Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Instaweeks

Continued photographic documentation of my various atrocities.

For lunch today, a breakfast sandwich! #Yum

A day in the life: I read the news today, oh boy.... #TheBeatles #overalls #reading #denim

Good morning world! #sky #sunrise #clouds

Itchy dog is itchy. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

Lester is reaching for something. Dunno what. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

Dark, rich, and sexy. #beer #Yum

A friend gave me a nice compliment on my purple overalls yesterday. This made me happy. #overalls #Key #overdye

Glimpsing sunset. #sunset

My new miter saw rig! #tools #carpentry #woodworking

Sunset, Mill Road Overlook #EastAurora #wny #sunset

New park today! Emery Park in South Wales, NY. Only scratched the surface. #EmeryPark #ErieCounty #wny

Stand of pines #EmeryPark #ErieCounty #wny

Green pines and the deep blue sky #EmeryPark #ErieCounty #wny

Lots of crumbling old WPA-era infrastructure in the Erie County Parks. Always a window back in time. #EmeryPark #ErieCounty #wny

Just keep writing...just keep writing.... #AmWriting #overalls #HickoryStripe #Dickies

By the power vested in me, I declare it SPRING. Let there be meat cooked over heated coals! #Yum #grilling #spring

Oh yeah babe. #grilling #chicken #Yum

Cane likes his yard. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Sleepy Lester #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

First trip to our favorite ice cream joint of the year! #Yum #wny #IceCream

Life marches on....

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Shtuff

Some things....

:: I have not yet watched all of the existing Star Wars movies back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Maybe someday...but meanwhile, someone has actually overlaid them all on top of one another. Once you get past the opening crawls, which are kind of headache-inducing due to the music not lining up, things get really surreal.

:: Fascinating article on the Soviet space shuttle Buran, which ended up not amounting to anything because the Soviet Union collapsed. Turns out that the Soviets might well have been on the way to designing and building a better shuttle than the United States did, for various reasons.

:: Yeah, Jason had himself a pretty good Saturday a few weeks ago.

Keep reachin' for the stars, folks!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Something for Thursday: Farewell, James Horner



Composer James Horner died the other day when the airplane he was piloting crashed. He was the sole passenger.

This is, quite simply, the worst news to hit the film music world since Michael Kamen, Jerry Goldsmith, and Elmer Bernstein all died within a year of each other.

For me, though, the hit is more directly personal. Although my relationship with Horner's music has been rather complicated over the years, he still wrote a fair number of my favorite filmscores of all time, and when a score of his connected, it connected. He had the ability to hone in on the precise moment of a given scene's emotional high point and construct his music to reach its high at the same moment. All film composers strive for this, but Horner's gift for this was something else.

Moreover, I saw Horner's career take flight, as he rose from obscurity to, well, stardom in his small corner of the film world. He started writing for films in the late 1970s, and I first encountered him in his fifth film, the Roger Corman space opera flick Battle Beyond the Stars. This is the first James Horner music I ever heard:


That score is still a fun listen to this day, even with all its minor faults: its heavy debt to Jerry Goldsmith (one of Horner's strongest early influences), its occasionally awful orchestration (there is a track called "Cowboy and the Jackers" when you can hear the trumpet section slowly die), and occasional transitional missteps. Horner wrote a swashbuckling score that was better than the film it accompanied (although the film really is not all that bad, as long as you don't ask too much of it).

When next I encountered the music of James Horner, it was for another science fiction film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Gone was Jerry Goldsmith's brightly optimistic bombast from The Motion Picture, and in its place was a lyrical score that had an older and more seafaring quality to it.


It wasn't all lyricism, though; Horner's action writing was impeccable, and the film's climax gives a great example of Horner's skill for matching the music to the exact visual and the emotional beats of the scene. Here is the music, titled "Genesis Countdown":


And here is a portion of the scene as scored, starting with the Enterprise backing away from Khan's crippled Reliant:


This entire cue is a clinic in how to spot a film: you hear the desperation as the ship begins to move so painfully slowly, the drive as Spock climbs down through the ship toward Engineering, a snippet of Horner's theme for Spock himself as he mind-melds with McCoy, the desperate ticking down of the seconds as the bridge crew realizes they're doomed, Khan's final expressions of hatred. When Horner was on, this is what he could do.

Horner would return to Star Trek for the next film, The Search for Spock, but he never did any more Trek after that. This always seemed to me a pity. I would have liked to hear, perhaps, a more light-hearted take on his themes from Treks II and III in IV, perhaps, or maybe his take on the adventures of the Next Generation in any of their films. Alas, it didn't happen. I next encountered Horner via his score to the SF film Brainstorm, which is notable mainly for being Natalie Wood's last film and, well, for Horner's score.


And then there was Krull.


It's amazing to hear the progression in Horner's sound from Battle to the Treks to Krull and beyond. You can really tell how much he was learning along the way, and his development along these lines culminated in 1988's Willow.


One can detect a certain amount of the common lot of the film composer: often the scores are, on balance, better than the films. Not everyone can be John Williams, with a partnership with Steven Spielberg.

Horner was also able to do a lot more than genre films. He scored everybody's favorite gentle baseball film Field of Dreams, in which he flexed his Americana muscles without quite aping the typical Coplandesque sound, and a couple years later he scored the Robert Redford caper flick Sneakers.


In the mid-90s, Horner reached what was almost certainly the height of his powers, and his filmography from about 1993 to 1998 basically includes one fine score after another, with three that were truly wonderful and one other which would become his single most famous work.

For Ron Howard's Apollo 13, Horner managed to capture both the optimism of the Apollo moon missions and the elegiac sense, looking back, that that was as far as we were willing to go at that time and for quite a long time afterward. Horner infused that entire film with amazing energy, never moreso than during that film's incredible rocket launch sequence:


Then there was Braveheart. Horner's score for this film is amazing, one of my favorites of all time, and I consider its first half to be some of the finest film music ever written. It's really quite something, what Horner did here. Mel Gibson's film takes a fairly 'dreamy' approach to its subject matter, with long, lingering shots and scenes that feel like meditations. Horner accompanies all this amazingly, never better than in the "Secret Wedding" sequence. This love music is more complex than it seems, with a main melody that is subtly varied through a number of different stepwise progressions, and as the scene becomes more and more intimate in the film, so too does Horner's score, boiling down to the utter simplicity of the rhythm being set by an ostinato harp. The first half of this score amazes me each time I listen to it.


Also in this same period came what I consider to be Horner's finest score, Legends of the Fall. This melodrama is actually a favorite film of mine, and Horner's approach to its big emotions is to basically say, "To hell with subtlety". It's a choice that works amazingly well, as Horner moves from big moment to big moment. This is a movie that blends World War I tragedy with Native American mysticism and Depression-era bootlegging with the generational drama of a family of strong-willed men and women underneath the Big Montana Sky, and Horner turns in a lush, Romantic score that proves that sometimes less is not more.


And then, in 1997, Titanic arrived.

Oddly, while I love the movie Titanic to this day, I'm not a huge fan of its score. It does, though, have a number of great moments. Horner would win his only Oscar for Best Original Score for Titanic (he also won Best Original Song that year for "My Heart Will Go On"). Titanic seems to be mostly laughed-at these days, which I always find unfortunate, but Horner did play a crucial part in its success, from the wonderful energy of "Southampton" to the way he scored the scene where Jack shows Rose how to "fly". Note, in the latter scene, how the music seems to swell, only to swell again, with an upward modulation, when Rose lifts her hand to Jack's neck, making the kiss all the more intimate.




One thing that's always struck me about Horner's Titanic score is how unobvious it is. He doesn't go for the type of "seafaring" sound that one might expect from a disaster-at-sea film; nor does he particularly try to capture a "British" feel with proper Elgarian pomposity. Horner's score, even if it's not one of my favorites of his, still does manage to somewhat lift the film from its period setting, thus helping make the love story a bit more eternal, if that makes any sense.

The best part of this score, though, comes when Horner sends the orchestra home and uses a simple solo piano for the scene when Jack draws the portrait of Rose. It's the film's most intimate scene, and the solo piano is an inspired choice.


Listening to all these selections, I'm struck by something I'd never totally noticed before, with regard to Horner's melodies. He leans toward long melodies that seem at first to meander, before settling into an internal logic that makes a lot of sense.

Since the late 90s, I've lost track of Horner a bit. Partly this is because I stopped seeing as many movies, and he wasn't scoring as many films that I actually wanted to see. Also, it seems that he wasn't scoring as many films in general. He was active right up to the end, but he wasn't getting as many of the blockbuster assignments and high-profile films, as tastes in film music have shifted toward the kind of tuneless soundscapes of Hans Zimmer and the like. I think Horner's style has somewhat fallen out of favor, but he didn't disappear entirely. The last new score of his that I heard to any significant degree was his music for James Cameron's Avatar. I didn't care for it all that much at first, but it has grown on me on repeated listens.


Horner had his detractors, of course, and sometimes they had cause. Over time, it became clear that Horner had little sonic "tricks" that he liked to use repeatedly throughout his scores -- a particular motif to indicate that something bad was in the offing, for instance; film music fans would sometimes call this the "Danger Motif". Another is what I came to call the "James Horner Rolling Chord of Melodic Punctuation". More than a few times I would see a film with a Horner score and notice these very tricks playing out, and though it wouldn't much faze the general audience, I knew what was going on.

Horner's gifts of melody and his skill at spotting a film were always in evidence, however, and I can't name a single film that he didn't enhance with his music. After John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner's music was the most familiar to me growing up. His musical storytelling, in its finest moments, stands with any film composer who has ever put pen to paper.

And his voice will be missed. I may not have heard much of his music of late, but I don't like knowing that there will be no more to discover. I didn't like everything he did, but I liked most of it and loved a lot of it. Seeing his name attached to a film was always exciting.

So thank you, James Horner. Your music is part of the soundtrack of my life.







Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

I saw this fascinating question on Facebook yesterday, and I knew I had to ask it here. What book have you owned the longest? As in, which physical book has been in your collection the longest time?

For me, it's this one:

Question: What book have you owned the longest? #books

That's Once Upon A Galaxy by Alan Arnold, a diary of the making of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I got this in 1980. In fact, I think I even know where I got it: the tiny bookstore at one end of the Beaverton Mall in Beaverton, OR. At least, that's where I think I got it. I may be completely wrong on that score.

So, what's yours? Remember: this is what physical book has been in your collection the longest. Not which book is oldest!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I hate you, Les.

I stopped reading Funky Winkerbean a while back, because it just got too...too...how to put this...the people in it are all assholes. But I still catch it on Sundays because we get that paper, so now I know that Les Moore finished a book.



Eff you, Les. Nobody does that.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Who cares, they all look alike anyway.

Syracuse had an Ironman triathlon thing the other day, and participants who completed the course were awarded this medal:



Yup, they got that beautiful medal for completing a triathlon. In Syracuse.

Because completing a triathlon is an accomplishment. In Syracuse.

One wonders, then, why the medal features the skyline of...Rochester.

Oops.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dispatches

Some stuff from recent days!

:: A kinetic sculpture featuring eleven thousand marbles. This kind of thing delights me to ridiculous degrees.


:: This blog is most certainly NOT SAFE FOR WORK, but it's kind of interesting, if you've ever wondered what life is like for a working stripper.

:: JAWS is 40 years old!

Happy 40th, JAWS!

What a great movie. I need to watch it again soon...but meantime, here's a neat interview with the guy who, as a kid, got to be the killer shark's second victim in the movie. Poor Alex Kintner!

:: Speaking of Speilberg blockbusters, I saw this on the road the other day. I assume it's a promotional thing. Note the license plate.

I love this so much. #jurassicpark #cars

:: Speaking of movies, some nifty news from the week past: the rest of Battle of the Century has been found. This silent Laurel&Hardy movie features one of the finest of the old-style pie fights in movie history, but the film itself has been mostly lost to time, until now, when the entire missing reel turned up. Details here and here.




As for the deeply sad story that's been dominating the news this week...I'm not addressing it here. I'm simply worn out by such things. My thoughts tend to mirror Jason Bennion's, though, for what it's worth.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Something for Thursday

Late, I know. I had something else picked out, but before I published it I learned of the day's awful events in South Carolina and decided not to use it. I couldn't decide what to use in its place, however, until I came to the realization -- as I do whenever these too-frequent events occur -- that at some point you have to remember that our species really is capable of producing beauty amidst the agony that seems to be our constant stock-in-trade.

I know I've posted this before, multiple times even, but there's a reason for that. Here is one of the finest choral settings I know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

What's the best last line to a movie?

I can never decide, really, but I always seem to narrow it down to these three:






What are yours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On Waffles

Have I ever mentioned my deep and abiding love of waffles? Maybe I have, but here I go again:

I really really really love waffles.

Dinner #Yum #waffles

Fluffy, crunchy waffles dripping with real maple syrup. Belgian waffles with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. Traditional square waffles with a couple of pieces of fried chicken and some maple hot sauce to go with the maple syrup. And that's not all! How about waffle sandwiches? Ham and swiss on two toasted pieces of waffle, dipped into syrup or jam? That's like a Monte Cristo sandwich but with waffles instead of French toast! Oh, and blueberry waffles. Boy howdy!

Yup, waffles are awesome.

Now, growing up, waffles were a rarity. We never owned a waffle iron, probably because of space reasons and because I was really the only one in the family who really dug them. But since The Wife and I have been, well, The Wife and I, we've always had a waffle iron. In fact, we've always had more than one waffle iron.

Our first waffle iron was probably a wedding gift -- I honestly don't remember -- and it was a decent enough machine. It likely still works, actually. It's sitting in the garage right now, and I should probably clean it up and send it on its way to another waffle-loving but waffle-deprived household. This iron became superfluous when my mother-in-law gave us her old iron, presumably because she wasn't using it much anymore.

Now, I'm generally of the view that with some things, older really is better. Waffle irons are a good example. Over time the metal grates should take on a rich patina of seasoning, giving you that wonderful crunch that you can really only get with an old waffle iron. This one definitely has the feel of an old appliance. Its cord is ungrounded, the knob that adjusts the temperature has a certain looseness to it -- the looseness of old knobs, the "loose but not likely to fall off" kind of looseness -- and the silver exterior is worn and scratched and looks like it's been in various homes for years. Which, indeed, it has.

And it turns out amazing waffles.

My mother-in-law's old waffle iron. There's something to be said for old-school things. #waffles #vintage #Yum

I know, Alton Brown's waffles episode of Good Eats weighs in pretty definitively in favor of circular waffle irons instead of square ones (it has to do with the circle being a better shape for efficient heat transfer to the batter), but I love this old beast, I love the product it turns out, and I love that it's a connection to my mother-in-law.

One problem, though: we can't use it anymore. At least, not for Family Waffle Night. I can use the old one for when The Daughter and I want waffles, but if we're including The Wife, this one is off the table, because she is on a gluten-free diet. That being the case, she is too wary of not being able to clean the grates of the old iron sufficiently well to convert it to gluten-free batter. For this reason our waffle nights have decreased dramatically over the last couple of years. The few times we've had waffles, she's made waffles for us and pancakes for herself, and that's a fairly annoying amount of work.

Thus it came to pass that leading up to this past Mothers Day, I got in the market for a new waffle iron which she'd be able to employ in the baking of gluten-free waffles. After some shopping and comparing, I ended up at Williams-Sonoma and dropped over a hundred bucks on this bad boy:

FINALLY! #NewWaffleIron #waffles #Yum

I have no regrets, regarding the sticker price. None at all. For something like this, a device to make a food we love and like to have often (especially in the colder months), I'd rather spend a lot and get a good iron than some cheap $30 thing from Target where the construction is part-plastic and the lid doesn't seem to settle down snugly over the bottom and so on.

How were the waffles from this iron? Quite good, actually! It'll take years for the iron to develop that nice old patina, but it'll get there. Meantime, we can all have waffles now.

Let us praise the Waffle Gods! #waffles #Yum

Now I need to figure out how to make gluten-free fried chicken....

Waffles and fried chicken! #Yum

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dee-oh-enn-ee!



This round of edits on The Wisdomfold Path is DONE. D-O-N-E.

Now I just have to do a couple of formatting things, and then the book is off to get itself proofread.

Meanwhile, time to make a pass through the GhostCop manuscript, which I haven't looked through since I finished writing the thing, about a year-and-a-half ago. Wow....

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Something (different) for Thursday

For some reason I've been on a kick lately of watching POV videos of roller coasters and log flumes. I enjoy roller coasters (as long as I don't go upside down, because I'm chicken) and I love log flumes. I just love those things. Log flumes can be pretty lame sometimes, though -- as enjoyable as the ride itself is, I like individual rides to be themed so that you can't really see anything other than the ride you're on when you're on it.

Here's a great example. This one is apparently in Germany. I would dearly love to ride this one!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Base Touching

I'm cranking through edits for The Wisdomfold Path right now, hoping to finish this weekend.

I'm also starting to kick around ideas for a second series of books in the same universe. I figure I've got a galaxy to play with, so there's no reason I can't tell other stories there. What's forming in my head is something along the lines of a "the adventures of a smallish ship and her quirky crew" thing -- a mashup of Firefly and James Bond In SPACE!!!. Obviously this is at the very early point in gestation. All I know is the name of the ship captain and the number of people on the crew (five).

Writin's fun, folks!

(And I do plan to do some more posting here, once the editing's done! Thanks for hanging in there!)

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Name your favorite...

HISTORICAL BOAT!

(I know, I'm reaching here. But boats!)

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Instaweeks

Documenting the photographic atrocities....

Enjoying the warm weather before we get another bout of chill. #overalls #gap #vintage #spring

Gap overalls detail. Had these for nearly 20 years.... #overalls #gap #vintage

Dinner tonight: Andouille sausage po'boys with sweet potato waffle fries. #Yum

Let us go forth and take measurements, lads! #tools

New toys: Metal snips! #tools

Lester joins us for teevee. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

Cane also joins us for teevee. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

Twinkies. #DogsOfInstagram #CatsOfInstagram #Cane #Lester

He's tired. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

Cool-looking ominous clouds that I forgot to post yesterday. #clouds #sky

I had a pretty good physical this morning, so LUNCH AT FIVE GUYS! #yum

Having a great time writing, so naturally I look pissed off. #AmWriting #BitchyRestingFace

Constant companion. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram

Roof of the Reinstein Library in Cheektowaga. I like this library a lot. #library

A sun rises #sunrise

Morning reading #reading #books #overalls #vintage #Lee #denim

Shadow dog #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound

Wow, that was good frozen pizza! #pizza #Yum

Look! Another dog! LOOK AT THE DOG ACROSS THE STREET PEOPLE! #Cane #greyhound #DogsOfInstagram #overalls #Dickies

The snowpack is finally gone at Chestnut Ridge! #ChestnutRidge #wny

Good morning Buffalo Niagara! Lookin' good this spring morn! #Buffalo #wny

Looking into the gorge at Chestnut Ridge. #ChestnutRidge #wny

On the back trails at The Ridge! I think I'm about to take up hiking. #ChestnutRidge #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #Buffalo #wny

That last may be my favorite photo yet of Cane posing with me. He's well on his way to earning himself a permanent residence after his trial period with us ends!

More to come when I remember to post them!