Archive for January, 2015

bizarroHAHA: BILL HICKS

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

BILL HICKS’

PRINCIPLES OF COMEDY

…and life, really.

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1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.

2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.

3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.

4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.

5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.

 

 

6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.

7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.

8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.

9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)

10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.

11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.

12. I love my cracker roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.

 

 

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original article source: http://www.nerdist.com/2009/08/bill-hickss-principles-of-comedy/

UPROXX article on the best of Bill Hicks on Youtube: http://uproxx.com/up/2014/02/5-bill-hicks-stand-bits-everyone-know/

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bizarroSTARWARS: Mark Hamill

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

331 DAYS TO GO!

 

http://www.timeanddate.com/countdown/generic?iso=20151218T00&p0=64&msg=Star+Wars%3A+Episode+VII

What the hell ever happened to

Luke Skywalker?

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My mother likes to tell a story every once in a while, about how sometime around 1978-79, three-year old Me I went around insisting on being called Luke for about six months.

Coincidently, or not as the case may be, this was around the time the first Star Wars movie came out. I actually can’t remember seeing it the first time – I remember some years later, as an older ten-year-old enjoying Return of the Jedi- but the closest I can get to a memory about Star Wars 1 is an inkling of my dad getting a film reel of the film and putting up a sheet on the lounge wall and showing the family this new weird film about robots and starships – in those days, before the mainstream use of video machines in South Africa – people used to hire film reels for home use, at least I think you could…maybe my dad knew someone…

So, somewhere along the line during the late 70s, Luke was apparently my self-adopted name, apparently inspired by the hero-worship of the young Star Wars protagonist Luke Skywalker: who for millions around the world, became an embodiment of a new kind of screen hero.

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The wide-eyed innocence and excited enthusiasm of the young Skywalker became a sort of conduit for us all, in approaching the film and its later sequels, and I guess life in the 70s and 80s in general, too. Popular movie heroes up to then had always been the more mature, more roguish, less identifiable to younger audiences, more Han Solo archetypes, but in Luke Skywalker younger audiences found some identity on screen. The character was a large part of the film series’ success.

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Mark Hamill portrayed Luke in those first SW movies, and despite being half a novice actor, with a few soap opera and television appearances to his credit, pulled it off quite well…let’s all agree, if there is one thing we don’t really watch the SW movies for, it’s the acting: for the most part wooden, at best…cringe worthy, at it’s worst. (*Something that got amplified to its detriment in state-of-the-art high definition digital of the later SW prequels – Exhibits A, B, C and D: Jake Lloyd’s Anakin (the Munchkin) Skywalker, Jar Jar Binks and, later, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s green-screen-addled marshmallow thespianism.

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In 1978 though, and with nostalgic viewings of the original trilogy later, we were less forgiving of the performances. For the most part, there was great chemistry between the film’s leads – Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Besides the visual elements of the movie had us all awestruck that it didn’t matter that the characters were cast out of cartoonish over exuberance. It made it all even better…

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Hamill was a bona fide world superstar by the time the following two movies arrived…but then, once that trilogy was completed, nothing…or so it would seem. While Hamill might not have been top billing on much else after SW ended, he didn’t go away.

The story of how Hamill got the part: the Freddy Krueger Connection…

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From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hamill

I like Hamill, particularly his obvious affection for his Luke Skywalker legacy, something he has from time to time, lightly satirised with great joy and glee in other media.

My favourite example is his star-turn in a classic Simpsons episode (Season 10, episode 9 “Mayored to the Mob”. In a nutshell – Homer becomes a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby, protecting him from assassination attempts by Fat Tony during a dinner theatre production of Guys And Dolls, featuring Hamill as Nathan Detroit whose main musical number is the hilarious and catchy Luke, Be A Jedi Tonight (Luck, Be a Lady Tonight…geddit) this is but one great example of the many consistently clever and incredibly funny SW references across the Simpsons universe. Simpsons writers wear their geek badges proudly throughout the show, not least when it comes to poking fun at Star Wars.

4ZKRVVO http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Mayored_to_the_Mob

Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight!

Another highlight of Hamill’s post-SW self-lampooning, is the geek mockumentry Comic Book: The Movie, a lovingly satirical take on the global boom of geek culture that defines the sci-fi fan community, particularly the behemoth that is Star Wars fandom. A self-referential Hamill is at odds with his peculiar brand of fame and also the fans themselves. Much like William Shatner grappling with Captain Kirk before him, Hamill wonders if Luke Skywalker will be his only crowning professional achievement in life.

But of course, it’s not. Mark Hamill has gone on, after SW, to achieve a lot as an actor, a voice actor and writer. None of which have anything to do with Star Wars.

In the early 90s Hamill …and not Luke…received another boost of cool, being cast as the voice of the Joker in the iconic Batman animated series. An accomplished voice actor for some of his post-SW years, Hamill made the role his own and created another facet of the Joker not again achieved until Heath Ledger’s portrayal in the Dark Knight.

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So influential was his voice for the Joker that he reprised the voice for a number of later appearances in video games and live-action (he voiced the Joker in the short-lived Gotham girl power TV series Birds Of Prey).

In between all that Hamill also appeared in notable theatre productions, including a star turn as John Merrick in The Elephant Man., as well as giving voice to several video games and writing for several issues of Dark Horse and the Simpsons comics.

And now Luke is back…

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Since the purchase of LucasFilms and the Star Wars universe by Disney, and the announcement that director JJ Abrams will be making a seventh SW movie, following the story after the events of Return of the Jedi, speculation was rife that the characters of the original trilogy, particularly Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, would return, albeit older and in less prominent supporting roles.

It would be a popular option, after all. These are Classic Characters – ones most SW fans have grown up with, and it makes for fascinating speculation about what happened to them all, especially Luke: what happened after he defeated his arch-enemy (and the father he never knew) Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Where is he now, as a fully-fledged sole remaining Jedi, what is he doing and what are his relationships with other characters in the universe like?

Now that the rumours of these characters’ return is confirmed and the new Force Awakens movie is nearly here…December 18th…the premise and promise of these stories now being told is an exciting prospect, and judging by Hamill’s Twitter postings over the last year during production for the new film, he’s as excited as us about entering that world again as that ultimate iconic movie hero Luke Skywalker.

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https://twitter.com/hamillhimself

I may not call myself Luke anymore, but I like to think I retained some his wide-eyed enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. He is the ultimate movie hero, the kind we don’t see much anymore on screen or in real-life. It will be interesting to see Mark Hamill return to Luke, now older, wiser and with beard.

The student turned master…

bizarroMUSIC: Finding ESG

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

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My latest musicological find…although appreciation for their music has been around for years, ESG are new to me, and what an interesting, unpolished gem it is.

ESG – Emerald, Sapphire and Gold aka the Scroggins Sisters are a bizarre fusion of DIY post-punk-funk pre-disco proto-hip-hop, full of erratic percussion, no wave guitars, killer basslines, cheerleader choruses and other weird and interesting sounds.

The band emerged out of South Bronx, New York during the musically fertile early 80s post-punk and hip hop scenes, releasing a couple of EPs and one album. Ever since the band have been off again / on again, enjoying a short renaissance in the 90s thanks to some exposure through the hip-hop of the day sampling some of their break-friendly tracks.

*For more bio info: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/esg-mn0000167386/biography

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The band really tipped their toes in every genre around at the time, but ever-present are the plucky walking bass lines of sister Deborah and repetitive call and response vocals of Renee and Marie, that gave them their unique sound that subtly seeped into later alternative music.

Beth Ditto (with The Gossip) and Luscious Jackson are ESG’s most obvious musical descendants, but the band also fills that sphere of influence between Salt N Pepa and L7 by way of the Go-Gos.

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Some highlights below, but their compilation album A South Bronx Story (part 1 and 2) are well worth digging out on the internet.

(*I’ve included the studio recordings, but also check out some of the live recordings on YouTube for a fuller picture of the band…)

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My Love For You – a rollicking cow-belling garage punk track that wouldn’t be out of place in any decent breaks or funky club mix…

Dance – the Beth Ditto blueprint, full of spunky attitude, earworm bass line and cool rolling drum breaks….

Erase You – a later track, a sassy girl power anthem – and my favourite by far…featuring some great whiny punk rock guitar and the memorable lyrics:

“…I was out with Tony/he had so much gold/but it was phony” – chorus: “E-race-shoo / just like a draw-ing/flush you like my toilet”

*Thanks to the band Moon Duo – whose forthcoming album Shadow of the Sun, out March 2014, I am really looking forward to – for turning me on to ESG via their Facebook post earlier this week.

https://www.facebook.com/moonduoofficial

bizarroSTARWARS: …339 days to go!

Monday, January 12th, 2015

339 DAYS TO GO!

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http://www.timeanddate.com/countdown/generic?iso=20151218T00&p0=64&msg=Star+Wars%3A+Episode+VII

There are very few geeky things that get me excited – the thought of my wife in a Catwoman outfit (something as yet sadly unfulfilled), watching Heath Ledger’s Joker performance (gets me every time: perfect, perfect, perfect performance) and maybe spotting something new in yet another multiple viewing of Lost – but this year the one thing that’s getting me all hot and bothered is the anticipation of the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, resuscitated by Disney and geek rainmaker JJ Abrams…something we all thought would never be realised: George Lucas himself dug the grave and delivered the eulogy to the main SW film canon sometime back, and we all thought we would be left with 6 films of varying degrees of quality and a whole bunch of fan- and Lucas-certified lesser fiction, animation and other art.

J.J. Abrams

The most important 88 seconds in film history…hyperspace-hyperbole!  

Not the case, as the release date of December 18 2015 fast approaches – not fast enough though – with many tantalising teasers and trailers to flower girl its arrival. The first of which – 88 seconds of bombast editing of nonsensical snippets that had the internet analysing frame by glorious frame to the point of complete anal-retentiveness. In preparation for it all, I plan on writings and exhibiting a few thoughts of my own during the coming months as a way to prepare myself and to have a look at what this whole Star Wars thing means to me…

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Admittedly, it is hard to come to terms with Star Wars fandom – firstly, I am not one of those gung-ho, dress-up fans who live and die by the lightsaber, I am not even close the highest echelons of being a fan worthy of being considered an expert on all things Lucas-universe, which brings me to my first thoughts here: Chris Taylor’s book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise – Taylor, a much lauded and talented writer for the Mashable pop culture and tech website is one of those experts, a fan dedicated to finding the stories behind the story, delivering with great flair and great writing some things we all might not know or had forgotten about the genesis of Star Wars and its impact on the world, movies, pop culture and each and every one of us.

Taylor presents the story with remarkable fluidity and great care for the subject matter, but still with a subtle critical eye. He presents everyday real world characters for whom the SW universe has actively and significantly changed their lives – not just the fanboys (to whom Taylor is neither condescending nor flippant), but those who took a part of SW and used it to constructively enhance their lives and livelihood, like the 501st battalion, a group that started off as just a bunch of guys building Stormtrooper suits and evolved into the vast global network of performance artists who choose to deliver the SW message to where it mattered, to the people, appearing at conventions, public events and charity events in suit and in character en masse to keep SW in the public eye.

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So passionate were the 501st, that Lucas recognised their contributions to the pop culture of the films and the universe that he fully endorsed and encouraged the group to continue their good work. Lesser examples of the same kind of passion for the legacy of SW also include the man who fought hard to bring the Star Wars films to the native American Navajo community in their own language, and the amateur R2D2 builders club, who like modellers and other fringe hobbyists, live and breathe their passion to the point of exhaustion. Good people all, with passion and a sense of fun, the kind of people I myself love to read about and identify with, and also a lot like Taylor who, one can gather from the narrative of the book, enjoyed the assignment a lot.

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These stories of ordinary people embracing the world of SW leads directly to the story of Lucas himself, first as a young proto-geek in 1950s middle America (Northern California, actually) with a passion for cars and Flash Gordon serials, and then later for art, animation and filmmaking.

Young George is likable enough, though overly tenacious and slightly boring, but by the time he’s decided on a career in the arts, these traits would serve him well in negotiating the wobbly counterculture of the 70s independently-minded filmmaking boom that saw so many of his contemporaries and close friends almost fall off the edge of excess (prime example being Francis Ford Coppola’s megalomaniacal ambition and excess) its no surprise that the two most successful filmmakers of the era, Lucas and Spielberg, were also the most strait-laced, teetotalled and utterly focussed of this new generation of film artists.

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Taylor goes on to detail Lucas’ early filmmaking: surprisingly ambitious and avant garde efforts in film school and on the fringes of Hollywood, particularly his THX 1138 minimalistic dystopian sci-fi fable that first got him noticed by mainstream Hollywood.

The film itself is a million light years and galaxy far away from Star Wars, but the film, starring Robert Duvall and a lot of overexposed white mise-en-scene, indicated Lucas’ talent for creating something different out of the fresh tropes of science fiction film. If that was not enough to keep the suits guessing, his first major feature American Graffiti, a coming of age multi-story set in his hometown, based on his experiences growing up in idealistic but uncertain 1960s America, went on to be his first box office hit (blockbusters were still a few years away as a concept) – with amiable characters, classic cars and a great nostalgic soundtrack,

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Graffiti was a game changer for Lucas and Hollywood – making Lucas a millionaire and giving him free reign to do whatever kind of film he wanted.

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That film was the first Star Wars, a long gestating idea of presenting not a science fiction film but a space fantasy, a operatic fairy tale that would not be held to earthly concepts of science and nature, but a fully formed world within many galaxies where anything could happen and anyone could partake.

The film was a difficult birth, as detailed by Taylor in his book, highlighting the troubles of being a young filmmaker with a great idea in his head and not being able to communicate it effectively within the limitations of the medium he chose to use – something that would dog Lucas and his creativity ever since.

As a filmmaker Lucas was no Coppola or Spielberg: having neither the talent for words on a page or images on a screen – what Lucas was good at was finding the right people to communicate the vision in his head…from scriptwriters (all 6 movies started out in pencil on yellow legal paper by Lucas, and then through extensive drafts, rewrites and edits with many collaborators, finally finding the voice that exists on screen for posterity) – …to pioneering special effects creators, sound designer Ben Burtt who gave the movies its unique sound, effects cinematographer John Dykstra who created the camera system that enabled the movies’ distinct and realistic space battle scenes.

Also in his corner, Lucas had producers, marketers and money men (Alan Ladd Jr at Fox Studios) who believed in the Lucas vision and thought up new methods and broke new ground in getting the movie made and to the people.

When the first film was released in 1977, no one thought it would be the life changing pop iconoclast that it eventually became.

“Somewhere in space this all might be happening right now…”

In Taylor’s book every inch of the process is analysed to find the secret of its phenomenal success, everything from the opening ten minutes of the first movie – dismantling how the use of music, sound and vision, the font of the logo to the timing of John Williams iconic theme worked to make the Star Wars like nothing the world had seen before.

To how Lucas considered things like casting, location and those all-important special effects. Taylor goes on to analyse the making and reaction to the next two films and the later prequel trilogy, to a lesser extent than the original film, which is a little disappointing, but you can imagine that an in-depth look at each of the films would take up an entire book each on its own.

This book though does get pretty up to date, bar of course the last couple of months of the first phase of the Force Awakens and the next series of films. He highlights the ins and outs of Lucas’ decision to retire from the Star Wars world completely (seemingly hesitantly, but eventually much willingness, once he appointed the right people to drive the franchise in the right direction – highly successful former Spielberg collaborator Kathleen Kennedy as head of the company and JJ Abrams as director of the first film), as well as the intimate details of how the sale of the entire Lucas company to Disney was executed – one of the more important corporate deals in modern Hollywood history, with as much intrigue and hard-fought negotiation one might find in some of the Star Wars films’ more overtly political plot points.

But once Lucas knew that Disney would allow the company that bore his name and its products the same freedom to develop as it had allowed its other important cinematic assets like Marvel and Pixar, he was finally happy to let it go.

The atmosphere of Taylor’s telling of this vast, intricate history of the most profitable and most culturally important Hollywood touchstone is positive and congenial. There are a lot of barbed words and vicious indictments of Lucas and his creations throughout the years, some justified, some just plain nasty – but playing to a global audience of passionate fanboys and movie lovers in general can invite overanalyses and some tough criticism – for the most part, Taylor plays devil’s advocate for the world of Star Wars, and his book is both a refreshingly honest and well thought out long form journalistic piece.

It is a perfect read to reminisce on the memories of one’s own Star Wars memories and favourite moments, and fill in some of the blanks of the story behind the films and its universe, all the while working as a perfect primer for the next stage, the next great adventure into the world of Star Wars.

Bring on December 18 already…

*More from author Chris Taylor:

http://mashable.com/people/futureboy/

bizarroMUSIC: Tony Joe White & Polk Salad Annie

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

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TJW is one funky dude and can munch a swampy blues guitar like a boss, his songs used to be a staple on Chris Prior’s late shows on Radio 5 back in the 20th century.

He sounds like what it must feel like to be stuck in the sludge of a Louisiana bayou on a hot, wet, moonless night.

His Polk Salad Annie was recorded by late-era Elvis and he wrote and recorded the original Steamy Windows – later a hit for Tina Turner, the royalties of which no doubt have been his only big meal ticket ever since…

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Still going strong, he was recently featured in Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways series, discussing the his contribution to the sound of New Orleans and its Deep South surrounds.

*Foo Fighters were his backup band on Letterman:

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