Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hrudaya Ra Ei Sunyata

Is the void something? Is my metaphoric heart a void, and if it is, does it provide a space for a thing or nothing? Should I treasure it still? Should I focus upon it or forsake such thoughts? What of those who seek to fill it, assuming it empty? What of those who believe themselves to inhabit it? Will they become lost?

I'm submerged in odd questions this evening as I contemplate the ontological aspects of everything in and about me. Deep nights are restless nights. Questions never cease.

Tomorrow will bring a new kind of beast to the door and I'll have to discern its nature and avoid its predations if it reveals itself to be my doom. Will it devour me and my nothing, or will I fill it beyond capacity with my mysterious, incomprehensible vastness? Can I bring myself to rally the strength to defend a potential emptiness, or should I foolishly surrender my invisible, considerable internal universe?

Questions never cease.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Quest for Moebius

For years now I've possessed the ability to study, interpret, and understand works of art without issue. I first became aware of it through various high school art classes. This is not an exceptional ability, nor is it something by which I define myself. I just find that I am able to look at a piece of visual art and expeditiously develop an understanding of it. This ability seemed to be at its most effective when I first beheld a piece of illustration created by the great Jean "Moebius" Giraud. My understanding of and feelings towards his work along with the years since I first glimpsed any of his illustrations have made me a disciple of the man and an avid fanatic for his work.

Since his passing in October of 2012 I've been desperately trying to seek out and acquire pieces of his graphic storytelling from the many years of his wonderful creative life. I feel that I owe it to myself and that it would best honor the great artist if I directed my drives towards the in-depth study of his complete works, if and when I find them all. As of this day I only own a tiny fraction of his art, but as time goes on I find more and more and make every effort I can to acquire what I find.

The first Moebius piece I viewed was in a pin-up collection for Mike Allred's Madman. The simple look of Moebius' version of Allred's character along with the curiosity his moniker inspired drove me to research. I discovered and pored over various illustrations from his career. I watched all the videos and documentaries I could find of the man as he worked and as he explained his work. Ever since I started down this path my mind has in some way maintained some sort of connection to the powerfully inspiring art and style of Giraud.

I've been attempting to draw or at least cartoon for most of my life (feel free to browse some of my attempts at Jonathan Sample Comics). From early on I would fill notebooks and sketchpads with my scribbles and expressions. As I would review my own work, with no small tinge of revulsion, I would then flee to my inspirations, artists whose work drove me to better my own. When I discovered Moebius I felt something fall into place and I went forth a better artist, if I can dare refer to myself as such. Jean Giraud saved me from a great depression in which my hope for improving my art languished. I feel more confident about my attempts now, and I feel as if, in some little way, I understand the creation of art and the treasure of personal style better now than I ever had before.

So, I'll continue to hunt down inspirational pieces from the oeuvre of Jean Giraud, and I'll keep making attempts to become a better illustrator. Maybe some day I'll have the opportunity to make my work widely available and inspire some future artists. I can only hope.

My greatest, deepest thanks go to Jean "Moebius" Giraud. The world was made tremendously better because of his existence. I hope that his afterlife is exactly as he would have it. Maybe he's inspiring other beings of other planes in other ways even at this very moment. Reposer en paix, Gir.

*For more information on Moebius check out these links:
Moebius Bio
Site Officiel de Jean Giraud Moebius
Wikipedia - Jean Giraud

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - A Fan's Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a film (well, actually part of a greater film) that I've been waiting for since I was a kid. Ever since Seventh Grade when I was given a book report assignment and the choice of something called The Hobbit by someone named J.R.R. Tolkien I've been a fan of all things related to Middle Earth. Finally today, Sunday, December 16, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film with my wife.

I had been following the Production Video Blog Series and inflating my excitement for the film proportionately along with the build up for the release. I had full faith in Wingnut Films' ability to deliver a delightful Tolkien film, obviously because of their exceptional production of The Lord of the Rings, and I was certain that I would not be disappointed based on the filmmaking efforts I witnessed through the postings to The Hobbit Blog. I disregarded the reviews to which I was exposed, avoided all the rest, and I went in to the theater expecting nothing more than what Peter Jackson and company had already given us, the Tolkien fan community, in their previous Tolkien-inspired filmic efforts. So, before I go into my review, in which there might be possible spoilers, I just want to say thank you to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Weta Workshop, and all of the fine actors and outstanding crew who made this film and the subsequent ones possible. You're all cinematic titans in my book. (Also, yes, this means that there's more than likely a bias in favor of the film throughout this review)

From beginning to end I found the varied aspects of this movie to be terrifically enchanting. Its story, its design, its characterizations, and its score delighted me. From Bilbo's introduction to the dwarves of Erebor and the tale of the great defeat dealt them by Smaug (which leads into the events of the greater story of The Hobbit), to the flashback that is the main story, up till the very end at the eyrie of the Lord of the Eagles I was completely invested. I was delighted to see the familiar faces from The Lord of the Rings in the film's opening, but I was stunned even more by the portrayals of characters that, till now, had only existed in my imagination. After the credits rolled I reflected upon my feelings towards the film and found myself completely satisfied and more than overjoyed at the incredibly entertaining experience.

Specifically, I felt that the history and backstory of the dwarven culture was the most appealing and fantastic thing about this movie. Seeing the halls of Erebor and the earlier glory days of Dwarvendom was incredible. Out of all the fantasy races which exist I would have to say that I am above all else a fan of dwarves, specifically those of this literary universe. In Tolkien's literature the dwarves are the creation of the Valar Aulë (a god-like, craft-focused being sent to Earth with his other deific kin by the one god), carved from the rock of the world before any of the other peoples existed, in spite of the plans of the being which created the universe. Eru Ilúvatar, the one god who created the demigod-like Valar, commanded Aulë to put the fathers of the dwarves to rest after they were given life because he had designed the Elves to be the firstborn race instead, but the dwarves were granted the privilege to continue their existence alongside the other peoples, regardless of the nature of their creation, because of the love their creator showed for them. From the start they were a flawed people set apart from the world and the others within it. I think that this is a large part of what endeared them to me, but I digress.

There were a couple of issues I had with the film which nagged at me as I watched it. Bear in mind that these are based on my opinion and hold no more validity or importance than that. One issue I had was with the choices made for the character of Radagast. They made him out to be a clownish type of character with strange quirks created as apparent nods to the counter culture. Also, the production designers chose, for some reason, to smear half of his face with bird feces, as he tends to keep birds under his hat. I guess that this was an attempt to show how "One" he was with nature. I always imagined the character to be a quiet, earthy, eccentric type of wizard, something like a cross between Gandalf and the Merlin portrayed by Sam Neill in the NBC series of the same name. Another issue I had was with the use of Azog and his warg-riders. Azog was not a part of The Hobbit. Actually, he died before the events of the tale took place and it was not by the hand of Thorin, his father, or his grandfather. In the film he's used as a main, story-driving, action-injecting antagonist. He shows up spewing orcish about his quest for vengeance against Thorin Oakenshield and driving an attack against the protagonists whenever the story's energy winds down. I guess I understand why he was written in this manner, but I don't like the choices that were made. Regardless of these issues, I feel that the majority of the exceptional aspects of the film outweigh my few gripes.

With plenty of foreshadowing and toying with character's motivations and behaviors the filmmakers have prepared us for the next two films. In "An Unexpected Journey" we see Thorin move back and forth between regretting Bilbo's presence on the quest to then become an overly thankful chum to the Hobbit, giving us a glimpse into possible future conflict (not as much possible as actual, if you've read the novel). We also see the development of Bilbo Baggins, and the rise of a greater evil, which we know will eventually grow to become the Lord of the Rings himself. I anxiously look forward to next December when I'll be able to take in another dose of Tolkien-inspired cinema magic. Until then I'll feel slightly bitter about the extension of the story into a trilogy and pay another visit or two to the local movie theater to watch the Hobbit's adventure again and again.

I give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a five out of five.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Influences - A Taking of Inventory

Every once in a while I like to think through my list of influences and take a moment to remember them. It's like taking an inventory of my creative constitution. Perhaps it's a way of touching base and preparing myself for new personal efforts.

I find inspiration in several mediums, across many genres. A switch might get flipped for me while I'm reading a passage or watching a film or listening to a song or studying an image or just hearing someone speak. So, basically I'm inspired in the same ways other people are inspired, but of course I find inspiration in things which appeal to my individual tastes and eccentricities. The device is the same but the effects of its use differ.

Here's the list, as I can recall it at this time. There are probably more than what I've listed here, and this also includes things I simply find to be cool. If I dig something it will probably end up working its way into my creative mind at some point.

-Robert E. Howard - writer
-Theodore Sturgeon - writer
-Philip K. Dick - writer
-Kurt Vonnegut - writer
-Isaac Asimov - writer
-Ray Bradbury - writer
-J.R.R. Tolkien - writer
-C.S. Lewis - writer
-Michael Chabon - writer
-Douglas Adams - writer
-Terry Pratchett - writer
-Frank Herbert - writer
-Harlan Ellison - writer
-Hunter S. Thompson - writer
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - writer
-H.G. Wells - writer
-Edgar Allen Poe - writer
-H.P. Lovecraft - writer
-Edgar Rice Burroughs - writer
-F. Scott Fitzgerald - writer
-Sinclair Lewis - writer
-Ernest Hemingway - writer
-Mark Twain - writer
-Dashiell Hammett - writer
-Philip Marlowe - writer
-Brian Jacques - writer
-Lloyd Alexander - writer
-James Joyce - writer
-Arthur Machen - writer
-Lord Dunsany - writer
-Algernon Blackwood - writer
-Charles Dickens - writer
-William Shakespeare - writer/poet/playwright
-Christopher Marlowe - writer/playwright
-John Donne - poet
-Seamus Heaney - poet
-Jean "Moebius" Giraud - artist
-Max Andersson - artist
-Bob Burden - artist
-Craig Thompson - artist
-Mike Allred - artist
-Mike Mignola - artist
-Jason - artist
-Eddie Campbell - artist
-Carlos Ezquerra - artist
-Jaime Hernandez - artist
-Gilbert Hernandez - artist
-Chris Wisnia - artist
-Simon Bisley - artist
-Jack Kirby - artist
-John Romita - artist
-Steve Ditko - artist
-Joy Division - music group
-Jonathan Richman - musician
-Jonathan Coulton - musician
-Tom Waits - musician
-Nick Cave - musician
-Beirut - music group
-The Modern Lovers - music group
-Isao Tomita - musician
-The Pixies - music group
-The Smiths - music group
-Gene Roddenberry - writer/producer/philosopher
-Star Trek - television and film series
-Blade Runner - film
-The Lord of the Rings - novel series and film series
-Star Wars IV-VI - film trilogy
-2001 A Space Odyssey - film
-Gattaca - film
-Bicentennial Man - film
-AI - film
-Minority Report - film
-Conan the Barbarian 2011 - film
-Legend - film
-Indiana Jones - film series
-Silent Running - film
-Les Maîtres du Temps - film
-The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) - television series
-Night Gallery - television series