Thursday, July 20, 2017

All day, all night, Harold Lloyd

I think it started with this one. There didn't seem to be much scope for animation (if you can call it that), but that never stopped me before. The idea is that someone thinks this is a still picture, then. . . OOPS!

Similarly, this thing flips into reverse at the strangest times. This little doll was something you could win as a prize at theatres (I think) where Harold's movies were showing. There are lots of them on Pinterest and eBay, collectibles, though whether they're authentic or not is anybody's guess. The original doll was maybe 10" high and was made of oilcloth. The paper doll version, above, is likely a reconstruction.

I take no credit for these incredible Harold dolls, the likes of which I never saw while researching his life. They are on a site called Red Cap Art Dolls, links below. I might have been tempted then to buy one, and maybe stick pins in it when the novel ultimately failed. Oh well! There's something quite beautiful and something more than a little creepy about this Harold doll, not to mention effeminate. Dolls are innately creepy anyway, as I've covered in many a post. A human in miniature, they invite the best and worst kind of treatment from their owners. Come to that, it sounds like we're talking about children.

I found a total of four photos of the doll: two with hat, and two without. From the four, I made eight frames (reversing each of them to give me that added dimension of creepiness). Then, combining them every-which-way, Harold began to move, rigidly at first, clunkily, and then - as I sped up the frame speed and mixed it up a little - to dance.

I am forever being blown away by the calibre of artwork on I'm not trying to steal it! Really, not. Borrow it for a few seconds, maybe, to make hokey animations out of. Then give it back. But I want you to see this. This artist is called BlueCatNeoguri. He captures something essential about Harold, especially the hairline which is really difficult to "get". It's not a 21st century hairline, because it is combed straight back with a lot of pomade. That's what they did then, but because Harold had thick, black, unruly hair, it was forever falling out of that configuration. It was even curly when wet. That, and his blue-blue Welsh eyes (not apparent here) added to his sexiness.

I didn't make this at all - only made a gif out of an old YouTube video. In those days, meaning the 1920s, this was as good as you could get. There are still a few of these around, rocking back and forth spastically and wincing.  I hate to do this, but here is a closer shot:

Not a pretty sight. To get the taste of that one out of your mouth, here is one more by the brilliant BlueCatNeoguri of DeviantArt. Christ, how I wish I had talent!:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Totems: power and grace

During a recent visit to Stanley Park, we were knocked over by these totem poles. I can't find much information about them, except that they were "collected from all over the area". Right. Like saying the Mona Lisa was bought at a garage sale, but at least we got to enjoy them and be in awe. I put music behind this one to try to capture the mood.

The Birds: out of nowhere!

Back when I was doing all sorts of video experiments and being flagged by YouTube for using copyrighted material, I made this: a very short snippet from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, set to the dire, dark music of Finnish composer 
Einojuhani Rautavaara (photo by Ari Korkala, below). I was amazed at how neatly they dovetailed (squawk) without any real effort on my part. I think that's because Rautavaara is natural movie music - and for all I know, he actually DID write dire, dark film scores for dire, dark Finnish movies. The Scands are not known for their lightheartedness.

I was interested to realize, all over again, that Hitchcock did not use any music at all in The Birds except theme music. The squawwww-ing and skreeee-ing of those hideous birds was enough of a soundtrack. Hitchcock knew that music would only interfere.

I guess I'm not quite so clever.

Einojuhani Rautavaara (photo by Ari Korkala)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Sneeze Animations

OK, so this might just look like a whole lot of jerky animations of a guy sneezing. And it is. But if you look at each of them, they're not the same: the frames are combined and recombined in slightly different ways. 

It started off as something like this - a contact sheet, with five frames per row endlessly repeating.

These are still frames from a very short (like, three seconds) film that Edison made in 1894. It's sometimes called Fred Ott's Sneeze, maybe because it depicts Fred Ott sneezing. Stuck a feather up his nose, or huffed that sneezing powder the fetishists use on YouTube. 

When I see something like this, I have a mad desire to make it move again, to resuscitate the guy who's been dead for a hundred years, and turn his frame-frozen sneeze back into motion. To do that, I had to cut the frames in the contact sheet into little squares, re-assemble them into some semblance of film, then run them through my gif program.

As you can see, it worked fairly well. Blown up like this, Fred looks eerily realistic, even though I was working with only five frames:

Meanwhile, I found a Library of Congress video of the original, three-seconds-long masterpiece of cinema. Frankly, I think my animations look better.

If I had an alligator

If I had an alligator, which I'm not likely to do in the near future, I'd want it to look like this.

When you  see something white which is normally some other colour, you automatically think "albino". But no! My research tells me these are leucistic alligators, which means they have blue eyes (and the rest of them is ivory, not pure white). Big difference.

Leucistics are rare - I keep finding different stats on this, but one source said there are "only 12 of them in the world". I don't get this. Have they mucked and gumbooted through all the swamps of Louisiana in search of these "swamp ghosts"? Who knows how many are lurking under rotten logs, waiting to attack? The logic is that something like this would stand out like neon and wouldn't survive a predator's attack. But wouldn't an alligator be pretty handy at self-defense? What natural enemies does it have? It has survived for hundreds of millions of years without having to evolve at all. So does it matter if a handful of them look like the Pillsbury Doughboy?

Maybe it would. A white alligator hide might make tasty material for a Fendi bag. One of those purses that costs as much as the down payment on a car.

These guys are frightening, ugly and beautiful at the same time. While looking for appropriate images to make an animation (above), I found some beauties. Or uglies. 

The blue eyes seem to peer at us with some kind of expression, but they don't. This creature's brain has just one setting: FOOD. (Well, two, but the other one isn't turned on all the time.) It looks at you as if you were food, which you are. If you have a pulse, if you have warm blood - or cold blood - you're food. Do we have some primeval memory of being eaten alive by some prehistoric version of this thing? Imagine how big they were back then, given that everything was on a ridiculous scale.

This one creeps me out majorly. It's either jumping up in the air in a ballet-leap, or underwater. How would anyone get such a shot without being eaten?

Don't ever think it's smiling. It's not smiling. It is jaws on legs. It is hissing and death-roll, and then, digestion.

These three look almost poetical, except they're not. Once more I doubt the "only 12 in the world" statistic. Who runs around in the forest trying to find these? There must be more of them. Here's an extra one just lying around, basking on someone's dock.

My brothers had an old stuffed alligator (crocodile?) with cotton batting in it (the cotton batting spewing out of its stomach and having to be shoved back in). It was a real alligator, or it had been, the skin tanned like leather. I never knew where it came from. The boys played Tarzan with it, and claimed that if you turned the alligator (or crocodile) over on its back and rubbed its tummy, it would relax and become extremely docile. This is a legend along the lines of taming a bird by putting salt on its tail.

So the swamp ghost, the White Bite, the leucistic Fendi bag of Louisiana isn't a myth. Its only real enemy is humankind, which means it will probably be wiped out in short order, along with everything else.

That is the meanest face I have ever seen.

POST-SCRIPT. I never knew what I was getting into when I looked up alligator bags. I assumed they might top out at, say, $10,000.00.

But no. I found this in a post about The Five Most Expensive Purses In The World:

The Chanel “Diamond Forever” Classic Handbag – $261,000

Next on our list is the The Chanel “Diamond Forever” Classic Handbag for a little more than a quarter of a million. It’s limited edition and it’s incrusted with 334 diamonds, white gold hardware and white alligator skin. And that’s only №4!

The description does not specify if this is from an authentic leucistic alligator, or just some old garden variety Wally Gator from a golf course in Florida who had a dye job. One would think the scarcity of the variety would preclude making it into bags, even for a quarter of a million dollars. Might it be that hideous vinyl stuff we had in the '60s, which would get so hot and melty in the sun?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Going crazy isn't all it's cracked up to be

Kind of a repeat, but these are thoughts I revisit practically every day. As a culture, we're where we were with gay issues in about 1970. We haven't even had our Stonewall yet.

You were temptation

This isn't the first time I've posted this - maybe not even the tenth, because I love it, the sultry setting, the drunken Bing, that woman with her impossible face filling the frame. But the reason I'm posting it this time is that Temptation reminds me, oddly enough, of The Quiet Village, that "exotica" piece I recently posted along with the Tarzan and Jane gifs. 

There are no bird calls in this, but the boom-cha, boom-cha, boom-cha is somehow similar. Or not! I just hear it that way in my head. 

This has gotten me started, so here are a few related and wholly-unrelated videos. Nobody does it better than Bing, though Mario comes close. There's a kid who sings, and I'll have to find out more about him, because he's really good. I just found the "bolero ballad" version played on some sort of supernatural Hammond organ, which I have mixed feelings about. 

This last one, it's a killer. I know nothing of the artist - I assume the song is in Korean - but it kills me every time I watch it. It actually makes me cry. Though it seems to have no relation to the feverish passion of the original, it does. It's that despair, that sense of being caught in something hopeless, a trap you never want to get out of. You think I've never felt like that?

Sky blue, two-tone, shiny chrome: '56 Chevy Bel Air

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Borealis burning bright

Rickety Uncle

There's something I do, and I guess I had better talk about it now. When I am sitting there vegetating in front of the TV, craving something sweet, sometimes I Make Something.

It isn't even a "thing", just a mixture. You know how cookie dough tastes about one thousand times better than the actual cookies? I try to make something that approximates cookie dough, or brownie batter, or whatever, but on a small scale. It never works. Butter, sugar, cocoa, etc. - blecccch, but I usually eat it anyway.

I love the topping for apple crisp, and have tried to make something like it. Just the topping. It never works, because you can't cook it. But raw oats and Crisco and stuff -  how could it fail?

So yesterday I see a bizarre recipe on a Facebook page called Vintage Recipes. Here is what the original looked like:

It made no sense. Seemed to be some sort of square, but it had no flour in it, no eggs, just butter and more butter. But it only had four ingredients, which I liked.

The name, though - what the hell - ?? WHOSE uncle, and why is he so rickety? For some reason I kept thinking of Ricky Ricardo (dough - see? D'oh).

I did some research on this odd-sounding thing, and to my amazement found only ONE YouTube video on it, with a completely different recipe. Normally anything edible has literally thousands of versions, including a very smug, perfect version by Nigella Lawson. Remember the sponge toffee/honeycomb/hokey-pokey/yellowman, etc., that never turned out and, because the syrup was volcano-like on the stove, could actually be hazardous to your health?

I also found two handwritten "vintage" versions of this recipe - hey, we used to throw all these things out once we got computers! There would be no more cookbooks, remember, and you could throw out that old box with your handwritten recipe cards in it, too. That included the ones passed down from your mother, your grandmother and your great-grandmother, who were obviously hopelessly low-tech. We no longer needed those embarrassing brown cards with the tatty edges, so old and spilled-upon that you could hardly read them. From now on we'd cook directly off the computer screen.


Now those tatty old brown cards are precious beyond measure, and people are making gazillions of dollars posting them on their cooking blogs. 

So did I make this drunk-uncle stuff? Of course. When I mixed it up, with my hands of course, it was, well, sort of like the topping for apple crisp, but without any flour. And it was sticky and very greasy from all that butter. I didn't take any cute photos or a YouTube video of me making this, partly because I miss making videos with Caitlin so much that I want to howl sometimes (but just getting her to speak to me is a major triumph, now that Grandma has become obsolete).

But it all comes out the same, I think, kind of like this:

I tasted one, and butter gushed out of it and oozed onto the kitchen floor and made a dangerous slick. I had to put up a traffic cone. Nobody warns you about these things. As with all those hokey-pokey recipes, food bloggers always claim it's "easy to make, fun and delicious". 

I don't think I have ever had an internet recipe turn out. The "magical three-layer cake" was a flat grey custard that I threw out after two days. Nobody wanted to eat it. You already know about the sponge toffee, the seven tries. Mug cake! Back when the grandkids acknowledged me, our various attempts at it were hilarious.

This might be OK after a couple of days. Maybe it needs to mellow, like shortbread. Who knows.

RICKETY POSTSCRIPT. They didn't get better with age. Not really. I kept eating them, hoping the next one would be better. After four of them, I began to feel sick and to think, "I'm going to gain two or three pounds just from eating these things, and they're disgusting." So they went into the garbage.

But I did not totally give up on this recipe. I love butter and brown sugar mixed together, and while making the original batch I kept tasting the raw dough or sludge or whatever-it-was, and it had a delightful buttery, sugary flavor. Tonight I decided to scale the recipe way down: 4 tablespoons rolled oats, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, one tablespoon butter (melted). Mixed it together with my hands, and began to eat it with a spoon.

Not. . . bad! It had a salty-sweet taste from the sugar and butter, and the oats were kind of like horse fodder, substantial to chew. I would make this again, to eat on the spot, but now I'm trying to find a way to add chocolate to it.