Thursday, October 15, 2009

I miss you, Carl...


Most of my readers probably don't know it, but I actually knew Carl Sagan. I won't say we were buddies - I was just a kid all the times I met him at various talks and symposiums and I'm sure he wouldn't have remembered me if I met him on the street - but I always was deeply, deeply enthralled by his vision of what mankind might just be able to accomplish in the future. His enthusiasm, passion and, yes, joy for learning and expanding the sphere of human knowledge was just as wonderfully infectious when I was a kid first watching the Cosmos PBS series as today.

A small piece of that passion can be found in this video. I know it's "gone viral" by now and doesn't need the hits, but I link it here primarily in the memory of a wonderful man and his amazing vision of "what can be". I admit it: I cried a little bit when I first saw this. If you don't understand this, or know where the original video footage comes from, you must, at the soonest possible moment, go to your local library, check-out the DVD collection of Cosmos and watch it. You'll be happy you did, trust me.

Carl wasn't just a physicist... he was a philosopher and a dreamer and an amazing writer possessing the rarest of abilities: he could merge the language of science with those of art and inspiration. Hearing him speak again in the video below reminded me of just how eloquent he really was, and I think he would have liked this funky auto-tuned remix of Cosmos.

I think this line from the chorus says it best:

"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."

Take it away, Carl - you are deeply, deeply missed...

UPDATE: I just saw that the audio track and a higher-rez version of the video are available as a free download at Colorpulse Music - click HERE for the download page. Instructions on downloading and saving different versions are there.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The critical importance of fear...


I was reading today that Spike Jonze, the director of the new film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, is being criticized for making his movie... you know... actually scary, like the book.

From the linked article:

Spike Jonze recalls how Maurice Sendak urged him to make the movie version of "Where the Wild Things Are" as dangerous as the book was when the children's classic came out in 1963.

The question now is whether Jonze made it too dangerous.

The article goes on to say:

At a test screening of an early cut, some children found the wild things creepy and scary.

Rather than snatching the $80 million project away from Jonze, Warner decided to give him more time. Jonze reshot some scenes, and he spent the past year applying computer animation to create the facial expressions on his wild things, which were shot live on set using actors inside giant monster suits.

The result certainly is more challenging, and potentially more rewarding, than many family films.

Creepy? Scary? Well... DUH! Good for you, Warner Brothers, for accurately interpreting a classic book and not bowing to lowest-common-denominator fears about what is or is not too intense for a kid (particularly when the story is as complex as Sendek's classic tale).

I remember WTWTA very, very well. I had a love/hate relationship with the book literally since the first time my Dad read it to me, one that I still retain. Any time I open the book, even as an adult, I get a chill. There's just something so creepy and otherworldly in the sequence when Max's room transforms into a forest. It freaked me out as a boy and it's still, in my opinion, simply captivating.

And then, when Max decides to sail away home, and the Wild Things stand on the shore and scream "we love you so much we'll eat you up!" (presumably so they can rend him limb-from-limb in the intensity of their devotion)... Shudder.

The evoking of fear here was crucial, and is why I no doubt remember the book when hordes of others have been forgotten. As a writer myself, one that deals with fear issues in his work all the time, I'm still hopeful that I might create something a fraction as enduring as Sendek's story.

Fear and dread is not, to say the least, the usual reaction a children's book evokes, but it's one that definitely set in my child's mind an expectation of just how engaging a well-written story can be. Now it looks like I can expect some of the same challenges in the film. Yay!!

I was excited to see the film before, but now I'm practically jumping out of my seat. As the father of a young son, I wonder if he'll find the film as terrifying and spellbinding as I did when my Dad read it aloud to me.

One can hope...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

For Mom - Face-Melting Accordion!


This one's for my mom, who used to play the accordion when she was younger. I'm sure she was almost this good... (cough! cough!).