Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bird Life

Camera Critters
"Bird Life" is this week's "Camera Critters" post. If you want to participate, click on the image above.

Birds. What a life. Oh, to have that kind of freedom...

Here's some footage I shot of different Aussie birds flying, eating and doing their birdy thing in my garden and surrounds.

Next week: Bird Life Part 2

To view thumbnails of all of my Camera Critter posts, visit the GritFX website.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Decoy’s Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music

The Conet Project - Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations (1997)

For years amateur shortwave radio enthusiasts have been coming across strange signals in the global static. These mysterious broadcasts would typically announce themselves with some beeps and blips, then robotic disembodied voices would start reciting groups of numbers (or phonetic alphabet letters) in spooky foreign monotones. ‘Seven, zero, nine, eleven…Seven, zero, nine, eleven…’; ‘Alpha, charlie, lima, delta…Alpha, charlie, lima, delta…’ Then, after a few minutes, they disappeared. This was weird. ‘What the hell is it?!’, was on the lips of many listeners. They became known as Numbers Stations, and no official explanation had ever been given when Akin Fernandez came across them in 1992. So the industrious radio addict started to log the frequencies and the times and the messages of these enigmatic occurrences. And more importantly, he recorded them. Some appeared at random. Some were as regular as clockwork. He had no idea what he was going to do with all the data. But he eventually compiled them into a collection he called The Conet Project, and he made it freely available. Along the way, Fernandez would eventually learn the nature of these numbers, and the answer to the long asked question was sobering. These were covert messages sent to field operatives for all the major espionage agencies over the world: CIA, KGB, MI6, BND, StB, MOSSAD etc. Since WWI shortwave has provided these agencies with a world-wide fool-proof method for communicating with their spies. The encoded message could be received and deciphered by the spy with the use of a “one time pad”, a disposable dictionary key, intended for use only once, then presumably burnt, destroyed, eaten etc. Immediately the broadcasts take on an ominous overtone. The voice of a child eerily reading out numbers could well be instructing a spy to kill someone or blow something up. They’re a compelling listen. I got right into them. I even got myself a shortwave radio and started to scan the late night bands. And Fernandez’s recordings have slowly become a cult thing, popping up in sampled form in film (Vanilla Sky) and music (Boards of Canada), most famously by Wilco on their 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It’s still freely available to download from Akin Fernandez’s label Irdial-Discs website, so if you haven’t heard it, get ready to be spooked. Literally.

Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline (2007)

You know when you close your eyes, and you see that glittering mosaic of abstract shapes shifting in the dark light? Well that’s what the name Stars of the Lid refers to. And it’s the perfect handle for this band. The Texas duo (Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie) have been making drone music since 1993, and their music typifies these inner embryonic moments. Over the course of eight studio albums, starting with Music for Nitrous Oxide (1995) to this, Stars of the Lid have changed very little at first glance. But upon repeated listens, each album reveals subtle shifts in instrumentation, presentation and direction. The intent may remain the same, which seems to be to make moving minimal music for personal private consumption, perhaps while laying back, eyes closed, lights off, surrendering to the sound and the environment, letting the music transport you to unknown destinations. Your emotions and your imagination are paramount here. If you let it, this music will flesh out thoughts and dreams and feelings you weren’t aware existed. The music ages slowly, and it changes imperceptibly sometimes. Like life, I guess. This is ambient music rendered not with the cold fluorescent light of layered electronics, but with the warm candlelight of strings, horns, guitars, organ and piano. No vocals. No percussion. So it pulses in different ways than most ambient fans may be accustomed to. Everything is controlled and orchestrated with a gentle precision. There is apparently a feature length film coming out about Stars of the Lid, and having seen the teaser trailer, I’m sure it will make more people realise the emotional power this music can wield. Get your pillows ready now. Zap the Milo in the microwave. I can’t wait…

Elvis Presley - The Essential Elvis Presley (2007)

What can I say, really? The King. The Man. He’s pretty much the first rock star. (Bill Haley cringes in the grave, again. Along with Bo Diddley). Elvis was/is the archetypal blueprint for Rock’n’Roll. (Though I’d argue Buddy Holly deserves that title just as much). Elvis paved they way through the birth of rock in the mid-fifties and came to symbolise the untouchable icon perhaps better than any. A po’ boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, taking inspiration from the Rhythm & Blues originators of Memphis, and the Southern Gospel of his youth, he brought the edgy, dangerous ‘Devil’s Music’ to a wider (and whiter) audience. He had the looks. He had the voice. He had the swagger. He had ‘it’. His story is now the thing of legend. From the early rockabilly Sun Records songs like: “That’s All Right (Mama)”, “Mystery Train” and “Blue Suede Shoes”. Then the move to RCA and the breakthrough hits, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender”. Elvis was away. The hips were shaking, the girls were screaming and the oldies were outraged. He was punk before punk. Sex/Youth/Energy had entered the world of music like never before. And things would never be the same. The late-50s and early-60s saw Elvis move onto the silver screen, and the hits kept coming too. This was perhaps the birth of cross-promotional marketing, and the birth of the MEGA-star. He made something like 30 movies in half as many years. If John Lennon didn’t beat him to the punch, Elvis could’ve claimed he was bigger than God. Or was God. I dig Elvis, of course, and appreciate his immeasurable contribution to the world of music. (I probably wouldn’t be writing about music if it weren’t for Elvis. No one would. He helped legitimise Rock’n’Roll and turn it into a bona fide cultural phenomenon). My personal favourites are the late-60s era songs. I dig the dramatic theatre of songs like: “In the Ghetto”, “Suspicious Minds”, “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Kentucky Rain”. His voice had deepened and he channelled the forlorn narratives beautifully. This album (part of Sony BMG’s Essential series) is a great selection of songs that does its best to cover the entire spectrum of Elvis and his impressive career.

By Decoy Spoon

If you want to hear/see any of the music reviewed by Decoy, visit the GritHouse – the GritFX YouTube Channel – and check out Decoy’s Playlist of music videos.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Before we get started, I’ll let you know that my ratings system has changed. Damned ratings! Why do I bother? Is it because I cannot articulate how much I enjoyed or disliked a film that I need a rating to confirm my opinion? Or does it simply stem from a youth of writing reviews of each film I happened to see in a cheap, weathered notebook, accompanied by an “out-of-ten” rating? Just an old habit…?

Whatever the reason, on reflection, I had far too much going on with my reviews on this blog. I mean, what was the difference between 4 stars (previously known as “Awesome Shit” – and whilst we are here, I hate the word “awesome” – why do I use it?) and 5 stars (“Instant Classic”)? If a film can be classified as ‘awesome’ (ie: inspires awe), wouldn’t that then be a ‘classic’? Yeah, I know…it’s confusing. So, it’s all been changed. Simplified. Hopefully for the best.

OK…let’s head back to the swingin’ sixties.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans & Ralph Bellamy.
Written & Directed by Roman Polanski.

Cinema doesn’t get much creepier than Rosemary’s Baby. It’s hard to believe that this film is 40 years old, for in those four decades it has lost none of its insidious power. The success of the film lies firstly in the excellent source material, that being the novel of the same name by Ira Levin; secondly in a superb cast led by the eternally cool John Cassavettes and the marvellous character actor Ruth Gordon (from Harold & Maude); and lastly in the genius of writer/director Roman Polanski. The late 1960s through the early 1970s saw Polanksi at the pinnacle of his directing prowess, producing such excellent work as The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Tenant, and my personal favourite Repulsion – films that he never was quite able to best in his later career. Rosemary’s Baby is undoubtedly his finest achievement, telling the wicked tale of Rosemary (Farrow) and her husband Guy (Cassavettes) who are drawn into a satanic coven when they move into a seriously gothic apartment building in New York. Rosemary soon begins to suspect that, contrary to the placations of all those around her, the infant she carries is not the product of her marital union. This chilling and demonic film is the penultimate exercise in how to create dread on screen without sacrificing respect for its audience.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)
Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Gig Young, Susannah York, Bruce Dern, Bonnie Bedelia & Red Buttons.
Written by Robert E. Thompson & James Poe.
Directed by Sydney Pollack.

In Depression-era America, a desperate group of individuals descend on Santa Monica pier to take part in a dance marathon, drawn by the promise of food and shelter and an increasingly unattainable grand prize. As they ‘dance’ for hour upon hour, day upon day, providing morbid ‘entertainment’ for a listless audience, their interactions and personal tales of sorrow and despair provide a microcosm of life not confined to the era they represent. When the exploitation of the competitors is finally revealed to a cynical young woman named Gloria (Fonda) by the slimy promoter of the contest (the incomparable Gig Young, who won an Oscar for his role here), salvation and redemption slip further away. This wholly unique film, taken from the 1935 novel by Horace McCoy, is grand storytelling, featuring a swag of wrenching performances from its ensemble cast. The great director Sydney Pollack masterfully weaves a disturbing tale set almost entirely within the dance hall itself, as his camera swirls across the floor in a sweat-inducing waltz that reduces the audience member to merely another contestant in the competition. This is shattering stuff, the kind of film that comes along once in a decade and remains a seminal work of its time.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Keir Dullea, William Sylvester, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain (voice of HAL).
Written by Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

So how does one begin to describe 2001: A Space Odyssey? There is simply no film that compares to this masterpiece by director Stanley Kubrick, and arguably more than any other piece of cinema has had untold influence on future generations of filmmakers. It has been parodied countless times for better or worse, and has astounded and confounded audiences since its release four decades ago. For there are only two outposts in the 2001 universe, and no fence separating them on which to sit. Either there is hatred and confusion shown towards its deadening pace and psychedelic finale, or pure adulation of its mind-bending concepts and beautiful visual architecture (even if that is coupled with a small dose of confusion as to what it all really means). The film traces the technological evolution of mankind, coinciding with the appearance to man of an alien monolith. When one such artefact is discovered on the moon and a subsequent radio transmission received from somewhere in the vicinity of Jupiter, two astronauts embark on a journey to find the source. However, their mission is severely compromised when the artificial intelligence on board their craft attempts to subvert their purpose. Based on The Sentinel by author Arthur C. Clarke, this truly one-of-a-kind film is best served with a tab of LSD, or, failing that, an open mind.


If you want to watch any trailers/scenes from films reviewed by Wadrick, visit the GritHouse – the GritFX YouTube Channel – and check out Wadrick's Playlist.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sibling Love...

Camera Critters
"Sibling Love..." is this week's "Camera Critters" post. If you want to participate, click on the image above.

I've been a little quiet on the blogosphere, which is partly due to my poor boy being sick...

Jonesy, being the BIG boy that he is, will defend his and Ella's territory (along with tiny Ella herself) with vigour when it comes to nasty strays! Don't get me wrong... I know you can find a great companion in a stray/rescued cat - both Jonesy & Ella are rescued cats - but there are the occasional strays that have gone too long alone in the wild and are just outright feral!

We have one hanging around here right now. While defending the territory a little over a week ago, Jonesy had a massive fight - letting out screeches that woke me from my sleep. The next day he didn't seem himself and by that afternoon was groaning when touched. Straight to the vet we went, where we discovered that he was in fact very sick with a terrible infection!

Anyone who has nursed a sick animal would know that "medicine time" can be just as distressing to the owner as it is to the pet. But Jonesy did great with his course of antibiotics - he's an old hat at taking pills now... poor guy's been through a lot in his life!

Getting to this weeks' camera critter pictures...
With that all behind us - Jonesy is doing great! - I thought I'd honour this "sibling love" with a series of photos of Jonesy with his baby sister Ella. These were taken on a nice spring day when the birds where flying in and out of that tree they lie in front of ;)

P.S. I wish it was spring again... as we enter into winter it's getting colder and colder! At least I might have a chance to get some shots of the kids in front of a winter fire to share with you all. ;)

To view thumbnails of all of my Camera Critter posts, visit the GritFX website.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chaiten Spectacular!

On the 3rd May, the Chaiten volcano erupted in spectacular fashion, 800 miles south of Santiago in Chile. The photographs below were captured at night as the volcano did its thing amid a thunderstorm.

About a year ago, the volcano erupted for the first time in what was believed to be around 9,000 years. Evacuations of the neighbouring town of Chaiten have since been a regular occurrence as the volcano proceeds through its new eruptive phase.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wad’s Movie Shouts

I See Films
Hugh Jackman and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are the subjects of the latest review by freelance writer and friend of GritFX Adam “The Faystar” Fay at I See Films (So You Don’t Have To). Now don’t expect Faystar to actually let you in on what the films he discusses are all about. His frequently hilarious, opinionated ‘reviews’ veer toward critique of the people involved and Hollywood in general rather than to any standard, run-of-the-mill film review (like, um, Wadrick’s Thirty Second Film Reviews…). So if you happen to be a film fanatic like Faystar (and myself), you’d do well to visit I See Films.

Movie Guys
Quentin Tarantino fans are waiting with pistols cocked for the release of the director’s latest film, Inglourious Basterds – a Second World War epic concerning a bunch of Yanks assigned to instill fear into the Germans by viciously executing Nazi soldiers (or something like that). The film stars Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger and apparently Mike Myers! Very cool promotional posters for the film have been released and Jon over at Movie Guys has been sharing them with readers – below is one featuring Eli Roth (best known as director of Hostel) looking murderously hip. To see all the posters - visit Movie Guys. While you’re there, check out the latest info on upcoming films including the trailer for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. And remember, they’re not critics, they’re movie guys!

by Wadrick Jones

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (Redux)

Time to play again – this post was due over a week ago. Let me just start by asking is it me, or is this year flying past?

Jim (affectionately self-titled as The Movie Whore) left a comment on this blog a few weeks back regarding Jason Mewes, best known as Jay to Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob. Jim and his buddy had discovered how easy it was to link Mewes to Hollywood names in the tradition of the great Kevin Bacon. Which begs the question as to why I don’t change this game to Six Degrees of Jason Mewes…?

Anyway, linking Mewes to the big Bacon was quite easy – perhaps proving Jim’s theory. Mewes appeared in Kevin Smith’s Dogma with Matt Damon; Damon starred in The Legend of Bagger Vance with Charlize Theron; and the gorgeous Charlize had a role in Trapped with the fried Bacon (mmmm!).

Of course, if anyone can link these two in fewer moves, let me know. Suggestions for future Six Degrees posts here on the GritBLOG are also most welcome.

by Wadrick Jones

Check out Kevin Bacon's charity website based on the "six degrees" concept at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Decoy’s Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music

Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)

Tortoise deserve a genre named after them. It would at least make things easier for the unimaginative fools (like me) who write about music. Then I could just say: ‘In 1996, Chicago band Tortoise released this landmark album of Tortoise music that took Tortoise in a new direction and changed the way people would think about Tortoise forever. Only Tortoise can play Tortoise the way Tortoise was meant to played.’ It wouldn’t make much sense, but it would be so much easier. Post-rock, Prog-rock, Alternative, Experimental, Electronica, Jazz, Krautrock…none of these terms really seemed to sum them up, even though there were undeniable elements of all those things in their music. The opening song “Djed” was an epic 20-minute long soundscape that evolved - much like humankind - out of the static slime, and grumbled along the ground on bass fins until it merged with the drums and took its first steps on Neu! legs. Then things were happening. By five minutes in, you were compelled to see where this new species of music was going. And it certainly is a journey of an album. A free-flowing wordless trek through the primordial ooze of avant-garde music, from John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to Can and Faust, to Fripp & Eno, to Neil Young and the future Wilco, to Radiohead and Godspeed You Black Emperor! This sounded like something that was there in the background of all that music. Rubbing stones and sticks together, searching for that fresh spark. “Glass Museum” is a journeying raft on rough waves of slow-motion ocean, sailing off to find new land, and document the various species of life found there. “A Survey” makes camp in the darkness of unmapped forests and braves the night, while “Along the Banks of Rivers” finally heads for home with renewed perspectives, somewhat philosophical now of the fates (and double-edged prizes) that await those who venture into the unknown.

Martina Topley-Bird - The Blue God (2008)

After hearing about 45 seconds of the opening track “Phoenix”, I was sold. If this song had Thom Yorke vocals you could tell people it was a song Radiohead forgot to put on the In Rainbows bonus disc. Or if Portishead hadn’t finally brought out their long awaited Third album, this would still have quenched our trip-hop/downtempo thirst. Although, The Blue God reminds me more of Dummy-era Portishead. So maybe if you spliced 2007 Radiohead DNA with 1994 Portishead DNA, you might end up with an album sounding a little bit like The Blue God. Who knows? I get carried away with nonsense. In 1996 Martina Topley-Bird guested vocals on Tricky’s acclaimed albums Nearly God and Pre-Millennium Tension, and released her debut solo album Quixotic in 2003. Her voice would suit many genres; she could be a pop singer, a jazz singer, a lounge singer, a blues singer, because all these styles somehow leak out in her tones. This is a great album to slap on if you’ve got friends coming around for drinks. This is a great album to slap on late at night and play poker to. This is a great album to slap on while you chop the veggies for dinner. This is a great album to slap on if you like Massive Attack or Air or Fat Freddy’s Drop or Thievery Corporation. This is great if you like a cocktail mix of sweet lullabies and smooth melodious lines with a twist of dark moodiness for atmosphere. I’m amazed this hasn’t become a far bigger album, because I think she has mass appeal, and is instantly likeable for the right kind of fans. But I also like the fact this album is sneaky, and working its mojo slowly. It’s not a ham-fisted album that is leaping down ears trying to impress anyone. It’s an album that is quietly sophisticated, and patient, and waiting to be heard some night when the proper forces align. Perhaps when the moon is full, illuminating the right moment like a blue god.

Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (1985)

For me, and many a prog-rock aficionado the world over, Kate Bush was/is the ‘Cult Queen of Cool’ who became the unofficial premiere female artist in a very male-dominated genre. I know she was having success in the Pop sphere. From her first acclaimed album The Kick Inside (1978) with the single “Wuthering Heights” she was the crazy-dancing doyen of baroque-pop. But she was always an acquired taste. Some people couldn’t stand her. And this designation made us Prog-fans claim her even more. She seemed like one of us. Nerdy, literate, obsessive, out-of-step. And Kate seemed to celebrate her ‘otherness’. She went about making her own unique music, album after album. With Hounds of Love she brought her signature theatricality into a more modern context, utilising the technology of the time to help animate her vision in a broader setting. And it’s a (another) masterpiece. From the opening hit, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, we’re reminded this is a fearless artist who combines melody, rhythm and structure masterfully, and then matches it with ambitious concepts to achieve maximum results. Her vocal performances are brilliant, and the lyrics thoughtful & crafted, as usual. Only Kate Bush could/would write a song like “Cloudbusting” - sung from the perspective of (radical psychologist/inventor) Wilhelm Reich’s son, who watches his father in awe, and mourns his father’s imprisonment (never to see him again), inspiring him to tell his father’s story. And the second half of the album is a suite of songs that comprise a mini concept album about a woman lost and drowning in freezing waters. The song “And Dream of Sheep” is worth particular mention, coz it’s one of Kate’s most beautiful compositions. The sadness in the melody is heartbreaking, and the lyrics paint an image of calm release and dignified escape from suffering: “If they find me racing white horses/ They'll not take me for a buoy/ Let me be weak/ Let me sleep/ And dream of sheep”. The fear of dying is sublimated into a simple wish: “I can’t keep my eyes open/ Wish I had my radio/ I’d tune into some friendly voices/ Talking about stupid things/ I can’t be left to my imagination”. The remainder of the album is a swirling watery diorama filled with cut-up sounds, choppy rhythms and ambient chimes that play out like someone’s life flashing before their crying eyes. A great uncompromising album from a great unconventional artist.

By Decoy Spoon

If you want to hear/see any of the music reviewed by Decoy, visit the GritHouse – the GritFX YouTube Channel – and check out Decoy’s Playlist of music videos.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Idology T-Shirts

OK, so as well as everything else I seem to do lately, I am now a partner in Idology T-Shirts – the American Idol Fan T-Shirt Shop. Due to a recent arrangement with the producers and those who hold the rights to the Idol franchise, Cafepress – the print-on-demand supplier for Idology T-Shirts – can now freely market all Idol-related fan gear. As a result, Idology T-Shirts designs were featured exclusively this week on the Official American Idol website. Idol Man (not his real name) and myself were totally over-the-moon at the sight of this excellent free advertising.

So to all you American Idol fans out there – make sure you visit Idology T-Shirts, now offering a range of other cool merchandise for all of this season’s contestants.

Here are some new design releases I happened to be involved with.

Click on the following links to view all apparel items for that design:
Cougars for Kris
Gokey: Heaven Sent
Allison Rocks
Lambert: 21st Century King

by Manz

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Camera Critters
"Theodore..." is this week's "Camera Critters" post. If you want to participate, click on the image above.

Here's some footage I slapped together of my in-laws' dog "Teddy". Footage was shot a few years ago on rural acreage in northern News South Wales (Australia) - I love how the little guy is watching the sunset at the end. Hope you enjoy this brief little film.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hubble’s Universe

Hitching a ride into orbit with the space shuttle Discovery in April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has taken incredibly clear and detailed images for almost twenty years. After some initial forestalling of the launch and eventual problems with one its mirrors, the Telescope has proven to be an invaluable aid for astronomers and is scheduled to be replaced in 2013 by the brand spanking new James Webb Space Telescope - named after James E. Webb, the second administrator of NASA.

Here are a few of Hubble’s greatest moments.

“Cat’s Eye” Nebula – three thousand light-years from Earth and over half a light-year across.

The Orion Nebula – only 1,500 light-years from Earth in an area where stars are formed.

“The Sombrero Galaxy”, named for obvious reasons.

V838 Mon – this image is often referred to as “Starry Night”.

“Cone” Nebula, within a star-forming region.

The “Eskimo” Nebula – some say this resembles a person’s head inside the hood of a parka, but it looks more like an iris to me.

NGC 2818 – this is what a dying star looks like.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Candy... How Sweet She Is!

Camera Critters
"Candy... How Sweet She Is!" is this week's "Camera Critters" post. If you want to participate, click on the image above.

Meet Candy, my parents cat. This weeks camera critters photo shows Candy in one of her "comfort zones" - the sink in the main bedroom ensuite where she feels secure in the presence of unwanted visitors - like my sisters dogs!! You'd think she'd find a more comfortable place to bed down - right?

And yes, I've manipulated the image... here is the original for curious visitors...