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Who Can Defeat Killah Priest & The Mighty Wu-Tang Clan?

20/02/2015

Josh Hadley, that’s who.

Josh interviewed me earlier this year for his podcast, but a funny thing happened when he uploaded it.

He used an audio sample from Visionaries, one of the series I wrote for oh so many moons ago, as part of his intro to the interview.

Seems Killah Priest, a Wu-Tang Clan affiliate, has also sampled the same segment from Visionaries for one of his recordings, and his label has ‘bots crawling the ‘webs, looking for anybody who may have ripped them off.

Basically, they told SoundCloud to take down Josh’s Radiodrome podcast for copyright infringement!

Ha!  It’s going to take more than mere ‘bots to stop Josh or shut me up!

Vic Prezio - magnus brobot brawl

Listen to me blather on here.

Magnus, Robot Fighter brawl by Vic Prezio

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The Case Of The Clumsy Art Th– …uh… Appropriator

11/02/2015

So artist Scott Teplin spent the better part of a decade developing a distinctive font.

scott-teplin-jamian-juliano-villani-gavin-brown-3

And love it or hate it or like it or dislike it or just say “meh” to it, you can’t deny it’s a unique expression of an idea and as such is entitled to copyright protection.

jamian-juliano-villani-scott-teplin-gavin-brown-3

Some font developers just love doing that stuff and make their fonts available for free online.  Other sell their fonts for a charge, or develop them for exclusive use by a single client.

Fonts are cool, and I love playing with them,
but when I’ve used them professionally
I’ve either made sure they were free
for commercial use or paid for them.

Enter one Jamian Julian-Villani, another NYC based artist.  Ms Villani saw Teplin’s font, liked it, Instagrammed it without attribution, then in the sincerest form of flattery stole appropriated it for use in her painting, Animal Proverb.

jamian-juliano-villani-scott-teplin-gavin-brown

When Teplin pointed out the theft appropriation, Villani[1] doubled-down:

“Everything is a reference,” Juliano-Villani told artnet News in a phone interview. “Everything is sourced.” Artist copyright seems like a thing of the past.

“It’s a fucking John Lennon lyric,” she said several times. When we pointed out that Teplin, for his part, is claiming ownership of his lettering, not the lyric, Juliano-Villani repeated, “But it’s a fucking John Lennon lyric.”[2]

Basically, Ms Villani is ripping off a live New Yorker in order to rip off a dead New Yorker for her personal profit, and without paying royalties to either.

Ignoring the question of whether she was involved in Christian publishing, I was puzzled by something else in her painting.  To paraphrase Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction:

“You know what’s on my mind right now? It AIN’T the coffee in my kitchen, it’s the [pink elephant] [blue sphinx] in my garage.”

VF ttm03

Yes, the nimble fingered Ms Villani has =ahem= appropriated yet another artist’s work, in this case an illustration by the late great pulp sci-fi artist Virgil Finlay[3] for H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.[4]

Now, fair is fair, and folks would be right to ask:

“Just what’s the #@%&in’ difference between what she did and what you do with your Fictoids or Words Of The Prophets posts?”

For one thing, I’m not making money off the use of another creator’s art or words.  What I post may be freely accessed by anyone.[5]

My Fictoids are typically commentaries on the underlying art, and as such fall under the fair usage provision of copyright law.

I try really hard to use only those images which have entered into the public domain, and / or like Banksy am appropriating advertising art to make a cultural comment.

I strive whenever possible to identify and properly credit the artist, and have gone back and added artist information when I’ve learned it.

Likewise the Words Of The Prophets series of posts are quotes from public persons and as such fall under fair usage, or are otherwise in the public domain.  Any meme I use that I don’t generate, I leave any identifying URL on the image.

Ms Villani is probably in the clear re Virgil Finlay’s art; I haven’t been able to track down a specific date but I’m guessing it’s probably some time in the 1950s or 60s, perhaps even as early as the late 1940s.  Unless the copyright was specifically renewed in the 1970s or early 80s, I’m guessing the image is public domain by now.

The Lennon quote is kinda iffy, but let’s attribute that one to ignorance, not ill will.

I’ll even go so far as to say appropriating Teplin’s font, specifically in the format he used and with the message he painted, might also be a case of plain ol’ vanilla misunderstanding.

But refusing to acknowledge, much less compensate or thank Teplin when it was pointed out to her?

Not cool, Ms Villani.
Not cool at all.

Added later:  
Ms Villani and Mr Teplin
have apparently come to
an understanding and
made peace on the issue

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[1]  With a name like that, it’s almost as if she couldn’t help but be an antagonist in a story.

[2]  We’re going to skip the whole issue of what and how much of a work is considered fair use.  Song lyrics are notoriously tricky items under copyright law, and while one can reference the title of a song with impunity in a literary work, including any quotation of verses, no matter how trivial, invites a letter from a lawyer with ample precedence in her briefcase, so unless you secure permission first, don’t quote a song lyric, even tho people post whole lyrics all the time and make online memes from them.

[3]  Google Image Search the bejeebers outta him; you’ll be glad you did.

[4]  And, yes, Finlay was also an NYC based artist for much of his career, so Ms Villani wins the trifecta!

[5]  You want to use my words for profit, please contact me at the e-mail address below; I lay no claim on any artwork I do not specifically own the rights to.

 

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I Blather On…

21/01/2015

… on the website The Blathers Of Gene Bathurst.  Gene was curious about my experiences writing Thundarr The Barbarian and I had a blast trying to fill in the blanks to the best of my memory.

thundarr portal into time title card

You can find Part One here and Part Two there

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“All Along The Watchtower” by Bob Dylan

18/01/2015

All Along The Watchtower

All Along The Watchtower by Bob Dylan

“There must be some way out of here” said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion”, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.

“No reason to get excited”, the thief he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”.

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

© Dwarf Music

art by John Rea Neill
lyrics by Bob Dylan

Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” is one of my favorite songs.  It sounds like the opening scene of a great, epic fantasy (indeed, writer / editor Jessica Amanda Salmonson tried years ago to turn it into a lengthy story with another writer, but her co-author’s untimely death pretty much killed any momentum that project had; still, it would have been wonderful).  Unlike most ballads, it does not complete its story; rather it leaves it open ended and ripe for interpretation.  For that reason, it is haunting.

update:  “As you allude to, I published Ron Nance’s first story ‘Watchtower‘ about the Jester and the Thief. He wrote a very few more tales of this duo, and he and I co-wrote ‘A Wine of Heart’s Desire‘ set in the world of Dylan’s characters, to be found in the Tor Books anthology Tales By Moonlight.” — Jessica Amanda Salmonson

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SNOWPIERCER: The Best 40 Years Late 70s Corman Movie

13/01/2015

Snowpiercer reiterates a point I brought up regarding Captain America: Winter Soldier: It tries too hard to look too real and ends up undermining its own strengths.

It’s a goofy, nonsensical story wrought with allegorical significance, lifting its big shocking reveal[1] from William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run by way of Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.

Well staged / well directed / well acted with lotsa cartoon villains to hiss and Bruce Willis School Of Long Suffering Machismo heroes to cheer.

It’s all bullshit but it’s
entertaining bullshit.

This is precisely the sort of movie Roger Corman was producing in the 1970s, the original Death Race 2000 being the primo example of the sub-genre[2]Smart enough to fire the imagination, dumb enough to plow past “oh-come-on!” moments, fast enough & funny enough to be entertaining.[3]

Compare this poster…

snowpiercer-poster

…with this poster & tell me
which movie you wanna see.

death_race_2000_poster_01(Yeah, I thot so…)

Had Corman (or Peter Watkins or Robert Fuest) made Snowpiercer, they probably wouldn’t have come to several repeated jarring stops along the way as it dawdled over some new car on the train, making sure we were all acutely aware of the overwrought symbolism drenching the screen before lurching forward again.

And they certainly wouldn’t have given us time to think about what we were looking at and the logic (or lack thereof) in what we were seeing.[4]

There are only two ways to approach cinefantastique:
Either make what one sees onscreen absolutely 100% plausible looking, or else use a stylized approach that doesn’t try to convince the viewer so much as ask them to play along.

When the former approach works, it works very, very well but it typically takes a lot of time and effort (read budget) especially in the script and performances.

The latter approach is more forgiving, basically telling the audience, “Pretend this papier-mâché boulder and painted backdrop is an alien world and we’ll tell you an entertaining story.”

This is why Star Trek: The Original Original Series[5] and early (i.e., no later than Tom Baker) Doctor Who shows grab my interest and attention far better than their glossier descendants.

Mind you, there’s a lot of
exceptionally fine work in
those slicker, more realistic
episodes and much to be
recommended, but the real
magic is in the early episodes.

When you try to make the unreal real, you better come out high steppin’ or you’re cruising for a fall. Audiences will accept felt cloth Muppets with delight but fight tooth and nail against the original 1986 Howard The Duck’s attempt to convince us a bird could talk.

Snowpiercer has a lot to recommend it,
and isn’t a total waste of time, but it
tries
 too hard to convince us and just
barely
 enough to entertain us.

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[1] Seriously, who didn’t see that one marching down the avenue at the 10 minute mark?

[2] Though there were copious films of the same style produced around that time by others: The Gladiators a.k.a. Gladiatorerna a.k.a. The Peace Game, Punishment Park, and The Final Programme a.k.a. The Last Days Of Man Of Earth being of three many that immediately spring to mind.

[3] Oh, and lots of nudity. Lots and lots and lots of nudity. I don’t want to watch an R-rated movie and find out it’s just a bunch of swearing.

[4] This is surprising because Snowpiercer makes a lot of really smart leaps in story and exposition, allowing audience familiarity with various tropes / clichés / stereotypes of the genre to fill in gaps that otherwise would have been filled with talk-talk-talk.

[5] Not the re-released version with amped up spfx that jar with the style of the original show.

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KING KIRBY: a play by Fred Van Lente & Crystal Skillman

6/01/2015

“The Midtown Comics Podcast has teamed up the husband and wife team of comic book writer Fred Van Lente and playwright Crystal Skillman to present their play, King Kirby. King Kirby was performed for a live audience this summer, but now it’s presented to you in audio format for the first time for free!”

Jack Kirby is my nameBrief review based on my personal knowledge of Jack:

Hits several (but not all) keynotes in Jack’s long and illustrious career as well as several (but again, far from all) of the most prominent abuses shoveled on him directly and indirectly by the comics industry.  Based on my first hand experience with them, gives an adequate but not altogether thorough idea of what Jack and Roz were like, and what Stan Lee is like; I wouldn’t say this is a grievous fault since it’s hard to sum up the wonderful complexity of any human being in just an hour’s time, much less four people (Joe Simon is the 4th major role in the piece; I have no first hand knowledge of him).

kirbyself__span

The actors cast in the roles (Steven Rattazi and Amy Lee Pearsall) remind me of Jack and Roz as opposed to sounding like Jack and Roz, but they’re fine performers and their interpretations of Jack and Roz’ personalities are nice tributes to their memories (Nat Cassidy as Stan Lee comes much closer, but that’s because there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sound bytes by Stan).

The complexities of the various business deals and legal conflicts that marked both Jack’s personal career and the comics industry as a whole are streamlined but at least presented with enough detail to make the issues understandable to audiences unfamiliar with them.

In short:  I really, really enjoyed this and recommend it highly to everyone.

Jack Kirby and his creations

Thanx to Midtown Comics for staging and recording this live reading of comic book writer Fred Van Lente and playwright Crystal Skillman’s play:  When in Manhattan go visit Midtown Comics — it’s a helluva great store!

And a special thanx to Tom Spurgeon’s
The Comics Reporter for the tip off.

And yeah, I know some people are going to say the Spider-Man depicted here is Steve Ditko’s design; nonetheless, Jack took the first swing at designing the character and passed the job on to Ditko because he was so busy with other books.

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Sage Advice From Chuck Austin

30/12/2014

move on

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Joyous News For This Holiday Season!

5/12/2014

Universal Studios

photo 2

puts the

photo 1-1

Krampus

photo 3

back in

photo 4-2

Christmas!!!

photo 3-1

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I Luvz Me Some RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH

5/12/2014

PKDRadio_free_albemuth

It’s widely accepted that (a) Philip K. Dick was the greatest novelist to work in the science fiction genre[1] (b) wrote five of the best sci-fi novels ever but (c) nobody can agree which five of his 40+ books those are and (d) was a bugfuck crazy paranoiac and (e) a doper and (f) experienced profound religious visions of a degree that would leave Billy Graham weeping with envy.

Are ya with me so far?

None of which is to say any of that is true or for that matter than any of it is false — or rather, any of that is factual or any of that is fantasy — because the mind and/or universe that PKD inhabited does not seem constrained by simply binary yes/no true/false constructs.

It’s entirely possible they’re all true or none of them are true or they are true and un-true simultaneously or even that they are all true and un-true simultaneously but in a manner we can not comprehend.

Still with me?

PKD may have been crazy but he sure wasn’t stupid and he realized telling too many people outside the circle of sci-fi fandom that he was experiencing intense religious revelations from an entity he sometimes referred to as God but more often as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was a surefire way to get himself even more good & ignored that he already was in his lowly status as sci-fi writer to he turned his experiences into an autobiographical sci-fi trilogy in which he was no the recipient of these visions but rather just a supporting character in another protagonist’s story.

Are ya still with me?

Dick’s work always touches in some form or another on the quest for ultimate Truth, to know what really is is, to tear away the veils & masks around us and truly know our place in the universe.

It is, by its very nature, a religious quest as well as a psychological and philosophical one.  Dick and his characters are seeking operating instructions from on high, something that will give them sense in what appears to be a senseless universe, something that makes the pain and suffering of everyday existence meaningful and worthwhile.

Radio Free Albemuth is a tangential part of Dick’s unfinished VALIS trilogy (the trilogy consisting of VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and the unfinished book The Owl In Daylight).  Essentially a first draft of VALIS, it also differs considerably from the latter book although remaining a fragmentary part of that “universe”.

You see what I’m getting at re not being able to easily categorize PDK’s work?

The variant of Radio Free Albemuth / VALIS that I’d like to draw your attention to, however, is the long-in-production / finally-released feature film, Radio Free Albemuth, currently available on Netflix.

PKDRadio_Free_Albemuth_FilmPoster

Radio Free Albemuth is everything I look for, everything I hope for in not just a sci-fi film but any sort of movie.  It’s actually about something as opposed to senseless / pointless chasing / fighting over a macguffin.

Radio Free Albemuth follows music mogul Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) as he becomes aware of VALIS attempt to communicate with him through an alien[2] satellite orbiting Earth.[3]

PKDphpThumb_generated_thumbnail

The problem — or perhaps it would be better to say the reason – is that Radio Free Albemuth doesn’t take place in this reality but in an alternate one, where President Ferris F. Fremont[4] rules the US of A with an iron fist, sweeping aside Constitutional limitations and fighting a never ending war against a terrorist organization known as Cobra Aramchek, which apparently exists only in his mind.

Fremont and his Gestapo-like thugs, the Friends of the American People (derisively referred to as FAP in a delicious piece of unintentional irony), fear the message coming from VALIS via the satellite, a message that basically pulls back the curtain and reveals that Fremont’s power and authority comes from a false fear, that all people are capable of living in peace with one another, and that wars and hatred are foisted on us by those seeking power for their own ends.

PKDphpThumb_generated_thumbnail2

Brady and his muse / co-conspirator Sylvia (Alanis Morissette) are tracked down and killed by FAP, and Brady’s friend Philip K. Dick (Shea Whigham) is imprisoned as an enemy of the people.  In prison he learns from a fellow inmate, a former pastor now held for subversive ideas, that the ideas Brady and Sylvia received and tried to spread were identical with those of Jesus and the early Christian church, and that while VALIS and the Truth may have suffered a set back, other followers have gotten the message out and the seeds of a rebellion against the authoritarians is starting to grow.

If this sounds like a too-spot-on transliteration of contemporary US politics, guess again; Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 and only published posthumously in 1985.  Dick was long gone from the scene before the country was stampeded off in a panic for a war on terror.

The film is well made; inexpensive, but wisely focusing its attention less on spectacle and more on the attempts of human beings to come to terms with an idea that will transform their world…if they can live long enough to implement it.  It’s well cast, and while production and post-production were strung out for nearly a decade, it looks and feels the right scale for the story.

Highly recommended,
no matter what your
level of reality.

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[1]  Acknowledging that greatest novelist doesn’t mean wrote the best science fiction novel or best writer of science fiction or even best writer of science fiction novels but rather was the best master at the specific art & craft of writing 50-80,000 word stories that we refer to as novel-length format.  Because there’s a lot of truly exception writers vying in this field and although PKD was among the very best, we can’t put him at the absolute pinnacle, so instead we give him a slot near the apex and a qualifier that honors his skill & talent without painting us into a corner quality wise.  ‘Cuz Bradbury and Ellison are duking it out on the short story side and Bester has a lock on the best sci-fi novel ever although his output pales in comparison with Dick’s.

[2]  Implied angelic beings tho never clearly identified as such in the film.

[3]  Dick, in the novel, shifted much of his own experiences away from his character and onto Brady.

[4]  “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast.” — Revelation 13:18 (MEV)

 

 

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What Kind Of Sci-Fi Punk Are You?

3/12/2014

A recent discussion sparked by Flint Dille (who excels at getting the creative juices flowing with brain teasers like this) brought up the question as to certain visual styles in sci-fi.

Now, there are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, but I think there are five classic style schools for sci-fi.[1]

Steampunk is the most famous/easily identifiable of the four:  Classic late Victorian stylings & sensibility.[2] Velvet and goggles, brass pipes and rivets, dials and gauges.   Steam inspired even if steam is not the actual power source.  Covers a period from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to end of WW1; significant literary influences include all of Verne, early Wells, Frank Reade Jr and Tom Swift.  Divine right.  Manifest destiny.

Quintessential example:

punk sf Nautilus

Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

“That Crazy Buck Rogers Stuff”[3] occupies the space between the end of WW1 and somewhere between the 1933 Chicago and 1939 New York World’s Fairs.  Big bright gaudy impractical machines and buildings.  Chief artists:  Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank R. Paul.  Buck Rogers.  Hugo Gernsbach.   Unbounded optimism.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Modern-Mechanix-airship

Modern Mechanix

Dieselpunk is the world Raymond Loewy midwifed.  Officially starts with 1939 New York World’s Fair, continues thru WW2 and well into the 1950s, ending with 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.  Relentlessly uniform and utilitarian.  Gray steel and burnished aluminum.  Streamlined with rounded edges.  Chief literary influence:  John W. Campbell’s Astounding Stories & his astounding stable of writers including Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak & Frank Herbert among others.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet

Transistorpunk has space age lounge music playing in the background, instrumentals with exotic sounds and arrangements.  While the roots are found in the 1950s, it only really flourished after the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair with stops along the way in New York 1964-65 and Montreal for Expo ’67.  Bright!  Open!  Airy!  For those who think young.  James Bond.  Star Trek.  Space Angel.  Spaaaaaaace Ghost.  “Thunderbirds are GO!”

Quintessential example: 

punk sf syd-mead

Syd Mead

Cyberpunk is the granddaddy of the other “-punk” genres, but like a time paradox comes in last on our time line.  Derived from the musical use of the term “punk,” which was a repudiation of and rebellion against the phony soulless glitter of disco.[4]  dark dank decrepit despair  Trash filled, ruined, and retrofitted.  No center, no soul.  A world inhabited by Mad Max and Tron.

Quintessential example: 

punk sf Blade_Runner_6

Blade Runner

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[1]  With whatever we’re using currently that isn’t one of the following being considered post-modern science fiction or po-mo sci-fi.

[2]  Though the stories and characters need not reflect actual Victorian values and attitudes.

[3]  We need a “-punk” name for this but so far no one has suggested a good one.  Buckpunk?  Paulpunk?  Decopunk?

[4]  In 1975, Time magazine reported on a contest to predict T-shirt slogans of the year 2000.  The winner was “Disco Still Sucks”.

 

 

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