Monday, July 20, 2009

The Alaskan Blob

As reported last week by the Anchorage Daily News, a twelve-mile long blob of organic material was discovered floating in the icy Arctic waters off the north coast of Alaska. What was initially thought to be an oil slick is in fact some unknown biological substance or marine organism, thick and gooey and emitting a strong smell.

Gordon Brower, from the North Slope Borough’s Planning and Community Services Department, assembled a team and was joined by the Coast Guard to investigate the substance. He stated that nothing like it had ever been seen in the area before. Brower said the material was “pitch black” when it came into contact with ice, discolouring the ice and clinging to it. Brower and his investigative team also saw jellyfish entangled in the mystery goo and the carcass of a dead goose was handed in to the borough’s wildlife department, with bones and feathers being all that remained of the animal.

But before anyone begins to freak out and think some kind of flesh-eating alien lifeform is floating towards a beach near you, samples of the Alaskan blob have been sent to Anchorage for testing, with results expected this week. If no further information is forthcoming, perhaps we can assume that the substance is indeed a major concern - so much so that the authorities believe information dissemination would create widespread panic…as the alien blob drifts across the globe devouring all in its path…an insidious invasion by a faceless usurper…

…the blob was last seen, moving with the current, north past Barrow.

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

(Source: Anchorage Daily News – “Huge blob of Arctic goo floats past Slope communities” by Don Hunter)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Portrait of a Lady

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

We all have plans for the future and one of mine is to create a galley of portraits of all the cats I've loved and adored. With that in mind, I take any opportunity my cats present me with, waiting for the right moment to capture the perfect "portrait" - which, let's face it, can take a while with cats that constantly roll and yawn!

This week Ella decided she'd pose for me - giving me the opportunity to snap a handful of shots, the following two included. My dilemma now is to pick one of these two to be framed - something that's proving to be a hard task!

What are your thoughts? Can you decide which "Portrait of a Lady" you'd enlarge and frame as part of a gallery of kitty portraits?

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Fly (1986)
Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz.
Written by Charles Edward Pogue & David Cronenberg.
Directed by David Cronenberg.

Teleportation. It’s what scientist Seth Brundle (Goldblum) believes will change the course of mankind. And he’s probably right. But before he can unleash the technology onto the world - being unsatisfied with teleporting inanimate objects - he decides to zap himself through his teleportation “pods” in his funky downtown warehouse and inadvertently traps a common house fly inside during the process. Having recombined his molecular structure with that of the fly, he begins a slow metamorphosis into a hideous hybrid – all to the horror of a young writer (Davis) who has been detailing the experiments. At times a black comedy, it is doubtful that an actor other than Jeff Goldblum could have inhabited the character of “Brundlefly” so completely and elevated The Fly to the heights at which it resides (though he is given excellent support from the memorably sleazy John Getz). Director David Cronenberg’s claustrophobic updating of the 1958 film of the same name features the kind of raw, tactile gore that 80s horror was all about, creating an unnerving experience. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Robocop (1987)
Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer & Dan O’Herlihy.
Written by Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven.

In Detroit in the not too distant future (which, in 1987, would mean about now), things suck. The city is overflowing with crime and corruption, but Omni Consumer Products believe they have the answer to cleaning up the streets. His name is Robocop, a former police officer named Murphy who was viciously gunned down by some nasty thugs, pronounced dead and then reassembled as a robotic crime-fighting force. But there’s a bit of Murphy left inside the organic and metallic frame of this lumbering protector, and that remnant of his former life wants to deal out some bloody justice to the bastards who slew him. In the beginning, the studios apparently (and understandably) baulked at giving the green light to a project called Robocop. But to their surprise, the film was a hit. Combining a sardonic wit with some bad-ass 80s violence, Robocop managed to overcome its seemingly inane title and produce the kind of adolescent fun that many teenage boys and young men crave. Full of colourful performances and a genuine self-assessing humour, Robocop epitomises all that is worthy about escapist entertainment. And I’d buy that for a dollar!

The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd & Scatman Crothers.
Written & Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The Overlook Hotel is no place to spend a winter. Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is unfortunately not aware of the imposing doom of the isolated resort, and accepts a job as winter caretaker believing the solitude will help him finish that novel he’s been meaning to write. Accompanying Jack is his wife Wendy (Duvall) and their young son Danny (Lloyd) who exhibits a psychic ability known as “shining”. As the ghostly inhabitants of the hotel begin to reveal themselves to Danny and his father, it becomes clear that Jack is required as a permanent resident of the hotel - the entry pass being the murder of his wife and son. Stanley Kubrick’s film cannot hold a candle to the Stephen King novel on which it is based yet it exists as a separate entity in its own right. Ignoring entire tracts of the novel, Kubrick instead focussed on imagery and his typical theme of dehumanisation. Garnering a fanatical cult status and featuring one of the most incredible locations ever put to film, The Shining is often ambiguous and confusing, but at the same time, a visual treat whose imagery has never been equalled.


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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Decoy’s Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music

The Cure - Disintegration (1989)

This is still hands-down my favourite Cure album. I say ‘still’ because back in my high school days, The Cure were a big fave band for me and my mates. We dug their whole catalogue, but it was great timing that we should witness the release of Disintegration, because after their (partial) dissolution in the wake of Pornography (1982), Robert Smith directed the music toward a more pop-orientated sound, with the hit singles “Lets Go to Bed”, “The Walk” and “The Lovecats”. They reunited with the commercially acclaimed albums The Head on the Door (1985) and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987), which saw further success pop-wise, but Disintegration seemed to be the album we were waiting for. From the gentle opening crash of “Plainsong” the blue/green layers float down and blanket you with sonic sedatives. Ahh…s’just like coming home. Robert Smith’s whispered vocals begin their mournful litany: “I think it’s dark and it looks like rain, you said/ And the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the world, you said/ And it’s so cold, like the cold if you were dead/ And then you smiled for a second”…and those words were like poetry for morose (self absorbed) teenagers, like myself. And even though the lyrics are a bit over-marinated in gothic gloom, they fit the melody and the atmosphere like a glove. He couldn’t sing anything else. Plus I actually think Robert Smith has quite a talent for lyrics. There are some great lines on this album. Another example is the title track, with the lines: “Now that I know that I’m breaking to pieces/ I’ll pull out my heart and I’ll feed it to anyone/ Crying for sympathy/ Crocodiles cry for the love of the crowd and three cheers from everyone”. Not too subtle perhaps, but hey, this album is one long sad dirge (it’s The Cure, we know that going in). Even somewhat brighter songs like “Lovesong” or “Pictures of You” can’t fully step from the alienated (Floyd-flavoured) shade cast by the other songs. But it’s just another reason to love this album - it’s such a cohesive work, sonically and thematically. The spacey keyboards, the flanged guitars, Simon Gallup’s bass-line anchors; they all meld into one thick lava-flow of sound. Maybe the members of The Cure were going through some dark times personally, but they managed to conjure the finest gothic-prog concept album of the modern era.

Nite Jewel - Good Evening (2009)

Nite Jewel is the alias of L.A.-based multimedia artist Ramona Gonzalez, who has been making music with various indie outfits before going solo. (I say solo, but you’ll note that most photos or footage of Nite Jewel reveal the band to be a two-piece). This album of (I assume) homemade electro-pop is on high-rotation at my house, and every time it finishes I just can’t seem to find anything to follow it. So it’s on repeat. (Be thankful you don’t live with me, I’d drive you nuts). And as I hear the opening track “Bottom Rung” take-off, I know I’ve made the right decision. The vocals are treated as such that I can’t make out a single line on the album, and that’s one of the things I love about it. I love that her voice becomes an instrument, and you just love melodies rather than lines. In turn, you give it any sort of narrative, or context. So the songs mean what you want them to mean. (As is the case with all music, I guess. The response being a subjective thing, in the end. But what I mean to say is: Nite Jewel [like other avant instrumental music] somehow manages to be more intimate as a result of its non-verbal twist). This album is couched in that lo-fi, home-recorded vibe, and the intentional fuzziness lends it a subterranean quality that seems to revel in the atmospheric murk. But it doesn’t push you away, it draws you in. There are great ‘songs’ here, like: “Artificial Intelligence” and “What Did He Say”, but I love it as an album - as a group work. It’s dreamy, it’s sludgy, it’s ambient. It’s warm, it’s playful, it’s inviting. But at the same time it’s kinda dark and gloomy too. (Imagine Pocahaunted if they went pop). Like other current neo-dance bands (particularly those on New York’s Italians Do It Better label) like: Glass Candy, Mirage and Chromatics - the music of Nite Jewel seems cosy and well paced. (It sounds truly retro and modern at the same time). It’s danceable, but you don’t have to go busting any moves. Rather, take your time, there’s no need to feel self-conscious, dance slow, just sway, or spin, dance stupid if you want to, this atmosphere is friendly. Some(most)times you don’t dance at all…just sit, have a drink and a chat.

Rodriguez - Cold Fact (1970)

Back in 1995, I ended up at a friend’s house in Sydney, late at night, with a bunch of people sitting around taking turns playing tunes for each other. At one point someone put this on and I was transfixed. ‘Who is this?!’ I asked. I was told his name was Rodriguez and this is his only album, and that he was one of the forgotten troubadours of the late-60s. They said he’d done time in prison, that he’d even written this album while serving time, yada yada yada. He was over-flowing with the romantic myth of a tortured artist. Anyway, I loved the album, and I tracked it down soon after. Most of the stories were wrong as it turns out. Except the part about being one of the forgotten artists of the late-60s. Jesus ‘Sixto’ Rodriguez was born in Detroit, he recorded two albums Cold Fact (1970) and Coming from Reality (1971) and they went largely unnoticed in the U.S. But he gained popularity abroad, namely in South Africa and here in Australia. In those countries he remains an underground legend, still performing shows now and again. (He even toured Australia as the support for Midnight Oil in the early 80s) And it’s something us Aussies should feel kinda proud of. Coz this guy is great. Great songs with great melodies and memorable lyrics delivered by one of the most distinct voices of folk-rock genre. I’ve turned a few people on to him over the years, and invariably they respond to it instantly. It’s full of 60s references, but somehow not really dated. “Sugar Man” opens the album with overt nods to the hippie drug culture, ‘Silver magic ships you carry/ Jumpers, coke, sweet mary jane’. But (like early Dylan) Rodriguez is essentially a moralist. In “Crucify your Mind”, he sings: ‘Was it a huntsman or a player/ That made you pay the cost/ That now assumes relaxed positions/ And prostitutes your loss?/ Were you tortured by your own thirst/ In those pleasures that you seek/ That made you Tom the curious/ That makes you James the weak?’ It’s one of those mythic 60s/70s albums, its amazing (criminal, really) it isn’t more celebrated and renowned. It should be regarded alongside Bringing it All Back Home, and Bridge Over Troubled Water and Tea for the Tillerman and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album. That’s a cold fact.

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.

Happy Huskie

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

It's hard to believe that it's been over a month since my last camera critter post! After a very busy month, I now have some time to blog again... and that makes me smile like this happy Huskie :)

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

Monday, July 6, 2009

Irony in Advertising

The Consumerist website offers articles related to “consumer culture”, and last week the site featured a selection of amusing ironic adverts from bygone eras. Top 10 Ironic Ads From History was compiled by Carrie McLaren and Jason Torchinsky, who are co-editors of Ad Nauseum: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture.

As mentioned in the article, old cigarette ads are a dime a dozen, but they also happen to be personal favourites of mine – like the one below. According to the ad, “three leading research organizations” surveyed men and women in “every branch of medicine”, asking what brand of cigarette they puffed on. “The brand named most was Camel!”

Because, you see, back in those days, there was a thing called the “T-Zone” – “T” for “Throat” and “T” for “Taste”. “See how your taste responds to the rich, full flavor of Camel’s costlier tobaccos,” boasts the advert. Ahh, I see…cheap tobaccos give you cancer.

….I always preferred Marlboros anyway.

You can view all the crazy old ads in the Consumerist article here:

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

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Milk (2008)
Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill & Victor Garber.
Written by Dustin Lance Black.
Directed by Gus Van Sant.

As a disillusioned forty year-old, Harvey Milk (Penn) meets the love of his life Scott (Franco) in a New York subway and the two head for San Francisco. Settling on Castro Street in Eureka Valley and somewhat transforming his working-class neighbourhood, Milk soon decides to run for a position on the city council, hoping to bring to light the discrimination at the time of homosexuals across the country. Following the turbulent years of Harvey Milk’s life in San Francisco until his assassination by resentful conservative councilman Dan White (Brolin) in 1984, Milk is a wonderful film full of pathos and humour. Penn is truly extraordinary as the flamboyant yet gracious title character (“Penn-sational!” to quote my buddy Faystar from the ISeeFilms blog), given excellent support from the entire cast blessed with an Oscar-winning script by Dustin Lance Black. With compassion and flair, director Gus Van Sant has fashioned the best film of his career since his breakthrough masterpiece Drugstore Cowboy, utilising his singular style to full effect.

Right At Your Door (2006)
Mary McCormack, Rory Cochrane, Scott Noyd Jr, Max Kasch.
Written & Directed by Chris Gorak.

A dirty bomb explodes one morning in downtown Los Angeles. Listening to the unfolding events on the radio is a frantic Brad (Cochrane), whose wife Lexi (McCormack) set off to work sometime earlier headed for the now blast area. With martial law imposed and electricity and communications down, Brad begins to seal his house with the help of a stranger seeking refuge, as the toxic cloud of ash begins to move into the suburbs. When Lexi appears hours later, sick and screaming to be let inside her own home, Brad is faced with the unconscionable decision to quarantine his wife outside, and wait for help from the authorities which eventually does not seem forthcoming. Lauded at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back, this well-made and acted low-budget film is still lacking the qualities that could have made it great. It never achieves the tension that it would obviously like from a story laden with such possibilities, and retires into a rhythm that borders on stiff. Even with a taut and unexpected final act, Right At Your Door ultimately remains a disappointingly lacklustre experience.

1408 (2007)
John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub.
Written by Matt Greenburg, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom.

Mike Enslin (Cusack) is a jaded writer of haunted house guides who receives a mysterious postcard warning him not to stay in the infamous room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel, New York. After being told that the room is perpetually “unavailable”, he enlists the help of his publisher and their attorney and arrangements are made for his stay. Upon arrival, Mike is taken aside by the hotel manager (Jackson) who warns him of the supernatural history of the room (no guest comes out alive!) and implores him to reverse his decision. Thinking the entire scenario is an elaborate ruse Mike soon learns a whole new meaning for the term “late checkout”. Based on a Stephen King short story (always the best choices for the author’s screen adaptations), this well-mounted film benefits from a reliably strong performance from Cusack and some genuine scares. Production design and direction are solid, however, the film loses momentum once it has established its modus operandi and somewhat limps along to its conclusion. Like a hotel room with a great bed but a weak shower, the flaws of 1408 still cannot diminish its enjoyment. Worthwhile.


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.