Archive for the ‘other people’s art’ Category

Just caught up on Elfquest

Okay so I’ve just caught up on Elfquest for the first time in a while and there was a time I was a massive Elfquest fan (as maybe you can tell from things like my art) and I’ve always kept following it but a lot of the time it felt kind of rote – I mean, it never really got bad, but it wasn’t what it had been, if you know what I mean, and this series had been better, but still not really HOLY FUCK WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK JUST FUCKING HAPPENED OVER THE LAST THREE ISSUES BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HANDLE THIS BECAUSE WHAT I MEAN WHAT I MEAN UH WHAT?!

so yeah! I care again. Elfquest fandom, how’s everybody holding up? Anna is all “all I can see is the Two Moons MUSH crowd FLIPPING ITS COLLECTIVE SHIT.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the most interesting storytelling they’ve done in a long goddamn time but HEY LET’S TAKE SOME DYNAMITE TO EVERYTHING AND FUCK SHIT UP BUT GOOD was not something I really thought was in their oeuvre anymore you know? and I’m all in YOU DRAGGED ME BACK IN YOU BASTARDS I WAS OUT AND YOU DRAGGED ME BACK IN GODDAMMIT

heh “just like tape”

jeff Bohnhoff found this AVID ProTools parody site that’s pretty funny if you’re into recording technologies. Yeah, that’s pretty obscure, but it’s a Thursday and I have the annual multi-hour tax appointment so that’s all I got.

The real point of these is, yes, fine, there’s a tape aesthetic, there’s a sound, there are Happy Accidents, but jfc tape was awful when you actually had to use it. Or was fantastic, depending upon how you feel about editing with cutting blocks, tape hiss, capstan rumble, track bleed, dropouts, head lubricant which is not in any way as fun as it sounds and unbelievable amounts of expense, and don’t get me wrong, it beat everything that came before, this is really just my way of saying nostalgia is stupid, but if you want to use magnetic tape and gear as an effects box, that makes sense.

Just, gods, don’t have to rely on it.

I kind’ve wish they’d included some radio specific bits. There would’ve been commentary about randomised tape stretch in your carts, and there would be emulation of the magnetic track marker tape disappearing somewhere in the machine resulting in guaranteed loss of cueing functionality and 50%-likely loss of tape until you restored the track marker, plus a bonus .01% chance of Avid Virtual Cart Machine™ failure and .001% chance of Avid Virtual Cart Machine Electrical Fire™. Avid Virtual Tape Splicing Kit™ and Avid Virtual Cart Start Marker Kit™ subscription would both be required; Avid Virtual Staff Technician™ and Avid Virtual Little Fire Extinguisher Under The On-Air Desk™ recommended. Avid Virtual Cart Start Marker Kit™ and Avid Virtual Little Fire Extinguisher Under The On-Air Desk™ would be, of course, not yet available.

But you get the idea.

to vancouver! also, a build follow-up

Off to Vancouver for a show! Not one of mine tho’, we’re seeing Le Vent du Nord tonight at the Rogue.

I mentioned that the instrument pickup I built last week sounded really good if I used my finger, but terrible using their standard attachment methods. I tried attaching it using a plastic clamp, but at first, that didn’t seem to help, so I rebuilt the piezo portion of the device, without the double-sided tape which had confused me the first time around.

That’s had an interesting effect. Held on by hand, the sound is definitely different – lots more low-end – but I think I like it less. But at the same time, using the clamp now works – it sounds the same with the plastic clamp as it does held on with finger, which is a huge improvement, and makes it usable on stage.

This is definitely something which requires more tinkering, but I’ve got it far enough along to try using during Friday’s show. Because SURE UNTESTED GEAR WHY NOT right? Well, you have to test it sometime. XD

Time to fly. See you at the Rogue?

wow somebody knows their golden age musicals

Hey, weekenders! A present for you. Somebody knows their golden-age musicals inside and out – this is some great goddamn selection and editing.

Save KPLU Tacoma/Seattle

I’m going to take a minute to step entirely out of character and write about something local – the effort to save KPLU, a highly popular non-profit radio station.


KPLU has been owned by Pacific Lutheran University since its founding. It’s a jazz and news station, with very good local coverage – something sadly lacking in mass media. However, the university decided to sell it; they see radio as a declining-value asset, and the school needs the cash. But they negotiated this deal in secret; the first hint that they had any interest in selling was an announcement that they’d reached a deal with KUOW and the University of Washington.

Now, once upon a time, KUOW – UW’s NPR outlet – was a decent station. Not the best, but not the worst, and I was a regular donor. That time is long past. They have virtually no local programming or news anymore; I stopped listening to them because since they hired their new east-coast programming director and station manager, they sound like an NPR corporate station operating out of Washington, DC, not a UW station operating out of Washington State. And, all too predictably, they immediately announced their intent to fold KPLU into their broadcast network as an all-jazz second station, eliminating KPLU’s very good independent local news and information bureau.

We are already suffering – as are most of the US-controlled territories – with a near-collapse in anything that can be seriously called journalism. In-depth coverage is all but absent, and local coverage in particular loses out. Media consolidation sucks.

For all of these reasons, a large local movement arose to demand that KPLU be given the chance to buy itself out, and go independent. You see, despite what PLU likes to say, KPLU is entirely self-supporting now. It just had a record fundraising drive during the secret sellout negotiations. Its listenership is quite large. Its citizen advisory board demanded to know why they’d been kept out of the process, once it was announced, and asserted immediately that the sale was deeply inappropriate.

So, following massive protest – well, massive, given the scale of non-profit radio – we’ve been given a shot. It was begrudgingly given; KUOW really wants to own KPLU’s transmitters. But it was given, so we have a chance.

We have six months; they need seven million dollars. I’ve already pledged. If you’re interested at all in supporting Puget Sound news coverage, I hope you will too.

Click here to help save KPLU.

hello again, 2006

A long time ago, a group of Star Trek fans decided to do a fan version of a Star Trek show, including actual episodes. They weren’t the first with this idea, but they were the first that I know of to do it as a period spin-off. It’s all original characters, different (and in one case original) aliens, it’s a different ship (USS Exeter, NCC-1706, yes, that Exeter, the reclaimed plague ship)…

And so they learned the tropes of 1960s television and made a pilot episode (“The Savage Empire”) to get into practice, and then started rolling on the main story idea, The Tressaurian Intersection. They built a complete bridge set, they rented a studio, they shot it, and parts started coming out, separated by many months at a time, then a year or more…

…until the final act, which never appeared, until it became long enough that I imagined they’d lost interest and given up.

Which is why stumbling across the complete episode a couple of days ago during a YouTube crawl was just such HOLY HELL THEY FINISHED IT shock moment. I think it had been six or seven years since the previous update. Here y’go:

If you don’t watch anything else, watch the teaser, because it closes on what absolutely would’ve been an iconic shot in the original series – and may’ve been a defining shot had this been an actual, period spin-off. I haven’t seen any shot in any of the other fan versions I’ve watched which managed such a thing, but this one did.

And besides, the editing on this thing is tight. I admire anybody’s crazy fanac trying to do any of these monsters, but a lot of the episodes I’ve seen will drag in places and wander a bit, because hey, you can, right? There’s no need to land on exactly 52 or 48 or 46 minutes or whatever.

But this production crew doesn’t waste any time. It’s not all that it’s high action at every moment, because it’s not. They’re just strong in economy of storytelling – particularly for a fan effort.

So, yeah. Go you, crazy fans. I ♥ you.

machete order, redux

As I said yesterday – machete order doesn’t help the prequels. It really doesn’t.

But it does help Return of the Jedi. I’m really surprised by that. If you manage to make it through Revenge of the Sith, if you manage to get to that moment where suddenly these actually are people, making terrible mistakes with terrible consequences, the whole Luke/Vader/Emperor conflict both makes more actual sense and finally – finally! – has emotional resonance.

Bear with me for a minute here, because oh yeah, I’m going to explain this.

First, the smaller point: Luke is right. I don’t mean about Vader/Anakin, leave that aside for a minute. I’m talking about Palpatine.

“Your overconfidence is your weakness,” Luke says, when he’s presented to the Emperor. Without knowing how we got here – without knowing how Vader got here – that doesn’t have a lot of impact. It’s a throwaway line, a bluff.

But we know how carefully Palpatine groomed Anakin, and how deep his plans ran at even the last critical moment in Anakin’s conversion, and how calculating Palpatine was. Leave aside what of it does and doesn’t make sense in the real world – last time, he was being careful. By Star Wars standards, he was being delicate, and deft. He can be; he has been; we’ve seen it.

Now, in Jedi, he thinks he doesn’t have to be. He can bash Luke about the head with blunt force mocking and goading. Frankly, it’s sloppy, and you really don’t see how it can be effective if Luke has any actual choice in the matter at all.

In other words, the Emperor is monumentally overconfident. He’s completely sure in his power, and convinced of the idea that Luke has no actual choice. If he’s right, he doesn’t need to do anything more; he can, in fact, rub Luke’s face in it, which is exactly what he’s doing.

It now, at last, makes sense. His overconfidence really is his weakness.

Second, the larger point: Anakin was a douchebag. But while Anakin the Douchebag was a jackass with delusions of grandeur – delusions those arrogant pricks the Jedi of the Republic fostered, I might add – he wasn’t evil. He demanded things he hadn’t earned, he was far too interested in power, we put up with his whinging and complaining and and and and and and all of these are qualities not of an abstraction, but of a person.

And in Sith, at least, you buy into that person as real.

So now we know who Luke is trying to talk to. We know there’s somebody in there who fucked up, and fucked up bad, and knows it. (And that that last is pretty much text from Jedi – “it is too late, for me.”) We’ve met the person Luke is convinced still hides somewhere inside the breathy monolith which is Darth Vader. We know who he was and how he got there, and we know that he didn’t like it.

So when Luke steps up to the same precipice that Anakin stepped up to all those years before, and we see him step back where Anakin fell, it means more than it did as a solo act. We saw his father fail; we see Luke succeed.

And that’s all fine and good, and already means more than it did, but that’s not all we see. We also see Luke reach down and pull Anakin back. Luke pulls Anakin out of Darth, and he’s fully there, for the first time in decades.

And the thing is, it’s not to redemption. It’s not that simple. Darth/Anakin is also right, when he says it is too late for him. He can’t undo all the horrors he helped create. He can’t wipe that slate clean, force ghost or no force ghost, I say.

But Anakin can make a second decision. He can’t undo his crimes, but he can sacrifice himself – his power, his life – to keep it all from happening again, to someone else. He can’t save himself, perhaps, but Luke aside, there is another, and now that matters, because even if Luke dies unfallen, Leia is next.

And Anakin can stop it.

That realisation – not the Emperor’s lazy, juvenile taunting – is what pushed Luke to the edge of the precipice; it’s also what pulled Anakin back up towards it, to where Luke could grab him, and pull him, impossibly, back over, back out of the dark. Not to undo the horrors he’s committed, but to stop them from happening again.

And none of that complexity is there without the backstory, particularly as presented in the machete order. At the end of Empire, Darth Vader is as scary a creature as he’s ever going to be. Without knowing how we got here, we have to take Luke at his word and hope he’s right, and when he doesn’t step into that chasm, it seems the obvious choice, and the Emperor’s attempts to “convert” him seem… frankly silly. Anakin’s restoration seems shallow. Only the menace of Darth Vader carried those scenes – before.

But now we see that there’s a lot more going on. That missing chunk of context – or that added chunk of backstory, as you feel you prefer – changes the film, far more so than any of Lucas’s clumsy Special Edition horseshit.

With all that new knowledge, that machete order knowledge, the crux of Return of the Jedi no longer feels empty. It’s now solid, it now bears weight – at long last, it has emotional import. There are actual stakes, there is actual dramatic risk, and because of that, you can actually care.

And that’s something I think everyone agrees was kind of difficult the first time around.

I can’t think of many cases where a terrible film and a… pretty mediocre film with flashes of quality, I suppose… made an already decent film meaningfully better. I can certainly think of the opposite. But that’s the situation we have here. The machete order really, really throws it all in front of you, in ways the official order wouldn’t. It’s a rough third course, it really is – but the finish is so much better for it.

So I guess I can’t really believe I’m saying this, but… if you like the original trilogy… you really should watch the prequels. Or, at least, two of the three, specifically in the Machete order. Because what really gets redeemed by all this nonsense isn’t Anakin, or the Republic, or even any of that whole fictional universe…

What’s redeemed, at long last, is Return of the Jedi – a film which finally, years later, no longer has any apologies to make.

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machete order

Here are the Lair, we’ve been re-watching Star Wars in the Machete order – the first two of the original trilogy, the second two of the “prequels” as an extended flashback, and finally Return of the Jedi – before seeing the new film.

We just watched Revenge of the Sith, which I’d never seen. Attack of the Clones was it for me, when they first came out – I was done.

And… as everyone said, Sith is by far the least bad of the prequel trilogy. I was expecting that. And I was going along with it, letting some of the dumbest shit go, and seeing how some things actually kind of worked kind of okay, even if other things often didn’t, and then, we’re getting seriously into the meat of the film, and…

…I swear to the gods I was not expecting this…

…there is a moment of cinema. Actual, honest, sincere, working cinema. No dialogue, nearly no action, just camera, just actors being allowed – for once! – to act, and it is beautiful.

And it punched me in the gut. Hard. Partly because for the first time, I felt some kind of emotional connection to these characters. Woah, Not Expecting That, as they say. Partly because a critical relationship is sold to me, for the only time. Partly because bad decisions are being made that will create the situation we see later, and I buy that, too. But mostly…

…mostly because, goddammit, it showed, it showed through, it showed clear, that somewhere, somehow, lost inside that pompous egomaniac, that delusional businessman hooked on his own legend, that raving CGI-set addict who couldn’t direct actors to find lunch

…there is still a filmmaker. It hurts. I started yelling, no, really, I did, at Anna, going, “WHAT THE HELL? WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? THAT WAS CINEMA, WHAT? HOW? WHAT IS IT DOING IN THIS MESS?”

And it’s just such a goddamn shame there’s no Luke Skywalker around to make him realise that.

Revenge of the Sith is still not a good film. One precious moment of genuine art does not salvage what otherwise succeeds merely by virtue of not being wretched. There are several moments of competence, and several near-misses – and this time, there really are enough bones to make a good film. You can tell. You really can see it, in this one – partly, I think, because for one, brief moment, it actually is a good film.

Which makes the rest even harder to take.

Goddammit, George. Gods dammit.

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Ain't No Rest for the Wicked

Remember that video I mentioned shooting a part for? It’s up! This is Mary Crowell, or more specifically Doctor Mary Crowell who didn’t go to Evil Medical School for all those years to be called “Misses, doing a jazz cover of “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Enjoy:

It’s funny how an afternoon’s shoot gets distilled. 1:13-1:18, and 2:52-3:01, if you’re curious. But watch the whole thing, particularly for Zombie Chef and Zombie 10th Doctor, they’re both pretty great. 😀

Use cyber2015 at checkout for 20% off all music, including Bone Walker, the long-list Grammy Award nominated album.

a followup to the bitchin' metal hurdy-gurdy solo

Courtesy dw:vatine, here’s Hedningarna, which is not metal, but which is, to quote vatine, “rock, but starting from 15th century Swedish trad music, instead of swing.” Here’s a playlist of their tunes, and here’s one to get you started:


Use cyber2015 at checkout for 20% off all music, including Bone Walker, the long-list Grammy Award nominated album.

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