Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pop Art: Non-Warholian Paintings of Celebrities

I saw this link on PopSugar and decided it was too cool not to repost some of my favorite images. Worth1000.com held a Photoshop contest in which people photoshopped celebrities into Renaissance, Baroque and 18th century art (although there are definitely some modernists, post-modernists and impressionists that slipped in there). I think some of these work a lot better than others, by which I mean the face of the celeb is so smoothly integrated into the artistic qualities of the original painting or fit the qualities of the original so well that it seems like the celeb was part of the original.

For instance, I think Viggo Mortensen really does look like Albrecht Durer:

And while I don't know the painting this portrait of Natalie Portman is referencing (though I believe its Degas from the color and brushwork), I think it was the best integration of Natalie's face out of all the various Natalie Portman art portraits:

And if anyone were going to be in a Tamara De Limpicka painting, it should be Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese:

This one of Orlando Bloom as Jacques-Louis David's Telemachus in "Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis" is a particular favorite because Orlando already spends so much of his time in Ancient Epics:

See? He fits right in.

I'm going to post one more to conclude, just because I like the idea of making a comedy about the American revolution starring Jack Black as Paul Revere, that guy who took all the credit for something a Jewish vacuum cleaner named Israel Bissel really did. (I would suggest that Israel Bissel be played by Sacha Baron Cohen, since we know that we cannot put Jack Black and Ben Stiller together in a movie lest it fail like Envy did.)

Here is a link to all of the entries, for your amusement.

Awesome Band Names, Part 1

I spend a good deal of time turning example sentences from my linguistics courses into band names. These are usually things taken from the word for word translations or example sentences in languages other than English. I'm hoping to make regular lists of these, and lists in general. (Because clearly, the thing I'll miss most about my current job is making lists every week.)

So, my first list of awesome names for bands, with a description of the kind of music I want them to play:

1. Trash Pasta (a ska band from Jersey City)
2. Rancid Crab (a Rancid cover band, preferably from Baltimore)
3. poweredbylesbians (a lesbian grunge band, with possible forays into hair metal)
4. Mr. Apple Says Ow! (my Japanese pop group)
5. Wackernagel Clitics (I can't imagine what kind of music they play, but I sincerely hope it involves accordians)

Friday, June 15, 2007

I am full of facts.

I have managed to resist these for a while, but part of me always secretly wants to fill them out. So now that Jenn, Bri and Drew have done it, I will cave in to peer pressure.

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight acts of my randomness:

1. Every morning, my cat and I engage in a battle of wits over my cereal bowl, wherein I must contort myself into a number of positions to prevent her from sticking her little cat hands into my milk. Sometimes I win. Sometimes she wins. But I don't know why she does this because she knows she will get a little bit of milk when I am done anyway. It really seems unnecessary on her part.

2. I have a face that crazies trust. I have had people touch my feet on the street, follow me around grocery stores to talk to me about the U.S. Army, and chat me up in Russian because I was dressed so nicely I just couldn't have possibly been American. (Who are these people and why do they find me?)

3. I had my first and only seizure in a hookah bar on Haight Street.

4. I have thrown up into a creme brulee bowl in an Irish restaurant in Las Vegas.

5. The best Christmas gift I have ever received was an "FBI Agent Kit" from my dad when I was 13. Because I loved The X-Files so much, my dad not only got me lots of show memorobilia including the action figures from the recently release movie and season by season episode guides, he also created an elaborate box full of X-Files references. He bought me my own trench coat, a giant flashlight, bags and bags of sunflower seeds (because they're Mulder's favorite), a leather-bound copy of Moby Dick (Scully's favorite book) and a little stuffed Pomeranian (because Scully had a Pomeranian named Queequeg). My dad has continued to hunt down little X-Files treasures for me to this day. A few Christmases back, he bought me Mulder and Scully's FBI badges. Last year, I got a bust of David Duchovny.

6. I have auditioned for the Jeopardy College Tournament.

7. I have accidentally ordered a blowjob in a bar in Italy. (I didn't get one. People were reasonably sure that I didn't really mean to order that, as I don't have a penis. What was I trying to order? A grapefruit.)

8. I love carnies in a way that people probably shouldn't love carnies, and yet, I find clowns to be scary beyond all reason.

I can't tag anyone because all the people I would tag have already been tagged or have already done it . . . except Marcus.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Cake or Death?

Death by Cake by Daniela Edburg

Eddie Izzard does this bit about poorly designed executions in which the soon-to-be-dead are given a choice between "Cake or Death?" Naturally, everyone chooses the cake, and when there is no more cake, cheeky dead men walking suggest that they'll have the chicken instead.

That's only mildly relevant to the photograph above, but it appears that the subject has chosen both cake AND death.

The photograph is part of a series by Daniela Edburg exploring women, horror movies, gustatory desires and the subsequent consumption that must occur. Each of the women in the "Drop Dead Gorgeous" series is ultimately consumed and destroyed by that which she has overconsumed in life. There are some that refer specifically to the containers in which things come, but I find those to be less artistically interesting than they are conceptually interesting. ("Death by Saran Wrap" features a woman wrapped in a spiders web of Saran Wrap, her desires for freshness and confinement literally choking her to death.)

These photographs remind me of the work Cindy Sherman did in her "Untitled Film Still" series, in which Sherman herself posed in various costumes and settings that would evoke archetypical scenes in films. The point, of course, was to make them look as authentic as possible, such that they could be mistaken for an untitled film still.

Edburg does this kind of referencing, as well. Her references are not to genres as Sherman's were (although "Death by Tupperware" is a reference to hentai pornography, including a cat looking up a girl's skirt as she is strangled by some tentacled being in her frige), but to specific films and specific paintings. "Death by Cotton Candy" intentionally references The Wizard of Oz, in addition to being incredible beautifully composed.

Death by Cotton Candy by Daniela Edburg

"Death by M&Ms" could be a fate awaiting my friend Magen, and its this photograph that feels the most like Sherman's to me. Perhaps its the very 1970s nature of the photograph that connects it to Sherman's work in my mind, although I would guess that the more specific reference is to The Valley of the Dolls.

Death by M&Ms by Daniela Edburg

Edburg also references art. "Death by Oreos" references Whistler's "Composition in Black and Gray" (aka "Whistler's Mother"), but I find this one to be much more interesting:

Death by Slimfast by Daniela Edburg

It's based of Ingres' "Le Grande Odalisque," which I find uniquely disturbing because of the odd ways in which this woman's proportions are stretched (much like Dennis Leary's neck in this ad).

Ingres, 1814, Oil on Canvas

I love that the girl in "Death by Slimfast" seems to retain the kind of oddness about her body that the original Ingres work features (just look at that elbow!); it pairs incredibly well with the message about distorted body image presented in Edburg's photograph. Even the face in Edburg's piece is eerily close to the Ingres for me.

Daniela Edburg's other photographs in the "Drop Dead Gorgeous" series can be seen here, along with her interview with The Morning News.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Living on the Hellmouth

To those who have seen my Netflix queue, it is no secret that I have been immersing myself in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I realize that I am about 10 years too late for this show, but how was I to know that when I was 11, Buffy the Vampire Slayer would become such an important part of my life?

I can't say that it will replace The X-Files at the top of my Television Shows I'm Obsessed With list (because even though David Boreanez is playing a Fox Mulder-esque character now on Bones, Angel and Mulder are in two completely different worlds, and I like Mulder's world better), but I feel like now that I have ventured into season 4 and the absolutely worst actress in the world seems to not be sucking so much in her strange plot on the UC Sunnydale campus (yes, I mean you Lindsay Crouse, the ex Mrs. David Mamet), I can readily admit this:

I am a Buffy fan.

And to all those who have attempted to reference the show to me over the years, I'm sorry I was missing out. You all had every right to think I would like this show. I'm pretty certain that a decent amount of people in high school thought that my best friend and I were vampires. I own a bust of David Duchovny. I read tarot. I knew far more about mythology and the occult than most people ages 11-14 reasonably should. Why the hell wouldn't you have thought I'd like Buffy?

I recall once asking someone what they were for Halloween because I didn't recognize the costume. When the reply was "I'm Drusilla," I blinked in the universal signal for "please continue to supply me with more information." "From Buffy," was the statement of complete disbelief I received. "Oh," I said. In actuality, I think this exchange happened twice on two different Halloweens with two different incarnations of Drusilla: Once in 7th grade with a girl dressed as the weak, insane and childlike Drusilla who doesn't understand that dead birds don't sing (this girl went as a member of The Craft the year before, so I think she has a sort of pop-culture occult costume fetish), and once my freshman year of high school with (I believe) my friend Veronica, dressed as the truly batshit insane, hyper-sexual "I like to cut you with my fingernails and lick off your blood" version of Drusilla. In retrospect, these costumes are not perhaps the most easily recognizable, but anyone keen on the Buffy universe would have known immediately.

And that's one of the things I like so much about Buffy. I'm attracted not to the shows that everyone's watching, but often to cult shows. (And healthy doses of truly ridiculous reality television.) And I started getting into Buffy through Firefly fans, chiefly through Jenn. Jenn and I spent New Years' Eve watching Buffy season one and eating tasty cheeses and spilling beer on my couch. I went 5 months without watching Buffy after marathoning the entire first season in a night. And after I'd exhausted the other television shows I was Netflixing, I needed to find something to become invested in. So I chose Buffy.

And I'm hooked.

Season 1 was a little difficult to get through, but Season 2 was truly great. Dru and Spike are wonderful characters, and the story arc with Angel's turn hurt me so deeply inside because I am inexplicably invested in Buffy and Angel. (And now I get why everyone thinks he's so hot and why girls will watch Bones just for him.) The Season 2 finale was one of the best hours of television I have ever seen in my life, and everyone is right when they say that Buffy really hits its stride in Season 3--that's entirely correct.

I also find great joy in the fact that Sunnydale, CA is basically Santa Barbara, and that the kind of vehicular problems I experience in Carpinteria, Xander seems to always have in Oxnard.

But the two best Buffy episodes I have ever seen both involve an Oz storyline and that age-old man vs. nature motif explored in a number of ways. Season 3's "Beauty and the Beasts" features some class A writing from Joss Whedon's team, creating a 3-plot narrative rotating around the same theme: men as beasts and the women who love them. The weakest of these three stories is about a boy at Sunnydale High who turns a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde trying to "man-up" for his girlfriend. This is subordinated to the greater plot about Oz discovering his werewolfness, and finished with a note of Angel returning from Hell, soul intact, but stripped of humanity. While the first plot I mentioned is somewhat cartoonish, it works its way into the other two quite well, but it is heartbreaking to see Angel come back to us, the viewers who love him, as something even less humane than Angelus and absolutely soul-crushing when the only English word he can muster is the name "Buffy." It is also painfully sad to see Willow realize that the love of her life will always be torn between loving her and fighting his beastly nature. What really makes this episode stand out for me is that it is the only one that uses a frame narrative from an outside source. Naturally, the episode is framed by passages from Jack London's The Call of the Wild that re-emphasizes the internal struggle of all three man-beasts in the story.

My second favorite episode so far is Season 4's "Wild at Heart," in which the internal struggle between the wolf within and the taciturn man we call Oz comes to full hilt. I'm fond of the title because it immediately made me think of David Lynch's film of the same name and Nick Cage as Sailor, but other than the inherent wildness of both Oz and Sailor, the two Wild at Hearts have little to do with one another. Oz discovers another female werewolf who also leads a very similar life to his (musicians by day, wolves by night), yet she seems to have embraced her inner wolf, balking at the human mask she has to wear by day, finding freedom in her wolf form on the nights of the full moon. She asks Oz, after the two have done some regrettable things "when the wolf takes over" if he isn't the wolf most of the time, imprisoned in his human mask, rather than Oz's attempt to maintain his humanity. Seeing the look on Willow's face when she discovers Oz locked in his cage with Veruca hurt me so deeply and I wasn't prepared for the fact that it would do so. But seeing Alyson Hannigan cry breaks my motherfucking heart. It's something about Alyson Hannigan that makes me hurt so much when she's sad. Maybe its because I identify with her current role on How I Met Your Mother, or that its so easy for a kind of geeky redhead to find herself identifying with other kind of geeky redheads.

It's these kind of story arcs that Buffy is great at, and they seem to happen over and over again. It may not always be a literal beast within (sometimes, it's an evil vampiric demon), but the show's best story arcs seem to hinge on the human struggle between the good parts of our nature and whatever form the bad parts might take.

I look forward to the remainder of Season 4, and the three seasons I have left after that. And maybe, when I am deeply saddened that my Buffy journey will have come to an end, I'll move on to Angel.