Monday, September 17, 2018

Making Words for Your Ears (But Not Your Eyes)

Well, hey there.

You may have noticed that I still haven’t been writing, which is to say that you probably haven’t noticed it because I haven’t been doing it. There hasn’t been anything to notice. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I haven’t been writing, and there’s probably something there, but in order to get to the heart of it, I’d probably have to write it out, which, as I have already stated, I am unwilling to do.

To use a triple negative, not writing doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy, however. In the last few months, I’ve jumped face-first into podcasting, to the point that this summer I actually launched a podcasting business with Katherine Spiers, a friend and former co-worker who runs a successful food podcast, Smart Mouth. We’ve called the business TableCakes Productions, which might make us sound like a boutique pastry service but is actually named after the phenomenon of ordering pancakes for the entire table at a restaurant: one stack, shared by everyone. This connection is reflected in our logo.

logo design by emily chaplain

That’s a good metaphor for how we’re structuring our company. It’s a shared experience, and it’s something that can offer everyone a piece. I won’t bore you with the shopkeeping details, but I’ll at least say that we are trying to seek out voices that don’t have a platform already, especially people that deserve to be heard but who might not have a means for starting their own podcast. We know how to do that. We will get you started.

And yes, by the way, we do have a Patreon account, should you want to support us.

That pitch out of the way, I wanted to share with you some of the shows we have going on. Foremost, this past week we launched a new film podcast, You Have to Watch This Movie.

logo design by jeff hinchee, who is also great

This one is a follow-up to my previous movie podcast, We Are Not Young Anymore, this time with Tony Rodriguez as my co-host. Do you have a movie that you like a lot? Maybe one you’ve watched again and again over the course of your life? Maybe if you met someone who hadn’t seen this particular film, you might respond with, “Oh, you have to watch this movie.” Those are the kind of movies we’ll be talking about on this show, and each week we will have a guest in to talk about a movie that moves them. (Some of them might be famous! Some of them kinda won’t be!) Regardless of who the guest is, however, he or she will be there to talk about art that means something to them, and having those conversations is one of my favorite things to do.

Our first episode is about Big Business, the 1988 Lily Tomlin-Bette Midler comedy that I actually did not see until Tony showed it to me while we were dating, when he told me that I had to watch this movie. He was right.

Like all my shows, it’s based on SoundCloud, but you can subscribe on iTunes, on Google Play and on Stitcher, depending on where you like your podcasts. Please subscribe. Please give us a rate and review, if you’re into it. You’ve listened to a podcast before. You know the drill.

As You Have to Watch This Movie begins, I’m actually ending the first season of another show I’m producing and editing (but not talking on), Sam Pancake Presents the Monday Afternoon Movie. It’s hosted by my friend, Sam Pancake, who is an actor who has been on most of the shows. (No, really.) This podcast has him and guests (some famous!) discussing made-for-TV horror movies from the ’70s, and if you think that focus is too specific to sustain a long-term show, you are wrong and also YOU HAVE SOME ATTITUDE.

I made this intro graphic and I fully admit that I am proud of how it turned out.

This show essentially amounts to two friends having an informed conversation about a movie that is bonkers beyond belief. Take Curse of the Black Widow, for example, which Sam talked about with Drew Droege (a famous!) and which features Patty Duke turning into a giant spider. That is weirdly not the most far-fetched aspect of it, too.

Or maybe try The House That Wouldn’t Die, which stars Barbara Stanwyck as a pantsuit-wearing grandma who still has time to be sexy, even when she’s fighting off her possessed niece. This episode’s guest is Selene Luna, a performer whose character was killed off horribly in that remake of My Bloody Valentine but who also was once of the voices in Coco, which I think demonstrates range.

Again, you can follow Monday Afternoon Movie on iTunes and anywhere else you’d normally find a podcast.

Earlier this year, I also started a show with Glen Lakin, a screenwriter who also happens to be my roommate, about the gay one-off episodes of famous sitcoms. We called it Gayest Episode Ever, and it actually did pretty well for the one ten-episode season we did. We’re doing a second in the not-too-distant future. But if your idea of a good time is listening to gay dues go on and on about why Diane Chambers is a gift from god or why the John Waters episode of The Simpsons is a triumph, please give it a listen.

(And also please subscribe and so forth.)

And finally there’s Singing Mountain, the video game music podcast I started last year initially in an effort to put some more eyes on We Are Not Young Anymore. Singing Mountain has since outlived that initial podcast and turned into a fun side-project on its own. Last week, I posted the fortieth episode, and it’s one big mix of peaceful, calming music — the kind of stuff I felt like I needed to listen to, because I’ve been working a lot more than I’d maybe like.

But I don’t mind, because it’s all to further projects that I think are really cool. (And yes, please subscribe.)

So yeah, I’m not writing a whole lot, save for this promotional post, just because I wanted people to know that I’ve been working a lot and doing stuff I think people would like. We have a lot more planned, and while those shows will be debuting in the near future, I don’t want to show our hand just yet. I can at least say that they’re all hosted by women, and that’s another thing that makes me excited about TableCakes’s lineup.

I will write again — someday, probably — but if you were for some reason feeling like you missed my words, know that I’m still making them, just in a different medium.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Excuse Me, But Does This Bus Go to the Flower Market?

“Good afternoon, bus captain. Might this line be the one that takes me to the flower district? Where the flower markets are?”

“Why, hello, my good fellow. Yes, this bus goes along the greenery corridor, with stops in the flower district, Old Salad Town and the Avenue of Blossoms.”

“Oh, then you are the bus captain for me! How much will it cost to get to the market?”

“One handful of jam.”

“Well, this is unfortunate. I only have a satchel of berries on me at the moment.”

“I’m sorry, then, but you may not ride. We have rules for a reason, and it is my duty to uphold them.”

“This is most unfortunate. I was to meet my friend, who, of course, is a sheep.”

“I regret to say that I cannot help you. Perhaps you have jam at home?”

“I do not, for I ate it all this morning. I licked the jars clean, I did.”

“I am sorry.”

“Truly we are both sorry.”

[a pause]

“We were planning to eat all the flowers in the market.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Belladonna (But Not Stevie Nicks)

Short version: Hi, look at another video I made.

Long version: If you haven’t already seen Belladonna of Sadness, the 1973 anime about eroticism and witchcraft in medieval France, I might not necessarily recommend it outright. If it’s the kind of movie you’d need to see, you’d probably already have seen it. There’s no question that Belladonna is beautiful; it truly is a work of art. However, it may lean more toward art than entertainment, because in many sections of it, there’s not actually any animation happening. You’re just watching the camera pan over a beautiful drawing or watercolor rendering of Jeanne, the film’s central character.

I decided to take the film’s most colorful and most animated parts and edit them into a kind of Belladonna of Sadness supercut, and as soon as I did that, Goldfrapp’s “Hairy Trees” just kind of suggested itself as the ideal musical pairing. What you see below is something I find aesthetically pleasing but also a really misleading trailer for the film, as I purposefully excluded many of the still frame scenes, all the scenes where the sentient penis of Satan is a character and then also the scenes of sexual violence. Like I said, this movie is not for everyone. And yes, I see the irony in taking a work of erotica and essentially spaying it. However, as far as this video being a first in a little series I’m doing about weird animation, I think I’m off to a decent start.

Heads up: This video is NSFW as a result of animated boob.

In case you’re curious about the racier aspects of this film, I’m including below two of its big sex sequences: one represented Jeanne’s induction into witchcraft and the other the effect Jeanne’s liberation has on the villagers in her town. If the video I cut was a soft NSFW, I’d say these two sequences are an incredibly hard NSFW, not just for nudity but also for psychedelic, grotesque imagery the likes of which you may have never seen anywhere else.

Enjoy or also maybe just watch it concernedly, depending on your disposition.

More to come. See previous video art projects here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let’s Go to the Mall

Still not in the habit of writing much, but hey — here’s a video thing.

This was for a project that is now on hold, but I decided to finish this one segment anyway. It’s a montage of a few different camcorder videos of mall antics back in the day, set to Sylvester’s “Rock the Box,” even though I’m pretty sure the kids featured wouldn’t have heard of Sylvester. Here’s hoping I get to make the remaining segments should the project resume.

And here are the videos I used in this compilation:
You can also see all of my more “finished” projects on a special page on my Vimeo account, should you be bored today. And maybe in the future… writing? Meanwhile, have you caught up on my burgeoning career as a podcastateer?

Monday, July 24, 2017

VHSmas in July

Because nothing should get you into the holiday spirit better than the rapid approach of August, the hottest and least-holiday-filled month of all, here is a Christmas video.

I spent the last two weeks cobbling this together for Drink Special’s Christmas in July event last night at Bar Mattachine in downtown L.A. And while it was cool to see something I’d stitched together projected onto the wall, probably bigger than anything else I’d had a hand in making, I’m also putting the video online, just because a few people have enjoyed my past videos. And who knows? Maybe this will come in handy in a few months, when you’re planning your own holiday party and you want to play some wallpaper video that encourages people to point and say, “Hey, I also remember this thing!”

The Drink Special party had its own soundtrack, so while VHSmas was playing on a loop you couldn’t hear the soundtrack I included with it. That’s okay. The music in the video is really just placeholder music anyway, and I feel like anyone playing this at parties will probably just mute it and put on their own Christmas music instead.

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of the TV shows and movies I included, in order of when each first appears in the montage.

  • The 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special
  • The Nutcracker Fantasy (read more about this high-octane nightmare fuel here)
  • 1974’s other Rankin/Bass special, The Year Without Santa Claus
  • Gremlins
  • A Muppet Family Christmas
  • Black Christmas (1974 version)
  • A fairly unknown 1984 slasher movie called Don’t Open Till Christmas
  • 1984's Christmas Top of the Pops, featuring Baltimora
  • 1977’s The Carpenters at Christmas
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
  • The “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble” episode of Ranma 1/2
  • The finale to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
  • Ann-Marget on an unidentified Christmas special from 1981
  • The Joan Collins sequence from the 1972 Tales From the Crypt movie
  • The video for “Christmas in Hollis,” by Run–D.M.C.
  • The video for “Last Christmas” by Wham
  • “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the show’s original Christmas special
  • “Christmas at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • “The Bird! The Bird!” — the premiere episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  • Sailor Moon S: The Movie
  • Scrooged
  • White Christmas
  • An amazing Philip Morris video about marketing cigarettes that I think I passed off as Christmassy well enough
  • The Solid Gold Christmas specials from 1983 and 1985
  • He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Babes in Toyland (1986 version)
  • Batman Returns
  • The video for the original version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  • Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)
  • The 1989 Christian Lacroix fall-winter fashion show
  • Profondo Rosso
  • Die Hard
  • The Snowman (1982)
  • This 1951 Russian cartoon that may or may not be an adaptation of The Night Before Christmas
  • Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)
  • “Koopa Klaus,” the Christmas episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super
  • “Miracle at the Teen Club,” the Beverly Hills Teens Christmas special
  • “Christmas Memories,” the holiday special for Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats
  • A Christmas Story
  • A 1980 clip of Kate Bush performing a Christmas version of “Babooshka”
  • The video for Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” which it should be noted was originally written as a Christmas song
  • The Christmas Toy (1986)
  • A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)

(Sorry, no ALF.)

I’m not listing all the commercials separately because there are simply too many of them and I found them all in these treasure trove YouTube clips of old broadcast commercials broadcast around the holidays. But ask if there’s something you want identified. And feel free to use this montage as you will.

Previous videos:

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Singing Mountain

It’s not that I’m neglecting this blog; it’s that I’m more often engaged in creative ways that are not writing, and I’m simply using the shell of this blog as a platform to promote these other things.

I started Singing Mountain, a podcast about video game music a few weeks ago. It’s an experiment, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take. It may change episode to episode, based on my whims and availability, but I can tell you at least that it will always be about why the background music from whatever game you barely remember is actually more important than you might have realized.

I posted the fourth episode of Singing Mountain yesterday. It’s actually a remake, of sorts, of a post that went up here back in 2012. Once I started this thing, I realized that a podcast actually was the better medium through which to tell the story, just because you can exert a little more control over your audience than you can with just text. Topics discussed in this fourth episode include Earthbound, the closet where my mom would hide Christmas presents, The Cars, Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” the actual persistence of memory, the litigiousness of Beatles and, finally, Janet Jackson. It will likely prove to be the exception more than the rule, as far as future episodes go, as this one is also about me. I was interested if I could use this sort of podcast as a means to make creative nonfiction, I guess, and I’m eager to hear what you think of the result.

If you’re interested, you can subscribe to Singing Mountain both on SoundCloud and on iTunes. And if you’re curious, you can also listen to my previous three episodes, which cover Super Mario RPG, the Mega Man series and the work of German composer Chris Huelsbeck.

In case you’re wondering, the logo art uses a slightly re-colored version of the Dragon’s Hole dungeon background art from Seiken Densetsu 3. And please — if you’re so inclined, write me a review on iTunes. As a podcast person, I’m required to ask you that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

This Used to Be My Carnival of Horrors

It’s America’s birthday today, and what’s more American than baseball?

(This post is only tangentially about baseball.)

The newest episode of We Are Not Young Anymore has Chris and I — plus special guest Michelle! — talking about A League of Their Own, the 1992 baseball movie that asks the question “What if with girls this time?” Listen to the episode at your leisure.

I’m writing this post to tell you about something that got cut out of the final version of the episode, however. You may have noticed that we open and close each episode with MIDI renditions of popular songs. In making the League of Their Own episode, the obvious choice was Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground.” And that’s what I used, in the end, but it took a little bit of searching to find a usable version. It turns out that the most popular MIDI version of this particular song sounds… wrong.

Because this is something the world needs to hear, I’ve made it listenable in video form. Here, take it in.

Around the 13-second mark, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a horror movie. I’m not sure what’s happening here, exactly. It could just be that this composition was made a long time ago, and the program I’m using to read it today isn’t doing so correctly — or is maybe selecting the wrong instrument to play. However, what I’d prefer to imagine to be the case is that whoever created this rendition really did choose a thudding piano in the style of every old slasher movie where the killer is approaching a victim and death is imminent. They listened to the final version and said, “Yes, this is right. This is good enough to share.” And it’s been kicking around online ever since, making anyone who has reason to download a MIDI version of “This Used to Be My Playground” to get 13 seconds in and then say, “Wait, what the fuck?”

And I like that.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Here, I Fixed the Woodsman from Twin Peaks

Eight episodes into the new season of Twin Peaks, we’ve seen some scary stuff. However, the single most lingering image, for me, nightmare-wise, appeared back in the second installment. It was our first glimpse of the horrifying, soot-covered woodsmen. The camera pans from Matthew Lillard’s character, grief-stricken as he waits in his jail cell, to another one a few doors down, where there’s this man who is painted black, sitting motionless and contorted. Then he vanishes. Then his head floats away like a balloon. No explanation given.

I made a video in case you need a refresher.

Even though the woodsman has appeared again — and done more horrifying things than just vanish — it’s this one that has stuck with me, and I wanted to take the piss out of it. That’s why I acted on the suggestion that it could be greatly improved by the addition of a slide whistle.

It was, in fact.

That’s why I asked Tony (Tony!) to further improve the sequence with voices.

Here is that.

See? Not scary anymore. I fixed it. I think you will agree. You’re welcome.

Not even scary in the slightest.