Sunday, October 22, 2017

Held Against Your Will

It's interesting to consider how important fate is within our lives; how intertwined every minute aspect of our daily being will inevitably become.

Had you asked me a number of months ago, I'd have assured you I would have rather been anywhere than where I was - both on a literal level, as well as a mental and existential one. I felt tattered, and all-around baseless; to the point where social interaction grew painfully unappealing, filled with nothing but disdain.  I wanted a solid escape from the singular, droning hell that was my own mind.

Ask me now; I've found it. Perhaps it's the tinge of my presently delirious mind, but I've finally found a solid state of self that neither toes the line between awkwardly antisocial, callously airheaded, nor ethereally unintelligible. I've found a state that feels, above all, happy. Through baggy eyes, cloudy thoughts, and aching bones, I'm in a greyish world of peace. It's as imperfect as I've always wanted.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Happy Birthday to MidLife - Art Discussion #1 and #53

As of yesterday, October Thirteenth, my multifaceted project MidLife officially became one year old - at least, concerning it's production as an actual long-term project. Fitting day, isn't it?

The concept has existed, in various forms, for roughly five years; morphing through tons of art styles, plot lines, contributors, inspirations, and everything in between, culminating into this final 'version'. Of course, that's not counting individual characters, or vague themes - some of which can be traced back to illustrations lining early grade school assignments, or train-of-thought stories hatched in fresh Crayola. Someday I hope to detail the complete evolution of the concept, but much preparation still needs to be done before this is possible; particularly when it comes to rounding up old hard drives and long-forgotten sketchbooks.

I unwittingly began the final project with the following image - a simple group photo that effectively communicated MidLife's four main characters; Dev, Spence, Vienna and Popobawa. An artist's greatest critic is always themselves; looking back on this initial sketch, I can see quite a few traces of a 'bubbly' art style I tried for a short period of time, which I grew to strongly dislike shortly after abandoning it for a more comfortable angular flow - too many oddly sloped faces, overly expressive eyes, so on and so forth. Still, a sketch is a sketch - and, if only for my own sake, I enjoy documenting MidLife's 'art history'.

In the final image, I naturally made some adjustments; fixing Dev's mid-speech expression to a sort of grin, rounding out his initially flat torso, redrawing Vienna to bear a more subtle expression, giving Spence a less segmented neck, so on. The finished product has stood my own personal test of time; uncommon, as - once again - I'm quite self-critical. I suppose I've made a conscious effort to make MidLife's art somewhat homogeneous - following hypothetical 'models' to carry a fairly consistent look through the entire series, bar experimental images which intend to bend the rules.

To commemorate MidLife's first year, I created a new photo; combining unmodified sketches (hence the lack of any pre-production comparison picture) with photography, thus taking ongoing trends from the series (combining cartoon visuals with surreal backgrounds, building from rough pencils, a focus on street art, so forth) to a literal level.

Bare-bones MidLife - a single individual's dreamy project, made for himself, by himself. Simple drawings vandalizing the barren walls of reality; painting a convoluted, yet ongoing life with their oddly invigorating spirit. Easily removed by a coat of fresh paint - unprofessional in it's creation. Yet, to the fitting eye, it is perhaps something more.

At least, that's how I see it. Somebody's gotta stare at this spooky junk.

Within this picture are some references to MidLife's own history; for example, Spence's "Soak" shirt comes from a very old image of an early Vienna, seen sporting an almost totally different design. Dev's baseball uniform is something of a callback to the eighth image in the series - where we can only see his white eye. In this image, likewise, we can only see it's black opposite. Spence showing only his damaged eye obviously parallels the aforementioned first image; here, he's aiming a baseball, while there, he's callously laughing - always the ruffian.

MidLife has currently shifted toward a focus on literature; the past year has centered almost entirely on visual art, so I feel it's time to dive in and begin carving some writing into the ether. As of this time, I'm working on the second part of the story's introduction, "Born into Death".

As I develop this unique side of the project, I more and more realize that I truly do create MidLife out of nothing more than a personal need - the need to share a sense of creativity, whether or not it is seen or even appreciated. To express myself as desired, regardless of drawbacks such as relevance or demand, is all I find myself asking for - and, hey, that's exactly what I'm doing, isn't it?

Here's to another year of digging my own grave - right alongside Dev, Spence, Vienna, Popobawa, and all those other sick freaks of unholy creation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review - TerrorVision

TerrorVision is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen.

After installing a janky new satellite, a family of caricatures accidentally tune in to a rogue interstellar beast; seeping through the TV itself as it lusts for death. After taking down every adult - ranging from a psychotically war-headed Grandfather, to an exaggeratedly suave Greek swinger - the children manage to communicate with it, bringing to life their own version of E.T. However, the monster quickly remembers his lack of temperament, returning to his killing spree; leaving the remaining brother and sister to take him down with a ridiculous artillery of heavy weaponry... including a midnight TV schlock-star.

If that made as much sense as the rambles of your drug-addict neighbor, welcome to the dimly-lit, neon-painted, sexually insane world of TerrorVision; the epitome of 80’s splatter horror.

Films such as Ship of Monsters take their imaginative flair in stride, bringing forth a cartoony world full of goofy surprises. Others, such as Little Monsters, revel in grime, distorting all suburban values. TerrorVision lacks the respect to stay even remotely as grounded as these similar features - what begins as a Burtonesque parody of family ends as a non-sequitur, rendering half the film delightfully pointless. Not only will it offend you, it’ll twist you, turn you, and spit you right back out in a gory pile of slimy guts. If the worst of Elm Street crossed paths with Bad Taste, even it’s terrible lovechild would be disgusted by TerrorVision.

Every single aspect is kicked past 11, beating you over the head like a manic axe-murderer. Not a single character is likeable; let alone realistic. Every death is as gross as possible. Exposition levels out to absolutely hilarious simplicity - in nothing but admiration, it may as well be ad-libbed. Every expectation is tossed out the window and blown up by a barrel full of grenades, spurting greenish blood across the makeup-coated faces of each screaming cast member. It's stupid, it's amazing, it's awful, and you can't look away. Even when you really, really want to - especially when the film's vile star of a monster is onscreen, resembling a burnt Pizza the Hutt mixed with a Critter; grody.

TerrorVision is a clear love-letter to the ditzy monster films of old; even featuring stock footage from Robot Monster and The Giant Claw narrated by Medusa - a clear parody of hosts such as Svengoolie or Elvira. It takes everything an impressionable mind obsessed over from the genre, and blows it up past inflation - exploding in a cacophony of tubular cheese. The entire picture seems to have somehow been written by it's mindlessly dumb characters, specifically punk teens O.D. and Suzy - both of which are beautifully retro.

I want to frame this movie, hang it on my wall, and bow to it each sunrise. It's so insane - so unfathomably reckless - that it deserves all praises.


Review - Ship of Monsters

Venus needs Dads, as two women are sent across the galaxy to collect any & all species of male - desperate to repopulate their decimated species. After collecting an oddball gallery of interstellar rouges (A Martian prince with a gargantuan brain, an insect-like venomous beast, a Cyclops straight out of Homer's Odyssey, a ghastly animated skeleton, and a helpful robot), they find themselves crash landing on an unknown planet - Earth. There, they discover their greatest catch yet - a giddy Spanish man delighted to inform the pair about the foreign concept of love. Through song, of course. As evil intents unveil and lusts build, the monsters reign loose upon a small Mexican village... leaving only the powers of dance & destruction to save the planet.

Ship of Monsters is everything you'd want it to be, and more. It's a musical - a horror - a sci-fi - a western - a romance - an Ultraman episode - a goofy sitcom - a Disney-esque fantasy. With an endearing charm, it manages to tie every aspect together in a neat, colorful package; a slice of cheese that ends up being far better than it deserves to be.

In a childish fashion, Ship refrains from the drab staleness of exposition; far more excited to lead us head-first into a comic book adventure. One minute, we'll watch our male lead (played by famed comedian Eulalio González) joke among a crowd of heckling drunken cowboys, telling goofy tales of quick-draw bandits and amazing gunslinger feats; the next, we'll be face-to-face with a crowd of oddballs, steepling their rubber claws as they formulate a plan to overrun our world and escape their imminent death. In between, we'll have learned what it is to find the one - with a dash of spicy humor, of course.

For many a horror fan, the crew of weird aliens will be a great delight; from the team of tight-suited space women (one of which had won the 1960 Miss Mexico Pageant), to the rubber suit menagerie that serve them. Though the effects on these characters aren't anything to marvel over (although, by comparison to the creature suits' reappearances in unrelated film Santo & Blue Demon Vs. The Monsters, they aren't half bad), the designs are groovy enough to remain at least interesting. I especially love Zok, a skeletal dog-man puppet who seems to constantly be laughing the same deep giggles as your typical grim grinning ghost.

Because it never takes itself too seriously, we, as an audience, never expect it to. We accept the film's whimsical reality because, in it's simplicity, we don't need the nitty-gritty details - just as the film does, we really just want to see more zany antics. The plot is loose and sometimes nowhere near logical, the effects are laughably unimpressive, and the comedy is usually only as good as the occasional one-liner ("You're aliens?! I thought you were just white girls.") - but I'll be damned if the whole isn't a load of fun regardless. The movie never asks for thought, and thus, it's not necessary to analyze; simply to plow down the popcorn and join the wild ride. How can you say no to a film whose climax is a sensual dance between a twisted Vampire and a frightened Gaucho?

As much as I hesitate to simplify, Ship is nothing but pure fun.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review - The Corpse Vanishes

A bustling reporter follows a series of mysterious kidnappings, occurring to brides who inexplicably die mere seconds before their marriage. Following a small trail of clues, she discovers a prime pair of suspects; An odd woman, and her renowned husband. The strange crimes have a strange purpose - one not even deduction can unravel. Death, deceit, and betrayal come together in an unholy battle for life itself.

Famed horror icon, Bela Lugosi, stars among a crowd of relative no-names (besides poverty row mainstay, Angelo Rossitto) ; a trend during his downward spiral. To the popular eye, his name is about all that matters of this film - and, to be fair, they aren't missing much.

Vanishes stays consistently interesting, taking many twists and turns throughout it's admittedly upfront plot. It's about as close to a silver-screen haunted house as you can get - it may be fun, but in the end, most of it's tricks were rather by-the-numbers. Almost every of-the-era trope seems to be checked; the mad doctor, the Igor, the reporters, the hypnotist, so on and so forth. Many times, I was even reminded of other films, which managed to make use of elements glazed over here in much more engaging fashions. This is not to say the film is bland - as, again, it remains enjoyable. Simply, that it has very little to offer.

However, besides predictability, there were some prominent issues. The tone seemed a bit inconsistent, bobbing between House on Haunted Hill spooks and Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster sleuths... neither offering enough of their respective traits to fill my appetite. It attempts to mix perky skepticism with horrific imagination, yet fails in that neither interact as compatibly as possible - as soon as it dips it's toes in mystery, it seems to strike out of the water before making any true plunge into ambiguity. In fact, many times, my own imagination seemed to trump what the film purveyed; specifically concerning turns of events which one would very much assume to be somehow subverted, or at least imaginatively played with. Events within the story went painfully smoothly. A prime example is when our leads undeniably discover the mad scientist's secret, within his very presence, yet land in no peril whatsoever. No eerie hauntings, no terrible chases, nothing - at least Lugosi's creepy charm keeps things alive.

I like Vanishes well enough - it's something of a 'best-of' for a selection of classic horror ideas. Still, besides that charm, there's not much there; no especially interesting characters, no thought-provoking concepts... hell, hardly any frights. I suppose my biggest complaint is also my biggest laud... I wanted more, as there was clearly more to give.


The Irma Chronicles - My Struggle

Hurricanes don't phase me anymore. "Didn't" would be the more proper word to use in the above sentence, though, I suppose it remains true in the aftermath of Irma.

I first heard of the storm a week before it hit; a friend briefly alluded to it's arrival, unsure of whether or not it would impact our area. Myself, used to the constant 'threats' reigned upon Florida, assured them otherwise - it'd be just like last year's flop of a disaster. A tree strewn, some pits flooded, no more damage than a particularly rainy night. 'Serious' was the last word that came to mind, as I imagined the onslaught.

I suppose it can be simplified as a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" situation. The danger is as imposing as ever, but the repeated promises of it make the anticipation more annoying that dreadful. However, at the end of said tale, the Boy learns not to dull a valid threat... And, likewise, the people find their livestock torn to shreds.

"Shreds" doesn't quite describe the outside world; frankly, my predictions were mostly correct. Many trees have fallen, power has disappeared to the area, and floods - while small - are common. Resturaunts and basic amenities remain closed, as cars hopelessly search the salty emptiness for a living McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts - only to be dissuaded by the unbelievably long lines cluttering through entire parking lots. On the radio, Drew Barabalo yammers humorously amongst a league of hosts, begging callers to report available gas stations... Preferably, with appetizing varieties of snacks.

Currently, I write against the glow of my quickly draining phone - one of the few light sources in the pitch black abyss of a house. The grimy heat is thick, the tension is headache-inducing, and the hassle is larger than the sacrifice. It's certainly no catastrophe... But I'll be damned if it's not an annoyance. Call that luck, ungratefulness, or a first-world problem. I, however, simply wish I could call up a Pizza.

Saturday, September 9, 2017


It's strange who you naturally become.

I'm self-absorbed; sometimes hot headed; usually a little brash. People I've never met think I'm older than I am. People I have, admittedly, probably think otherwise. Something about the air changes who I am. In a distant setting, I'm subdued; colorless. Upfront, logical. In another, I'm erratic. Unrealistic. It's hard to determine which is better - and, moreso, which is the truth. Glimpsing into a parallel world - seeing the lives of others, uncensored - is a challenge. My high horse is inescapable. And, unsurprisingly, it's a padded prison. A prison, but one I can manage a certain peace within. I have too many faces - too many that never truly make themselves apparent. Too many that are too strong, in their rare emergence.

Being separate seems natural - and, yet, I'm far from it. No matter how hard I may convince myself, I am one with everything around me. It's far from a negative connotation; in fact, it's precisely what has brightened my spirit. It's precisely what makes up my honest, face-to-face world. It's what divides me, emotionally, from the hopelessly introverted. It's the smiling fire that can manage a beating heart.

Still, something in me - the sputtering, distorted radio tuning in to long abandoned stations of thought - is isolated. Alone in the rain of Bill Evans; the silent tranquility standing alone, ghosting between the smokey bar and the cold cellar. Always an image.

It's why I'm an artist.

Again, as I delve back into a static state of midnight emptiness, I'm happy. The jazz ties you to reality - your reality. Faults fall into the sandy drums, imperfections into the murky bass. What remains is how you choose to lead the anomalous path of your Earthly life. Whether you've found happiness, or not. Whether you can find your own Heaven.