Friday, March 18, 2011

arigato...

as far as the ongoing tragedy/disaster in japan, & the helpless horror & sorrow i feel when i dwell on it (which is often), i simply have no words...

without ever actually having been there, this weird little island, thousands of miles away, has had an enormous impact on my life over the last dozen years. as i came to feel more'n'more a 'stranger in a strange land' in the u.s., i also began to feel more'n'more comfortable within the bent, chewed-up, 'east meets west' revised version of u.s. (& all western) culture that the japanese have proven so capable of imagining. my culture, as seen through this kaleidoscope, became alive again. while, along with it, came insights & entryways into another one, one old enough, & rich enough, to have pulled this off...

so, unable as i might be to speak about the current situation, i can at least extend my appreciation to some of those who have enriched, entertained, & enlightened me over the last decade plus. they have, through their craftsmanship, become part of who i am, & have made my life a more joyful, & magical, experience...

akira kurosawa - a director who can do everything from 'cast of thousands' epics to extraordinarily low-key character studies, & never fail to imbue it all with a sense of universality, reminding us of all we share, for better or worse, wherever we are...



shigero miyamoto - the personification of nintendo, & father of mario & link (legend of zelda). has likely evoked more laughter, frustration, & ultimate gratification among more 9-12 year-olds than any one in history...



haruki murakami - when it comes down to it, my single favorite novelist. jazz club owner turned writer, his ability to effortlessly slide back'n'forth between the mundane & the surreal, without ever becoming either disruptive or incoherent, captures reality as it's experienced, subjectively, & results in stories that penetrate on a level most others can't...

"Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it's time to drink."
— Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

"I've wanted to find out as much about China as I could. But that China is only my China. Not any China I can read about. It's the China that sends messages just to me. It's not the big yellow expanse on the globe, it's another China. Another hypothesis, another supposition. In a sense, it's a part of myself that's been cut off by the word China.
I wander though China. Without ever having boarded a plane. My travels take place here in the Tokyo subways, in the backseat of a taxi... all of a sudden this city will start to go. In a flash, the buildings will crumble. Over the Tokyo streets will fall my China, like ash, leaching into everything it touches. Slowly, gradually, until nothing remains."
— The Elephant Vanishes: Stories

"So what can I do now?" she spoke up a minute later.
"Nothing," I said. "Just think about what comes before words. You owe that to the dead. As time goes on, you'll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn't, doesn't. Time solves most things. And what time can't solve, you have to solve yourself. Is that too much to ask?"
"A little," she said, trying to smile.
"Well, of course it is," I said, trying to smile too.
"I doubt that this makes sense to most people. But I think I'm right. People die all the time. Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets. Fairly, and if posible, sincerely. It's too easy not to make the effort, then weep and wring your hands after the person dies. Personally, I don't buy it."
Yuki leaned against the car door. "But that's real hard, isn't it?" she said.
"Real hard," I said. "But it's worth trying for."
— Dance, Dance, Dance

"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed 'em to the fire, they're all just paper. The fire isn't thinking 'Oh, this is Kant,' or 'Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,' or 'Nice tits,' while it burns. To the fire, they're nothing but scraps of paper. It's the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there's no distinction--they're all just fuel."
— After Dark

"At a certain point in our lives, when we really need a clear-cut solution, the person who knocks at our door is, more likely than not, a messenger bearing bad news. This isn’t always the case, but from experience I’d say the gloomy reports far outnumber the others. The messenger touches his hand to his cap and looks apologetic, but that does nothing to improve the contents of the message. It isn’t the messenger’s fault. No good to blame him, no good to grab him by the collar and shake him. The messenger is just conscientiously doing the job his boss assigned him. And this boss? That would be none other than our old friend Reality."
— What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


fumito ueda - the bad news: he is only now working on his third video game (which has been in progress for 5 years). the good news: the 2 games he has completed, 'ico' & 'shadow of the colossus', are for me (& many others) the 2 greatest video games ever made...



nobuo uematsu - the god of video game music composition. he's done everything from samba to ragtime to surf to full orchestral, & the popularity of some of his soundtracks have come to equal or exceed the popularity of the games themselves...



takeshi kitano - former comedian turned writer/director/actor/celebrity. his yakuza/gangland movies, while unapologetically violent, usually end up going to some strange, & sometimes surprisingly reflective, places in betwen the rounds of gunfire. his other movies are pretty much all over the place, &, well,... never, ever dull? :) ...



osamu tezuka - the godfather of manga & the creator of astro boy, the first manga (via cartoon) to appear in the west. while his 'renegade outlaw unlicenced surgeon' series, 'black jack' is my personal favorite (tezuka actually was a doctor before he did manga, & the illustrations are often amazing), i'd strongly recommend 'buddha', his 8-volume version based on the buddha's life, to beginners. think you could never be 'moved' by a comic book? think again..



keigo oyamada - aka 'cornelius', pop star/composer/guitarist supreme. a musician sooo clever, inventive, & often extraordinary, that i've pretty much been bored with all pop/rock ever since first listening to him...



hideo kojima - genius behind the now 20+ saga of 'metal gear' / 'metal gear solid', the anti-war war game series. always topical, always knowledgeable, always tinged with humor & high weirdness, always innovative every-which-way (graphically/musically/gameplay-wise), & always featuring the most over-the-top casts (of both good & bad guys), not to mention boss fights, of them all...



hayao miyazaki - often described as 'the walt disney of japan', but, if you've seen any of his movies, you know that this isn't quite true. miyazaki's stories always manage to ground the exaggerated elements of classic disney in generous doses of simple, down-to-earth characters, environments, & situations. which makes the surreal aspects that much more striking, & memorable...



toshiro mifune - i'm guessing just about everyone, even if they might not want to admit it, even if they don't even consciously realize it, has an image somewhere in their mind of what they imagine the 'ultimate bad ass', that 'quiet, intimidating (tho, beneath it all, kind-hearted) loner who goes his own way, & plays by his own rules' would be like. well, that's what toshiro mifune is for me - the consummate 'ultimate bad ass'...



ichiro suzuki - before finally passing on what had been a life-long interest in the game, my last 10 years following baseball were spent as a seattle mariners fan. &, of course, as an ichiro fan. &, if like me, you feel that baseball, at it's core, will always be more about grace & speed than raw power, seeing ichiro play was seeing baseball at it's very finest...




my most heartfelt prayers, & gratitude, to the people of my adopted 'home away from home'. may you find the strength within you, as you so often have before...

(murakami quotes from here - arigato!...)


Kodo (鼓童) : O-Daiko from Jason Minnix on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

change in plans


It appears the excitement I may have generated yesterday by telling you about Guillermo delToro making a film of 'At the Mountains of Madness' was premature in the extreme. Today the whole plan was shelved when Universal Studios decided not to risk spending $150 million.. a veritable drop in the bucket now that we're used to hearing about trillion dollar deficits. Ah well, maybe another time.

While looking through my old pictures I found this one (I apologize for the picture quality but I scanned an old snapshot and upsized it.). It was called 'polar bear spring' and was probably painted in the mid 70's. At the time I had no idea that polar bears might eventually be trying to make their way through field of daisies come spring rather than virtually endless miles of ice flows. Maybe I should paint another one where they're back in the snow.



Monday, March 7, 2011

lovecraft at the movies



At last some good news, especially for those who are fans of that most famous author of macabre stories from Providence, RI, H.P. Lovecraft. His story 'At the Mountains of Madness' gives us all a good reason to last until 2013 since that's when Guillermo DelToro's version of the film is scheduled for release. For those of you who might not be familiar with the tale (not you Randal), I've provided a synopsis written by someone else because I'm too lazy to read it again right now.





"Miskatonic University of Arkham, Massachussetts, sends a scientific expedition to explore the snowy wastes of Antarctica. Once there the team uses experimental drilling equipment to search for fossils from the days when Antarctica was a steaming, prehistoric jungle. In an icy cavern members of the expedition discover perfectly preserved specimens of a winged, column-like creature and bring them back to camp for study.

Informed of the momentous find by radio, the unnamed expedition leader and a companion race to the scene. When they arrive they discover the camp destroyed, the men and sled dogs alike slaughtered and dissected. The mysterious specimens are missing along with some scientific equipment and one team member. Suspecting mutiny or perhaps insanity the team leader sets off into the mountains, following the tracks of a hastily constructed sledge and footprints that are decidedly inhuman. Almost willfully blind to the truth until too late, the scientists realize the alien specimens were only hibernating and now seek to return to the ancient prehuman city that is their home. What follows is a story told in hieroglyhs, recording the rise and fall of an alien empire that genetically engineered man as a buffoonish, ape-like jester to amuse their inhuman intellects. The explorers must try to escape not only the city, but also the mindless, protoplasmic slaves who built it for their slumbering creators."
Greg O., Resident Scholar

I'm not a fan of horror movies in general but I've seen quite a few and DelToro's 'Pan's Labyrinth' is one of the very best, so knowing he'll be directing this amazing story written by H.P. Lovecraft is exciting. 'Re-Animator', 'Die Monster Die', 'The Thing' and even, 'Alien' are all either adaptations or contain ideas borrowed from H.P. Murray Groat's remarkable Lovecraftian Adventures of TinTin are one of the more witty and remarkable versions of how the stories keep reappearing. I can't help but wonder if there's some essential truth behind this madness but that's something you can discover for yourself if you read him.

The bad news about this story (well, there had to be a dark side) is that the studio has insisted that Tom Cruise play the lead. With any luck Cthulu will eat him.
:-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

public art


I probably spend far too much time reading news and opinions on the current affairs web sites and find it all too easy to become overwhelmed by information, depressed, or both. When that happens, those times when I don't have a project I'm involved with or a book I can't put down, I have a few places on-line I can retreat to for comfort and solace. One of them is The Wooster Collective, a forum for street culture and graffiti artists from around the world.

Most of us are familiar with Banksy, a character impossible not to love in my opinion, but there are many others who do wonderful work that's focused on topics as diverse as politics, ethics, and culture. In public spaces, street art represents the voice of the community, marginal groups, and young people who strive to be heard, often defying the notion of private property. Graffitis have become a rich medium for the unrestricted expression of ideas and statements about how to make the world a better place without resorting to anything more utopian than being willing to share space and dreams.

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”

–Banksy, Wall and Piece


Faith47 from The Ginkgo Agency on Vimeo.

There are so many great examples it was hard to choose just one photograph or video but since I limit myself to one of each I thought I'd show you a picture of just how effective something small can be. The artist in the video speaks for herself.