Sunday, July 31, 2011

Spiderman: Reflections of a Rock Superhero

Way back in the early 1970s, 2 records were put out. One was Spiderman, and starred Rene Aberjoinnois as Peter Parker/Spiderman and Thayer David as the Kingpin, and the other was Spiderman, Reflections of a Rock Superhero.

A few tracks are up on Youtube. This particular song, Count on Me, is my absolute favorite.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Booklist: The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age

Began this on July 15, finished it about three days later...but just to be safe I'll say July 20.

The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age, by Edmond Blair Bolles, 1999

Description from Amazon
This is an entertaining, often irreverent, history of the scientific discovery of the Ice Age. Bolles is fascinated by the way in which scientific knowledge advances. He challenges the notion that it proceeds in a rational and orderly manner, always building on previous knowledge. People, he claims, "learn unsuspected things, pulling knowledge, like rabbits, from empty hats," and often, convincing scientists of a new idea is more a matter of politics than of science. As an example of this theory, he weaves together the biographies of three important players in the great Ice Age debate.

Bolles focuses on Louis Agassiz, the naturalist who first theorized the Ice Age in 1837, but was unable to persuade the scientific community to accept his findings for almost 20 years. Second is Elisha Kent Kane, an adventurer and poet whose report on his journey to the north of Greenland in the 1850s provided the popular imagination with the vision of immense seas of ice at the Pole pouring great rivers of ice into the Atlantic and Greenland seas. Finally, Bolles writes of Charles Lyell, the great Scottish geologist whose book The Principles of Geology ignored the possibility that glaciers were capable of changing the earth's surface, and who resisted the notion of the Ice Age for many years after Agassiz had theorized about it. A master politician among his colleagues, once he was convinced of the theory, it became more widely accepted. Bolles claims that it was only the interaction among these three individuals, and many others who are mentioned in passing, that led to a lasting new understanding of the world in which we live.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Adventures of Casanova (1948) starring John Sutton!

So okay, it really starred Arturo de Cordova as Casanova, but the only reason why I watched it was because of John Sutton.

Casanova is changed from a lover to a Zorro-type character returning to his home to fight against the invaders, in this case the villainous Comte de Brissac played by John Sutton. Sutton of course steals the films, in his all-too-few scenes.

The actor who plays Bernardo is Fritz Leiber, the father of Fritz Leiber Jr., the science fiction writer. [Leiber Jr, wrote a funny (albeit confessional) story entitled "237 Talking Statues, etc.", inspired by his difficult relationship with his father, in which Francis LeGrand II is confronted by the statues and paintings of the title, all self-portraits of his father in various roles, with which he discusses his relationship with his father.]

(Sorry it's in so many parts but my laptop was behaving very badly while I was doing this).

Friday, July 15, 2011

UK: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in Birmingham

From the Guardian, UK: Musical scores for silent firms unearthed in Birmingham
Hundreds of musical scores used to accompany silent films in cinemas more than 80 years ago have been discovered in the collection of Birmingham city council's music library, including a theme tune used in early Charlie Chaplin films.

About 500 scores have been uncovered, many including the full parts for small orchestras of between seven and 11 players, not just a pianist. Judging by the titles, the often-fragmentary pieces were selected thematically to accompany similar plotlines. They are frequently self-explanatory: the mysterious manor house, exciting-dramatic, harrowing, creepy-creeps, wild chase, supreme peril, the poisoned cup and mounted police gallop.

"We don't actually know where they came from as they were in separate collections," explained Ali Joyce, the head of the music library. "They seem to have been in our basement for 30 to 40 years.

"We think groups of musicians would travel round cinemas and match the music to the situations in the films."

The Chaplin theme – Marche Grotesque – appears to be a unique example of a score written for a particular artist. It dates from 1916 at the height of the British-born actor's early fame as a worldwide star and was for use when his tramp character appeared on screen. It was composed by Cyril Thorne, a long-forgotten musician who wrote mood music.

The scores have the names of Louis Benson and HT Saunders stamped on them, the latter thought to have been a musical director at cinemas in Glasgow.

Neil Brand, an early film historian said: "This collection gives us our first proper overview of the music of the silent cinema in the UK from 1914 to the coming of sound. Its enormous size not only gives us insights into what the bands sounded like and how they worked with film [but also] the working methods of musical directors. Above all, it gives the lie to the long-cherished belief that silent films were accompanied on solo piano by little old ladies who only knew one tune. When they are played we will hear the authentic sound the audiences of the time would have heard."

Some of the tunes will be heard for the first time in 80 years next Tuesday – not even the librarians have heard them yet – at the launch of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's film music festival, when they will be performed at a free pre-concert event by Ben Dawson, the CBSO's pianist.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Green Lantern

I went to see The Green Lantern yesterday, and didn't really care for it.

It starts out with the same old character tropes - the hero is an irresponsible womanizer who is given great powers, doesn't think he can handle them, his brilliant friend and beautiful girlfriend point out to him what he doesn't realize himself, then he gets an epiphany and goes out to save the world.

There's another trope I didn't care for. Irresponsible handsome character gets to be the hero, irresponsible ugly character gets turned into a deformed monster. Yes, let's teach all children that the good or evil inside someone is represented by their facial features.

Other than that.... the movie was certainly a bit too rushed in some spots, draggy in others.

There seems to be a blooper, Sinestro takes his hand-picked Lanterns flying toward Parallax - who is coming closer to Earth, then in the next scene he's present to scoff at Hal Jordan's training, in the next scene he's watching his Lanterns being destroyed by Parallax, and the next scene he's back talking to the elders (shades of the high chairs in Buckaroo Banzai).

Then there's the trope that only a "maverick" human can save the universe...yet what Hal did to destroy Parallax wasn't really all that original of an idea, you telling me all those other Lanterns couldn't have figured that out? Although they didn't have the advantage of possessing the ring of the Lantern who had imprisoned Parallax in the first place, so they couldn't have gotten him to follow them blindly right into a sun...

But of course, it's the "high noon" trope at the end, only Hal can save Earth, meanwhile the Lanterns don't show up until the very end, where they have to save the unconscious Hal from falling into the sun himself.

I'd give it a 6 out of 10. Definitely not for any kids under 13, I'd think, because the transformation of Hector Hammond into a monster is pretty gross, as is Parallax and the way he kills people.