… so people would start talkingaboutMetal Machine Musicagain. It’s hard to top Lester Bangs’ famous paean to MMM ( “If you ever thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to the guitar, well, Lou just got rid of the guitars.”) but it’s awesome to see the closet fans coming out of the woodwork. Just like Lou planned it.
My iPod camera pix made slightly less crappy by the rather cool ClearCam app
Christian Ristow’s Hand of Man was a crowd-pleaser yesterday afternoon at the Albuquerque Mini-Maker Faire, both for the lucky folks who got to fuse their consciousness with a massive robotic hand and for the delighted onlookers. The experience was enhanced and made more apocalyptic by a threatening monsoon sweeping in from the east (which did not in fact hit the Faire). One thing’s for sure, when the kaijus do invade our planet from another dimension, we’re going to need this Ristow guy on our team.
Princess Mononoke, which got a spotty U.S. release to a handful of art houses and cineplexes back in 1999, is fortunately one of the Studio Ghibli films that have been making the rounds since early last year on newly-struck 35mm prints.
That’s right, on film. The fact that these are not being presented digitally is very specifically at the request of director Hayao Miyazaki who wanted them to be seen in a theater with light passing through them, film grain clearly perceivable, rather than reduced to a 1080p digital approximation. He’s a stickler as he goddamn well should be.
As with Miyazaki’s first feature, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, seeing Mononoke on the big screen in this country has been a rare event. Unlike more recent Ghibli films, which have received a solid marketing push from distributor Disney and Pixar frontman John Lasseter, Princess Mononoke was always an anomaly: a dark, not-so-family-friendly fantasy saga initially released by Disney subsidiary Miramax and rated PG-13. Its limited theatrical run was a disappointment to Disney, but was nevertheless something of a sleeper hit, playing to full houses in Albuquerque for weeks. I think I managed to see it four times at three different theaters. Then it vanished from U.S. theaters for 13 years.
Mononoke is one of the best fantasy films ever made. Its incredible attention to detail and earthy, naturalistic backdrops create a convincing secondary world in which the old gods are starting to fall before the might of the machine age. As Alibi reviewer Devin O’Leary pointed out in 1999, “The prevailing theme presented here is nothing less than mankind’s inevitable movement away from ancient, pastoral living to modern, industrial civilization.” That’s some heavy lifting for a cartoon, but this is no ordinary cartoon.
The Forest Spirit appears
Clocking in at well over two hours, the scope of the film is awesome, its apocalyptic scenario rendered in broad strokes of violence and terror, tempered with quiet scenes of near-psychedelic mysticism. The iconic moment where protagonist Ashitaka first spots San (née Princess Mononoke), the wolf girl, sucking and spitting blood from the gunshot wound in her foster mother’s breast is one of the great visual shocks in cinema. The amorphous, Christ-like Forest Spirit (Shishigami in the original Japanese version) seems clearly patterned on the Great Prince of the Forest in Bambi (easily the best and most trippy of Disney’s animated features), yet the full effect as he appears in a distant glade is that something alien and magical is passing near, something truly from the realm of faerie—a high water mark hard to hit in any fantasy.
Devin again on Mononoke’s merits: “A carefully crafted script translation by Brit comic book writer Neil Gaiman (best known for his Sandman series) retains all of Miyazaki’s rich symbolism and historical context. The greatest testament to Miyazaki’s skill is that his characters never slip into easy caricature. For example: Had this film been made by Disney, Lady Eboshi [the antagonist] would have been portrayed as an evil, cartoonish shrew. Instead, she is a fully-faceted character—an admirably strong-willed woman who dreams of building a haven for the outcasts of feudal Japan. Ashitaka and Princess Mononoke are similarly portrayed as good people who frequently give in to their darker, baser urges.”
Japanese trailer (with subtitles)
Princess Mononoke has never been available on Blu-ray, its 2000 DVD release is long out of print. Last summer I dragged my kids up to Santa Fe to catch a matinee when the CCA Cinematheque screened these same Ghibli prints, thinking that might have been my last chance. I’m happy Keif at the Guild (with some help from Mr. O’Leary) proved me wrong. But now this is possibly your last chance to see this film in glorious 35mm and I heartily recommend you do not miss it.
If you said “Jack who?” you might want to know George R.R. Martin once called him the greatest living science fiction writer and a master of fantasy “right up there with Tolkien.” That’s right, buddy, Tolkien. Unfortunately, as of Sunday, May 26, 2013, he no longer qualifies as living and will have to settle for merely being the greatest.
Carlo Rotella’s overview of Vance’s significance as a writer in The New York Times Magazine is probably the best thing I’ve ever read about him. I suggest you read it too. “The Eyes of the Overworld” (from the second Dying Earth book) is a prescient and deeply ironic metaphor for this avatar-obsessed virtual non-life we’re cultivating as a race of touchscreen and phone addicts. And this, 40 years before FaceBook. It’s also hilarious. Thank you, Jack Vance, for just being you.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the graphgasmographical data stream comes to a drippy end. Some things I learned about Burqueños: The vast majority have made out with strangers, yet haven’t caught a sexually-transmitted disease. Hmm. They also wouldn’t be caught dead smoking after sex. No surprise there, seeing how high “bad breath” scored on the turn-offs list. There’s a statistical dead heat on the importance of penis size and on having fooled around with a co-worker—so you may as well just flip a coin. The pro-anal-sex camp outnumbers the “once” or “never” camp by a healthy margin. But, more romantically, most people are not interested in an open relationship and would stick with their current partner for that one-last-shtup before the world ends—and furthermore, most have kept friendly with their ex-partners-in-crime. How warm and fuzzy.
So what does that say about Albuquerque? Promiscuous yet hygienic? Faithful yet forgiving? Free-thinking yet conservative? Who the hell knows? I’m just glad you’re all out there keeping things sexy for the rest of us. Let’s do it again sometime.
Have you ever made out with a stranger?
Have you had sex with a boss or co-worker?
Have you ever caught a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
Have you tried anal sex?
If the world were ending, would you have sex with your partner or someone else?
Would you consider an open sexual relationship?
The eternal question: Does penis size matter?
Are you generally on friendly terms with your exes?
This installment tells us many things: Those who are satisfied are the largest voting bloc, but those who aren’t outnumber them. Sharing sex fantasies is more popular than not sharing them. A lot of people have experimented with an alternate gender sex partner, but most haven’t. Cybersex is way too out there for most Burqueños—we prefer phone sex even though it’s not 1995 anymore. And talking dirty is near-universally accepted as the lingua franca of the bedroom. In fact, it may be what binds us together as a race.
On a related note, when the term “Burqueños” is used, we really mean “the 1,405 people who took all or part of our survey, 486 of whom are 22-30 years old and most of whom (969) are under 40.” In case that wasn’t obvious, I mean.
Are you satisfied with your current sexual situation?
Do you share your sexual fantasies with your partner?
Have you had a sexual encounter outside the gender you're used to?
Welcome back to the unscientific sharing of self-reported sexual proclivities of Albuquerque residents. This stuff is straight out of the SurveyMonkey data banks (you can also blame them for the cheesy infographic look), so I don’t want to hear any more complaints about histograms, telegrams or candygrams. This is as scientific as it’s gonna get.
The main take-aways here? Alibi readers do it frequently, probably more often than they floss their teeth. They do it together and they do it alone. They have no fear of employing power tools or other prosthetic devices, and they “sometimes” like to mix it up with booze and illicit substances. In other words, this town is one big sex party. Here’s the proof:
How frequently do you have sex with a partner?
Let’s hear it for “multiple times a week!”
How frequently do you masturbate?
Have you used sex toys?
The great tragedy is that we didn’t ask WHICH sex toys.
Do you mix alcohol and/or drugs with sex?
Dear survey-taker, just because you did it ONE TIME without booze or pot, that does not qualify you to answer “sometimes.”
Well, I coulda called it. In fact, I did call it: The hate mail has already started to pour in from pissed-off statisticians who found the (ahem) science of the Alibi’s First Ever Sex Survey to be somewhat slipshod. One guy even took issue with the “missing interval” in our when-did-you-lose-your-virginity graph and called our histogram “poorly constructed.” Them’s fightin’ words, partner! And if we knew what a histogram was, we’d be goddamn well pissed off about it. But let’s just get this out there right in the open right now: those finding the science to be lacking simply failed to notice that there was no science AT ALL. Dammit, Jim, I’m a newspaper man, not a statistician.
Here’s the truth: We used the WRONG NUMBERS for the virginity/age graph. They were actually the numbers from the “how old are you” demographic question, hence the failure of the graph to “correlate with the discussion.” So in the end, it’s not a question of missing intervals and histowhatsits, it is instead a question of being a fuckup.
In the interest of both science and setting the record straight, here now is the RIGHT GRAPH—both a legible one with low-scoring answers omitted (a practice applied to pretty much all the graphs we ran) and an ALMOST ILLEGIBLE one with ALL THE DATA (including such spurious answers as “0” and “1”). Happy? I hope so. More sexy graphs to come. Stay tuned.
(This ghost of Christmas past originally posted Dec 24, 2008.)
The first made-for-television Christmas cartoon aired on December 18, 1962, broadcast through the ether to rabbit ears and flickering tubes and glassy-eyed cherubs around the country. It had been a busy year: Ringo Starr joined the Beatles, somebody tried to off Charles de Gaulle, John Glenn orbited the earth, Spider-Man was invented, the Vietnam War raged, and the world teetered on (and off) the brink of nuclear war during the the Cuban Missile Crisis. So I suppose it’s not too shocking that “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” has become the show that time forgot. But it deserves more love than that.
Done in the on-the-cheap UPA “limited” animation style that has been endlessly ripped off by modern animation stylists (e.g., Genndy Tartakovsky), this inspired speed-run through “A Christmas Carol”—featuring, implausibly, Jim Backus as Mr.-Magoo-as-Ebeneezer-Scrooge—manages to transcend its Flintstones-in-Outer-Space gimmickry and deliver a goddamn amazing TV watershed. No, seriously.
The bangin’ show-stopper “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” starts at 1:16.
“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” was clearly made by people who cared, and does a bunch of things right that nobody today would even bother doing:
1. The songs sound like A-list Broadway material because they are: Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill (lyrics) went on to write Funny Girl for Barbra Streisand. Tell me “Winter Was Warm” (play clip) isn’t honestly lovely.
2. The dialogue is literary. Actual lines spoken by Mr. Magoo: “You are about to show me shadows of things that will happen in the time before us. Is that so, spirit? Ghost of the future, I fear you more than any spectre I have yet seen. Will you not speak to me?"
3. The ghosts are genuinely creepy, especially the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who invokes sonorous timpani percussion with every silent nod.
4. The story takes place within a frame narrative: Magoo is an actor making his big comeback in “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway. One of his fellow actors is UPA contract star Gerald McBoing-Boing. There’s even intermission and a curtain call.
5. The whole Magoo-can’t-see gimmick is dropped as soon as he becomes Scrooge. Whew. That was never funny.
Where can you see this minor masterpiece? There’s a not-yet-out-of-print DVD out there, but right now it’s on YouTube posted by various contributors and in clips of varying quality. It’s not the same as having it blaring in the background while you trim the tree, but it’ll have to do. My 4-year-old gives it thumbs up.
We’ve played it two ways with Christmas music here at the Alibi: as haters and as lovers. This week’s decidedly un-schmaltzy Xmas playlist is one example. Below are a few more from Christmases gone by.