Of late I’m ambivalent regarding seeing Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial works.
I’ve loved many, many of his films -both those he starred in and those he “just” directed- but cringed when he made a fool of himself by talking to an empty chair at Mitt Romney’s Republican Convention. I also cringed -and refused to see- the movie American Sniper, Mr. Eastwood’s last film before Sully, even after being blown away by the great trailer promoting. I wound up refusing to see the film because articles released concurrently with the film’s release questioned the late Chris Kyle’s veracity in the autobiography he wrote which was the basis of the movie.
But, damn was the trailer for the film good.
When I heard Mr. Eastwood’s latest film, the aforementioned Sully, was in the works, I have to admit I scratched my head. For those who don’t know/don’t remember, on January 15, 2009 Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger glided his stricken airliner into the Hudson River very shortly after taking off. His actions, deemed the “Miracle on the Hudson” saved all 155 passengers aboard that doomed flight.
I scratched my head because I thought: Is there really enough material here for a full length film?
As with American Sniper, I don’t know if I’ll go see Sully when its eventually released to theaters, though as opposed to American Sniper its not because I doubt the veracity of the lead character/real life person’s story.
Regardless, I must give credit where it’s due. Mr. Eastwood and his staff have once again delivered a terrific trailer for his latest film. I wonder, were the same people responsible for the terrific American Sniper trailer also responsible for this one? If they were, kudos to them. If I was a filmmaker interested in promoting my latest film, I’d check in on who Mr. Eastwood uses to cut his trailers and hire them for whatever I’m working on.
If you’re a political junkie, the work of Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight.com is a fascinating snapshot into the various polls and the possibility of Candidate X winning over Candidate Y, whoever said Candidate is.
Yesterday Mr. Silver offered the first prediction of the upcoming general election. You may have heard about it…its for the office of the President of the United States and pits Hillary Clinton (D) versus Donald Trump (R).
With this first prediction, granted its 130 plus days away from the actual voting, things aren’t looking good for Mr. Trump. Or, to use his vernacular, “Sad”:
At the risk of spoiling things (if you’re into statistics, this site will be your nirvana), as it stood yesterday Hillary Clinton has a whopping 80.3% chance of winning the Presidency versus Mr. Trump’s 19.7% chance.
Now, much can change as we have a veeerrrrrryyyyy long way to go still. Having said that, I really hope these stats hold up. I can’t get my head around Mr. Trump being president and I at times wonder if he’s doing this as a lark knowing full well he’ll never win. For all I know, he may well be pranking the entire Republican party…
Still, to be that close to the Presidency is a scary thought.
Gary Legum at Salon.com offers some thoughts regarding Mr. Silver’s recent post and the reality (as of this moment) of Mr. Trump’s position:
Again, its foolish to take one result this far ahead of the actual election date and assume it’ll be the same then, but for those (like me) anxious about the possibility of a Trump presidency, these links provide some relief.
Last week a video emerged showing noted authors Stephen King and George R. R. Martin doing a Q&A between themselves. This is the video:
While it is interesting to watch the back and forth between these two very famous literary figures, one of the more fascinating bits comes at nearly the end of the video. If you go to the 50 minute mark, Stephen King tells Mr. Martin that if he has any question for him, ask and ye shall receive.
To which Mr. Martin, with a chuckle, asks Mr. King: “How the fuck do you write so fast?!”
I’ll spoil Mr. King’s answer here but if you’re a fan of either author its worth listening to the actual statement.
Regardless, Mr. King states he writes 6 pages of material daily, seven days a week, which amounts to approximately 3-4 hours of work each day. With 6 pages daily, he notes, he can have a 350 page book done in a matter of a few months.
A longer time ago, Mr. King released a book called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and, while I hadn’t read that book in a while, I recall he stated that once a novel was written, he would put it away to “mellow out”, then give it a review and it was ready to be released.
I point out both statements by Mr. King because with them one gets a decent idea of his writing habits. I get the feeling Mr. King does precious little revising of his works and many of his novels, or at least many of his more recent novels, may be just a few steps away from being first drafts of his works.
Which boggles my mind.
Mind you, Mr. King wouldn’t be the first author to produce and release works that may be little more than first drafts of said material. William Gibson, noted Shadow author, was able to release a new 50,000 word Shadow story during the heights of the pulp era in a matter of days and he did this for many years. In fact, I recall reading in the reprints of the Shadow stories (still going on) that he wrote his very last Shadow story during that era in a DAY.
While an extraordinary achievement, this is certainly possible if your mind works in such a way that you have the complete story in your head before you sit down and type it out.
I admire that sort of talent…even as I lament the fact that my mind doesn’t work in that way at all.
For me, writing is a journey of discovery. I often start a book with a reasonably clear idea of the beginning and end and work things out as I make those ends meet. But after finishing the first full draft of any novel, I then have to do the revisions.
This stage often takes as long as it does to write the damn thing.
Why? Because it is during the revision process that I’m like a movie editor. Seeing which scenes make sense and that they are presented in proper order. A couple of days ago and while revising my latest Corrosive Knights novel -the 9th draft by the way!- I realized that a neat little bit I wrote made much more sense a little earlier in the book than where it lay in all previous 8 drafts of the novel.
Think about that: I’ve read and revised the book 8 times and it didn’t take me until the 9th revision that I realized this scene worked far better a little earlier.
Now the big question: Does changing the location of one particular sequence make the book significantly better?
In my mind, I can’t help but feel it does.
Directing legend Stanley Kubrick was known to obsess over individual scenes in his features, sometimes filming many multiple takes of even the most banal activities. I recall he stated in an interview that when he worked on a film, he wanted to give it his all. Why release something that isn’t you’re absolute best?
While I’m certainly no Stephen King or Stanley Kubrick, if I were to compare my own work habits to either gentleman I’d probably be closer to Mr. Kubrick.
When I write a book, I immerse -perhaps obsessively!- into what I’m writing to the point where there doesn’t pass a single day, sometimes not even a single waking hour, where I don’t have at least one thought on the work I’m currently doing. And when the first draft is done, it is not unheard of for me to go 10+ drafts into the work before I feel it is ready to be released.
Of course I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy Mr. King’s work habits. I truly wish I could have a novel fully fleshed out in my head before a single sentence is typed. Even if that’s not the case with Mr. King and he’s able to break a novel down six pages at a time, that’s still far better than the anticipation I’m capable of when I write.
The point of all this is: If you’re a writer, you may fall anywhere along this spectrum.
There is little to be gained by envying the speed with which others release their works so long as you’re certain when your projects are released they represent the very best you’re capable of doing at that particular time.
Aaaaannnnndddd having said that, it’s back to the 9th draft of the latest Corrosive Knights book for me…
The thing about collecting something is that its value, should that be what interests you about it, is determined solely by the demand/desire others have in the item.
When I was younger and just getting into comic books, comic book legend Jack Kirby’s career was, sadly, on the decline. If you don’t recognize the name, you certainly recognize many of his creations or co-creations: Just about every superhero character present in the enormously successful Marvel films.
Captain America? Co-created by Mr. Kirby
Iron Man? Co-created/co-designed by Mr. Kirby
Ant-Man? Kirby (though his cinema incarnation has a longer path involving many more creators over the years)
Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Galactus? Kirby either created or co-created most of the characters.
And so on, and so on.
But as I said above, when I was first getting into comics in the 1970’s Jack Kirby’s star was on the decline. Hell, it was worse than that. There were many who derided Mr. Kirby’s then new work as being nothing short of terrible. Quite the turnaround considering the 1960’s were arguable Jack Kirby’s biggest, most popular creative decade.
Even more sad is the fact that when Mr. Kirby passed away in 1994, he was engaged in a years long legal fight with Marvel Comics to get back the artwork he was certain they were holding from him.
This comic book artwork was considered worthless back when he made it. In fact, almost every one of the artists working on comic books for the first thirty plus years of the industry viewed their artwork as disposable and many of these pieces were indeed thrown away.
Which is why classic original artwork, especially any by Jack Kirby from the first decade of Marvel Comics, is so very hot today. Check this story out, involving the original Jack Kirby artwork for the cover of Thor #159 (the article linked to below mislabels the cover as belonging to issue #158), which was valued at £5000 and wound up selling at auction for a whopping £44,000:
Here’s what the Kirby illustrated cover looked like on the actual 1968 comic book:
And here’s the original cover artwork…
The most amazing thing about all this to me is it proves how hot Jack Kirby’s artwork is these days. IMHO, while this is a pretty damn good cover, it is hardly one of Mr. Kirby’s better or best known works, yet it still merits a truckload of cash!
Sometimes you stumble around the web, in this case Reddit, while seeking diversion from the angry clamor of news (cough*Brexit*cough) and discover something that makes your jaw drop.
In this case, I present you the 1939-40 Pontiac “Ghost Car”:
The story behind this “see-through” car? It was made for the 1939-40 New York World’s fair and there are a bunch more pictures of this fascinating vehicle (which apparently still exists and is operational!) which can be found here:
Yesterday the verdict in the case brought on by the estate of the late Randy Craig Wolfe of the band Spirit and against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement vis a vis the song Stairway to Heaven and its similarity to Spirit’s Taurus was reached and Led Zeppelin was found not guilty.
When I first heard a comparison between Spirit’s Taurus and Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, it was clear there were similarities. Strong ones. So strong that on an earlier post I was convinced Led Zeppelin must have swiped the material.
But listening to the longer clip above and reflecting (and reading) learned opinions regarding music creation and the use (and re-use) of certain notes over the years/centuries, my opinion changed.
There’s a saying that goes: “there’s nothing new under the sun” and, after so many years of civilization and artistic creation, this may well be true.
Any story you write will have echoes to others before it. Any movie made will build on the history of movie technique which came before it.
And any song created, likewise, is bound to have echoes of things that came before. While there are clear similarities between Taurus and Stairway to Heaven, it is equally clear, especially in the larger clip above, that Led Zeppelin and Spirit may have started their respective songs in a similar way but each song went in far different directions.
During his lifetime Randy Craig Wolfe, the man behind Taurus, didn’t bother to initiate a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin though he was the one who was most justified -if indeed he had perceived they had lifted his material- in doing so.
In the end, I believe the right verdict was rendered, even if initially I thought quite the opposite. The entire case becomes a footnote in the history of Led Zeppelin and their most famous song.
Ironically, in some small ways the lawsuit has had a positive effect on the works of the late Mr. Wolfe. Perhaps people will re-examine his career in light of this lawsuit, one he didn’t bring about himself.
It should come as no big surprise that well-known/popular celebrities can make a decent living promoting products. Athletes, in particular, have often made more than their base salaries (nothing to sneeze at in the first place) by promoting drinks or foods or sneakers. Likewise, actors have appeared in print and video commercials as well, sometimes at the start of their careers but also when their career is in full bloom or even past it.
Of all the “celebrities” out there who have joined the ranks of promoters of products, one of the more curious fields is that of the science fiction author.
While today most couldn’t pick out a science fiction author beyond their photograph in their latest novel, there was a time not so very long ago and when I was a much younger man when several big name sci-fi authors were well known enough by the public to be considered “celebrities”. Arthur C. Clark. Isaac Asimov. Ray Bradbury. Harlan Ellison. All but the last author mentioned is gone now, sadly, but I recall a time when they were quite well known.
Because of this, it isn’t too surprising that product makers wound up seeking these celebrity authors and using them to as promotion tools. Andrew Liptak at Gizmodo has done a fine job presenting an article which assembles copious Youtube links as well as promotional one sheets of these famous authors and it can be found here:
My favorite has to be this one, though the idea of Ray Bradbury promoting Sunsweet Prunes is really bizarre. Anyway, here’s Mr. Isaac Asimov promoting the mighty TRS-80 computer:
I remember the machine. Thank goodness Radio Shack made sure it featured “color”!
Mr. Liptak amusingly notes that while Mr. Asimov touted the various computers and devices available from Radio Shack, he himself was known to write exclusively on a typewriter and therefore most likely didn’t care for the products he was touting.
Visiting the article was an interesting step into a (until now) forgotten part of my past and an amusing little time killer. If you know these authors and weren’t aware of their promotional work, check the article out. Its fun!
The gist of the article is this: In South and Central America a very large number of the monkeys that live in the forests have apparently evolved to be color-blind. While on the surface this little factoid may seem nothing more than a curious little bit of trivia, one has to step back and consider the implications of this fact. Or, to put it another way:
At its most basic level, the theory of evolution posits that animals who adapt to their environment are the ones most likely to succeed in it. Therefore, the fact that these monkeys are color blind posses this question: If over many years and while evolving the monkeys who developed color blindness were the ones who best adapted (and survived) their environment, then is it possible that color blindness is an advantage?
The author notes that seeing the varieties of color around us may put us in a disadvantage: Things can be camouflaged within the vibrant colors around us (many predator species have skin that do this effectively). In the case of color blind animals, they don’t have to deal with all the “noise” from colors around them and instead can focus on patterns and therefore may find it easier to see -and therefore avoid- a predator hidden in the bush.
Further, it is possible being color-blind allows certain animals an advantage in finding their food!
Even more fascinating is the fact that advantages to being color blind may apply to humans as well. This paragraph, found within the article itself, provides some interesting examples:
Color blind people don’t have this same overload and are often able to see through the deliberate “noise” of colored camouflage to spot the deeper patterns. During World War II, color blind men were employed to break through camouflaged enemy positions and thereby spot possible targets for bombing. A certain color blindness may also help create patterns as well as spot them: Vincent Van Gogh was able to create amazingly complex colorful patterns yet his palette shows a striking resemblance to defective color vision.
For those too lazy to click the link and read the article (you really should, you know), I found this video regarding the vehicle on youtube:
As I’ve said before: I envision a future where people no longer own cars and all -or most- of the vehicles on the road will be like this one: You call in a vehicle using your smartphone, it picks you up and takes you to your destination, then is off to deal with the next, nearest client.
When you’re ready to be driven back home, you summon a vehicle and off you go.
The addition of 3D printing is a fascinating new wrinkle to the whole thing. You can create, as mentioned in the video, fast modifications to the design so that the vehicle will work best in whatever environment it is intended for.