Tune in! You won’t be disappointed!

And, if you’re not in the San Diego area or somehow miss the broadcast, I’ll be providing after-the-fact links to watch the segment on-line.

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Over the past couple of days I’ve made mention to several people that I’m writing a series of blog posts about scary things I saw as a kid and—without fail—every person I’ve spoken to has immediately shared a memory of their own childhood-scarring experiences. The exchange usually goes something like this:

That’s a great idea! I remember a movie I saw when I was little, where this guy is out walking in the woods, then suddenly all these creepy dead children float down from out of the trees and hover just above the ground, blocking his path. Then one of the children, who is all gross and decaying, reaches out a white, clammy hand…

Anyway, you get the idea. After they describe the scene, again, almost to a person:

I can’t remember the name of the movie, or anything else that happened, but that one part really freaked me out.

Rarely are these memories linked to the entire feature length film. Rather, select scenes that packed such a psychological wallop as to have left a lasting impression of unpleasant bewilderment.

The film library in my brain is filled with similar cutting room floor memories, having grown up watching badly dubbed Italian horror movies (all hail Mario Bava, who we’ll save for a future post) on Saturday afternoons, where our local “movie macabre hostess” was a horror-pinup named Moona Lisa. These scenes play out in short vivid trailers of disconnected horror. No characters, no plot, no title. Just pictures that move in my mind, and the spine tingling shivers they raise in my memory.

Over the years I’ve grappled with these small doses of terror, trying to connect the memories to their source, and when I do connect a clip of gray-matter celluloid to a film title or TV episode…. Oh, the elation!! It’s like solving a lifelong riddle. We may all aspire to conquer our fears, but I’ll settle for merely making sense of them.

And what do I see when the little film festival of fright clicks up a scene or two in my mind?

Plants that come alive!

One very early memory is a scene from the first season of Lost In Space. Now, before you jump to dismiss the possibility of finding fear in such classic camp, go back and watch the first few episodes. The pilot, in particular, is high tension suspense, and the first season was a nice mix of disarming comedy and creepy Sci Fi terror, carried forward by a pretty awesome score (by John Williams, no less!). Yeah, the series became a silly parody of itself, but to a very young mind… the galactic perils of the family and crew of the Jupiter 2 were REAL!

One scene in particular completely freaked me out. I remember a character walking amongst the boulders and dirt on the surface of a planet, when he comes upon a patch of alien vegetation that suddenly bursts to life as wriggling, squirming petals and tendrils; cooing and shrieking as if they wished to ensnare a person in their slimy grasp. Growing up, we lived out in the country on 2 1/2 acres of… boulders and dirt… and PLANTS! Though I loved exploring and climbing the rocks, I would not go anywhere NEAR a rock that was close to a plant, convinced as I was that the plant would spring forth and drag me kicking and screaming into the earth.

The memory of that scene had no context, and I have no idea what the rest of the episode might have been about, but that image of a suddenly ravenous plant “stuck” in my brain.

Decades later, and thanks to bootleg tapes purchased at Comic-Con, I rediscovered the scene in episode 15 of the first season titled, appropriately enough, Attack of the Monster Plants.

Beware what lives in the shadows

In my last post I began by writing about the moment of mounting dread I felt while sitting in a theater Sunday afternoon. The movie I was seeing was Don’t be Afraid Of The Dark, the new film written and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. I really didn’t know much about the film, apart from its association with GDT, so I mostly went into the film cold.

As the story unfolded, I began to sense something very familiar that tapped at my vault of childhood horrors with the clack-clack-clack of an old and rusty skeleton key. I soon realized that I was watching a remake of far and away the CREEPIEST film I ever saw as a kid. My whole life I’d been haunted by memories of a truly frightening film I saw on TV that involved tiny demonic creatures tormenting a woman from the vents and dark corners of a very old house. I’d long ago forgotten (or maybe never knew) the title, but remembered the creatures and a very scary pit hidden behind a secret wall. The creatures, as I remember them, were terrifying! Through most of the film they were only seen as quick, look-away flashes; their looming presence felt through late cuts, rapid movements, and ominous sound. For a split second they were—There!—only to vanish as the eye plays tricks and the camera is late to the hunt. When finally revealed, the creatures were horribly mutated and prunish, with cruel faces and hateful eyes. They spoke in manic whispers of insanity; their intent obviously wicked and amoral. I didn’t sleep for days, avoided vents, bookshelves, cupboards, closets, the corner of any room, and when I finally did succumb to the powers of sleep, I did so with the lights ON for many, many weeks.

Sinking into the cushions of my theater seat I was frozen by this revelation, suddenly knowing what was to come on screen, with a clear understanding of how much it had affected me as a kid. I half considered fleeing the theater in anticipated terror.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973)

I stuck around and enjoyed the film, but it didn’t have a fraction of the effect on me as had the original (which, after a bit of internet research, I discovered to have been made in 1973). Yes, the new version has plenty of good scares, high production values, solid acting, and the talents of Guillermo Del Toro. But the new version attempts (quite nicely) to explain why these bloodthirsty creatures want to torment their victims. And once horror can be rationalized, it’s really not that scary. Kind of like knowing the magician’s trick before he saws the lady in half.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an absolute stickler for good writing, and the new version of DBAOTD is definitely the stronger narrative, with lots of subtext and well-developed characters to drive the story and explain the behavior of the characters. A+ Guillermo!  But, when it comes to delivering mess-with-you-mind scares, nothing beats the lasting impact of the unexplained.

Murderous demons lurking in a bookshelf

The original was scary because there was no explanation for what was happening. No one believed the traumatized heroine (played by Kim Darby) when she spoke of demonic creatures living in the shadows. The supernatural events were completely baseless and irrational, and that’s SUPER scary to a little kid! When you’re a kid—me!—and you see something without any basis in reality… that makes it all the more real, because there is no explanation. You rationalize what you see on screen by believing a few simple “facts”:

  • There are demons that live in the wall.
  • They only come out when it’s dark.
  • They want to kill me.

Is any other justification for being scared necessary?!??!

NO!

If I were to go back and watch the original today (which I certainly plan on doing), I doubt it would have the same scarring impact on my mind. Then again, I now live in a very old house with all kinds of unexplained drafts, noises, hidey-holes, mystery doorways, and skeleton keys. Not to mention the pit in the basement.

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I’d love to hear your Forgotten Movie memories. What movies scared you so badly that the rest of the film was vanquished from your memory? Share! We can start a support group.

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Mad Men

It’s not often that my blog strays from art and writing, but tonight I’ll make an exception… for — gasp! — TV.  The new season of Mad Men begins tonight on AMC, and I’ll be in front of my TV at 10:00 sharp to see what new surprises are in store. Not that I’ve had a long time to wait between season one and season two… I just started watching the show last weekend, and soaked in all 13 episodes over the course of 6 retro-rific nights.  Wow! What a cool show! In my opinion, it’s the best thing going on TV, and gets my wildly enthusiastic endorsement.

Apart from the immediate appeal of sharp writing, crisp acting, and expert direction (note how many episodes from the first season were directed by alums of Twin Peaks) part of the appeal, for me, is the feeling that I’m watching one of my photographs come to life. Everything about the art direction, set design, costumes, dialog, and character development feels like it has been taken directly from the same late 50’s, early 60’s vinyl LP record covers I often use as backdrop for my still life narratives.

If you’ve yet to catch Mad Men for yourself, what are you waiting for? Start watching tonight on AMC — and rewind the clock to season one through the magic of video on-demand.

Back to the usual art stuff soon…

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