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Thursday, July 26, 2001

The Dune You'll Never See
Dune: The Movie You Will Never See by Alejandro Jodorowsky : The cult filmmaker's personal recollection of the failed production. The circumstances of Jodorowsky's planned 1970s production of Frank Herbert's novel Dune are inherently fascinating, if only because of the sheer creative power of the collaborators Jodorowsky was able to assemble. Pink Floyd offered to write the score at the peak of their creativity. Salvador Dali, Gloria Swanson, and Orson Welles were cast. Dan O'Bannon (fresh off of Dark Star) was hired to supervize special effects; illustrator Chris Foss to design spacecraft; H.R. Giger to design the world of Geidi Prime and the Harkonnens; artist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud drew thousands of sketches. The project eventually collapsed in 1977, subsequently being passed onto Ridley Scott, and then to David Lynch, whose 1984 film was panned by audience and critics alike.

Interestingly enough, this failed production has been suprisingly influential. "...the visual aspect of Star Wars strangely resembled our style. To make Alien, they called Moebius, Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project signalled to Americans the possibility of making a big show of science-fiction films, outside of the scientific rigour of 2001: A Space Odyssey."

In reading his account of the failed production, it becomes readily apparent that Jodorowsky's Dune would only bear a slight resemblance to Herbert's novel. "I feel fervent admiration towards Herbert and at the same time conflict [...] I did everything to keep him away from the project... I had received a version of Dune and I wanted to transit it: the myth had to abandon the literary form and become image..." In all fairness, this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the case of Dune, which many considered to be unfilmable (Lynch, it is said, tried to keep his story as close to the novel as possible - and look what happened there). Film and literature are two very different forms, and, as such, they use different tools to accomplish the same tasks. Movies must use a different "language" to express the same ideas.

I find the prospect of Jodorowsky's Dune to be fascinationg, but I must also admit that I, like many others, would have also been aprehensive about his vision. Would Jodorowsky's Dune have been able to live up to his ambition? Some think not:
Theory and retrospect are fine and in theory Jodorowsky's DUNE sounds too good to be true. But then again, anyone that reads his desrription and explanation of El Topo and then actually watches the thing is going to feel slightly conned. They might then come to the conclusion that Jodorowsky says lots, but means little.
Having seen El Topo, I can understand where this guy's coming from. I lack the ability to adequately describe the oddity; the disturbing phenomenon that is El Topo. I can only say that it is the wierdest movie that I have ever seen (nay, experienced). But for all its disquieting peculiarity, I think it contains a certain raw power that really affects the viewer. Its that sort of thing, I think, that might have made Dune great.

In case you couldn't tell, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a strange, if fascinating, fellow. He wrote the script and soundtrack, handled direction, and starred in the previously mentioned El Topo, which was hailed by John Lennon as a masterpiece (thus securing his cult status). His followup, The Holy Mountain, continued along the same lines of thought. It was at this point that the director took the oportunity to work on Dune, which, as we have already found out, was a failure. Nevertheless, Jodorowsky plunges on, still making his own brand of bizzare films. As he says at the end of his account of the Dune debacle, "I have triumphed because I have learned to fail."
Posted by Mark on July 26, 2001 at 09:38 PM .: link :.



Friday, July 20, 2001

Aspiring Sparrows
A note to aspiring novelists by Mary Doria Russell : Mrs. Russell is amazed that so many aspiring writers are encouraged by the fact that her modern sci-fi classic, The Sparrow, was turned down by 31 literary agents. She relates that asking her for advice is like asking someone who's been in 31 car wrecks to teach you how to drive. Nevertheless, she give a few helpful hints which basically amount to not paying to have your manuscript read, among other publishing scams (they reminded me of the scams pulled in Foucault's Pendulum).

I just finished reading The Sparrow, and I must admit, I'm not suprised that it was turned down 31 times. A book that can be summed up "Jesuits in Space" has got to be a hard sell. And no, it is not a comedy; it's actually a very disturbing experience (making it that much harder to sell). James describes it better than I ever could:
"It's a wild idea, sending off a Jesuit mission as humanity's first (secretively-sent) ambassadors to see what they make of the experience, and Russell pulls off this odd choice, makes it necessary to the deeper workings of her plot. She drives at cross-cultural misunderstandings without demonizing any particularly short-sighted view, sets up a terrible theological and personal conundrum, and is absolutely, utterly, completely and totally merciless in driving her unsuspecting characters into it. The conclusion is quite literally terrible, unswavering in its stripping down of that word to the terror at its core."
Its a fantastic book with excellent character depth, good plotting, and thought-provoking content, but, as you may have guessed, its certainly not for the faint of heart. The Sparrow ruthlessly challenges faith and ones sense of purpose in the universe. It's emotionally grueling, to say the least.
Posted by Mark on July 20, 2001 at 02:28 PM .: link :.



Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Goodbye Sober Day
In this interview with Mike Patton, the frontman for the now-defunct Faith No More talks about his other band (Mr. Bungle), his fans, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. At one point, Patton proclaims that "we make music for ourselves first, then record it onto a record, and then hope it makes sense to other people," which is the sort of thing that usually makes me cringe. However, given Mr. Bungle's last album, California, which I liken it to a musical representation of schizophrenia (and this is downright peachy compared to their last album, Disco Volante), I think I can safely say that Patton really doesn't care what anyone thinks. Not to mention some of his... less accessible work (he refers to them as "operettas or jazz improvs or, you know, noise pieces--whatever the hell you want to call them"). I still miss his glorious days with FNM, though. I stumbled upon this list of songs they played live; I find the covers they chose to be fascinating. They actually performed "barbie girl" 7 times, and FNM had the range to pull it off, too. When I saw them in Philly, they played the Rocky theme. Damn, I miss those guys...
Posted by Mark on July 18, 2001 at 01:22 PM .: link :.



Thursday, July 12, 2001

Customer "Support"
Everyone has had a terrible customer support experience at least once in their life. Those who are cursed into having to deal with customer service often would do well to learn The Art of Turboing. Turboing, essentially, refers to the actions of a customer who goes around the normal technical support process by contacting a senior person in the chain of command. The article does a great job describing the process and how to go about it. The idea of Turboing sounds worse than it is, but it is also made clear that you should turbo only when you've exhausted all other avenues of support and hit a dead end. So go forth, my service-maligned readers, and Turbo your way to victory. Or something. [via memepool]

Some good stuff being discussed over at DyREnet's message board. First, it seems that Drifter has revealed the great secrets of Man.com (the mystery that started with a cryptic and utterly annoying Tandem Story entry on this page). Also, check out the discussion on Coke, including my own moronic exploits with cola.
Posted by Mark on July 12, 2001 at 02:57 PM .: link :.



Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Searching for Bobby Fischer
A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma by William Lombardy : A 1974 Sports Illustrated article providing a detailed account of Bobby Fischer's struggle and eventual victory in the 1972 World Chess Championship. I've never been much good at Chess, but I have a certain fascination and respect for those who are. Fischer comes off as emotionally unstable in the article, but I have this sneaking sort of suspicion that every little move (or complaint) he made was calculated. Sometimes he won before he even entered the arena. But then, he is definitely an odd person as well, so who really knows?
Posted by Mark on July 11, 2001 at 04:49 PM .: link :.



Thursday, July 05, 2001

Probable Monopoly
Probabilities in the Game of Monopoly has all the numbers you could ever possibly need to play Monopoly more efficiently; most probable squares, how long it takes for investments to pay off, which properties are better to mortgage, where to build hotels, which squares get landed on first.
The railroads are excellent investments, particularly when owned together, although in absolute income terms they don't keep up with heavily built on properties later in the game. The best return on investment to be found is from putting a third house on New York Avenue. In fact, the third house has the fastest payoff of any building on almost all of the properties. The square most landed on other than Jail is Illinois Avenue, and in fact a hotel there will bring the most income other than a hotel on Boardwalk. By far the worst individual investment is to buy Medeterranean Avenue without first owning Baltic. That's not to say that you shouldn't buy it, but it's not going to make you much money without quite a bit of construction. The properties between the Jail square and the Go To Jail square are landed on the most, because of the jump caused by landing on Go To Jail. The Orange ones have the biggest bang for the buck as far as building goes.
All the probabilities were conducted with a long term computer simulation. I suppose this whole thing may seem excessive, but it is quite interesting and nice to know that the orange properties are the best to own and build on. The simulations do not, however, take into account all the shady dealings between players (I'll trade you St. Charles Place, which will give you a monopoly, for Baltic Ave. and 5 free passes on any of your properties) that can be ever-so-crucial to the outcome of the game. [via Bifurcated Rivets]
Posted by Mark on July 05, 2001 at 01:01 PM .: link :.



Monday, July 02, 2001

Celery + Gravity = Art
Art Frahm : A study of the effects of celery on loose elastic. I don't know what to say here. This is truly disturbing stuff. Its also hilarious, thanks mostly to the insightful commentary of one James Lileks. Essentially, Mr. Frahm made a name for himself by painting pictures of women whose panties had fallen down, usually while holding a bag of groceries (including, oddly enough, celery). Many times theres a dog involved, as well as leering bystanders. Even funnier is that these battles with gravity used to actually happen. According to the FAQ: "Elastic back then wasn�t what it is today." [special thanks to Wisdom for the link]
Posted by Mark on July 02, 2001 at 12:20 PM .: link :.



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