Tag Archives: fun

THIS STORY SAYS “BOO!”

Jack-o-lantern
Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Halloween“Hallowed E’en” (Evening) – is what most people today call the last night of October.  Ancient Celts preferred their own word for it: Samhain, from their god of the dead, who drew back the curtain that separated a dead soul from a living world, granting it freedom to move, just for a night – October 31, the last night of their calendar year.   That’s right: what we call Halloween originated as the harrowing, pagan version of New Year’s Eve!

The scary monsters we associate with Halloween aren’t real, in the physical sense, but they strike a chord within us, for what they symbolize:

Vampires, for example, are depicted as sophisticated, cool under pressure, versatile menaces – the “royalty” of movie monsters – but they also epitomize lack of empathy for others, addiction (to blood), and fear of strangers; they reflect back at us our fear of isolation from others. Whether it’s Count Dracula or Edward Cullen, vamps are hardy perennials.

Werewolves, the more primal “country cousins” of the vampire, push this further, exploring a vision of ourselves, stripped of our literal humanity, altered by a full moon’s radiance into bloodthirsty animals of staggering power – our fear of losing our self-control. This may have found their inspiration in the wildness of ancient human totem-warriors – and yes, lycanthropes have their own fans.

Zombies, namely the fast-running version, are all the rage right now. They focus our fear of literal death, physical disintegration, and mindlessness – but they also seem to be the one such monster an ordinary person could defeat, given the weapons and sufficient ruthlessness, so that, I suspect, plays some role in their popularity, with literary and cinematic audiences.

Ghosts are about our fear of being forgotten,  regrets, frustrations – the kind that couldn’t end in a person’s bodily demise (talk about frightening, if it were true!).  They may also represent our wish to “liven up” our basic, everyday homes and work places, as well as our yearning to remain in contact with our lost loved ones. It may be that they act as a ‘container’ for our fear of oblivion – an odd thing to say about a disembodied spirit, perhaps.  They all pluck some strings within us, someplace where we still shiver at the thought of facing unknown menaces.

They also provide templates for excellent costumes… Happy Trick or Treat!

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THE “NEW 52 PICK-UP” STORY, ISSUE NO. 1 …

Jim Lee and Geoff Johns at the August 31, 2011...
Jim Lee and Geoff Johns at the August 31, 2011 midnight signing for Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 at Midtown Comics Times Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I’m a comic-book nerd.  This week marks the second anniversary of the company-wide New 52 reboot of DC Comics, which swept out the stables, so to speak, and began the old characters anew with an edgy, revised history, melding some of their Vertigo and WildStorm narratives to the one depicted in the main “Earth-1” timeline. Justice League, the “flagship” title of this reboot, assembled an all-star team of superheroes – including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and Green Lantern – to thwart an alien invasion. So detailed was this origin story’s “narrative arc” that it required six monthly issues to relate the events of a single, apocalyptic night.

Fifty-one other monthly books immediately debuted; as time went on, some low-selling books were canceled to make room for new ones, totaling 52 titles per “wave”. Marvel Comics, coming off the humongous success of their super-team movie, The Avengers, have employed a similar mechanism, to restart their own line of books, starring Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk, as well as the X-Men.  DC hopes to duplicate that film’s cinematic success, commencing its own blockbusters with this summer’s Man of Steel.

Sequential art, as a dramatic-storytelling tool, dates as far as twenty-five thousand years back in time, to those early cave paintings of “Dappled horses” in Peche Merle, France. Comic-book art, the widespread modern expression of same, isn’t nearly so long in the tooth; the “superhero era” dates back to 1938’s first issue of Action Comics. I suspect the original creators didn’t foresee their titanic creations still selling into the twenty-first century, let alone making hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office! One ironic problem of keeping these caped crime-fighters relevant to audiences is their very longevity as successful franchises, but that’s why you only see one story a month; comic book time is very different from the real kind – Marvel, for example, uses what appears to be a “sliding scale” to stretch their tales over years.

The cool thing about this reboot stuff is the chance to collect some of these books from the very first issue on. An editorial decision to engage in “world-building” (sometimes in a literal sense, given the science-fiction books in these franchises) can help tie in events from one book into those of others, lending them added realism. The drag is that certain books get cancelled just as they’re getting good, while other books, while being less involving to read, persist because of their success in the marketplace, because this is still a business. As a kid, I just liked it when my heroes would mop the floor with the baddies; I still enjoy them, but I also study how these books are written and edited, how “arcs” unfold over many months – all for professional reasons, of course!  It’s light reading, but it’s heavy pop-cultural stuff, and of late, it’s a cash cow for these companies.

To be continued… in next month’s issue!

AUSTIN STORY: THE ELECTRIC VERSION, TAKE ONE…

A lot of people are calling Gary Clark, Jr. the rising star of electric blues music, and the newest future music superstar to come out of Austin, Texas.  If so, and he offers much evidence to support such claims, he joins Stevie Ray Vaughan in the royalty of electric Texas blues, a feat made more poignant by the cruel loss of S.R.V., twenty-three years ago today.

Stevie played in several Dallas-area bands, before he tried his luck down Austin’s way.  I first heard his lacerating lead guitar, lighting up the title track and several others from David Bowie’s “Let Dance” album, while I still lived out in California.  It was not the popular sound in the old neighborhood, but that just intrigued me even more; I hadn’t heard anybody play quite like that before.  It wasn’t until I moved to Austin that I started to grasp why he had left such a mark on the Live Music Capital, as the city is called.

Over and over, I played his albums with Double Trouble, a trio which included bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton and – later – keyboardist Reese Wynans; each time, the group’s style and firepower just floored me.  (Years later, I discovered that Stevie drew from jazz, as well as the blues – legend has it the Thin White Duke first heard Double Trouble perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival; S.R.V.’s appetite for different styles, I think, explains not only his technical sophistication, but the fluid and complex way he drew out notes, or rode them to someplace unexpected.)  Stevie had recorded an album with his previous band, the Nightcrawlers, but the record label in question declined to release that music for many years; Mr. Vaughan was ahead of his time, which is not surprising.

Turning down a chance to be his benefactor’s “hired hand” on a tour, Stevie stuck to his guns, recording “Texas Flood” for release in 1983.  More albums followed: “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” in 1985, “Soul to Soul” and “Live Alive” a year later, and “In Step” in 1989.  Addiction problems followed, and relationship problems — the usual bugaboos, it often seems, of creative spirits.  Like so many before him, I suppose Stevie had to live the blues, too, with as much authenticity as that with which he played them.  As I understand it, he moved home to Dallas, cleaned up, got a new girlfriend, and made a blues album (“Family Style”) with Jimmie, but then, as they say, Fate intervened.

Joe Louis Walker and Stevie Ray Vaughan relaxi...
Joe Louis Walker and Stevie Ray Vaughan relaxing at home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following an extended blues jam, at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre, located in East Troy, Wisconsin, with Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Albert King and Buddy Guy — the kind of show the ancient Greek gods must have heard, up on Mount Olympus — it seems Stevie Ray wanted to arrive early in Chicago, so he could phone up his new girlfriend.  So he decided to hop aboard a night-flying helicopter – and … well, instead, arrived in rock and roll heaven, or blues heaven, just thirty-five years young.

Austin, of course, continued to bustle and expand, becoming renowned for its cultural and other attractions; it went from being a “well-kept secret”, in S.R.V.’s lifetime, to an ever-expanding “hot spot” – perhaps the fastest-growing city in Texas.  For many who wish to “Keep Austin Weird”, not commercialized, this is a drawback.  Few outside of town realize that giants walked the streets there, lugging their instruments and their aspirations to Clifford Antone‘s famed nightclub, and similar venues, in years past.

THE STORY THAT BEGINS…

Welcome to my first post of this new blog!  I plan to cram it chock-full to almost bursting with useful and useless stuff, leaning more to the first category – if all goes well.

I picked the title “Inky Brightness” (after more effort than I would like to admit I had to invest) because it contains a deliberate contradiction: it’s funny how we scratch down ideas, plans, messages, dreams, etc. in opaque ink, in order to illuminate them.

I like it.  I hope you do, too.

Caesar Augustus, in order to launch something, might say “Sic infit” – “So it begins”… sounds a bit like he’s saying, “Baby with a cold”, right?  Right out of the gate, we’re not trying to offend scholars of Latin or new mothers, so instead, I’ll just go with “Plug it in, turn it up, and-a one, and-a two…”