Archive for April, 2008

28
Apr
08

Alien V Predator V: Ripley’s Revenge!

I’m not a big comic book guy anymore.

I don’t attend conventions. I don’t particularly enjoy superhero movies with the strange exception of the X-Men flicks. Guilty pleasures? The older I get, the more Kevin Smith strikes me as an above average wit who’s mostly just a smug windbag.

Scroll back to when I was about 13 or 14 however, and it’s a whole different ballgame. Between exploring my budding sexuality in my uncle’s hot tub on summer vacations and competing with friends over who could grind their party to level 99 in Final Fantasy 2, I was pretty obsessive about Mylar and Mutants. I’d worked pretty much on and off doing paper routes, accounting work and other odd jobs since I was about 10 years old, so I always had a little of a certain luxury most my peer didn’t: money. Art collecting, fine wines and real estate speculation aren’t typical adolescent interests. So I didn’t really have a whole lot to do with this income, and usually ended up blowing it on overpriced and over-hyped comics, obsessively collecting whatever series caught my fleeting interest. Years later, I have a whole lot of good memories of sitting on my bedroom floor, comics fanned out like tarot cards waiting to be read.

Now that I’m an “adult”, I don’t seek out comics. I do however, pick up some graphic novels at the local library. They’re typically pretty easy to read, and I can tell in a matter of minutes if they’re going to hold my attention for more then one or two toilet reading sessions (think about that next time you pick up a book at your library). Best of all, they’re free. My compulsive urges (collecting, shopping, etc) are gratified almost instantaneously. The only actual price usually winds up being some slightly embarrassing time spent browsing the comics section with a handful of kids who are intimidated by a grown man in their presence and, of course, late fees. Overall, it’s a great way to check out some new “light” reading, and maybe discover something pretty cool in the process.

My latest read though, was something I thought I had read as a youth: Dark Horse’s “Aliens Vs. Predator Omnibus: Volume 1”.

See, I have an impressive run of the Uncanny X-Men. I own a good deal of the early Image superhero books. One of my aforementioned mistakes on buying over-hyped comics for way too much money involves buying New Mutants #87 (first appearance of Cable!) for a lot of dough. But amongst all the typical mutant fare I had a certain affinity for darker and weirder comics. Titles like Gore Shriek, Taboo, Deadworld and Hellraiser to name a few. That being said, I collected a lot of Dark Horse’s comics, including Aliens and later Aliens VS Predators comics.

Thing is, I don’t remember any of the stories. I swear humans were only involved in the periphery. Victims mostly. So what ended up astounding me about this collection is how far Dark Horse actually developed this universe beyond the “Grrr, Aliens fast, multiply, ACID BLOOD. Predator’s agile, powerful, MONSTROUS!!!” angle. What develops over the course of this book is a pretty solid mythology that delves into culture, religion and humanity’s role in the whole mess.

It starts out pedestrian enough. There’s a solid, longish story about a windswept, sun baked colony planet that gets caught in an Alien V Predator bug-hunt battle royale. This is all lasers, bloody colored pencils, heaving bosoms, giant dudes getting ripped apart, and chattering Aliens getting mowed down by the dozens. This stuff I kind of remember. The specific story kind of rang a bell even if the places and faces didn’t. It was generic space opera stuff. And that was perfectly okay.

But the further along this story starts twisting and turning in just off the wall ways. A human is accepted into the Predator’s clan. Intergalactic corporations hatch evil plots to control the forces at work for profit. Eventually Occultism, eternal life, barbaric human sacrifice and a villian who’s kind of like a vampire are introduced. I was reaching some heady “What the fuck” space and I loved it. So captivated was I by this rush of weird that I ended up devouring the latter half of the book in roughly the amount of time it took to meander through the first story. And that raised a couple of questions for me:

What the hell was going on at Dark Horse and the managerial staff responsible for unleashing this on the world? I mean, as a concept Aliens VS Predators is simple. It has a built in audience, and it’s easy enough to cater to that. Just throw some guns and bras at the reader and blow up a spaceship or three. Deposit cash, repeat next month. But at Dark Horse, they just made it weirder and weirder as it went along. And I guess that’s probably the overall point of any independent publishing concern, whether its film, literature, magazines or comics. It just hadn’t really occurred to me in this way before, and it was refreshing. I have to salute the balls the Dark Horse people had on them to venture in this direction. Please don’t confuse me as a comics historian or anything; maybe this was common place for them and I was just too young to realize it. Maybe it was a deviation (I doubt it). Maybe I’m just drunk off lack of sleep and the urge to write (maybe).

The second question is, does Volume 2 exist? Does my library have it? And how the fuck much weirder does this thing get?

I guess maybe I am kind of a comic book guy after all…

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27
Apr
08

Like the Good Book says: “Hell yeah!”

What sound does a cow make? LOLLLL

23
Apr
08

Helter Shelter

First off, I’d like to guarantee that the title of this post will go down in history. It is clever pun smithing at its finest. No one has ever come up with that combination of words before. That being said, the field of artistic criticism is dead. Bury its ashes and puke on its grave.

Over the course of two nights at work (gotta pace myself), I watched the Rolling Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter”.  Evidentally this had a Criterion release. That signifies two important things.  First, as I’m on a personal mission to archive all the Criterion releases (legitimately) for my HTPC this movie has “Come To My Attention”.  To me, this reason is the most important reason for the film’s existence, and also the only reason I watched it. Honestly, I’ve heard of the film before, and had some friends with generally sound opinions in movies recommend it, but come on, the Stones? I was never really that hyped.

Aye mate, shit\'s gawn get rowdy!

Secondly, Criterion typically remasters and publishes “important films”. In the nerdosphere, this is sometimes called The Criterion Treatment. This is similar to the Anchor Bay Treatment, but not as wildly regarded. Why? I don’t know. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of films are worthy of this “treatment”. This is debatable I guess;it’s ends up being a lot like inflation. Sure most of these movies are more interesting then the dreck that hits the IMDB 250 during the always ridiculous period right after a popular film is released (Batman Forever). But damn, it’s getting kind of hard to automatically assume you’re going to enjoy a movie because it has the Criterion label.  Sure, the work in question will undoubtedly be important to film in some way. The acting will probably be good. Cinematography is going to lean towards well structured and engaging. There probably won’t be that many explosions, or bus chases.  But the Criterion label could one day become the equivalent of Peruvian currency: too much of a good thing.  I honestly doubt it, but I have to pretend to say something halfway interesting on here…

Aside: It’s a toss up which I’d rather watch, an Anchor Bay (eff Starz) or Criterion release. Nine times out of ten, Anchor Bay’s Evil Dead would win. The tenth time I’d find myself watching 7 Samurai and thinking “Holy shit, this is long… but somehow that’s ok”.

Anyway, I ended up watching this film. I was really tired. I turned off the lights at work to better view my laptop screen.  Shit was getting mystic and otherworldly.  A raven perched on my cubicle.

After the fact, a couple of things strike me. The Rolling Stones had some pretty interesting lyrics. I’m not much of a “classic rock” guy. During my formative years I listened to bleeps and bloops and the occasional post punk noisy caterwaul band. I grew up on electronica, wav files and porn with a .gl file extension. The Rolling Stones were something my dad would turn up to 11 in the mini-van and screech along to: Jumping Jack Flash in particular. Even though this film isn’t really about the Stones, I came away with a more then casual interest in their lyrics.  For instance, the opening lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil”, the song which famously and tragically starts their set at Altamont:

Im a man of wealth and taste
Ive been around for a long, long year
Stole many a mans soul and faith
And I was round when jesus christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But whats puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around st. petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

Now, that’s actually… lyrical. And smart. I mean, its not mind-bendingly obscure, or vague and existential. It’s straightforward and captures a theme with imagery that becomes metaphorical. It’s good Rock N Roll. It’s good songwriting. And it’s a lot better then most of what I remember Jim Morrison coming up with.

So the blessed event of this release is that they subtitled it. Without these subtitles I doubt I’d have been able to catch any of the lyrics. In general, I’m not strong with song lyrics anyway. I thought the chorus to Old McDonald went “G.I. G.I. Joe”. But even what my malformed, cauliflower ears couldn’t hear, my cataract covered, near blind eyes could see. Honestly, this left me begging the question, “what is this band doing singing to hippies at a race track in California?” These lyrics are about the Blues (capital B). Memphis row house girls grinding on daddy’s lap, that type of thing. Contrast this with the Jefferson Airplane’s performance earlier in the film and their singer’s peaceful, spaced-out calls for calm and you get a pretty good idea why Flower Power never really worked like Soul Power, Power to the People, or even Shania Twain did. The whole situation was absurd.

Which is where it all goes wrong. Somewhere on the web, I read a review that called “Gimme Shelter” one of the most compelling horror movies the author had seen. Before I viewed the film, this struck me as hyperbole. Afterwards, I absolutely agree. The film reaches an early climax when we finally get to Altamont. We see the promoters push the show through all it’s well chronicled difficulties. Hippies are compared to lemmings. Even though the concert was free, the smell of huge amounts of money and exploitation are drifting in the air. This event is doomed from the beginning, and a claustrophobic feeling of dread builds like a cold sweat.

During the show, masses of hippies writhe, undress, fuck, go bug-eyed and hallucinate. The editing intersperses scenes of calm with scenes of impeding violence. Watching the second half of this film is a stress test. It’s like being in a dark room waiting to be hit by a hammer. Images of stoned out youth partying their brains out take on sinister, primeval undertones. In a way, this is conservative propaganda at its most subversive.

I hadn’t slept in almost a day, and was tripping right along with the crowd. It was terrifying man! I’ve actually been to raves that are like this, and retrospectively it’s just absolutely crazy that every single event where more then 10 people are crowded together for more then two hours doesn’t end in unrelenting destruction. I guess that’s the point of this documentary and why Criterion picked it up for release.

I hated to do it, but I gave it an 8 out of 10 on IMDB. Perhaps the second most terrifying horror film starring hippies after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

11
Apr
08

Now that’s what the (CROCKER!) I call a Chemical-Reaction

Thanks to De La Carter for the title inspiration.

Apparently, we unfocused artists at cRO have decided to break the month (almost years!) long drought of releasing art packs and put out the cROYALe Ascii Pack #1. You can get it here.

What immediately strikes me is that this pack is the shit. Where all this art came from, I have no idea, but apparently we at cRO are in the unique position of having more then 1 active artist (hi Mimic, SAC, how’s it feel at the bottom?). And that’s really awesome. When I joined cRO a couple of years ago, I only drew newschool and oldschool (amiga) style ascii. Since then I’ve adapted to my audience and learned block, and its a natural fit. Some of the pieces of mine in the pack are old, but that’s ok. It shows my growth as an admittedly lazy artist. It’s also nice to see the work of others who are newer to the scene, like Zorro (who coincidentally beat me at BlockParty08, more on that later), and Zemra. I guess having a Z in your nickname is good for art. Much like alcoholism, synesthesia or a troubled childhood. Maybe I’ll have to adapt that.

Another noticeable thing about the pack is there is no viewer. Normally, I’m totally against viewers for textmode work. cRO typically releases all our packs with a viewer. The asciis are converted to jpegs and displayed through this VGA skin. The end result is “ok”, but there’s really nothing like seeing the work in its intended form. But what’s weird is the intended viewing experience of ascii art has changed so much over the years.

I started drawing on a 13″ CRT monitor. The characters in the ascii were packed close together. You’d get a good picture of how the shading of adjacent characters would effect the larger whole. It was sandwiched into a small place and easy to digest. Then I got a 17″ monitor and was absolutely shocked at how jarring the blank space between the characters was. I was perceiving ascii art in a whole new, horribly ugly way. But eventually, I adjusted. Now I draw on a 21″ monitor, in a windowed text editor with god knows what resolution. Most of my work is intended to be seen in notepad, which is literally a complete reversal of the “white on black” color scheme of the old DOS and linux FTP days. A universal viewer is needed. I imagine people in Korea opening up an nfo file and seeing my work transformed into Hello Kitty sinosign monstrosities. But honestly, I’m really too old to care about these details these days. It’s all academic at this point. There’s maybe 10 people in the world who are any good at this stuff anymore, and no one even cares. That’s ok. But the feverish 15 year old who started doing this almost 15 years ago (half my life? strange) would disagree.

Anyway check out the pack.

Zpinzane.

10
Apr
08

Asciigod.nfo

I wrote this beginning part when I was near death in the hospital.. I didn’t finish it until now. I’m kinda lazy.

The Ascii Gods are old indeed. Some of us lay here dying. I know I am, could be, should be perhaps. A man just vomited violently all over the floor in an adjoining room. It caused quite a stir. Strange that such a thing would cause so much concern in the early Tuesday morning in Intensive Care. But it did

I know we’re all animals of our routines. And it makes me sick a bit inside that my routines are all so deeply

rooted in a compulsive use of computers. I’ve given up a lot of bad habits in my day. Given up some good ones too. We forget about the ones we maybe shouldn’t have given up.

This blogs title is from a work of art one of my friends did once, long ago, in a medium far far away. At the time it was a comic piece, as much of that scene was. A simply drawn caricature of an Ascii Man pondering the incalculable answers locked within the single flashing cursor of his ascii drawing program. It was a joke – the intentional use of poor style from this master of his craft was hilarious. Dude drawing this is the best to ever touch the aciddraw.exe (next to me). So the novelty was there. But there was always something about that piece that resonated with me. To use the parlance of home and garden tv, it popped. I was that ascii man, praying in anguish to the ascii temple.

Picking up in the present.

Reading this earlier entry, it’s easy to see I was ruminating on death a lot, which makes sense. I find it pretty incredible that I’ve come so close to dying so frequently for someone so young. I’m glad I’m of rugged Irish/German stock or right now I’d be playing the harp instead of blogging. Or at least I’d be playing a wicked fiddle. But that’s all for another post (maybe). Introductions shouldn’t be so morbid.

I thought I’d try this whole blogging thing to see where it takes me. And for now, that’s really all I have to say.