Friday, August 28, 2015

And just like that, the summer's over.

Two days ago, another monsoon blew through central Maine; in its wake the temperatures dropped by about ten degrees, and the humidity dropped by an astonishing 40 percent.

That part of it is a joy: for the better part of three months, the humidity has been hanging in the upper 80 percent, low 90 percent range, essentially turning Maine into a bayou for the whole summer. I've lived in the state for about 50 years now, and never experienced a summer like this, where the house had to be kept shuttered even at night and the dehumidifier became the most important appliance in the place.

It was the kind of summer to make one feel almost glad that the summers are getting shorter, as they seem to be. (Why is that? As you get older, 'tis true that the years fly by faster and faster, bur why is it that winter never seems to get any shorter?)

The monsoon was just one of about four that swept through here this year. That's different, too. We used to get rain. It could last a day and drizzle steadily but not violently. Now we get nothing but thunderstorms and downpours of the most intense kind, with the rain gushing down and creating a river, a waterfall off of my roof. It's fun to watch, and here in town the power almost never goes out, so I don't have that worry anymore; but it's different, very different, from the summers I remember growing up at the old house

This last Big Storm didn't just take the humidity: it took the summer. Suddenly it is cool and dry; just as suddenly, the whole character of the light has changed. At nine AM it arcs through my bedroom window at almost the same angle as at late afternoon. The day is notably shorter. I see leaves on my crazy-branch backyard tree already turning yellow. Here in the middle part of the afternoon the shadows are already long and the crickets already chirping.

The growth has stopped. The atmosphere is that of Quiet Waiting.

This is perhaps my favorite time of year. It came overnight. I suppose it will pass just as quickly.

-- Frede.
www.ducksoup.me
www.tarotbyducksoup.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Punch Gets A Book


The companion volume to Mr. Punch's Tarot is here!

and soon at Amazon, B&N, and wherever fine books are sold.

Mister Punch and the Tarot go back a long way together. Both originated in Italy, and both explore life's Great Mysteries. Indeed, Mister Punch is perfectly suited to the Tarot! Now the creator of the celebrated Tarot of the Zirkus M├Ągi has produced a Tarot that feels as if it should have existed over a hundred years ago, featuring Mister Punch and his full cast of adversaries.

Along with card meanings for the Major and Minor Arcana and unique spreads designed just for the deck, this companion volume also features a fully illustrated treasure-trove of Punch & Judy history (including a version of the original play), plus insightful connections between the worlds of Punch and the Tarot and even a short story by the deck's designer..


Also available as a PDF eBook!


This PDF format edition has all the content of the paperback -- every picture, every Punch, every Dumb Assertion. In fact it was made from the same InDesign files as the paperback -- only the front and back covers have been downsized. The PDF file can be read on your computer or mobile device. Works great in iBooks. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New from Duck Soup Productions: The BROWNIES: THEIR ORACLE

Now Available!
(You can click all the images to enlarge)
Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
THE BROWNIES HAVE YOUR FUTURE WELL IN HAND.

Palmer Cox's famous Brownies have been charming and delighting readers for 150 years. Now Cox's detail-packed drawings of The Brownies have been newly colored and incorporated into a unique new divination tool, the latest entry in THE PLAYROOM ORACLES. See them all at

www.tarotbyducksoup.com



85 Total Cards in Two Decks
(60 JUMBO 3.5 x 5.5 cards, 25 Poker-Size cards)
plus 4 page booklet, in a Jumbo Tuck Box
$59.99

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rotgut for Elephants


I’ve written about Gone With The Wind elsewhere on this site, but it bears repeating that I have never understood what all the fuss was about. Oh, yes, it’s a beautiful production, brilliantly mounted… but it’s wrapped around a story that amounts to the shallow end of an empty pool, jam packed with the kind of characters you’d like to punch on the nose if they were real.

Water For Elephants, based on a novel by Sara Gruen, rubs me exactly the same way. Here we have a movie about the Circus that is undeniably well made. It looks fantastic, and is alive with a heady Circus atmosphere that rings authentically true. It features amazing animal work. It really makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time. I can’t stress enough how attractive this movie looks and how much its atmosphere seduces — 

— and it’s all in the service of a Harlequin Romance. 

You’ve seen, heard about, or read this same story about a million times. Boy meets girl, girl is married, mucho “romantic” tension follows, things get really bad before they suddenly get better, the Bad Guys are punished by Divine Providence (so that the Hero doesn’t have to get his hands dirty) and the Boy and Girl live Happily Ever After.

It is trivial. It is insipid. It is painted strictly by the numbers. Worse than that, it is cynical in the way it connects All The Standard Elements. Things happen for no other reason than that you wouldn’t have a story otherwise. It is the worst kind of pandering. And it pisses me off: because Sara Gruen was made into a millionaire by this claptrap. 

This is the story that stayed on the bestseller list for, like, three years? This and Fifty Shades of Grey are what women really want to read? Please tell me that it ain’t so — please!

I wouldn’t object if it really was a Harlequin Romance. There’s a place for that kind of stuff, just as there’s a place for pulp mysteries and comic books. But the publishers gave this book Star Treatment and ginned it up as if it was Great Literature. Readers (most of them women) fell into lock-step to lap up this slop. Book groups adopted it and book group members yammered at each other about it for hours, days, weeks. 

And it’s just a Fucking Harlequin Romance, people. That’s all it is.

Water For Elephants is a Grand Cacophony of Marketing Genius, proving nothing more than that people really are robots if they are willing to consume this tripe and then turn around and say that it’s caviar. The success of the book has nothing to do with its worth. 

I have not been so disgusted with a movie in quite a while. If it was poorly made it could be easily dismissed, and I could write something entertainingly snarky and we could all have a giggle and be done with it. Instead — the only people who are having a giggle are the author, the publishers, the marketers and the movie makers. Indeed, they are all having a jolly good laugh, sipping their champagne and depositing huge checks into their back accounts…

… and the joke is on us.

— Frede.
www.ducksoup.me
www.tarotbyducksoup.com 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Projected on Smoke

More or less Random Ramblings down the aisle of my Home Cinema theater…
*



Oh, how I scoffed at Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy the first time I saw them in Rose Marie. Oh, how I mocked the signature song of that movie: “When I’m Calling Yooooooooo-woo-woo-woo, woo-woo-wooooooo!” But my mother would have them in the house… she had grown up watching them on the Big Screen, and was enamored with their movies. I don’t know when it happened, but after a few years of poking fun at them, god help me, I started to like them. Now their best movies are among my favorites — I know! I know! But I can’t resist their strange power from the past. Maytime is indeed one of their best, but also the only one that I know of which is an out-and-out tearjerker. MacDonald and Eddy were on-again, off-again offscreen lovers, and it shows: their duets are hauntingly erotic. Maytime has all the elements: it is lovely to look at, delightful to listen to, and features a strong supporting cast in John Barrymore and Herman Bing. Barrymore character is so bitter that he’s brittle; and when he cracks you know it isn’t going to end happily. At last, at last, nearly all the MacDonald/Eddy musicals are available on DVD: and you can’t go wrong — if you approach it with an open spirit — with Maytime or Rose Marie.

*

It’s been very much an animated summer, in a way that has restored my faith in animation as an art form despite the numerous nauseating attempts of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar to foist upon the public the flattest, dumbest, most bone-headed and trivial movies that they possibly can. Of course theirs are the movies that win the Academy Awards, because between the two of them they practically own Hollywood. This doesn’t make their movies any less lousy, any less strictly paint-by-numbers. Walt Disney himself would be disgusted with the product that today goes out under his name. For real animated features, ones that stir the senses and the spirit and bathe us in marvels as the medium has always been capable of, one must look abroad.




Among my favorite animated outings this summer (which has included a boatload of product from the great, defunct Studio Ghibli as well as from Britain’s Aardman studio — more on them in another post) is 2010’s Chico and Rita. The picture opens in Castro’s Cuba, which it conjures in mesmerizing detail, but it wastes no time in whisking us back into the heady post WWII years when Havana was hot and the jazz was hotter. The story is one of those Romances in which the lovers are apart more often than together, but in is evocation of Cuba and America in the heyday of Jazz it is jaw-dropping, flawless, beautiful. When was the last time you saw a grown-up story animated this powerfully? It’s a Romance that lies not in the smooching or rolling around in bed (although there is a fair amount of that), but in its elegant worldview, in the colors, sights and sounds. For anyone sated on the Dreary Disney product, this is a real shot in the arm.
*



Of course it's not the first time I've seen A Hard Day’s Night. But it is the first time I've seen it in the original widescreen, in HD and full stereo, on a modern big screen telly. So it feels like the first time.


Wow. This is  not just the best Beatles movie, but (as everyone already knows) a real cinematic game-changer. Somewhere in the top all-time 100? I think so.

When, early in the film, the boys all play and sing "I Should've Known Better" in the freight car, I get all choked up every time. It's just a perfect little thing, you wouldn't change any part of it if you could... and it was all so long ago, now. A whole other world. I feel lucky to have lived in simpler times than this, and lucky that I can still, to some failing degree, travel back to those times through the magic of film.

— Frede.
www.ducksoup.me

www.tarotbyducksoup.com 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mr. PUNCH's Tarot Book: Coming Soon in Paperback, OUT NOW as a PDF e-Book!

click to enlarge
OK -- I am trying an EXPERIMENT.
 
In advance of the paperback edition (which will retail at $15.95), I'm making a PDF eBook version of MISTER PUNCH'S TRAGICALLY COMIC OR COMICALLY TRAGIC TAROT BOOK available right now for $5.95.

This has all the content of the paperback -- every picture, every Punch, every Dumb Assertion. In fact it was made from the same InDesign files as the paperback -- only the front and back covers have been downsized. 

It can be ordered from ANY of the ordering pages at my website, www.tarotbyducksoup.com . Orders are being handled by Ecwid, my shopping cart system. When your order is marked PAID you should get an email with the download link. (And if you don't you should let me know, and I'll get it to you. This is an EXPERIMENT, remember!) 

The PDF file can be read on your computer or mobile device. Works great in iBooks. 

If this EXPERIMENT is a success, you can bet I'll add my other Tarot Books to the PDF line -- and maybe my fiction and comics, too. 

That address again: www.tarotbyducksoup.com . Click anywhere you see "ORDER THE DECKS."

The gates are open!

-- Frede
www.ducksoup.me
www.tarotbyducksoup.com

Saturday, August 15, 2015

More Bricks in "The Wall"


“Science of Mind,” the inability to comprehend that other people see the world differently than yourself, is at the heart of my Disease; and so it is with an increasing sense of Bewilderment that I look at America’s Republican Party, having been one of them myself, once upon a time.

That was in Another World — before Ronald Reagan sold the party downriver to the Religious Right and two generations of Shrubs deepened the divide. You might say that I was an Eisenhower Republican, standing still in a country that was shifting father and farther away from the center.

These things are on my mind because I did watch the recent Republican Debate — if you can call it a debate — and came away horrified almost beyond words. This is the best that the Grand Old Party can offer? With something like nine hundred candidates to choose from, we’re still saddled with an array of crooks and stooges.

You can learn more by looking into people’s eyes than by listening to their words, which lie. If you look, really look into their eyes while they are speaking, you will see what I mean. When you look into their eyes, you will see that most of the candidates are obvious dunderheads. A few are the more dangerous type: cunning, calculated liars. It is readily apparent, if you look into her eyes, that Carly Fiorina is the most intelligent of the pack, but like her challenger The Don, she has the soul of a serpent and is cold, evil; well in the grip of The Devil and ready to knife America in the back at the earliest opportunity.

During the whole interminable session, not one single candidate — not one — addressed any of the real issues that are killing the American middle class and turning America into a third-world nation. Instead, they focussed unwaveringly on so-called “big issues” that actually are nothing more than distractions designed to a) be as deliberately divisive as possible, and b) keep the voters looking away from the real trouble. 

It’s disgusting, it’s sad, it’s terrifying.

But — let’s play Devil’s Advocate and assume that, say, “Illegal Immigration” is one of the biggest threats to our nation, as they claim. It isn’t, but this is an intellectual exercise: say it is.

Every. Single. One of them is still wrong about its solution.

If you really want to solve illegal immigration, stop enabling the people who are hiring the immigrants: the Americans who are exploiting illegal labor, the ones who are hiring illegals and thereby creating a market for them.

Put those American people in jail, fine them out of existence, dry up the market for illegal workers, and watch how fast illegal immigration disappears.

You don’t need a damn wall. In fact, the wall they are really talking about is the wall that they are building to split voters with divisive issues so that the politicians can further their own agenda and the agendas of the people financing them.

And that’s just One Thing. Just one issue that the politicians are creating out of thin air and then refusing to address in any honest way. 

But that’s not what horrified me about the “debate.” What really scared the living crap out of me was the number of morons in the audience who cheered on that pack of Evil Bastards.

Pandering to the stupid, that’s what the candidates were doing — all except for The Don, who only panders to his own ego.

There is only one person — on either side of the political fence — who is talking about the real issues and doing it sensibly. Bernie Sanders may or may not have a shot at the Oval Office, but he’s raising the standard of the debate. 

So far, no one has risen to challenge him.

— Frede
www.ducksoup.me
www.tarotbyducksoup.com 
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